Comics Reviews: Batman 376, Detective 543, Batman & the Outsiders 14, Firestorm 28, Vigilante 11

Batman 376 coverBatman #376 – “Nightmares Inc.” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with a rich dude named Simon Platz, who brings his date into his mansion for a drink. Things take a dark turn when the lights don’t work and Simon finds his butler dead on the floor. His date is stabbed by a weirdo in a red cloak and then a bunch of monsters jump out of the darkness. Luckily for Simon, the whole thing is a joke; the red-cloaked guy is called Nightshade and works for a company called Nightmares Incorporated, who do elaborate horror set-ups like this to give rich people a few thrills. Nightshade and his two assistants (appropriately named Schreck and Lee) leave Simon and his friends to party, although I’m sure Simon will have to change his pants first. A couple days later, Bruce Wayne and Alfred are having a long talk about Jason Todd being taken by Child Welfare. Bruce admits he misses Jason andBruce and Alfred talk Alfred urges him to throw himself into his Batman identity as a distraction. Alfred points out a newspaper article about Simon Platz’s residence being burgled last night and mentions the fact that Nightmares Inc. did their little party trick just a day before the robbery. Alfred thinks that’s too much of a coincidence, so Bruce figures he should check it out. That night, Batman breaks into the Nightmares Inc. offices to root around. He finds floor plans of their clients’ mansions, but that could just be to help them plan their scare scenarios. Batman finds out Nightshade’s real name is Sturges Hellstrom (I wonder if he’s related to Daimon?) and heads to police headquarters to check him out. Hellstrom is an ex-special effects guy for the movies, who’s Batman talks to other robbery victimsbeen suspected of theft a few times but never convicted. Batman talks to other rich people who hired Nightmares Inc. to put a scare into their friends or guests and learns they were robbed a few days later as well. Most of them kept quiet out of fear, or didn’t want to advertise how rich they were for fear of more robberies. Batman returns home and tells Alfred he’s going to throw a party and hire Nightmares Inc. to scare the guests. At the party, Bruce takes time out from refereeing Vicki Vale and Julia Pennyworth fighting over him to slip upstairs and watch the Nightmares Inc. people casing his place. After seeing them locate his safe and his best artwork, he goes back to the party in time for Nightshade’s big entrance. But instead of going along with Nightshade’s schtick, Bruce tells his guests this is all a fraud and unmasksBatman fights Hellstrom Nightshade, spoiling the joke. Hellstrom is pissed off to have his tricks exposed and tells Bruce he’d better not try to hire Nightmares Inc. again. Back at Nightmares Inc.’s offices, Schreck and Lee are getting nervous that someone may figure out their little robbery scheme. Hellstrom tries to reassure them and mentions a silent partner who’s also involved. When Batman shows up a few hours later, he finds Hellstrom dead with a knife sticking out of his chest. Turns out Hellstrom is faking it to lure Batman in close, where he gives him a face full of gas. They fight and Hellstrom uses a flamethrower to set the place on fire before making his escape. Hellstrom heads to a cave outside town to meet his business partner … Natalia Knight (aka Nocturna), who we last saw in Detective 530.

Detective 543 coverDetective #543 – “Shadows of Vengeance” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Alfredo Alcala

