Comics Reviews: Batman 371, Detective 538, Batman & the Outsiders 10, Firestorm 23, Vigilante 6

Batman 371 coverBatman #371 – “Nine Cradles of Death” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with Thomas Blake (aka Cat-Man) in prison in some kind of trance-like state, a condition he’s been in for weeks. The prison doctor diagnoses cataphoria or catatonia (Doug Moench really goes overboard with the cat stuff in this issue) and tells Blake’s cell mate (Collins) not to worry about it. Collins is a little freaked, but goes about his daily life and ends up talking in his sleep about some loot from a big robbery that he stashed in some catacombs. Blake comes out of his trance and proposes a bet: he’ll break out and steal a statue of Bast (Egyptian cat goddess) from the museum, outwitting Batman in the process. If he succeeds, Blake gets Collins’s loot that he hid in theBlake and Collins escape catacombs. If Blake fails, Collins gets his Cat-Man outfit, which Blake claims has mystical properties, including the power to save its wearer’s life nine times. Collins figures he has nothing to lose (since Blake could just go after his loot anyway), so he takes the bet. Blake does break out (although Collins gets left behind) and puts his plan into motion. At Wayne Manor, Bruce and Jason excuse themselves when they see the Bat-Signal in the sky. When Vicki Vale calls looking for Bruce, Julia (Alfred’s daughter, who’s now staying at the mansion) answers the phone and Vicki gets all worked up thinking Bruce has a live-in girlfriend. Julia’s kinda snotty to her too, though I’m not sure why. Batman and Robin go to police headquarters where Commissioner Gordon tells them Cat-Man’s suit has been stolen and Cat-Man's origina cryptic note left in its place. Batman fills Robin (and us) in on Cat-Man’s history and they go out looking for him. Batman says he doesn’t believe Cat-Man’s costume has any magical powers, but Robin is worried at his strange fatalistic tone. Elsewhere in Gotham, Dr. Fang is convincing some high rollers to bet on a five-to-one underdog in a boxing match against the champ. They’re reluctant until Fang tells them he has a way to get the champ to throw the match. In the Batcave, Robin figures out that Cat-Man is after the Bast statue and the Dynamic Duo heads to the museum. While searching the place, Robin gets caught in a giant cat’s cradle trap that Cat-Man set for him. Batman confronts Cat-Man in the Hall of Warfare exhibit, using a catapult (among other things) to attack. Robin wriggles free and gets thereBatman about to get sliced in time to see Cat-Man about to skewer Batman with a sword. The next morning, Collins reads about Cat-Man defeating Batman and leaving him in critical condition. Collins is pissed off, since Cat-Man won their bet, but he figures if he breaks out of prison, he can steal Cat-Man’s outfit and go move his loot before Cat-Man can find it. Of course, the stuff about Batman being injured is just a ruse. Cat-Man told them everything about the bet and Batman and Gordon want Collins to lead them to his stolen loot in the catacombs. In case you’re wondering why Batman didn’t get sliced and diced in the museum, he grabbed a baton and used it to pound Cat-Man; a BAT-on, get it? Yeah, Robin doesn’t find it funny either.

Detective 538 coverDetective #538 – “Clothes Make the Cat(Man)” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

This issue continues from the above story, with Collins breaking out of prison using a gun he carved from soap. Of course, the cops want Collins out so Batman can follow him to his hidden loot, so the break-out goes smoothly. Collins goes to Blake’s apartment and steals his Cat-Man costume. Batman immediately takes up his trail, but is forced to save Collins from breaking his neck when the fire escape gives way. Since Batman can’t let Collins know he’s following, he uses his Batarang to open an awning under Collins, saving him from splattering onBatman saves Cat-Man from a truck the sidewalk. This serendipitous occurrence makes Collins believe the Cat-Man costume really does have mystical powers and he figures he has eight lives left. As Batman shadows Collins, Robin and Commissioner Gordon follow Batman. Collins heads out into the country toward the catacombs. Batman is forced to save him again when he almost gets run down by a truck. Collins again assumes the costume saved him and Batman worries he might get reckless, thinking he has seven more “get out of death free” cards. Collins heads into some caves which are located not too far from Wayne Manor. Batman digs outRobin and Commissioner Gordon lose Collins, and Robin worries about the caves’ proximity to the Batcave. Luckily, he and Batman have blocked off all the access tunnels leading to the Batcave. Collins finds the hidden loot but the cave ceiling collapses. Batman shoves him past the collapse and Collins again figures the suit’s powers saved him. He can’t go back so he heads deeper into the tunnels and sees some light ahead. Yup, the cave collapse uncovered a tunnel leading to the Batcave and Collins can’t believe his good luck. Meanwhile, Batman digs himself out of the rubble and finds the loot, but knows he has to bring Collins back too. At Picture News, Vicki Vale is still thinking about Bruce Wayne and the woman who answered the phone when she called. She’sBatman pounds Cat-Man pissed of, but realizes she still loves him. Batman tracks Collins to the Batcave and jumps him. They fight and Collins’s reckless belief in the powers of the Cat-Man costume make him overconfident. Batman reveals he was the one who’s been saving Collins’s life and beats the shit out of him. I’m not sure how they’re going to keep Collins from talking about finding the Batcave, but it’s never mentioned. When Bruce and Jason return to the mansion, they’re surprised to find Vicki has stopped by for a visit and she’s pretty pissed off that Bruce has a “female house guest” that he forgot to mention.

