Comics Reviews: Batman 374, Detective 541, Batman & the Outsiders 13, Firestorm 26, Vigilante 9

Batman 374 coverBatman #374 – Pieces of Penguin” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with a robot penguin toddling toward a jewelry store late at night. The robot explodes and the Penguin (naturally) shows up to loot the place before disappearing. Batman and the cops arrive soon after and Batman finds the head from the robotic penguin, which tells him who he’s dealing with. Back at Wayne Manor, Julia tells Alfred that she got a job at Picture News. Alfred is surprised Vicki hired her, since it’s obvious to him that Julia has the hots for Bruce Wayne. Vicki calls and leaves a message for Bruce about an upcoming staff party at Picture News. When she finishes the call, Vicki is shocked to find Penguin walking into her office. He wants her to do a pictorial on him to make himPenguin asking Vicki for a favour look good, so the public stops thinking of him as some goofy villain who’s constantly getting his ass kicked by Batman. Vicki takes one surreptitious photo, but refuses to do a spread on him, saying she reports news, not manufactures it. Penguin is pissed off but he doesn’t waste her, he just leaves, promising she’ll be begging to do the story when he proves what a genius he is. Vicki checks out the photo she took secretly and it’s pretty dramatic because of the lighting and low angle. She wonders if she should publish it (which is kinda what Penguin wants) or destroy it. That night, some thugs rob a party at a townhouse and when Batman and Robin show up, they find Penguin sitting calmly across the street, feeding some pigeons in a park. Bullock contemplates his mortalitySince Penguin wasn’t present at the robbery and he has none of the stolen jewels on him, Batman has to let him go. Turns out Penguin was feeding the jewels his men stole to the pigeons, which are trained to return to their coops at Penguin’s hideout. At police headquarters, Harvey Bullock is still trying to figure out who hired a sniper to take a shot at him. He briefly considers Penguin, but they’ve never met before, so Penguin has no reason to kill him. Of course, we know it’s Mayor Hill who wants Bullock dead and he’s pretty pissed off that the first try didn’t work. He tells Dr. Fang’s men their boss won’t get out of jail until Bullock is dead. At the Picture News staff party, Vicki chats with a reporter named Bill Modell (who kinda looks like Doug Moench) and he tells her he’s getting pressure from the government overPenguin crashes the party some info he dug up about national defense while working on another story. Their conversation is interrupted when Bruce and Julia show up together and Vicki gets jealous. She goes back to her conversation with Modell to make Bruce jealous, so when Julia lets Bruce know she’s interested in him, he doesn’t shut her down. Vicki tells Modell about her dilemma over running the Penguin photos and Modell fills her in on how he’s found some pretty shocking evidence about national defense but isn’t sure if publishing it is ethical or not. Modell seems to have the hots for Vicki, but before he can do anything about it, Penguin and his men bust in, gas Modell, and take off with him. Bruce ducks out to change to Batman but Penguin is already gone. Penguin gets awayBatman notices some pigeons flying around and figures out they must belong to Penguin. He follows the homing pigeons to Penguin’s hideout and busts in to pound some thugs and rescue Modell. Penguin has already used truth serum to pry the details of the Pentagon’s “Early Bird” defense system from Modell’s brain and he takes off after taunting Batman with a crack about flying south for the summer. Batman recovers some of the stolen jewels from the crops of the pigeons on the roof, but tells Commissioner Gordon that Penguin now has the blueprints for World War III in his hands and is probably going to sell them to the Russians. The next day, a case worker at Child welfare (Amanda) tells her boss she’s been investigating Jason Todd’s case and has found that he was never formally adopted after his parents died, so his living with Bruce Wayne is technically illegal.

Detective 541 coverDetective #541 – “C-c-cold” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

