Comics Reviews: Batman 370, Detective 537, Batman & the Outsiders 9, Firestorm 22, Vigilante 5

Batman 370Batman #370 – “Up Above the Sin so High” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

As we saw last issue, Batman is in Montreal helping Alfred and Julia, so Jason (Robin) Todd is on his own back in Gotham. He gets tired of studying, so he heads out on patrol and finds a couple of thugs busting up an arcade. The thugs work for Gotham’s newest crime lord, Dr. Fang, and they’re trashing the arcade because the owner bought his machines from someone other than Dr. Fang. Robin pounds the thugs and they take off. He almost loses them, but manages to hitch a ride on a passing truck going the same direction as the thugs’ getaway car. After jumping off the truck, Robin has to run like hell toRobin pounds thugs keep the car in sight, but manages to track the thugs to Fang’s penthouse. Robin knows he can’t invade Fang’s hideout on his own, but he figures he can at least tell Batman the location when he gets back. Robin thinks he’ll impress the Caped Crusader with his ingenuity. Inside Fang’s penthouse, we find out he has a couple of affectations: he’s studied many fighting disciplines (especially boxing), and he fancies himself a Shakespearean actor. Fang’s henchman (Woad) tells his boss about the trouble Robin gave the thugs and reminds Fang that Harvey Bullock is there to meet him. Bullock comes in and keeps pretending to be crooked. Bullock tells Fang he doesn’t like him much, but since he can’t seem to beat him, he may as well join him. Fang gives Bullock Bullock interrupts dinnera rundown on his operations and says he needs Bullock’s help with the next step in his plans … legitimizing his organization. Later, Jason is surprised when Bruce comes home early from Montreal. Jason can’t wait to tell Bruce how he tracked Dr. Fang’s men to the hideout, but Bruce won’t let him talk. Alfred and Julia are coming to Wayne Manor (Bruce has offered to let Julia stay there), so he’s more concerned with getting dinner ready for them. Jason is ready to explode, wanting to tell Bruce about Dr. Fang, but the dinner takes up all Bruce’s time and naturally Jason can’t say anything in front of Julia (who doesn’t know about Bruce being Batman). Bullock shows up and tells Bruce thatDr. Fang works out he’s been pretending to be corrupt to get inside info on Dr. Fang. Bullock tells Bruce that Fang is ready to start taking over legitimate businesses and the Wayne Foundation is tops on the list. Bullock suggests they could use the Foundation to set a trap for Fang and Bruce says he’ll discuss it with Commissioner Gordon. Bullock also tells Bruce the location of Fang’s penthouse, which pisses Jason off since he can’t impress Bruce with his detective ability now. Bruce and Jason change to Batman and Robin and head for Fang’s penthouse. He sees them approach and sends a bunch of well-armed goons out to stop Dr. Fang loses a tooththem (without guns of course … no need to attract the cops). Batman and Robin fight their way through the bruisers and Fang decides he’d better get the hell out of there. Robin tries to stop him, but gets a surprise when Fang turns out to be a better fighter than he looks. He’s about to bite Robin’s neck (yeah, he actually does have fangs), but Batman tosses a Batarang just in time, knocking out one of Fang’s prosthetic chompers. Fang takes off in his limo, leaving Robin to collect the broken fang. Bullock shows up late to the party and Batman tells him he can clean up the thugs littered all over the street.

Detective 537 coverDetective #537 – “Down Below” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

