Comics Reviews: Batman 379, Detective 546, Batman & the Outsiders 17, Firestorm 31

Batman 379 coverBatman #379 – “Bedtime Stories” – Doug Moench/Don Newton/Alfredo Alcala

Last issue, Batman and Robin captured a computer from Mad Hatter that the villain was using to download information straight from people’s brains. Apparently, Hatter has become quite the techie because as this story opens, we see him perfecting a new electronic device that lets him control a person’s mind. Elsewhere, Julia Pennyworth shows up at the scene of a massive fire on her first assignment for Picture News. She’s literally shoved out of the way by a TV cameraman and told by TV reporter Olivia Ortega that print journalism is dead and that she’s wasting her time. Julia ends up writing a moving story about her feelings on the issue, concentrating on the personal conflict instead f the fire. Her father Alfred is very proud of her, but he’s also bothered that used her adopted name ofguy trashes car Julia Remarque in the byline instead of Pennyworth. At an old pharmaceutical warehouse across town, a line of men is waiting for jobs. Every guy that comes out of the warehouse is wearing a new hat (Hmmm, I wonder where those came from?) and not just any old hat … these hats seem to give the wearer super-human strength somehow. We see the results as one dude trashes a car with his bare hands. At Picture News, Vicki Vale praises Julia’s human interest story about the fire and assigns her to cover the Jason Todd adoption case. Julia writes another moving story about Bruce Wayne losing custody of Jason to Natalia (Nocturna) Knight, who Batman has publicly custody hearingaccused of being a criminal. Julia goes out for a drink with Bruce after the trial and he realizes he’s just been using her to distract himself from his problems, so he walks out. Meanwhile, Vicki is also the target of some unwanted romantic overtures, as Bill Modell tries to woo her again, even mentioning settling down and having kids (which really freaks Vicki out for some reason). In a shack down by the river, the blind girl Tina (and her dog Cerberus) is still looking after Anton (Night Slayer) Knight, who’s still pretending to be Batman to humour Tina’s mistaken assumption. Last issue, it seemed like Batman was hot on Anton’s trail, but I guess he must’ve lost him in the sewers and given up. That night, Bruce gets a call from Lucius Fox, whose tech experts have cracked Mad Hatter’s computer. Lucius gives Bruce theMad Hatter sends a guy to kill Batman address of an old pharmaceutical warehouse that was on the computer. Mad Hatter is one step ahead though, since he expects Batman to crack the computer. He uses another hat to zombiefy a dude and sends him out to either kill Batman, or plant a tracker on him. In the Batcave, Bruce realizes that people are starting to wonder about Robin’s absence from Batman’s patrols lately (and figures someone might make the Bruce Wayne/Jason Todd connection), so he stops by Natalia’s place to pick up his partner. He gets jumped by Hatter’s thug, who has super-strength from the brainwashing. Batman pounds the guy, but doesn’t notice that he sticks a tracker on Batman’s Batman and Robin fight goonscape. When Batman goes into Natalia’s penthouse, she’s telling Jason a weird bedtime story about her fetish with he night and isn’t too happy about letting him go with Batman, but when Jason chooses to go she doesn’t stand in his way. The attraction between Batman and Nocturna is still there, but he fights it as usual. The Dynamic Duo head for the warehouse, followed by Mad Hatter (who’s tracking Batman) … and by Nocturna, who slips out her window and goes after them. Hatter arranges for his mind-controlled minions to surprise Batman and Robin at the warehouse, but he has another surprise up his sleeve … the warehouse is loaded with explosives. After Batman and Robin pound the thugs, Hatter starts aNocturna takes Hatter down countdown to blowing them up, but Nocturna finds him outside the warehouse and kicks his ass before he can detonate the explosives. Nocturna says saving their lives is what anyone would do for the man (and child) they love, but Batman and robin are still skeptical. Jason has to go home with Nocturna since the court awarded her custody, but Batman reminds him they still have the nights to hang out together … which bothers Nocturna, since she always thought the night belonged to her.

Detective 546 coverDetective #546 – “Hill’s Descent” – Doug Moench/Gene Colan/Bob Smith