This one starts a couple hours after the above issue ended, with Vicki taking Modell back to her place to recover. He puts the moves on her again, but she resists him. Batman interrupts (and gets the wrong idea about what was happening), asking Modell about Penguin kidnapping him. Modell says his info on the Early Bird defense system is valuable because it could be used offensively too. He confirms Penguin talking about selling it to the Russians and Batman takes off before Vicki can explain his mistake about her and Modell. Batman checks with Gordon, who’s gotten some info from the FBI on Russian bases south of Gotham. When Batman finds out the Russians have an observation postPenguin blows up the Batplane (disguised as a weather station) in Antarctica, he figures that’s where Penguin would go, since penguins are native to Antarctica. Batman goes back to the Batcave to put on some thermals and prepare the Batplane. Jason isn’t thrilled about being left behind, but accepts it. Batman takes off and heads for Antarctica, catching Penguin (who’s traveling by dogsled) before he reaches the Russian base. Penguin uses a missile to blow up the Batplane, but Batman bails out and follows his trail on foot. Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred gets a call from Amanda, the Child Welfare case worker, who tells him there’s going to be trouble since Jason has no “adequate supervision”. In Antarctica, a nearly-frozen Batman catches up to Penguin, whose sled has Penguin and Batman fall in the watergotten icebound. Penguin blasts the ice and Batman falls into the water, but the ice breaks completely and Penguin falls in too. Penguin climbs out with no ill effects and Batman realizes he’s somehow immune to the cold. Penguin heads to the Russian base and Batman follows, almost dead from the cold. Penguin makes the deal with the Russians, but Batman busts in to wreck it. Turns out Penguin is more patriotic than he seems; he gave the Russians false info and was planning to sell the real info to the Americans, thereby doubling his profits. Once the Russians realize the info is fake, they tell Penguin and Batman to get lost. Batman wants to take Penguin to justice, but the nearest American base is fifty miles away and Penguin’s cold tolerance is much higher than Batman’s. Batman is ready to risk it, but hePenguin's deal goes sour gets help from an unexpected source … the Russians. They maintain that their base is simply a weather station and offer Batman a helicopter ride to the American base in the spirit of detente. Batman decks Penguin and accepts their offer. Back in Gotham, Modell tells Batman a strange twist to the story … the Early Bird defense system never really existed. The Pentagon leaked it on purpose, hoping Modell would print it so it would serve as disinformation for the Soviets. When Modell hesitated in printing it, the Feds started harassing him, hoping he’d go ahead. Or maybe the info is real after all, and one branch of the government has no idea what the other is doing. Either way, it seems to be finished now.

Green Arrow – “The Nightfly” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus/Sal Trapani

This one starts when Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen shows up at a radio station to visit his friend Davy. Oliver is attacked in the parking lot by an Death Dealer attacks Oliverassassin called Death Dealer who throws trick playing cards and thinks Oliver is someone named Wallace Hooper. Oliver manages to keep from being blown up, but Death Dealer escapes thinking he killed him. Oliver goes into the station and tells everyone what happened outside. When they’re alone, Davy confesses he’s really Wallace Hooper, a conman who got caught and testified against the mob. He went into Witness Protection, but now they’ve obviously tracked him down. Oliver has to digest the fact that his friend is a criminal and while he’s ruminating, Davy gets trapped in the record archives, which are lit on fire. Oliver is lured to an empty studio booth and locked in … right before Death Dealer lights that room on fire too.

Batman and Outsiders 13 coverBatman & the Outsiders #13 – “In the Chill of the Night” – Mike W. Barr/Dan Day/Pablo Marcos

Last issue, Batman was hit by a dart that was coated in a poison so old there’s no known antidote. The Outsiders rush him to Gotham General, where the doctor says the poison seems to be sapping Batman’s will to live. If they can get Batman up and moving, maybe he can work the poison out of his system. The Outsiders decide to ask Bruce Wayne how to motivate Batman, but they end up discovering that Batman actually is Bruce Wayne. Alfred says he knows something that might motivate Batman and they stage a recreation of the murder of Bruce’s parents by Joe Chill. Halo plays Martha and Geo-Force acts as Thomas, while Metamorpho portrays Joe Chill. Metamorpho disappears after “killing” the Waynes and BatmanOutsiders taken down by gas freaks out, running off to look for him. Katana is supposed to keep an eye on Batman, but she sees a guy about to get shot by a mugger and stops to help him, losing Batman in the process. A street punk overhears Katana talking about how fucked up Batman is and calls mob boss Morgan Jones to tell him. Jones sends an assassin named Mayme to find Batman and kill him. Batman is half out-of-it from the poison and still searching for Joe Chill. He finds a couple of would-be thugs and scares them into tossing their gun into a sewer grate before moving on. The Outsiders are still trying to find their mentor but before they can, Mayme and a bunch of goons armed with high-tech weaponry attack them. Metamorpho gets encased in plastic while the others are gassed. Batman swings by and sees Mayme about to waste the Outsiders. In his fevered state, he thinks Mayme is Joe Chill and attacks, causing Mayme’s first shot to go wild and crack the plastic around Metamorpho. He takes advantage of the breach and escapes, reviving his fellow Outsiders with some pure oxygen. Outsiders pound goonsThe Outsiders are ready for the goons this time and make short work of them, while Batman beats the shit out of Mayme before passing out. Back at Wayne Manor, Batman recovers, his excursion to find “Joe Chill” having worked the poison out of his system like the doctor said. Out of gratitude for helping him, Batman reveals his secret identity to the Outsiders, who all feign surprise quite convincingly.