On a stormy night in Gotham, a man (Sixto Morales) climbs out of the sewers yelling about a murder. Batman calms him and Sixto says he found a dead body down in the sewer tunnels where he lives. (Apparently, Sixto sold his gold tooth and when the money from that ran out he was forced to move underground.) Sixto offers to show Batman the body he found near his home underground. At police headquarters, Commissioner Gordon and Robin can’t get any info on Dr. Fang from the thugs they brought in after the big fight. They know Fang won’t return to his penthouse, but now they have idea where to look for him. Bullock comes in with what he thinks is a clue: the lease on the penthouse belongs to Gaston Leroux. When Commissioner Gordon explains that Gaston LerouxSixto shows Batman the body wrote Phantom of the Opera, Bullock thinks he’s talking about the movie and is blown away that Dr. Fang could be a screenwriter. Yeah, Harvey’s not exactly a master detective. In the sewers (which are pretty high because of the storm), Sixto brings Batman to his home, a small platform barely above the filthy waters. He shows Batman the body he found wrapped around a chain (which he attaches his water jug to) and Batman recognizes the dead guy as a cheap hood named Gelesco. Batman figures Fang had Gelesco killed and tells Sixto he’ll have to report it to the cops. Sixto doesn’t like that idea, since the cops would make him dismantle his home. Sixto says he can’t leave yet because he’s been working on something big and is almost finished. He takes Sixto's pastBatman down another tunnel to show him a model of Sixto’s old hometown, Robles, made of various bits of trash he’s collected. Sixto says he can’t return to the real Robles, so this is all he has left and he wants to complete it. Sixto tells Batman how his wife was being raped, so he killed her attacker, who just happened to be the police chief’s son. When Sixto’s wife died, he fled Robles, never to return. Batman agrees to take the body and not tell the cops about Sixto’s home. At Wayne Manor, Julia is giving Alfred shit for being Bruce’s servant and he gives her shit when she gets too close to the grandfather clock that conceals the door to the Batcave. Batman returns to the sewers to let Sixto know he didn’t tell the cops about him. Sixto’s alarm (a string of tin cans) goes off and they hide. Three of Fang’s men are searching for Gelesco’s body, since Fang told them to make sure it washedBatman and Sixto pound thugs out into the river. They find Sixto’s place and he jumps them to protect his home. Fang’s men figure they can kill Sixto and show Fang his body, pretending it’s Gelesco’s. Batman spoils that plan, pounding two of the thugs, but the third one runs down the tunnel toward Sixto’s Robles model. Sixto follows and knocks the guy out, but the model of Robles is smashed to pieces. Sixto says his violence has destroyed his home a second time, but Batman points out this guy isn’t dead. He says it’s time Sixto came back up into the light and build a new home from what he is now, not what he was in Robles. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Jason discuss the lack of leads on Dr. Fang and Bruce ponders how differently people react when they need money.

Oliver getting evictedGreen Arrow – “Strike First” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus

This one starts with Oliver Queen returning to his apartment to find all his stuff out on the curb. Some goons have been throwing out tenants’ possessions and after Oliver chases them away, his neighbour (Estelle, some kind of fortune teller) says the tenants have been harassed constantly. Estelle figures someone wants them out so the place can go condo; I guess gentrification was a thing back then too. Oliver puts his and Estelle’s stuff back in the building with the help of another neighbour, Sammy (who really can’t afford to move since he’s spent a big chunk of his life in a mental institution and is still re-adjusting to life outside. Oliver organizes a rent strike to get the media’s attention, but some goons show up to start a riot and undermine the tenants. Oliver changes to Green Arrow to stop the riot, but hears a fight in Sammy’s apartment and finds a couple of gun-toting thugs threatening him. GreenGreen Arrow catches the killer Arrow takes down the gunmen and heads outside to stop the riot. Sammy has no clue why anyone would want him dead, but we see the guy who owns the building watching reports of the quelled riot on TV. We learn he’s the one who sent the guys to kill Sammy (with the riot as cover) because he gunned down Sammy’s mother in a botched robbery years ago. Sammy was so traumatized that went to the institution, but now that he’s out, the killer figures Sammy will want to get back at him. He decides to take care of things himself and sneaks into the building, going up to Sammy’s place to shoot him. But Green Arrow did some research and anticipated the landlord, so he’s waiting to capture him. Green Arrow gives the landlord a piece of ironic news: electro-shock therapy in the institution affected Sammy’s memory, so he doesn’t even remember his mother’s murder, nor who committed it.

