Comics Reviews: Batman 381, Detective 548, Batman & the Outsiders 19, Firestorm 33, Vigilante 15

Batman 381 coverBatman #381 – “Darkly Moved the Pawns” – Doug Moench/Rick Hoberg/Alfredo Alcala

This one opens with the blind girl Tina finding a police officer and telling him about the stolen loot she found buried near her shack on the beach. Tina says she took care of Batman after he was hurt and that he’s the thief. Normally, any cop would know that’s a load of crap, but Anton (Night Slayer) Knight has been masquerading as Batman lately, robbing stores and banks like crazy, so the cop figures anything is possible. As he’s examining the stolen loot, Anton shows up and knocks him out with a Batarang and Tina realizes she trusted the wrong guy. Where’s Batman during all this? After having a mini-psychotic break when he was grazed by a bullet (and believed he shot Dr. Fang), Batman took off after being dressed in Night Slayer’s outfit by Anton. He’s been stacking pebbles on a rooftop, trying to regain his sanity, and at the end of last issuepeople discussing Batman's recent activities it looked like maybe he was back to normal. Around town, people are discussing the possibility Batman has gone bad, but most Gothamites are disinclined to believe it. Jason (Robin) Todd and Natalia (Nocturna) Knight are still out looking for Batman and Anton, but after four nights of fruitless searching, they’re getting discouraged. Jason still isn’t convinced that Natalia’s adoption of him is sincere and he tosses her place after she goes to sleep, finding the stolen loot she uses to finance her lifestyle. Jason threatens to call the cops and she tells him to do what he thinks is right. Jason holds off on turning her in (so maybe he doesn’t hate her so much after all?), but hides the loot on the Batman asks Natalia for helproof so he can turn that in later. Natalia is startled when “Night Slayer” shows up at her place, but quickly realizes it’s Batman, who wants her help to catch Anton. Coincidentally, Amanda Groscz (the Child Welfare worker who took Jason away from Bruce Wayne) sees them leaving the penthouse and assumes Batman’s allegations about Natalia being a criminal are true. Batman takes Natalia to a fur warehouse that Night Slayer is planning to rob (still wearing Batman’s costume, of course). Batman asks Natalia to do him a favour and she calls Mayor Hill, who’s freaking out that the recent “Batman robberies” are a trap by Batman to incriminate Hill, who tried to frame Batman for attacking him. Hill wants to catch Batman doing something illegal to deflect any suspicion off himself, so Natalia’s phone call playsHill thinks he has the upper hand right into his plans. She tells him Batman killed Dr. Fang and plans to rob the fur warehouse tonight and Hill buys into it completely, calling the press and the cops to meet him at the warehouse. Batman goes home to let Alfred know he’s okay and to get his spare costume. At the hospital, James Gordon hears about Hill calling in a bunch of cops to the warehouse and tags along to see what’s up, even though Hill fired him a couple issues ago. As Night Slayer moves in to rob the warehouse, the cops (and reporters) spring their trap, turning searchlights on him. For a minute, everyone thinks maybe Batman really has gone bad, but then the real Batman shows up and unmasks Anton. Batman brings out Herman Blevins, the tailor who made the real Batman shows upthe glove Hill used to frame Batman, and Herman tells the crowd everything. In the confusion, Anton grabs Hill and threatens to kill him, but Batman jumps Anton and they fall in the water. Hill knows his political career is over and surrenders to Gordon without protest. Along the shore, Batman climbs out of the water, having lost Anton in an undertow. We also find out that Amanda Groscz seeing “Night Slayer” and Natalia together was no coincidence, but part of Batman’s plan. He, Robin, Alfred, and Natalia read the paper the next day about Hill’s arrest, but Batman wishes he’d caught Anton. He leaves to tell Tina the good news and Natalia (knowing her adoption of Jason will soon be revoked) wishes Jason well and leaves. Down by the beach, Batman talks to Tina, explaining how she was fooled by Anton and letting her feel his real face.

Detective 548 coverDetective #548 – “Beasts A-Prowl” – Doug Moench/Pat Broderick/Bob Smith

