Comics Reviews: Batman 370, Detective 547, Batman & the Outsiders 18, Firestorm 32, Vigilante 14

Batman 380 coverBatman #380 – “End of the Bat” – Doug Moench/Rick Hoberg/Alfredo Alcala

This one starts with a series of vignettes to bring us up to speed: Bullock barely survived his shooting by Mayor Hill last issue and is laid up in hospital. Hill still wants Bullock dead, but Dr. Fang changes the deal, so Hill has to release him before he’ll kill Bullock. Hill complies, which prompts ex-Commissioner Gordon to start a 24/7 armed vigil by Bullock’s hospital bed to protect him. Of course, Batman is still persona non grata with the cops. But Batman has other things on his mind, like tracking down Anton (Night Slayer) Knight, whose trail he lost in the sewers a couple issues back. Batman deduces that Knight couldn’t have gotten far with his wound, so heBatman meets Tina must’ve been swept through the sewers by the heavy rains. Batman uses logic to figure out which way Knight would’ve been pushed by the water and emerges on the beach, not far from Tina’s shack. Unfortunately, Knight has recovered from his wound and left earlier that day, making Tina promise not to tell anyone he was there. Tina (who’s blind) still thinks Knight is Batman—and she’s basically in love with him—so she promises to keep his secret. The real Batman finds her crying over Knight’s absence and asks if he can help. She’s in no mood for conversation and Batman leaves without ever mentioning his name. Meanwhile, Dr. Fang is sprung from prison on the promise that he’ll kill Bullock personally, but he has bigger things on his mind … killing Batman Anton captures Natalia and Jasonfor sending him to prison in the first place. Natalia (Nocturna) Knight and newly-adopted son Jason Todd go for a walk, but Jason’s still not buying Natalia’s motherly act. When they return to her penthouse, Night Slayer is waiting with Natalia’s gun and knocks both of them out. Batman decides to drop by Natalia’s place, partly to see Jason and partly because he’s still hot for Natalia. Dr. Fang has been following Batman and sees him go into the penthouse. Batman finds Jason and Natalia tied up and gets in a fight with Night Slayer as Jason tries to get free so he can help. Dr. Fang interrupts the fight just as Night Slayer is about to blow Batman’s head off. Fang’s appearance shocks everyone, so the bullet just grazes Batman’s skull, but ends up killing Fang. Batman loses hisBatman's psyche fractures shit, thinking he’s the one who killed Fang and Night Slayer plays along, switching their costumes and telling Batman he’s Night Slayer, an unrepentant killer. (Anton doesn’t recognize Bruce Wayne’s face, though he thinks it looks familiar … I guess he doesn’t read the Society page.) Night Slayer leaves wearing Batman’s costume and goes back to Tina’s place. Batman freaks out thinking he’s a killer and takes off before Jason (who finally manages to free himself) can tell him the truth.

Noticeable Things:

  • The reason for the new artist here was the untimely death of Don Newton, who died of a heart attack the previous year. Newton is probably my favourite Batman artist of all time; he was equally good at doing action sequences and character moments. At the time of his death, he’d just started doing Infinity Inc and it would’ve been cool to see what that book would’ve looked like with him on it. Newton was a great artist whose career could’ve been so much longer.

Detective 547 coverDetective #547 – “Cast of Characters, Sequence of Events” – Doug Moench/Pat Broderick/Klaus Janson