This one starts with Mayor Hamilton Hill taking drastic steps to get rid of Batman, who gave Hill an ominous warning last issue that his days of corruption would soon be over. Hill trashes his own office and has his henchman (Blevins) hit him on the head, then holds a press conference the next day where he claims Batman did it. Hill claims he had proof of Batman being a criminal and that’s why he was attacked; he even produces one of Batman’s gloves as “proof”. Hill declares Batman a wanted man and orders the police to apprehend him. The cops are divided on the issue; some consider Batman a friend to the force, fighting the same criminals they do, while others resent his lack of oversight and theBatman fights cops way he gets so much credit, sometimes making them look bad in the process. In the end, the cops have no choice but to follow orders, so they start looking for Batman on their nightly patrols. Instead of staying home, Batman decides to go out on his own patrol and soon ends up cornered by some cops. He takes them down as gently as possible (which is still going to leave some bruises) and leaves. Down by the shore, Anton (Night Slayer) Knight is still recovering from being shot by Nocturna, and now he’s talking about revenge. Tat bothers Tina, the blind girl who helped him and who thinks he’s Batman, not just because hearing “Batman” talk about cold-blooded revenge is weird, but Jason hurts Natalia's feelingsalso because she has the hots for him and doesn’t want him to leave her. In a fancier neighbourhood, Natalia and Jason are out for a walk and he lets her know that he doesn’t trust her and that he hates her thieving ways and love of riches. Natalia tries to convince him what she really wants is a child, but Jason blows her off … which genuinely hurts her, although Jason doesn’t notice. Batman tries to see Commissioner Gordon, but his house is surrounded by cops, so Batman phones him, knowing the cops are probably listening in. Gordon says he’s tired of fighting Hill’s corruption and just wants this all to be over. Gordon mentions Harvey Bullock, saying Bullock is either in Hill’s pocket, or he’s the next target. We see Bullock (who was working for HillHill shoots Bullock and quit, which is why Hill has been trying to kill him) almost getting wasted by another assassin. This time, Bullock kills the would-be killer and feels guilty about it, blaming Hill for turning him into a killer. Batman can’t find Bullock because he’s too busy evading the cops, so he decides to let Bullock fend for himself and concentrate on other problems first. Bullock goes to Hill’s mansion to give him shit, but Hill already knows about the dead assassin and has put out an APB on Bullock for murder. When Bullock shows up at the Mayor’s Mansion to threaten Hill, that plays right into Hill’s hands and he shoots Bullock in “self-defense”.

Green Arrow fights VengeanceGreen Arrow – “Clash Reunion” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome Moore/Bruce Patterson

As you can guess by the title, this story is about Oliver Queen attending his high school reunion. (It doesn’t say which reunion, but Ollie’s always been depicted as a slightly older guy, so maybe his twentieth?) Anyway, the weirdo with a gun that we saw last issue shows up at the reunion (calling himself Vengeance), claiming the janitor is one of the class members who’s wanted for crimes. Before Vengeance can waste the guy, Oliver changes to Green Arrow and stops him, engaging in the usual social justice debate. Vengeance says there are more criminals among the reunion attendees and promises he’ll take them downOnyx sent to find Oliver Queen too, one way or another. Green Arrow realizes he’d better check out his ex-classmates and figure out who the potential targets are. We get an epilogue in what looks like a monastery, where some really old dude is dying and asks to see a woman named Onyx. Apparently Onyx was running from someone who wanted her dead and the monastery took her in and trained her to fight. Now the monastery is in trouble and the only person who can help is Oliver Queen (who also spent time there years ago), so Onyx is sent out to find him.

Batman and Outsiders 17 coverBatman & the Outsiders #17 – “We Are Dying, Egypt—Dying” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one begins 3000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, when the Pharaoh Ramses was praying to the sun God (Ra) to help him against Akh-Ton, a priest who was rebelling against Ramses. An oracle received a message from Ra depicting some familiar-looking heads (Batman, Katana, Geo-Force, Black Lightning, and Metamorpho), who were destined to help Ramses against Akh-Ton. But the oracle warned that one of these “helpers” would turn out to be an enemy. In the present, the Outsiders are heading for Egypt, hoping to save Metamorpho’s life after his body was reduced to slag by Simon Stagg’s Orbs of Ra last issue. Sapphire Stagg is with the Outsiders, worried about Metamorpho (since she’s in loveRex becoming Metamorpho with him) and so is Dr. Helga Jace, who thought bringing Metamorpho back to where he first got his powers might revive him. Sapphire tells Metamorpho’s origin story: Rex Mason was a soldier of fortune who worked for Simon Stagg, but Stagg didn’t like it when Rex and Sapphire fell in love. Stagg sent Rex (along with Stagg’s bodyguard Java) to steal the Orb of Ra (a powerful gem said to have come from an ancient meteorite) from Akh-Ton’s pyramid, but Java betrayed Rex and left him for dead, taking the Orb with him. But Rex ended up in a secret chamber under the pyramid, where he found the original meteorite and was changed by its rays into Metamorpho. Sapphire still loved Rex, although he considered himself a freak, but her father became even more opposed to the Metamorpho revives but Outsiders all fade awayrelationship … and now it seems like Stagg might’ve finally finished Metamorpho off for good. When the Outsiders reach Akh-Ton’s pyramid, they break in and find the chamber with the meteorite. Geo-Force uses his gravity power to get Metamorpho close to the meteorite and it does revive him, but its rays also make everyone disappear. They end up in Ancient Egypt where Akh-Ton is waiting for them. Apparently, Akh-Ton used magic to bring them back in time, but he really only wanted Metamorpho … the others just got caught in the backlash. Metamorpho is acting really weird, like he’s mind-controlled; he pledges loyalty to Akh-Ton and fights the Outsiders when they try to reason with him. (He even slaps Sapphire around a bit, so you know he’s not thinking straight.) The Outsiders decide to retreat andMetamorpho attacks his friends regroup rather than fight their friend and in the confusion, Dr. Jace is left behind. Back in the States, Violet (Halo) Harper is getting ready for school when the local police chief comes by to ask her about Mark Denninger, who wound up dead in Paris of a drug overdose. Violet can’t remember anything about her old life, but between the cop’s questions and her father warning her not to break her mother’s heart again, Violet starts wondering what kind of asshole she must’ve been. In Ancient Egypt, Batman’s group is located by soldiers of Ramses and taken to his palace where he tells them of the prophecy that they would help him fight Akh-Ton. Ramses’ oracle (Abdu) tells how he was Akh-Ton’s Abdu's story apprentice and how Akh-Ton studied the fallen meteorite and fashioned the Orb of Ra from it. But Akh-Ton found out the meteorite wouldn’t reach its full power for 3000 years, so he built the pyramid around it and sent it forward in time so it could send him back a champion (Metamorpho) to help him wrest power from Ramses. Abdu was loyal to the Pharaoh, so Akh-Ton tried to have him killed, but he escaped and came to become Ramses’ oracle. Sapphire wonders why the meteorite didn’t send Rex back in time the first time he found it, but Batman has other concerns. History tells him that Akh-Ton’s rebellion failed, so he tells the Outsiders they have to insure history isn’t changed … even if it means killing Metamorpho.