Continuing right from the above story, Hellstrom tells Natalia he’s in love with her and has been bringing most of the stolen loot to her to prove it. Natalia sees him as a business partner only and reminds him she still loves Anton Knight, the Night Thief. Hellstrom points out that Anton is in prison and can’t provide for her the way he can, but Natalia is confident Anton will bust out soon. Turns out she’s right … Anton takes advantage of a freak storm to escape prison under the cover of darkness. He finds (and silently watches) Natalia and Hellstrom planning their next heist. Well, Hellstrom is planning it, while Natalia protests that it’s too crude. She wants the money it’ll bring though, so she lets Hellstrom go ahead, but she does tell him he has zero chance with herNatalia tells Hellstrom it's just business in the romance department. After Hellstrom leaves, Natalia notices an article in the paper about Bruce Wayne trying to get Jason Todd back and vowing to spend every penny he has to accomplish that. Natalia goes (as Nocturna) to the Child Welfare Bureau to tell Jason she wants to be his mother. Jason isn’t sure what to make of that, but she tells him to think about it. We get a few vignettes to pass the time: Bruce having dinner with Julia and taking about how he misses Jason; Hellstrom and his two associates planning their last big score, robbing a bunch of rich people at a funhouse party; Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock interrogating the guy who tried to kill Bullock Hill issues his orderslast issue and getting nowhere; and Mayor Hill (who hired the assassin) telling his men to finish Bullock off, and also telling them that he doesn’t want Bruce Wayne to get Jason Todd back (since Bruce opposed Hill In the last election). At the funhouse, the rich guests show up for the party, not knowing that Hellstrom and his men are waiting to rob them. Batman checks out the Nightmares Inc. offices and figures out where the next score is. He shows up at the funhouse in time to scare away the rich folks and goes after Hellstrom and his men. Hellstrom uses trickery to fight Batman, but the caped Crusader gets the upper hand. Before Batman can pound Hellstrom, theHellstrom ends up dead thief is felled by a dagger thrown by Anton Knight, the Night Thief. But now Anton has become the Night Slayer and says he’ll kill any rivals for Natalia’s affections. Batman realizes Natalia Knight was working with Hellstrom, but before he can process that, Night Slayer disappears into the darkness. The next day, Bruce Wayne goes to the courthouse where Natalia has filed papers to adopt Jason Todd. Bruce swears he’ll use all his resources to get Jason back, but Natalia says they don’t have to fight over Jason … they could get married and both be his parents.

Green Arrow “It’s No Fair” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus

This one starts with Oliver Queen going to check up on Tommy Doyle (aka Printer’s Devil from a few issues back), but he finds Doyle tied up and someone else wearing the Printer’s Devil costume. After a brief scuffle, Printer’s Devil spouts off about “progress through understanding” andGreen Arrow fights Printer's Devil again takes off. Back at the newspaper, Oliver learns the World’s Fair has an exhibit on Progress Through Understanding and decides to go check it out. His editor assigns a new photographer (Sharon Greenglass) to him, which pisses Ollie off since he can’t change to Green Arrow with Sharon hanging around. At the Fair, Oliver does find Printer’s Devil (and a couple of friends, Pinball Wizard and some woman) attacking an exhibit that shows how robots can manufacture cars without any human labour. Printer’s Devil and company are pissed off at the new automated labour devices that have lost them their jobs and they start wrecking the place. Unfortunately, Ollie can’t get away to change to Green Arrow with Sharon there, so he has to just stand and watch the destruction.

Batman and Outsiders 14 coverBatman & the Outsiders #14 – “Two By Two” – Mike W. Barr/Bill Willingham/Bill Anderson

