Comics Reviews: Batman 377, Detective 544, Batman & the Outsiders 15, Firestorm 29, Vigilante 12

Batman 377 coverBatman #377 – “The Slayer of Night” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts in court, where Natalia Knight (aka Nocturna) is petitioning to adopt Jason Todd after he was removed from Bruce Wayne’s custody last issue. Bruce argues that Natalia is not a suitable parent because of her connection to Anton Knight, the Night Thief, who recently broke out of prison. The judge rules that Anton’s crimes can’t be held against Natalia, especially since Anton exonerated her when he as captured. Bruce raises some more points (looking rather desperate), including the fact that they should ask Jason what he wants. Bruce is stunned to hear that Jason wants Natalia to adopt him. Bruce is forced to give in for the moment, but suspects the judge was a little too favorable toward Natalia, so maybe the fix is in. Outside, Natalia reiteratesAmanda talks to Jason the offer she made last issue, to marry Bruce so they can raise Jason together. That night, Batman drops by Child Welfare to ask Jason why he’d want Natalia to adopt him. Jason says it’s part of a plan to expose her as Nocturna so she’ll lose custody and he’ll get to go back with Bruce. Batman commends his initiative, but warns him about getting in over his head. Jason’s Child Welfare case worker (Amanda Groscz) hears voices from his room, but when she comes to check, Batman is gone. Jason says he was practicing reciting a poem for school. Amanda can see he’s upset and he tells her he wants to go home to Bruce, but he knew Amanda didn’t like Bruce and figured Natalia was his only way out of Child Welfare. That makes Amanda wonder if she’s really Nocturna tells Anton she's done with himdoing what’s best for Jason. Batman heads upstate to check on Anton’s escape from prison, but Anton has already made it to Gotham and shows up at Nocturna’s penthouse. Their happy reunion turns sour when Anton admits he killed Hellstrom because he tried to put the moves on Natalia. She’s horrified, saying he’s tainted the purity of the night with blood and that she can never forgive him. She pulls a knife, saying she will murder the night too if he doesn’t leave, so Anton takes off. At Wayne Manor, Alfred gives Bruce advice about balancing his public and private personas, pointing out that Batman needs Bruce Wayne to keep from going completely over the edge. At Vicki Vale’s place, her date tries to put the moves on her but she’s not into it. He guesses that she’s still not over Bruce yet. Speaking of women who have the hots for Bruce, Julia finds some photos of him in Vicki’s deskBatman fights Night Slayer at Picture News and steals one. At the Batcave, Bruce can’t stop thinking about Nocturna; he’s surprised at how drawn to her he is, but he can’t fight it. He goes to her place, rationalizing that he needs to investigate Anton’s murder of Hellstrom. When he arrives, Natalia is all angsty, staring at the moon, which apparently turns Batman on. He realizes her perfume contains some kind of drug that’s clouding his judgment, but he’s too enthralled to stop himself. Right before they lock lips, Anton shows up, now fully committed to being the Night Slayer. He and Batman start fighting, which distresses Nocturna as she blames herself for Anton’s crazy behaviour. Batman is still fighting off the effects of Nocturna’s drugged perfume, so Night Slayer gets the upper hand. Before he can stab Batman, Nocturna shoots him in the back, saving Batman’s life. She drops the gun and she and Batman engage in a little make-out session.

Detective 544 coverDetective #544 – “Deceit in Dark Secrets” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Alfredo Alcala