Noticeable Things:

  • Ramses’ wife asks Sapphire about her blonde hair and Sapphire says it comes from a “magic” called Clairol.

Firestorm 31 coverFirestorm #31 – “A Mind of Her Own” – Gerry Conway/George Tuska/Alex Nino

Last issue, Mindboggler took over Firestorm’s mind, turning him into her puppet. Professor Stein urges Ronnie to fight back against the mental domination, but it turns out Firestorm was just bullshitting to put Mindboggler at ease. He blasts the floor from under her feet, dropping her into a sub-basement, then goes looking for her employer, Breathtaker. Firestorm blasts his way into Breathtaker’s inner sanctum and confronts the villain, who admits he works for the 2000 Committee and they wanted revenge on Firestorm for screwing up their attempt to kidnap Firehawk. Firestorm gets pissed off and trashes theFirestorm pounds Breathtaker hideout, kicking the shit out of Breathtaker, who turns out to be a grim reaper-looking dude in an exoskeleton. (The dialogue says Breathtaker is a “wizened old man” but his face seriously looks like a skull.) The hideout was under Grant’s Tomb and Firestorm comes busting out with Breathtaker and Mindboggler in tow, taking them to the police station where his friends Wilson and Mackey book them. The 2000 Committee’s other stooge (Incognito) is already in custody, but he hasn’t told them anything. Mindboggler offers to help find the 2000 Committee, saying she wants revenge for all the pain Breathtaker Firehawk and Firestorm make upcaused her. She says Breathtaker is too pathetic to get revenge on, but his employers will do just fine. Firestorm isn’t sure how far he can trust Mindboggler, but she seems to be his only shot. He zips down to Washington to pick up Lorraine (Firehawk) Reilly, who’s pissed off because he promised to help her find her kidnapped father, then took off. Firestorm figures the 2000 Committee is behind the kidnapping and introduces Firehawk to Mindboggler, who tells them she wants revenge for the Committee manipulating her and turning her into a terrible person. Now she hopes to leave all that behind her by helping them. She takes them to one of the 2000 Committee’s hideouts and uses her mind-control powers to make everyone believeblasting 2000 Committee's hideout Firestorm and Firehawk are Breathtaker and Incognito. The ruse works and they’re ushered into the hideout, which is commanded by Clarissa Clemons, Professor Stein’s ex-wife. Firehawk’s impatience to find her father makes her aggressive and when she sees him in a cell, she freaks out and decks Clarissa. Mindboggler drops the illusion and the three of them kick the crap out of the Committee and rescue Senator Reilly (most of which is glossed over in a caption). Later, Professor Stein and Ronnie celebrate their victory over dinner at Stein’s place, where they’ve also invited Senator Reilly and Lorraine. Lorraine has told her father the truth about Firehawk and Firestorm and he promises to keep their secrets. The Senator tells them he’s going to resign his Senate Mindboggler leaves to find a new lifeseat, since he did break the law by giving in to Tokamak’s demands, even if it was to save his daughter’s life. Back in Washington, Mindboggler has adopted another illusory persona, hoping to put her past behind her and start a new life, though she muses that she may be able to drop the illusion someday and accept the reality of what she’s become. This whole 2000 Committee storyline seems to have wrapped up pretty quickly, and doesn’t really live up to the build-up. The last couple issues had a different scripter, so maybe Conway just decided to summarily finish this off so he could start his next storyline. Tuska’s art is a little weird here; it looks like Firestorm has a long, bushy hairdo but I’m assuming that’s supposed to be fire trailing out from his head.

 

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