This one starts with Gabrielle (Halo) Doe coming home from a date. Her boyfriend goes to kiss her, but they’re interrupted by a noise from a nearby alley. The guy goes to check it out and Gaby changes to Halo in case it’s something dangerous. It turns out to be Brion (Ge-Force) Markov, who was spying on Gaby’s date as a self-appointed chaperon. Gaby gives him shit and appeals to Tatsu (Katana) Yamashiro to sort things out. Brion goes on about how American customs are too liberal, but Tatsu tells him never to do that again. Tatsu calms Gaby down, pointing out that Brion was just worried about her. Gaby mentions her mysterious past and Tatsu points out the irony of Gaby wishing sheBrion hangs with the girls knew her past, while Tatsu wishes she could forget hers and start over. That gives Gaby an idea. In Arkham Asylum, Maxie Zeus is writing a letter to his daughter (Medea) when he notices something in the newspaper that he considers an omen. He knocks out a guard and takes his uniform to help him escape. At the local community college, Brion gets a test back and finds out he didn’t do so well. His friend Alisa sucked on the test too and offers to study with him. Their mutual friend Denise (who aced the test, as usual) declines to join them, figuring they want to be alone. At Tatsu’s bookstore, Gaby drops by unannounced and her geometry teacher (Mr. Takami) shows up because she asked him to meet her there. Gaby disappears immediately, so Tatsu and Gaby sets Tatsu up with her teacherTakami know she set them up. Later, Tatsu gives Gaby shit, making her promise not to do that again. At the prison, Batman examines Maxie Zeus’s cell, looking for clues as to why he suddenly escaped. He finds the newspaper and sees a story about a woman named Lacinia Nitocris competing in the Olympics (which were in Los Angeles in 1984). Batman knows Lacinia was an alternate name for Juno, wife of Jupiter … who is the Roman equivalent of Zeus. Back at the Outsiders’ house, Alisa drops Brion off and he invites her in for a drink. Gaby screws things up for him by showing up in a sexy outfit and pretending to be Brion’s girlfriend. Alisa leaves and Brion gets pissed off, but Gaby saysBrion and Gaby make out she was just doing what he did to her. He changes to Geo-Force and chases her, but when he catches her they end up making out. Isn’t Gaby about sixteen at this point? I’m not sure how old Brion is, but I assume he’s in his twenties; seems a bit fucked up to me. Elsewhere, Jefferson (Black Lightning) Pierce and Rex (Metamorpho) Mason’s love lives aren’t going so swimmingly. Jefferson calls his ex (Lynn), but she’s not interested, and Rex tries to get through to Sapphire Stagg, but her asshole father won’t let him. At the Olympics opening ceremony, Batman has the Outsiders deployed around the New OlympiansColiseum in their civilian identities to watch for Maxie Zeus, but there’s no sign of him. Batman realizes too late that Zeus has taken over the news helicopter covering the torch-lighting, so Zeus ends up landing in the middle of the Coliseum … and he’s not alone. Zeus has assembled a team he calls the New Olympians and they grab President Reagan and Lacinia Nitocris, who Zeus apparently wants as his bride. Before they can cause too much havoc, Batman and the Outsiders appear and Batman challenge Zeus to let the spectators go and then fight his Outsiders … winner take all. Zeus agrees.

Firestorm 28 coverFirestorm #28 – “The End of His Rope” – Gerry Conway (plot), Joey Cavalieri/Rafael Kayanan/Pablo Marcos, Rodin Rodriguez

This one opens with Clarissa Clemons (Professor Stein’s ex-wife) hiring someone through the Monitor on behalf of the mysterious 2000 Committee. (Yeah, the Monitor is still presented as a power-broker who hires out superhuman operatives to criminals in exchange for a cut of their loot; wait until people find out who he really is.) At Ronnie Raymond’s high school, Ronnie is involved in a tense basketball game and ends up getting fouled in the last second with the game tied. He almost zones out, but makes the free throw and wins the game. While he’s showering, he disappears, ending up as Firestorm with Professor Stein. Ronnie gives the Professor shit, since he’ll end up naked when they splitFirestorm and Lorraine make out apart, but once Stein tells him Lorraine Reilly called asking for help, Ronnie’s on board all the way. When Firestorm gets to Lorraine’s place, she yells him her father has disappeared. Before she can explain further, they make out a bit, but that gets interrupted when a goofy new villain named Slipknot shows up and tosses a noose around Firestorm’s neck. Firestorm tries to transform the rope to escape, but it’s made of rawhide and his power can’t affect anything organic, so all he gets is feedback. He does manage to wriggle free, but Slipknot takes off and Firestorm goes after him. Lorraine is caught in a trap Slipknot left behind and Clarissa (who’s outside in a van) Firestorm slams Slipknot into a walldirects a bunch of 2000 Committee thugs to go in and grab her. Firestorm chases Slipknot across the city and ends up getting jumped and tied up. Slipknot tosses him off a building and Firestorm changes a fruit stand into a bed to keep from splattering on the sidewalk. He gets pissed off and heads back to Lorraine’s place, arriving just as Slipknot and the goons are dragging her out. Firestorm scatters the thugs and takes Slipknot on a wild ride that ends with Slipknot being slammed into a wall. Firestorm goes back to see Lorraine, who thanks him with a very public smooch. Of course, we still don’t know what happened to Lorraine’s dad, so I guess we’ll have to wait until next time for that. Seems like this issue was basically filler.