This continues immediately from the above story, with Batman and Nocturna sucking face. Before they can move on to better things, she drops a bombshell … she knows Batman is Bruce Wayne. She offers again to marry him and raise Jason as their son, saying it’s not just Bruce’s money that attracts her. Batman is reluctant and Nocturna swears she’ll never tell anyone his secret or use it against him In the custody case. She points out that she’s already killed Anton to save his life, but they notice Anton’s body is gone … there’s only a blood trail leading to the edge of the roof. Anton’s body isn’t blow, so Batman takes off to follow the blood trail, leaving Nocturna relieved that she’s not a killer after all. Once he’s away from Nocturna’s drugged perfume, Batman’s senses clearend of the blood trail and he realizes her knowing his secret could spell trouble. He follows Anton’s blood trail into a dead end alley where it just vanishes … like Anton walked right through the wall or something. At Child Welfare, Jason decides to go out as Robin, but Nocturna is outside and warns him to stay where he is, letting him know she’s uncovered his secret identity. The next morning, Amanda asks Jason again if he really wants Natalia to adopt him and he says yes, since he still plans to expose her criminal ways from the inside. At the Batcave, Bruce tries to take his mind off his feelings for Nocturna by contemplating the possibilities about Anton’s disappearance: either Anton vanished like a ghost (something Bruce rejects completely), he stopped the blood flow and Batman stalks Sladegot out of the alley (unlikely with all the blood he’d already lost), or he passed out or died and someone else removed the body. Batman decides to go run things by Commissioner Gordon, hoping a fresh set of eyes might help. But before he can talk to Gordon, he overhears the Commissioner releasing Slade, the guy who tried to shoot Bullock a couple issues back. Bullock is pissed off, figuring someone high up is pulling strings to get a would-be cop killer out. Batman thinks Bullock might be onto something, so he follows Slade after he leaves police headquarters. Slade knows someone is following him—and soon realizes who it is—but he can’t shake Batman’s relentless pursuit. Batman’s deliberate stalking of Slade freaks him out and when BatmanBatman warns Mayor Hill herds him into the blood-soaked alley where Anton Knight’s trail ended, Slade finally breaks. He admits he works for Dr. Fang and that he was told to kill Bullock by Mayor Hill in exchange for Hill getting Fang out of prison early. Batman suspected Hill might be the one behind everything, including paying off the judge in Jason’s custody case, since Hill hates Bruce Wayne for supporting his opponent in the last election. Batman drops by Hill’s place to let him know his days are numbered, then heads back to the Batcave to contemplate his next move.

Green Arrow – “Far From the Madding Crowd” – Joey Cavalieri/Shawn McManus

Last issue, Oliver Queen and his new photographer Sharon were assigned to cover the World’s Fair, but the futuristic exhibits were attacked by three costumed nuts (Printer’s Devil, Bad Penny, and Pinball Wizard)who blame automation for them losing their jobs. Sharon is conveniently knocked out,auto-automat attack giving Ollie the chance to change to Green Arrow and incapacitate Printer’s Devil. Bad Penny and Pinball Wizard attack the Auto-Automat (a restaurant with mostly robots working it) and take a few human hostages … including Sharon, who left the infirmary and ran right into the villains. Green Arrow tries to get in, but the whole place has been electrified. Across the way, we see the Fair’s organizer and it seems he has some shadier motives than just giving people a glimpse at future tech. Back at the hostage crisis, the cops ant proof the hostages are still alive, so Bad Penny says they can send someone in to see … Oliver Queen. Ollie goes along with it, but before she’ll let him in, Bad Penny wants to see what’s in the duffel bag he’s carrying. Unfortunately, the bag contains his Green Arrow costume, so if she sees that it’s bye-bye secret identity.

Batman and Outsiders 15 coverBatman & the Outsiders #15 – “Going for the Gold” – Mike W. Barr/Trevor von Eeden