Batman and Outsiders 9 coverBatman & the Outsiders #9 – “Enter: The Masters of Disaster” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Black Lightning patrolling Gotham’s slums. Unknown to him, he’s being watched by a couple of costumed villains, but they lose him when he heads home for the night. The villains aren’t too bothered; they regroup with the rest of their cronies and decide to enlist a little help. They invade the headquarters of local crime boss Morgan Jones, telling him they’re the Masters of Disaster. After slapping Jones’s men around with their super-powers, the Masters say they’re really after Black Lightning and wonder if Jones can help them.Masters of Disaster fight Jones men This fight is basically just a way to introduce the Masters of Disaster and showcase their powers: Coldsnap, who has freezing powers; Shakedown, who can cause tremors in objects (and people); Windfall, who controls wind; Heatstroke, who commands fire; and the group’s leader, New Wave, who controls water. We also find out that Coldsnap and Heatstroke are lovers, but their contradictory powers make it difficult for them. At Gotham Community College, we see Brion (Geo-Force) Markov registering for a class and meeting a cute fellow grad student named Denise Howard. At Tatsu (Katana) Tatsu's bookstoreYamashiro’s bookstore, Rex (Metamorpho) Mason shows up to invite Tatsu to lunch. We find out Rex is cool with sushi, but hates wasabi. On a plane bound for Gotham, a Japanese man named Yamashiro reflects on how happy he’ll be to arrive there. I’m thinking the name can’t be a coincidence, but Tatsu’s husband is supposed to be dead as far as I know. Later, Bruce Wayne attends the groundbreaking ceremony for a new housing project in the slums and plays his bored playboy routine to the hilt. The Masters of Disaster show up to rob the crowd and Bruce slips away to change to Batman and call the Outsiders. The team shows up in time to get potentialOutsiders fight Masters hostages away from the Masters and confront the villains. Halo and Windfall go head-to-head and Halo wonders why a girl her own age would be a super-villain … Windfall says she doesn’t have a choice, New Wave told her she has to. Black Lightning knocks Coldsnap on his ass with a kick to the face, Batman takes Heatstroke out with some misdirection, and Katana stops Shakedown from vibrating Geo-Force to pieces. Shakedown threatens to bring a building down on the crowd, so the Outsiders stop fighting. New Wave says they want Black Lightning and he agrees to go with them, saying he doesn’t want any more deaths on his conscience. The Masters leave with Black Lightning, but Batman vows that it’s not over yet.

“Battle for the Band” – Mike W. Barr/Bill Willingham/Mike DeCarlo

In the first story, there’s a scene when Batman calls the Outsiders for help where Katana finds Halo in Outsiders meeting room and it sounds like she’s Halo stops kidnapperstalking to herself; this story explains that. Basically, Halo is breaking the fourth wall, talking directly to us about a solo adventure she had at school as Gabrielle Doe. She was at band practice with her best friend April, when the bandleader (Greg, who April kinda has a crush on) got kidnapped by some assholes from a rival school; I guess these schools take their band competitions pretty seriously. Gaby changed to Halo, tracked the kidnappers down, and rescued Greg. She saved the kidnappers from falling off a rickety bridge and punished them by destroying their clothes and taking their car keys, leaving them naked and stranded. Halo returned Greg to the school, where April let him know her feelings for him (with a little shove from Halo). So they ended up winning the band trophy and Halo wraps up her story just as Katana shows up to tell her Batman needs them.

Firestorm 22 coverFirestorm #22 – “The Secret Origin of Firestorm” – Gerry and Carla Conway/Pat Broderick/Sal Trapani

As the title says, this is a recap of Firestorm’s origin with new art and a few new details, so I’m not going to go into it too deeply. At the end of last issue, a wounded Firestorm showed up at Lorraine (Firehawk) Reilly’s place half-conscious. She apparently nursed him back to health and now wants to know who he is and how he got his powers. (Lorraine is hot for Firestorm, although she doesn’t tell him that.) Professor Stein isn’t sure about revealing their secrets, but Ronnie insists and launches into their origin tale. It’s basically the same story from Firestorm 1, with new art and a bit more background. Ronnie is portrayed here as less of a dumb jock; he’sRonnie in school fairly smart, but before he can answer any questions in class, Cliff Carmichael (who’s still a dick here) cuts him off until Ronnie finally cuts Cliff off … and gets shit from the teacher. The story reiterates the stuff we’ve seen: Stein having troubles at his nuclear plant because of Danton Black and defying a court injunction telling him to shut down; Ronnie joining nuclear protesters to prove he’s more than a mindless jock; the two of them running into criminals who try to take over the reactor and a explosion fusing them into Firestorm (and turning Black into Multiplex); and Firestorm stopping more criminals from taking over another nuclear plant in New Jersey. After he finishes telling his story, Firehawk wonders if she should be romantically Firestorm and Firehawk having funinterested in a high school kid (especially since Firestorm’s story clued her in on Ronnie’s feelings for Doreen Day). Firestorm says she’s not that much older than him and that everyone has a juvenile side, even her. Firehawk figures what the hell and decides to go for it, even though she knows she might have some competition from Doreen. Speaking of which, Doreen, Jackson, and Cliff are waiting outside a movie theatre for Ronnie to show up. Doreen knows something’s going on with Ronnie and plans to ask him about it, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. The three of them see Firestorm and Firehawk cavorting in the skies above Manhattan and points out that Firestorm looks like a man in love … which gives Doreen a cold feeling, though she’s not sure why. Yeah, I think having two women on the hook is going to be bad news for Ronnie, but we’ll have to wait and see how he handles it.

