Comics Reviews: Batman 373, Detective 540, Batman & the Outsiders 12, Firestorm 25, Vigilante 8

Batman 373 coverBatman #373 – “The Frequency of Fear” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with Jason (Robin) Todd being called to the cemetery by Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock. The graves of Jason’s parents are empty and he freaks out, but things get even worse when he sees Batman lying dead on top of the headstones. As Gordon and Bullock put things together and realize Batman was Bruce Wayne and Robin is Jason Todd, crocodiles crawl out of the graves to attack. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this is all a nightmare and Jason wakes up screaming, with Bruce and Alfred looking on in concern. At Arkham Asylum, a doctor named Andrews stops by to see Jonathan (Scarecrow) Crane for some research into fear he’s been doing. Unfortunately, Scarecrow has recovered from his near-catatonic state andhaunted house on campus was considered rehabilitated, so he was released. On the campus of Gotham university, a couple of professors discuss Scarecrow. One of them thinks he saw Crane near his old house on the hill, which looks like a classic haunted house. The other prof assures him Crane would never return to the university, but we see Scarecrow peeking out one of the windows of the spooky old house. Downtown, Julia goes to see Vicki Vale to ask her for a job at Picture News … after assuring Vicki she has no romantic interest in Bruce Wayne. Vicki seems to be open to the idea of Julia working for her. That night, Scarecrow goes to the city jail to kill Joker, who he blames for Robin fallshumiliating him during his catatonia by having him dragged around like a sack of straw (which we saw in Detective 526). Scarecrow wants revenge against all his fellow villains, but Joker’s first on the list since he was the leader. Scarecrow uses a miniature skull to induce fear in the cops at the jail, bringing nightmarish visions out of their subconscious. Joker is in solitary, but before Scarecrow can kill him, Batman shows up. Scarecrow uses his fear device on Batman and on Robin when the latter tries to grab him. The Dynamic Duo are surprised at the terror they feel, since Scarecrow has always used gas to induce fear and they’re wearing special nose filters. Robin develops a sudden fear of heights and almost falls to his death, but Batman saves him, allowing Scarecrow to get away. There are a couple ofScarecrow's science quick interludes with the Child Welfare office talking about why Jason Todd keeps falling asleep in class, and Mayor Hill offering to get Dr. Fang released if his men will kill Harvey Bullock. In the Batcave, Batman tells Robin (and us) Scarecrow’s origin and Robin suggests they check out Crane’s old house at Gotham University. Batman thinks that’s too obvious, but for once he’s actually wrong. Scarecrow is at his old place, refining his fear device (of which we get a lengthy scientific explanation). Batman and Robin are called to police headquarters where Gordon tells them the animals at the zoo are going nuts. Batman doesn’t want Robin to come with him since Jason’s Robin jumped and Batman in trouble at the zooparents were killed at the zoo. Robin reluctantly agrees to stay behind, but decides to go check Crane’s old house at the university just in case. Batman gets to the zoo and finds the animals are very agitated. He trips one of Scarecrow’s fear devices, causing him to feel unreasoning terror. He fights it down, but things get worse when he sees Robin unconscious in the crocodile pit. Batman freaks out, reeling backwards and falling into another pit full of crocs. At Gotham University, Robin sneaks up on Crane’s house, passing a scarecrow in the yard. Naturally, the scarecrow is Crane, who jumps Robin from behind, scaring the crap out of him.

Detective 540 coverDetective #540 – “Something Scary” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