Last issue, Maxie Zeus and his team of New Olympians showed up at the Los Angeles Olympics trying to grab an athlete named Lacinia Nitocris. Naturally, the Outsiders showed up to stop them and Batman proposed the two teams compete to settle things, allowing the spectators at the L.A. Coliseum to leave unharmed. Zeus agreed and Halo lights the Olympic cauldron to kick things off. As the spectators evacuate the building, the Outsiders look over their opponents: a giant named Antaeus; Diana, a woman with hunting dogs and a bunch of weapons; Nox, who controls darkness; Proteus, the shape-changer; and Vulcanus, who can control fire. With Batman and Zeus observing from the VIP box, the two teams square off and begin the “competition”. Geo-ForceHalo on the tightrope takes on Antaeus in a wrestling match, but Antaeus only seems to get stronger the more Geo-Force knocks him down. Katana and Diana face each other in a sword duel, while Halo ends up walking a tightrope against Nox. When Halo falls, she uses her tractor beam to save herself and makes it across the rope hand-over-hand, which isn’t against the rules Nox laid down. As Batman tries to piece together Zeus’s ultimate plan, Black Lightning and Metamorpho take on Proteus and Vulcanus in a handball competition, using a deadly spiked ball. Meanwhile at Gotham Community College, Geo-Force’s friend Denise receives an application for a scholarship from a professor who seems to have ulterior motives. Back in L.A., Batman gets an Diana and Antaeus taken downinkling of why Zeus is doing all this and lifts a card from Zeus’s henchman (Argus) to confirm his suspicions. The card is vague (“Rendezvous at Pantheon”), but Batman has a pretty good idea what it means. When he tries to leave, Zeus orders Diana and Antaeus to stop him. Geo-Force finally remembers what all the mythology buffs out there already know, that Antaeus gets his strength from the earth itself, which means he was actually gaining strength from Geo-Force’s own earth-based powers. Geo-Force uses his gravity beam to lift Antaeus into the air, where his strength ebbs away. Katana pins Diana’s dogs to the wall with arrows (through their collars) and decks Diana, ending their fight. Batman borrows a cop car and calls Halo for back-up. When Nox tries to stop her, Halo uses her brightest light to knock NoxVulcanus and Proteus taken down out, leaving her in some shadows to be picked up by the cops. Metamorpho douses Vulcanus with fire-proof foam and Black Lightning tosses a bolt that takes Proteus down. Turns out Proteus is kinda deformed and uses his power to make himself handsome. He begs Lightning to kill him, but Lightning just knocks him out to make sure he won’t try to kill himself. Meanwhile, Batman has deduced that Maxie Zeus’s hideout is at 144 Corinthian Road (since the original Pantheon in Rome was 144 feet square and built in the Corinthian style), where he finds Zeus’s daughter, Medea. She recognizes him and is ready to leave with him when Zeus’s thugs rush in and start a fight. Before Medea gets a new babysitterthings get out of hand, Zeus shows up to tell his men to stand down. Apparently, all Zeus’s crap was to impress Lacinia Nitocris so she’d want to be Medea’s babysitter. Strangely, Lacinia actually agrees to do it, not because she was impressed by Zeus’s maneuvering, but because she takes to Medea right away. Still seems a bit weird to me that she’d want to be an au pair for someone who basically kidnapped her, but whatever. The Outsiders show up to make sure Zeus’s men don’t try anything stupid and Zeus allows himself to be taken into custody, knowing Medea will be well looked after.

Firestorm 29 coverFirestorm #29 – “The Assassination Bureau” – Joey Cavalieri/Rafael Kayanan/Rodin Rodriguez