Green Arrow – “Three Years Ago Today” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus/Pablo Marcos

This one has a couple of stories running in parallel: a current-day story Lennon shot and Green Arrow blows up gunrunners boatabout Green Arrow stopping a gunrunner and blowing up his shipment and a story set a few years ago where Oliver Queen was supposed to interview some rock star he loved who was coming out of retirement to do a new album. The rock star ended up getting shot by a crazy fan, so it’s obviously meant to be John Lennon (we never see his face). Lennon was shot in December of 1980, which would be about three years before this issue was being written (since there’s a few months lag time between production and the issue hitting the stands). Lennon’s shooting is apparently what motivated Green Arrow to go after gunrunners especially hard.

Batman and Outsiders 10 coverBatman & the Outsiders #10 – “The Execution of Black Lightning” – Mike W. Barr/Steve Lightle/Sal Trapani

Last issue, Black Lightning was kidnapped by the Masters of Disaster. Batman chose not to fight them because Shakedown was threatening to drop a building on some innocent bystanders. This one opens with Geo-Force giving Batman shit for that decision. Batman lets him have his say (grudgingly) and tells the team he has a plan to get Black Lightning back. Speaking of Lightning, he’s being held on a disused oil drilling platform off the coast. New-Wave taunts him and he finds out the Masters were hired by the Sheltons, parents of the girl (Trina) who wasBlack lightning recalls Trina's death accidentally shot when Black Lightning tried to stop a subway robber. Black Lightning apologizes to Mrs. Shelton and says he pretty much quit being a superhero after Trina died. Mrs. Shelton is pretty pissed off, but the fact that Black Lightning knew Trina’s name and seems genuinely remorseful weighs on her mind. She talks to her husband afterward and we see that he didn’t want revenge on Black Lightning and tried to talk her out of it. She’s starting to think he might’ve been right, but it’s too late to change their minds now. Out on the deck of the oil rig, Shakedown gives Windfall a plant and it seems he has a bit of a crush on her. New-Wave (who’s Windfall’s sister) warns him off. Malone goes for a ride followed by HaloBack in Gotham, Matches Malone (aka Batman in disguise) goes to see mob boss Morgan Jones, who helped set up Black Lightning last issue. Malone says he wants to to witness Lightning’s execution personally and gives Jones a wad of money. Jones arranges things, but says Malone will have to go alone. Malone agrees and is taken to the docks where he meets New-Wave. She takes him out to the oil rig, followed by Halo who uses her distortion aura to remain undetected. Malone is taken in to watch Black Lightning’s execution, along with the Sheltons. Halo makes it to the platform, but is almost exhausted from using her powers to stay underwater for so long. Windfall’s powers detect a disturbance in the air currents and she reveals Halo. Katana, Metamorpho, and Geo-Force are tracking Halo, who tells them toOutsiders make an entrance concentrate on rescuing Black Lightning. They come up under the rig guided by the spirit in Katana’s sword (although her teammates don’t know that). They bust up through the floor of the rig and attack the Masters. Batman drops his disguise and joins in, freeing Black Lightning. The two teams fight and Windfall gets the upper hand on Halo, suffocating her in a whirlwind as Halo begs for mercy. The Outsiders and the Masters of Disaster are pretty evenly matched, but the Outsiders get the upper hand. New-Wave orders Heatstroke to kill Black Lightning, but Mrs. Shelton jumps in front of him and is killed Mrs. Shelton sacrifices herselfinstead. She tells him not to blame himself for Trina’s death because she doesn’t blame him anymore. The Masters flee and Windfall tells her teammates she took care of Halo. Back on the oil rig, Halo finds her friends and tells them Windfall could’ve killed her but didn’t. Black Lightning says he’s feeling better about himself now and he’s ready to be a full-time hero again. There’s an epilogue with the Yamashiro dude we saw last issue arriving in Gotham with a really nice-looking samurai sword.