Continuing right from the above issue, we get parallel story threads of Batman at the zoo and Robin getting jumped by Scarecrow at the university. Batman soon realizes the “Robin” he saw in the crocodile pit is a hologram and he shatters Scarecrow’s fear device with a Batarang before pounding some crocs. Robin fights off Scarecrow and smashes his fear device before he can use it. Scarecrow flees into the house and Robin follows, soon realizing the house is tricked out like a Haunted House at a carnival. After some cheap scares (rubber spider, plastic skeleton), Scarecrow uses a fear device to freak Robin out and drops him into a room full of Scarecrows armed with axes. At police headquarters, aRobin menaced by fake Scarecrows sniper takes a shot at Harvey Bullock and misses, but thinks he succeeded because Harvey bent down right at the moment of the shot. (Harvey doesn’t seem too bothered by the near miss.) At Scarecrow’s house, Robin fights through his terror and figures out the Scarecrows are just dummies. He makes his way upstairs and runs into Batman, who’s been analyzing the device from the zoo and thinks he might be able to block Scarecrow’s fear emanations. They find a quiet room to work on the device and Scarecrow (who doesn’t know Batman is in the house) cranks up his fear device to affect Robin. Batman tinkers with the device he brought from the zoo and attunes Batman frightens Scarecrowit to Jason’s brainwaves, blocking out the signal from Scarecrow’s fear device. Batman finds Scarecrow and tells him he deduced that Scarecrow has a jamming device to keep from being affected by his own fear waves. Batman says he’s replicated the jammer so Scarecrow’s device can’t affect him any more. That freaks Scarecrow out and he tries to run, but encounters Robin, who decks hi. Robin asks why Batman wasn’t affected by Scarecrow’s fear device, since the jammer was only set for Robin’s brainwaves. Batman says he was still feeling the fear but bluffed his way through.

Green Arrow – “In Cold Type” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus/Sal Trapani

Last issue, a goofy villain named Printer’s Devil tried to shut down the Daily Star (the newspaper where Oliver Queen works) and Green Arrow confronted him. Printer’s Devil pinned Arrow to the wall and started a fire that threatens to blow up a gas station across the street. Arrow gets looseGreen Arrow fights Printers Devil and puts out the fire, but Printer’s Devil is long gone. Arrow figures Printer’s Devil works for Burdick (a tabloid publisher who’s trying to buy the paper), devaluing the paper so he can get it cheaper. The next day, the doors are fused together so nobody can get into the building, so Oliver changes to Green Arrow to open them up. Printer’s Devil shows up again and they tangle. Green Arrow beats him and unmasks the Devil, who turns out to be Tommy Doyle, sports columnist for the Star. Doyle wanted to scare Burdick out of buying the paper and apparently it worked because Oliver finds out the next day that Burdick changed his mind about buying the paper.

Batman and Outsiders 12 coverBatman & the Outsiders #12 – “To Love, Honor, and Destroy” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo/Dick Giordano

Last issue, Katana’s sword was stolen and taken to Japan by a guy named Takeo. Katana went after him and the other Outsiders insisted on helping her. Little do they know, Takeo and his yakuza boss have released the souls trapped inside Katana’s sword … including that of her husband, Maseo. Batman leads the team to an office building in downtown Tokyo, where he sneaks inside to do some recon. He spots Takeo and his oyabun Noguri, gloating over the souls they’ve released from Katana’s sword. The souls (which, besides Maseo, include four villains named Shuriken, Blowdart,Outsiders fighting assassins Nunchaku, and Anthor Stoneax) are forced to serve the man who released them from the Soultaker sword. Katana and Halo eavesdrop on the scene too and when Katana realizes her husband is back from the dead, she busts in to see him. The other Outsiders follow (which pisses Batman off) and start a big brawl. The Outsiders are unprepared for the fight and Katana is distracted by Maseo. He’s forced to obey the man who freed him, so he tries to kill Katana, who refuses to fight back. She gets cut up a bit before Batman orders a retreat, telling Halo to bring Katana by force. Back at their hotel, Katana tells the Outsiders her origin story. She (Tatsu) met the brothers Maseo and Takeo years ago flashback to Takeo killing Maseo and the kidsand both of them were hot for her. She chose Maseo, which pissed Takeo off, but she wasn’t too broken up about that, since Takeo had already started hanging out with the yakuza. When a General named Karz gave Takeo a matching pair of swords, one of the swords (the Soultaker) had an impact on him. According to legend, the Soultaker can make people with evil in their hearts commit evil acts, so Takeo came after his brother and Tatsu. During the fight, a fire started that killed Tatsu and Maseo’s two kids and Takeo used the Soultaker to kill Maseo. Katana fought him off and got the Soultaker, which now housed Maseo’s soul, allowing him to talk to whomever possessed the sword. Katana swore vengeance (and got it against General Karz back in issue 1), but had no ideaassassins invade Fisher's castle Maseo’s soul could be freed from the sword. Now she’s not sure what to do. Batman suggests they start by finding Noguri and Takeo and Metamorpho points out that the stars Shuriken threw at him glow when brought together, so maybe they can lead the team to Shuriken herself. Shuriken and her fellow assassins (including Maseo) are invading a castle in the mountains where an American named Fisher is holed up. Fisher wants the yakuza to join his international crime syndicate and is willing to kill Noguri to force the yakuza to join him. Noguri has a meeting with Fisher, but suspects treachery, so he has his assassins slip into the castle. Noguri is right, Fisher was planning to Katana kills Takeokill him if he didn’t join and a fight breaks out between Noguri’s assassins and Fisher’s thugs. The Outsiders show up and jump in the middle of the fight. Katana and Maseo face off and he tells her to kill him so he won’t have to kill her and trap her soul in the sword for Takeo to use. Katana won’t kill him until he threatens Halo; then she skewers him with the sword and takes back the Soultaker. She confronts Takeo (who was masquerading as one of Fisher’s lieutenants) and kills him too, absorbing his soul into the sword. During the fight, Batman is hit by a dart from Blowdart, but it bounces right off his arm. Noguri gets away, but the gangsters are rounded up and the Outsiders head home. On the way back, Batman keels over, Blowdart’s poison having a delayed effect. Katana realizes that Blowdart has been trapped in the Soultaker for centuries, so there’s probably no modern antidote for the poison he uses.