This one starts with a goofy new villain named Stratos on top of the World Trade Center spouting off about how great his wind-control powers are. Firestorm shows up and they fight, with Firestorm having to take time to save some tourists from plummeting to their deaths. Stratos’s partner shows up, a woman called Bazooka Joan (who looks a bit like Callisto from X-Men) in a tricked out mini-helicopter. Firestorm finally beats them by transmuting the roof of one of the towers into lodestone, which pulls Stratos and Joan down to the roof. The cops take them away, but Firestorm gets shit from Felicity Smoak (who he already pissed off back in issue 22) because magnetizing the roof wiped out herteaching Felicity a lesson computer data … including all her business records, so she’s basically ruined now. Felicity threatens to sue Firestorm, so he changes her clothes into soap suds and she runs off naked. We see a dude in a cloak (Breathtaker) and another guy who’s only shown in silhouette (Incognito) watching Firestorm on a monitor. Turns out Breathtaker is trying to kill Firestorm for the 2000 Committee and sent Stratos and Bazooka Joan to do the job. Incognito wants to take a shot at wasting firestorm, but Breathtaker says he has someone else in mind first. At school Ronnie runs into (literally) a strange girl named Taliesin, who gives him shit for being a brain-dead jock. Mindboggler screws with Firestorm's headDowntown, Ronnie’s father (Ed) finds out the newspaper he writes for is folding, so he’s suddenly out of a job. In Central Park, Professor Stein is hanging out with Belle, his old flame, and it looks like some new sparks are about to kindle. They’re interrupted when a volcano pops up in the lake (don’t you hate it when that happens?) and they have to run like hell. Ronnie shows up and he and the Professor merge into Firestorm when Belle isn’t looking, making her think Stein abandoned her. Firestorm conjures up a cork to plug the volcano, but realizes that might make the ground around it erupt, so he waits until the lava starts spewing and transmutes it into harmless frisbees. Unfortunately, things aren’t what they appear; there is no volcano, it was all an illusion caused by a punk-looking chick namedFirestorm unknowingly throws razor blades around Mindboggler. She made everyone see the volcano (including Firestorm, although the Professor Stein part of his psyche seems to know something’s wrong), but Mindboggler doesn’t stop there. She actually takes control of firestorm’s mind, making him think he’s turning the non-existent lava into frisbees when he’s actually conjuring up razor blades and flinging them around like crazy. Mindboggler works for Breathtaker and this is part of his plan to make Firestorm look like a dangerous asshole instead of a hero. Incognito is still pissed off that he isn’t getting a shot at Firestorm, so he decides to leave and prove himself by using his power to become anyone to get close to Firestorm … and then destroy him. This whole issue kinda reads like filler, and the characters are a little off, probably because Cavalieri is scripting instead of Conway.

Vigilante 12 coverVigilante #12 – “Journal” – Marv Wolfman/Gil Kane

As the title suggests, this is about Adrian (Vigilante) Chase writing in his journal (another similarity between him and Punisher) and some vignettes about recent events in his life. Adrian has been having nightmares since J.J.’s death, so he tries to clear his head with some target practice. He hears other gunshots and comes across four dudes with guns chasing a half-dressed woman. Vigilante pounded the guys, but it turned out the woman had gone after them in the first place. They’d raped and beaten her a year ago and she’d gotten pregnant, spent time in hospital, and lost the baby. She knew the cops couldn’t do anything, since there were no witnesses and it was her word against theirs, so shevictim getting her own justice decided to get her own justice. Vigilante tries to stop her, but she ends up wasting the four guys, saying it was what they deserved for what they did to her. Vigilante is conflicted … he knows the justice system doesn’t always work right, but he figures you have to at least give it a chance to work before taking the law into your own hands. Days later, Adrian’s girlfriend (Marcia King) loses a case against a guy (Max) and his friends who killed two men in a bar. The guys had lost their jobs when their factory moved to Japan, so when a couple of Asians came into the bar, these guys wasted them. The fact that the victims were Chinese didn’t much matter (“they all look alike anyway”) and the jury let drugged out dude them off. Marcia is pissed off and wishes she had a way to make the system work properly. Later, Vigilante contemplates killing Max, but realizes he can’t kill someone for being an ignorant asshole. Vigilante started his mission wanting to correct miscarriages of justice, but he’s starting to see it’s not as simple as he’d first thought. The third story is about a whacked-out dude who shoots several people with a rifle from an apartment window. Turns out the guy’s a dope addict and hasn’t had a fix lately, so he’s going nuts. Vigilante tries to reason with the guy, who says he needs some drugs bad, but his girlfriend took off with his stash. Vigilante tracks her down and finds her dead of an overdose on the toilet, so he takes the drugs back to the sniper. Instead of giving the guy the dope (which probably would’ve resulted in another OD), Vigilante talks him into trying to get help. Adrian concludes that he can sometimes make a difference in people’s lives and that’s what keeps him going.

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