We get a quick recap of the above story, plus the events that led up to it, including Batman being framed for attacking the Mayor. The evidence Mayor Hill used (one of Batman’s gloves) turns out to be fake … what a shock. Apparently, Hill’s lackey (Blevins) has an Uncle Herman who’s a tailor and who made the glove for his nephew, thinking it was no big deal. But after Hill used the glove to frame Batman, Herman knows it’s partly his fault and feels pretty guilty about it. Back at Natalia’s penthouse, Jason frees her and she suggests they team up (as Robin and Nocturna) to find Batman and bring him back to his senses … after they get rid of Dr. Fang’sRobin and Nocturna dump Fang's body body. Robin is reluctant, but Nocturna points out how corrupt the system is with Hill in charge and mentions the ease of her adopting Jason could mean Hill pulled some strings to hurt Bruce Wayne. If Hill hates Batman and Bruce, they can’t afford to get entangled with the cops, so Robin agrees to dump Fang’s body in the park. For the next three nights, Night Slayer sullies Batman’s reputation by committing crimes (making sure there are photographers around to record it), while the real Batman (still wearing Night Slayer’s costume) sits on a roof and builds a hill made of pebbles. Why is he doing that? Even he doesn’t know, but he thinks it means something. Julia comes Alfred and Julia make upby Wayne Manor to see Bruce and her father (Alfred) tells her Bruce is out. Alfred is worried that Bruce/Batman has been gone for three days and gives Julia shit for using her adopted father’s name in her byline instead of his and she apologizes. At Picture News, Vicki’s admirer (Bill) keeps putting the moves on her, but she still has no interest and is kinda distracted by having to run a cover photo of Batman robbing a jewelry store. Bullock and Gordon know the photo is bullshit and wonder if Hill’s behind it somehow. Meanwhile, Hill is freaking out because he also figures the photo is fake, but has no idea who else might want to frame Batman and thinks it might be Batman himself trying to lure Hill into some kind of trap. Herman calls Blevins to ask about the glove he made, but Blevins blows him off, so Herman decides to followNocturna and Robin try to stop Anton his conscience. Behind her beach shack, Tina’s dog uncovers a bunch of buried loot and she realizes the guy she’s been helping (and is in love with) might not be Batman after all. Nocturna and Robin find Anton and fight him, but he gets the better of them, promising to kill Nocturna after he’s taken care of Batman. Meanwhile, the real Batman finishes his pyramid of pebbles and has a sudden revelation, taking off into the night. Herman runs into Anton (who still looks like Batman) and tries to tell him about making the glove for Hill, but Anton just slaps him down and leaves. Herman figures Batman’s an asshole and gets a surprise when Night Slayer shows up … and offers him a helping hand.

Green Arrow – “Most Likely to Die” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome K. Moore/Bruce D. Patterson

Last issue, a costumed weirdo called Vengeance showed up at Oliver (Green Selby shakes people downArrow) Queen’s class reunion and tried to kill one of the alumni, claiming he was executing him for past crimes … and promising there’d be more. Green Arrow checks out all his fellow classmates and they all come up clean, so he focuses on a couple of guys who kinda fell off the radar (Tim Selby and William Davis). He can’t find anything on Davis, so he tries to track Selby down, heading to the Vietnamese neighbourhood because Selby served in Vietnam (which seems like a bit of a logical leap, but whatever). Arrow finds Selby shaking down shop owners for cash, but since nobody will talk he can’t bring Selby in. Arrow goes to see a Rasta friend who fills him in on Selby (got hooked up with the Vietnamese mob at the end of the war, but seems to be going into business for himself now). By the way, Arrow’s pal seems to be smoking aVengeance shoots Mary big-ass hash pipe … I thought Arrow hated drugs? Maybe he makes an exception for Rastas, since it’s kinda part of their religion. Arrow decides to set up a fake store to lure Selby (and in turn, Vengeance) out of the shadows, using an upstairs neighbour (Mary Ho, who’s Chinese not Vietnamese) as the shopkeeper. Meanwhile, Onyx shows up in Star City on her quest to find Oliver Queen and slaps down a pimp who tries to recruit her at the train station. Selby falls for Green Arrow’s trap, but quickly figures out Mary isn’t Vietnamese and pulls a gun on her. Vengeance shows up to blow Selby away, but before Green Arrow can intervene, Mary is the one who gets shot.