Firestorm 25 coverFirestorm #25 – “Black Bison Rides Again” – Gerry and Carla Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Romeo Tanghal

This one starts with Firestorm stopping a runaway hansom cab in Central park before heading home for the night. Elsewhere in the park, a trio of scumbags accost a woman near the zoo. She’s a Native American called Silver Deer and uses some kind of shamanic magic to gain powers from the nearby animals. She transforms into a bear and slaughters the punks before changing into a penguin and diving into the seal pond, where she retrieves an amulet from the bottom of the pond. In Washington, a shady businessman named DiSalvo tries to bribe Senator Reilly into votingReilly rejects DiSalvo's offer in favour of his business interests, saying he can make Reilly’s current problems with the Ethics Committee disappear. Reilly tells DiSalvo to fuck off, but later wonders if he did the right thing, since the Ethics Committee seem determined to make an example of him for doing favours for Henry Hewitt. His daughter Lorraine (aka Firehawk) reminds him he only did Hewitt’s bidding because Hewitt had kidnapped her, but Reilly says his reasons don’t matter to the ethics Committee. In Central Park, cops Mackey and Wilson investigate the carnage at the zoo. They find a piece of bead-work that looks Native American and recall Black Bison’s rampage in the Park back in issues 1 and 2. Charges against John Ravenhair were dropped because the D.A. Ronnie feels baddidn’t think they could win the case, but Mackey and Wilson decide to pay Ravenhair a visit. At Bradley High School, Doreen gives Ronnie shit for going behind her back with Lorraine. Naturally, Ronnie can’t tell her he only cares about Lorraine when he’s Firestorm, because Doreen doesn’t know he’s Firestorm. Cliff and Jefferson give Ronnie shit too and he feels like a total asshole. He’s distracted when he sees John Ravenhair (who’s a teacher at Bradley High) being hauled off by the cops. At the police station, a lawyer claiming to be with a minority rights organization bails Ravenhair out, but the lawyer turns out to be Silver Deer in disguise. She shows Ravenhair the amulet she found and takes him to her place downtown. On the way, they run into Martin Stein,Silver Deer tempts Ravenhair who almost recognizes Ravenhair, but is too distracted to put it all together. At Silver Deer’s place, she tells him she’s the daughter of Coyote (the trickster god) and gives Ravenhair his coup stick, which he’s reluctant to accept. At Concordance Research, Stein talks to his old friend Belle Haney about her kids trying to kill her last issue, and she puts the moves on him. Right in the middle of a kiss, Stein disappears to become Firestorm and for some reason, Belle thinks she’s going nuts and that Stein was never really there to start with. At Silver Deer’s place, Ravenhair refuses to become Black Bison again, so she drugs Firestorm transmutes the crocodilehis drink and when he’s half out of it, dresses him as Black Bison and gives him the coup stick. That completes his transformation and he goes back to wanting revenge on the White Man (which is apparently what Silver Deer wants too). Wilson and Mackey bust in, having followed Ravenhair from the station, and Black Bison uses his enchanted coup stick to animate a stuffed alligator. Black Bison and Silver Deer take off, but luckily Firestorm is looking for them and hears the shots when Wilson and Mackey try to kill the alligator. Firestorm transmutes the gator into ice cream (banana fudge ripple, Wilson’s favourite) and goes after Black Bison. Firestorm is surprised to find SilverFirestorm buried under stuffed animals Deer with Black Bison, but he quickly whips up a cage to trap them. Black Bison uses his coup stick to animate a bunch of stuffed animals in a toy store and they attack Firestorm. He’s distracted long enough for Silver Deer to become a cobra and bite him. She frees Black Bison and says they need to go to Washington to reclaim their heritage. They leave Firestorm, cobra venom pumping rapidly through his bloodstream, to be buried under a mountain of stuffed animals. What a way to go.