Firestorm 26 coverFirestorm #26 – “Give Me Liberty … Give Me Death” – Gerry Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Rodin Rodriguez

Last issue, Firestorm confronted Black Bison and his new partner Silver Deer, who’s responsible for changing upstanding citizen John Ravenhair back into the hate-filed Black Bison. Bison animated some stuffed animals in a store display to attack Firestorm, while Silver Deer turned into a cobra and poisoned him. Firestorm uses a toy frog worked by a drumming bear to suck out the poison and goes after the two villains, despite being weak from the venom. He catches up to the helicopter they’ve hijacked and clashes with Black Bison. Firestorm is knocked into the Brooklyn Bridge as Silver Deer saves Black Bison from a deadly fall. BeforeStatue of Liberty attacks Firestorm Firestorm can regroup, Bison animates the Statue of Liberty to attack him. While Firestorm deals with the Statue (by turning it into one of those plastic punching bags), Bison and Silver Deer escape, but Firestorm overheard their next destination … Washington. In Washington, Carmine DiSalvo is pissed off that Senator Reilly refused his bribe last issue, so he implies to Ms. Sharpe (the nosy reporter) that he and Reilly go way back. Reilly is worried about the Senate Ethics committee censuring him, which his daughter Lorraine thinks is unfair, since he only violated his ethics to save her life. Lorraine notices Firestorm flying around over Washington and changes to Firestorm changes chopper into Coke bottleFirehawk to go talk to him. She wants his help with her dad’s problem, but Firestorm says he needs her help first, explaining about Black Bison and Silver Deer. They see the chopper Bison and Deer hijacked heading for the river and Firestorm changes it to a giant Coke bottle to keep the pilot from dying. The pilot says Silver Deer used her force of will to make him try and commit suicide after he dropped her and Bison at an embassy. Firehawk has a good idea which embassy it might be … the Soviet one. Apparently, Silver Deer has already been in touch with the Soviets, arranging for them to host a big casino party the following night and invite every official in Washington. She tells Black Silver Deer convinces Black Bison to follow her planBison she can control all games of chance (which seems a little on the nose) and use them to take over the minds of everyone at the party. Black Bison wonders if she’s been controlling his mind too, but she convinces him they both want redress for the way Native Americans have been treated, so he goes along with her plan. (Although it seems the ultimate factor in convincing him was Silver Deer banging him on the roulette table.) We’ll see if Black Bison comes to his senses next issue.

Vigilante 9 coverVigilante #9 – In the Grip of the Electrocutioner” – Marv Wolfman/Ross Andru/Dan Adkins, Rick Magyar

Last issue, Electrocutioner attacked Ebert, the guy who stole a valuable microchip, and when Vigilante showed up to stop him, Electrocutioner left both of them in Ebert’s burning house. Vigilante manages to get Ebert out before the whole place collapses by riding his motorcycle (which he used to burst into the house last issue) out through a window. Unfortunately, Ebert is dead, so the only clue Vigilante has as to who hired him to steal the microchip is a partial address on a charred piece of paper. Vigilante gets JJ to start checking the partial address while he gets some much-needed rest. The next day, Adrian Chase meets with his friend AlanAdrian and Marcia in the park Welles, who’s still urging him to put his name in for the judge position that’s opening up soon. Adrian isn’t sure, but Alan says the other likely candidate is a bleeding-heart who’ll let too many criminals back on the streets. At lunch, Adrian tells his girlfriend Marcia that he’s leaning toward taking the judgeship and she complains to him about losing an appeal on a guy named Kord, who’s about to be set free on technicalities. After a quick nooner with Marcia, Adrian decides to go out as Vigilante and look for whoever hired Ebert. He runs into some dead ends, but gets a slim lead on a guy named Owl, who supposedly knows everything that happens in the underworld. Vigilante is feeling guilty Vigilante fights Electrocutionerabout not going after Electrocutioner, since he remembers his own flirtation with wasting criminals who’d escaped justice. He ends up staking out Kord’s place, thinking he’ll be Electrocutioner’s next target. Sure enough, Electrocutioner shows up and wastes Kord, knocking out his girlfriend with a mild shock. Vigilante jumps him and they fight. Vigilante injures Electrocutioner, who is ready to zap him when a cop shows up. Vigilante takes off, figuring Electrocutioner won’t kill a cop, but he distracts the cop long enough to shock him unconscious and escape. Back at his headquarters, J.J. has tracked down the address on the paper to an old factory. Vigilante is too tired to check it out, so J.J. volunteers to go, promising he’ll just case the place from outside andJ.J. gets shot not take any unnecessary risks. Vigilante agrees, but once J.J.’s there the place looks empty, so he decides to go in and snoop a bit. He hacks the computers and sends the info to Vigilante, but notices a bunch of guys prowling around. He realizes the whole thing was a trap and they knew he was coming. He sends Vigilante a message about the trap and tries to sneak out, but gets shot and falls out a window. The next day, Adrian and Terry are having breakfast when a report comes on TV about an unidentified shooting victim who washed up in the river. They’re shocked to see that it’s J.J.

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