Batman and Outsiders 18 coverBatman & the Outsiders #18 – “Who Wears the Crown of Ra?” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

Last issue, the Outsiders took Metamorpho to the Temple of Ra in Egypt to cure him after Simon Stagg used several Orbs of Ra to turn Metamorpho’s body inert. The original meteorite in the pyramid cured Metamorpho, but he and his friends were sent into the past by the meteorite’s energy and attacked by Akh-Ton, traitorous vizier of Pharaoh Ramses. Metamorpho’s mind is screwed up, so he’s obeying Akh-Ton’s every command, including capturing Dr. Jace. Batman and the others escaped and found refuge with the Pharaoh, but Batman fears they may have to kill Metamorpho to keep history intact. Batman grills Sapphire (Metamorpho’s girlfriend) about what unknown factor might beViolet has trouble at school different for this visit to the pyramid, since Rex Mason’s first encounter with the meteorite (when he was first transformed into Metamorpho) didn’t send him hurtling back into the past. Sapphire can’t think of anything and Katana urges Batman to let her rest. Katana is worried about Halo, who’s trying to fit back into her life as Violet Harper. But Violet apparently used to be a real asshole, so nobody wants anything to do with her. She even gets slapped by Jane Denninger, who blames Violet for her brother Mark’s death. In Ancient Egypt, Ramses is adamant about attending a ceremony celebrating his ancestor’s unification of Upper and Lower Egypt. He consents to bring the Outsiders Meatamorpho grabs Sapphirefor protection and they set out in a galley up the Nile. Black Lightning gives the galley slaves a break by getting Geo-Force to propel the boat up the river. Sapphire stows away on the boat, saying she can’t abandon Metamorpho, even if he has lost his mind. Of course, Akh-Ton has laid a trap for Ramses and Metamorpho starts pounding guards to get at the Pharaoh, with help from Akh-Ton’s lackeys. Sapphire tries to get through to Metamorpho, but he grabs her and threatens to kill her if the Outsiders don’t hand over Ramses. Back in modern times, Geo-Force’s friend Denise Howard discusses a scholarship with a professor named Raeburn. Raeburn puts the moves on her and when she rejects him, he tells her she’ll never get the scholarship and no one will believe her if she squeals on him. Denise blames herself and feels like she’ll be letting her family down if her academic career stalls, so she goes home and gets aMetamorpho gets his mind back bottle of sleeping pills. In Ancient Egypt, the Outsiders get Sapphire away from Metamorpho and she remembers him mentioning how he took a pill to numb the pain when he was first transformed. By threatening Akh-Ton, Batman tricks Metamorpho into changing his body into an anesthetic gas, which brings him back to his senses. Metamorpho decks Akh-Ton and Ramses says he’ll be executed soon. Ramses has his oracle Abdu send the Outsiders (and Dr. Jace) back to their own time. Metamorpho still feels like a freak, but Sapphire is tired of his whining and proposes to him; naturally, he accepts, so the story ends on a happy note … except for the last panel, which shows Denise in her bathroom, near death from an overdose.

Firestorm 32 coverFirestorm #32 – “Ghosts” – R.J.M. L’officier/Alan Kupperberg

This one starts with Ronnie Raymond having a nightmare about Shoe Shine, the gangster who tried to kill his father in the first Annual. Shine attacks Ronnie and Firestorm shows up and helps Shine. Ronnie wakes up and wonders if his subconscious sees Firestorm as a threat to his normal identity. Ronnie heads out to look for a job, but gets sidetracked when a rip in reality opens over the harbor and an unnatural storm threatens to kill everyone on the Staten Island Ferry. Ronnie triggers the Firestorm matrix but before he can save the Ferry, Phantom StrangerShine replaces Stein's psyche shows up to warn him away. Firestorm ignores Stranger and saves the Ferry, but Shoe Shine shows up and pulls Professor Stein’s consciousness right out of Firestorm, replacing it with his own. I guess their fight took place on the astral plane and Stein’s psyche is thrown through the rip in reality, which seals behind him, ending the storm. Ronnie and Stein split into separate people and Ronnie figures something’s up, since the Professor is acting a bit weird. Stein’s true consciousness falls through the astral plane until Phantom Stranger shows up to help him. Shine tries to go back and take over his old Ronnie triggers the transformationmob again, but nobody recognizes him in Stein’s body, so they throw him out. Shine goes to see his old mistress, but she doesn’t recognize him either and her new boyfriend kicks his ass. Phantom Stranger shows up to tell Ronnie about the mind-switch and warn him that Shine will go after Ronnie’s dad again. They can’t call the cops since Shine is in Stein’s body, so Phantom stranger exhorts Ronnie to force the Firestorm transformation. Shine resists, but Ronnie manages to trigger the change. Unfortunately, Shine pushes Ronnie’s psyche down and takes over Firestorm completely, planning to use Firestorm’s powers against Ronnie’s father. Phantom Stranger bringsRonnie and Stein fight back against Shine Firestorm (and Stein’s spirit) to a netherverse he calls the Antechamber of Souls. Shine tries to fight Phantom Stranger, conjuring simulacra to fight for him, but Stranger’s power is too great. Stein decides to help by trying to pull the firestorm power away from Shine. That distracts him enough to allow Ronnie’s consciousness to resurface and the two of them combine their will power to push Shine out. They succeed (with a little help from Phantom Stranger) and Shine is sent on to his judgment in the afterlife, while the fully-integrated Firestorm returns to the real world.