Vigilante 8 coverVigilante #8 – “The Electrocutioner” – Marv Wolfman/Ross Andru/Mike DeCarlo

This one starts with an extortionist named Jose Ruiz fleeing across the rooftops. It seems like he might be running away from Vigilante, but it turns out to be Electrocutioner (who we last saw in Batman 331), who kills Ruiz when he catches him. Meanwhile, Vigilante is also being chased by a dude in a mini-helicopter who’s trying to kill him because Vigilante has a microchip the guy wants. The chopper pilot (who Vigilante refers to as the Vulture because he keeps circling) chases Vigilante all over the city, even down into the subway. Vigilante finally stops running and shoots the rotor off the chopper, crashing it and knocking outVigilante takes out the chopper the pilot. He turns the thief and the microchip over to the cops, telling them to return the microchip to Newmark Technologies. Later, Vigilante changes to his civilian identity of Adrian Chase and hits the gym. Adrian’s friend Alan reiterates his desire to see Adrian become a judge, but Adrian still hasn’t made up his mind yet. Alan tells him to come to court the next day and see why the justice system needs people like him. Adrian shows up at court and sees the chopper pilot he caught (Henry Ebert) getting bailed out by a sleazy lawyer. Adrian figures whoever’s paying the bail is the one who really wants the microchip, so he’d better check up on Ebert. In court, Adrian watches Alan free a Electrocutioner kills Cardazycriminal named Cardazy because of improperly filed paperwork and understands what Alan meant at the gym. Adrian decides he should go after Cardazy as Vigilante, but he’s not the only one interested. Electrocutioner goes to Cardazy’s estate and kills him. When Adrian and Alan go back to Alan’s house, the place is wrecked and a message from Electrocutioner about Alan freeing Cardazy is scrawled on the wall. Alan mentions Electrocutioner’s deadly way of dealing with criminals and brings up Vigilante, making Adrian wonder if Alan suspects his secret identity. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to think Alan might be Electrocutioner (he says he was in Gotham when Electrocutioner was there), but there are hints in that direction. At his mobile headquarters,Electrocutioner shocks Vigilante Adrian learns the stolen microchip is for remotely controlling weapons. Terry tells him about a big meeting of mobsters (which we saw last issue) and says Adrian’s girlfriend Marcia has been appointed to investigate. Vigilante heads to Ebert’s place to ask him about the microchip, but Electrocutioner is already there trying to kill Ebert. Vigilante interrupts him and they fight. Electrocutioner thinks they’re two of a kind, but Vigilante has pretty much renounced his killing ways. Electrocutioner shocks Vigilante enough to knock him out and leaves him and Ebert in the house, which is now on fire. Vigilante wakes up and tries to get Ebert out of the inferno, but they get trapped under a falling beam.

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