Vigilante 11 coverVigilante #11 – “Vengeance is Mine” – Marv Wolfman/Ross Andru/Dick Giordano

Last issue, Vigilante grabbed mob boss Apollo to get information about who killed Vigilante’s friend J.J. Apollo spilled the beans about the Controller trying to unite all the mobs under his control, promising them a foolproof way to make money through his new computer interface that can control systems all over the city. Apollo told Vigilante how he and Johnny Z opted out of Controller’s scheme and Johnny ended up dying when his pacemaker went kablooie. Vigilante dumped Apollo for the Feds and headed out to Controller’s mansion to spy. The mob bosses are giving Controller his share of the loot from their jobs, but Controller gets greedy and points out that his tech is what made the jobs so easy, so he’s upping his take from a third to a half. One mobster (Washington) refuses to pay more than a third and takes off. He’s foundVigilante fights guards dead later by the cops in his mansion, surrounded by bundles of cash. Another mob boss (Dona Omicidio) decides she’ll play along with Controller and pay half … at leas until she can figure out his computer system and eliminate him. After the mobsters leave, Vigilante sneaks into the mansion, not realizing Controller has him on surveillance the whole time. Vigilante figures out his mistake when he’s confronted by a dozen or so armed guards. His strictures against killing seem to have relaxed, as he starts blowing them away left and right. He gets pounded and shot up, but makes it past the guards. Controller has more in store for his unwanted guest; he sends the Exterminator after Vigilante, who’s surprised since he killed buzzsaws in the hallwayExterminator back in issue 4. Vigilante soon discovers Exterminator’s secret when he kicks its head off … it’s a robot. Another one attacks and he impales it on his M-16, but more Exterminators appear and chase him upstairs. He blasts them to pieces with a grenade and after pounding one last robot to smithereens, he finds himself pushed down a corridor by a moving wall. The corridor is like something out of a murderous funhouse, with a spiked pit and buzzsaws in the walls. Vigilante makes his way past those obstacles to Controller’s computer lab, where he finds himself surrounded by a laser grid. Controller toys with him, admitting he killed J.J. And even making a good guess that Vigilante is Adrian Chase. Before Controller can finish him off, Vigilante uses a throwing star to short out his control box, which shuts off the lasers andController begs for death severs the power feed to the chair that keeps Controller alive. As his bodily functions shut down one by one, Controller admits he wanted revenge on the mob families but decided controlling them was better than simply killing them. He begs Vigilante to kill him quickly, to spare him a slow, agonizing death, but Vigilante refuses. He says he’ll call the cops and maybe they’ll show up in time to save controller … or maybe they won’t. Either way, it’s more of a chance than J.J. got. Later, Adrian finds out Controller died in the hospital without regaining consciousness, so I guess his secret identity is safe. Back at his house, Adrian tells his girlfriend Marcia and his friend Alan that he’s willing to put his name in to be a judge.


3 thoughts on “Comics Reviews: Batman 376, Detective 543, Batman & the Outsiders 14, Firestorm 28, Vigilante 11”

  1. Hi there. I hope you don’t mind my asking, but can you tell me what the schedule is again for Action Comic updates? Thank you

    1. I review comics in groups which update every two weeks, so the Superman/Action/DC Presents group will have new reviews on October 9 and 23 (Action 560 and 561), and November 6 (Action 562), which finishes off 1984. I’ll be doing Annuals after that (and there is no Action Annual, though the 1984 Superman and DC Presents Annual reviews should be up on November 23), so the next Action review after that will probably come out on December 4.

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