Vigilante 14 coverVigilante #14 – “Shadows” – Marv Wolfman/Trevor von Eeden

This one starts with someone that looks like a living shadow breaking into an office and trashing the place. The shadow shoots a couple of cops when they show up to investigate and Vigilante hears about it on his police scanner. Vigilante has been having nightmares lately, his dual-identity taking its toll on him. And his alter-ego Adrian Chase may soon be voted in as a judge, which means he’d have to give up his life as Vigilante. When he arrives at the office building, Vigilante is ambushed by the shadow, who seems almost impossible to touch. Vigilante finally gets a solid kick in and the shadow runs away, losing himself in the darkness of an alley. In another office building across town, a big shotHammer's diatribe businessman named Hammer orders his lackey to increase profits and tells his assistant (Mariette) how he hates his life-long rival across town. Hammer says he finally has the means to beat his rival and shows Mariette the shadow suit. Then they bang; hey, a corporate mogul’s gotta unwind. Downtown, Adrian Chase talks to some reporters about his judgeship, which his friend Alan assures him is definitely happening. Adrian goes to see Terry (Vigilante’s former assistant) and finds out she moved to Los Angeles with her kid a couple weeks ago. The cops tell the owner of the trashed office (Carl Hammet) what happened and he pretends not to know who might’ve done it. But as soon as Hammer knocks Vigilante outthe cops leave, he calls Hammer and tells him he’s going to pay dearly. Vigilante traces the call to Hammer Industries and confronts Hammer, who says Carl is his brother and he would never hurt him, even though they’ve always been competitive. Vigilante falls for it and Hammer knocks him out. He’s wakened by Mariette, who tells him Hammer was given the shadow suit by someone in Hong Kong a while back. The suit lets him blend into shadows and augments his physical strength, but she’s afraid it drove him nuts. Mariette says Hammer’s rivalry with his brother has always been an unhealthy obsession, but now she’s worried Hammer will do something he can’t take back, so sheVigilante shoots Hammer begs Vigilante to stop him. After Vigilante leaves, Mariette makes a phone call to tell someone he’s coming. Hammer shows up at Carl’s office in the shadow suit with a gun and Carl is ready to call security, but Vigilante shows up and he starts fighting Hammer. Hammer leads Vigilante through the darkened building, shooting and cutting him until Vigilante finally figures out to turn on the lights. He puts a bullet between Hammer’s eyes and takes off. The cops find Hammer’s body and Carl pretends to be shocked that his brother is the one in the shadow suit who tried to kill him. Later, we find out Carl was the one who arranged for Hammer to get the shadow suit in Hon Carl totally loses his mindKong, knowing that if he pushed hard enough, Hammer would go off the deep end and try to kill him. Carl puts on the suit and tells Mariette (who was working for him all along) that he was ready to kill his brother himself, but this way Vigilante did it for him. Unfortunately, he can’t leave Mariette alive knowing the truth, so he shoots her and we see that Carl is the one who’s really crazy.

 

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