Vigilante 5 coverVigilante #5 – “Witnesses” – Marv Wolfman/Keith Pollard/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Vigilante happening upon a sniper about to shoot someone. He tackles the sniper (who’s wearing a funky costume), but the guy turns out to be pretty well-trained. He knocks Vigilante back long enough to kill his target, then surrenders after Vigilante roughs him up a bit. The cops show up and Captain Hall is ready to arrest Vigilante as well as the sniper. Vigilante tells Hall they’re on the same side and he’s only killed twice, both in self-defense. Hall says the law requires him to bring Vigilante in, so Vigilante takes off, leaving Hall to arrest the sniper. Vigilante checks back with his associates, J.J. and Terry, who tell him the sniper goes by the name Saber. Saber’s victim was a mobAdrian and Marcia get it on boss named Rinaldi, which could mean the start of a gang war. Vigilante tells them to follow up on Saber since he has to attend a party (as Adrian Chase) for Marcia King, the new Assistant District Attorney. Adrian and Marcia get along pretty well at the party and Adrian’s friends are happy to see him finally moving on after the death of his wife. On a yacht full of gangsters, another assassin (Cannon) shows up and slices a bunch of mobsters into hamburger. I’m not sure why Cannon uses knives and Saber uses guns, but whatever. At Marcia’s penthouse, she puts the moves on Adrian and we get a sex scene (or as close to one as they could get in a mainstream comic back then). The next morning, J.J. knows Adrian got laid, but Adrian’s more interested in the Cannon and Saber celebratenewspaper headline about Cannon voluntarily giving himself up for the murders of the mobsters on the yacht. Terry tells Adrian that his new girlfriend Marcia has made a deal with both Cannon and Saber, putting them in witness relocation in exchange for their testimony. We see Cannon and Saber after their release in a flophouse hotel (apparently they’re a couple), gloating over how they killed off each other’s mob bosses and now are going into witness relocation because they have an in at the D.A.’s office. Speaking of which, Adrian drops by to give Marcia shit for freeing two murderers, but she reminds him that you sometimes have to make deals with scum to get at even bigger scum. Adrian decides to send a message to Cannon and Saber and tracksVigilante gets shot them to their hotel where he busts in as Vigilante. The two of them are better than he anticipated and ends up with a knife In his side and a bullet in the shoulder. Vigilante falls out onto the fire escape and Cannon and Saber come out after him. Saber prepares to blow Vigilante away and Vigilante is too weak to do anything but pass out just as he hears the gun go off. J.J. and Terry are getting worried since they haven’t heard anything from Vigilante. J.J. tracks him to the hotel and finds Captain Hall and a bunch of cops around, so he has to leave. Hall finds Vigilante’s gun on the sidewalk (it fell from the fire escape J.J. takes off with Vigilanteearlier) and heads upstairs. The cops kick the door down and find Cannon and Saber in the hotel room both near death. They find Vigilante half-dead out on the fire escape. Hall prevents another cop from unmasking Vigilante, saying they don’t want anything thrown out later on a technicality. The cops load Vigilante into the ambulance, which takes off like a bat out of hell. Turns out J.J. is driving, but now that he’s gotten Vigilante away from the cops, he’s not sure where to take the dying man without getting both of them arrested.

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