This one starts at Wayne Manor, where Jason is once again living, although I assume Bruce hasn’t formally adopted him yet. We get a recap of the above issue and learn that Natalia found the loot Robin hid on her roof and took off with it, which bothers Bruce since he’s still kinda hot for her (and because Night Slayer still wants to kill her). They decide to go out and look for Natalia and Night Slayer. In a slum part of Gotham, some guy is robbing an old dude when a panther jumps out of the shadows and mauls the mugger. At Picture News, Vicki Vale gets a tip about the attack, so she and Julia Pennyworth head down to Crime Alley to check it out. Batman hears the same tip on his police scanner and tellsVicki and Julia talk to witnesses Robin their target has just changed. In Crime Alley, Vicki and Julia get a dozen contradictory stories about the panther attack and when they decide to look around, a local gang offers to come with them as “escorts”. They agree (since they don’t have much choice), but realize the gang wants more than just their companionship. Batman and Robin are heading for Crime Ally and Batman tells Robin about his past with Catwoman and how unstable she was last time they met (in Batman 355). They’re diverted when they hear about a robbery on the police radio and see the Bat-Signal. Turns out the “robbery” is actually a hostage situation; a guy calling himself Darkwolf has six Vicki and Julia run into the pantherhostages in the Egyptian embassy and is threatening to blow the place up unless Syrian political prisoners are released in Egypt (which Egypt refuses to do). In Crime Alley, Vicki and Julia are saved from a gang rape when a roar from a nearby alley scares off the gang members. Vicki and Julia are knocked over by a panther leaping from the alley and Vicki decides to follow it. At the Embassy, Batman climbs the building while Robin rigs a line from a nearby rooftop. While Batman fights Darkwolf, Robin helps the hostages to safety on a zip-line. Darkwolf is tougher than Batman thought and manages to set off a grenade and escape on a small hang-glider. The cops try toDarkwolf gets away follow, but lose him among the buildings. Batman isn’t hurt much … except his pride at letting an amateur like Darkwolf escape. Meanwhile, Vicki and Julia have lost the panther’s trail and Vicki finally realizes the big cat probably belongs to Catwoman. Since Catwoman was insanely jealous of her last time they met Vicki figures maybe they should get the hell out of there, but before they can leave, Catwoman shows up.

Green Arrow – “Vengeance is Mine” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome Moore/Bruce Patterson

Last issue, someone calling himself Vengeance was wasting members of Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen’s old high school class, so Green Arrow did some digging and found another class member (Selby) was shaking down Green Arrow fights Vengeancestore owners in the Vietnamese part of town. Arrow had a woman named Mary Cho pretend to open a store to get Selby’s attention and it worked, but when Vengeance showed up to kill Selby, Mary was hit in the crossfire. Green Arrow gets pissed off and (after taking Selby down) beats the shit out of Vengeance, giving him a speech about law and order at the same time. Of course, this was all part of the plan to catch Vengeance, so Mary was wearing a bullet-proof vest and she’s fine. Afterwards, Green Arrow accidentally figures out the other member of his class he was looking for (William Davis) is now a transgender prostitute named Billie Jean, which explains why he had so much trouble tracking her down. Elsewhere, Onyx tricks the owner of a guitar store into taking her in by pretending she’s hurt.

Batman and Outsiders 19 coverBatman & the Outsiders #19 – “Who’s Afraid of the Big Red S?” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Halo showing up at Wayne Manor freaking out and looking for Bruce (Batman) Wayne. She tells Bruce that Brion (Geo-Force) Markov has gone nuts and wants to kill someone and we get a couple of flashbacks as Halo tries to sort out the story. Apparently she and Brion agreed to be just friends and treat each other like brother and sister, which is a bit weird since they’ve already made out a few times. Halo also called Katana to invite her to Brion’s place for Christmas, but Katana’s been missing Halo since she went to live with her real parents, so Katana’s reluctant to see her again when she knows it’ll only be temporary. Halo finally tells Batman that Brion got a call from hisGeo-Force and Halo helping Denise friend Denise Howard, who OD’d on pills last issue after Dean Raeburn put the moves on her and destroyed her chance at a scholarship. Geo-Force and Halo went to Denise’s place and got her to a hospital, but Denise told Geo-Force what happened, so now he wants to kill Raeburn. Batman knows none of the outsiders can stop Geo-Force, so he calls Superman. Batman heads off to take care of some other business, leaving Halo to team up with Superman (with whom she’s instantly besotted). Downtown, Katana and Black Lightning stop a mugging and he asks her why she’s avoiding Halo. Katana Superman and Geo-Force start fightingsays she’d love to have Halo back (and knows she’d come back if asked), but Halo belongs with her parents so Katana figures cutting off all contact will make things easier on both of them … which Black Lightning can see is total bullshit. Superman and Halo track Geo-Force to Raeburn’s house, where he’s getting ready to waste the scumbag. Superman drags Geo-Force outside and thy fight, while Superman tries to deliver a message about justice and the responsibility their powers bring them. Elsewhere, Metamorpho and Sapphire Stagg are doing some Christmas shopping and talking about their upcoming wedding. Metamorpho surprises Sapphire by wanting to buy her father a Christmas gift, even though he tried to kill Metamorpho. Metamorpho says his own life has been pretty lonely and he doesn’t want Sapphire to be cutSuperman ends the fight with an avalanche off from only family. Back at Raeburn’s place, Superman (who’s kinda enjoying his brawl with Geo-Force) finally takes down the pissed-off hero. Raeburn is all worked up about the damage to his place and denies all Denise’s charges, but Batman shows up with statements from seven other students Raeburn harassed. Batman tells Geo-Force you have to let the law work for you and if it doesn’t, that’s what the Outsiders are for. Brion goes to see Denise in the hospital and Superman tells Batman Geo-Force will be a pretty good super-hero once he learns to control himself.