Firestorm 23 coverFirestorm #23 – “Byte” – Gerry and Carla Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with Firestorm flying around the city and the Ronnie Raymond half of him contemplating his future vocation. Professor Stein says he’s too young to worry about a future career and wonders if Ronnie’s guilt over messing around on Doreen has prompted his sudden interest in finding a job. Firestorm stops a train from crashing on a defective drawbridge by using his molecular powers to conjure a giant magnet. Unfortunately, the railway car was full of computer disks and software, so all of them were erased by the magnet. The owner of the shipment is pretty pissed off and guess who it is? Yeah, it’s Felicityschool play Smoak, who’s destined to become very important in Ronnie’s life. (Although she looks nothing like Emily Betts Rickard.) At school, Doreen has talked Ronnie into joining the school play and he’s playing Horatio opposite Cliff Carmichael as Hamlet. Doreen is Gertrude and the drama teacher’s daughter (Blythe Bonner) is Ophelia, although she’s referred to as Cordelia here … I guess Gerry needs to brush up on his Shakespeare. After almost seeming human for a while, Cliff is back to being a dick, so he humiliates Ronnie in front of everyone. Cliff asks Blythe to hang out later and she blows him off. Cliff takes I out on Lorraine talks to SharpeBlythe’s brother Barney, who’s a computer nerd. Ronnie defends Barney and thinks computers might be a good future career. Barney tells Ronnie about a computer fair on the weekend and Ronnie says he’ll be there, even though he finds Barney a bit weird. In Washington, Lorraine Reilly stops by the local TV station to ask Ms. Sharpe (a reporter who’s been covering the censure of Lorraine’s dad, Senator Reilly) to do a story showing her father’s side. Sharpe says Senator Reilly is news and she’s just reporting it, which pisses Lorraine off since she thinks Sharpe’s coverage has been one-sided. Lorraine leaves and becomes Firehawk to fly back to New York. On the way, she’s attacked by a jet fighter, which she trashes. She doesn’t know someone is watching her performance, evaluating her powers for an organization called the 2000 Committee. At the computer fair on Saturday,Ronnie meets Belle Ronnie feels overwhelmed by all the tech on display. He runs into Professor Stein, who introduces him to Belle Haney, a woman Stein knew at Stanford who now works with him at Concordance Research. Ronnie thinks Belle seems familiar, but can’t place her. Harry Carew (another Concordance employee) drops by and is immediately fawning over Belle. Ronnie spots Blythe Bonner rushing by, but sees no sign of Barney. He decides he should stick to video games, but is interrupted when one of the robots at the fair goes nuts and attacks Belle. Harry jumps the robot and gets slapped down, so Ronnie and gummed up robotStein merge into Firestorm. But when Firestorm tackles the robot, his powers don’t work against it and he’s hit with massive feedback, as if the robot were organic. He uses his power to change the ceiling into bubble gum, covering the robot so he can get Belle to safety. Stein wonders if the robot is a cyborg, but Ronnie says the feedback felt like the robot was actually human … or was being controlled by someone human. Firestorm is startled when a strange being materializes in front of him. It looks like a woman and calls itself Byte, saying she wants to kill Belle Haney. Firestorm tries to fight Byte, but soonByte attacks Firestorm realizes she’s made entirely of electricity and can hop between computers and other electrical devices. Byte grabs Firestorm and starts electrocuting him, so he shorts out the power for the whole building, forcing her to flee. Belle thanks Firestorm for saving her, but all the computer monitors display a message from Byte saying she’s going to kill Belle tomorrow at midnight. Ronnie tells Professor Stein he got a good look at Byte when hey were fighting and he’s pretty sure she’s Blythe Bonner.

Vigilante 6 coverVigilante #6 – “Memories” – Marv Wolfman/Chuck Patton/Pablo Marcos

Last issue, Vigilante was severely wounded fighting Cannon and saber and J.J. took off with him in a stolen ambulance to keep the cops from finding out who he really is. This issue opens with a bunch of mob bosses getting together for a conclave at a secluded mansion. None of the mobsters know who summoned them (it’s a woman, but we don’t see her face), but she tells them she has a proposition for them all. Meanwhile, J.J. evades the cops and removes Vigilante’s costume, dropping Adrian Chase off at a hospital. J.J. takes off without giving the hospital any info on Adrian and freaks out wondering if Adrian will pull through. At the police station, Captain Hall is trying to figure out whoJ.J. and Terry at the hospital Vigilante might be and uses logic to narrow it down to someone in the justice system who lost a close friend or family member. He tells his men to check out all possibilities while they keep looking for the missing ambulance. J.J. calls Terry and they return to the hospital where J.J. tells the nurse a bunch of crap about who Adrian is. While Terry distracts the nurse, J.J. steals the admitting form so nobody will have a record of Adrian being there. Terry worries about whether Adrian will recover, saying he was just starting to get his humanity back after being so cold when he first started as Vigilante. They go back to Adrian in the hospitalthe hospital and the doctor tells them Adrian has pretty much recovered from his wounds … including being stabbed in the heart. The doctor says it’s a miracle … the tissue was actually regenerating right in front of his eyes. When Adrian wakes up, J.J. and Terry tell him what happened and sneak him out of the hospital before the doctors can run any more tests. Back at their hideout, Adrian passes out and dreams of waking up in a strange place after his family was wiped out. His wounds had miraculously healed and someone in a cowl and robe (it looks like a woman to me, but it’s hard to tell) told him he now had remarkable healing powers. She demonstrated by burning her own hand inOverlord makes an  entrance a fire and running herself through with a sword, although she warned Chase that multiple wounds (or heavy trauma) would still kill him. Adrian wakes up and decides to tell J.J. and Terry exactly what happened in the six months after his family was killed. At the mobster enclave, many of the bosses are getting impatient, but their host admits she’s just a mouthpiece for the guy who really called them all there. It turns out to be the Overlord, that weird cyborg dude we saw in issue 4.

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