Firestorm 33 coverFirestorm #33 – “Burn Manhattan, Burn” – Gerry Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Alan Kupperberg

This one starts with Louise Lincoln talking to a psychiatrist about the weird dreams she’s been having. Louise has been dreaming about her old friend Crystal Frost (aka Killer Frost) trying to kill her (which we saw in issue 21) and wondering if maybe she deserves death for not being able to save Frost’s life. Meanwhile, Firestorm is feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the craziness in his life lately, but his musings are interrupted by an explosion in a restaurant. Firestorm swoops down to help, turning a car into a fire-truck to douse the flames, against Professor Stein’s advice. FirestormFirestorm meets the arsonists saves some people from burning to death, then realizes the spray from the fire engine has actually spread the fire instead of putting it out. Realizing there’s more to the fire than he thought, Firestorm heads into the burning restaurant and runs into some arsonists in costumes. He gets blasted by a concussion gun and the arsonists take off after dropping a piece of metal with a threat written on it: release Plastique (who Firestorm captured in issue 7) or they’ll keep starting fires. The note is signed Le Flambeau. Firestorm gets a copy of the note and changes to Ronnie Raymond to show his father. Ed is less concerned Ronnie tells Stein about his dadabout Plastique than with the fact that Ronnie seems to be somewhat interested in journalism. Ed offers Ronnie a job at the Daily Express, but Ronnie says he has to concentrate on studying right now. Ronnie is pretty happy that his dad finally seems proud of him and can’t wait to tell Professor Stein. In a lab in New Jersey, Louise Lincoln is driving her assistants crazy with her demands and snotty attitude as she pushes to finish a top secret project. Meanwhile, Le Flambeau and his terrorist posse are hiding out in the last place anyone would look for a bunch of anti-capitalists … a Wall Street office building (which belongs to Le Flambeau’s father). The authorities have no intention of releasing Plastique, so Le Flambeau is planning a much bigger conflagration. TakingLouise Lincoln's lab blows up into account the winds and the numerous incendiary charges they’ve placed around Manhattan, Le Flambeau figures they can get the entire city burning within three hours of detonation. At Concordance Research, Martin Stein gets a visit from his pseudo-girlfriend Belle, who drags him out to dinner, giving him a letter she got from the mail clerk on her way to Stein’s office. In New Jersey, Louise Lincoln and her staff start the experiment, trying to create a temperature below Absolute Zero. Unfortunately, the machine overloads and blows up. Ronnie is studying at home when Stein triggers the Firestorm Firestorm fights Le Flambeautransformation because Le Flambeau has just interrupted every TV and radio broadcast in the city to say that Manhattan will burn if Plastique isn’t freed by midnight. Using Stein’s scientific knowledge, Firestorm whips up a device to track the transmission to the arsonists’ Wall Street hideout. Firestorm freaks the terrorists out by coming down the chimney and through the fireplace. Firestorm attacks, but during the fight he knocks Le Flambeau into the controls, setting off the incendiaries in the city (which were apparently hidden in the Goodwear Blimp … nice touch).

Vigilante 15 coverVigilante # 15 – “Send in the Clowns” – Marv Wolfman/Paris Cullins/Rick Magyar, Karl Kesel

This one starts with Adrian (Vigilante) chase and his girlfriend Marcia attending the circus. They get some laughs from the clowns, but backstage one of the clowns (Hank Weston) isn’t laughing. His wife is in a private care home with some kind of disease (cancer maybe) and Hank has run out of money to keep her there. He also has a daughter (Cynthia) to take care of, but he has no idea where to get the money he needs. Back at Adrian’s townhouse, he and Marcia are banging and Adrian is working out afterwards. Just across the street, Electrocutioner invades another fancy house that turns out to be a front for a child porn set-up. ElectrocutionerElectrocutioner tosses the girl starts wasting the pedophiles running the place and Adrian hears screaming as he sees Marcia off. He changes into Vigilante to check it out and finds Electrocutioner wasting the director. Vigilante realizes what kind of movie was being shot there, but still feels like he has to stop Electrocutioner from dispensing his own brand of justice. Electrocutioner grabs one of the girls and threatens to kill her. Vigilante argues that she’s innocent, but Electrocutioner isn’t impressed and tosses her off the balcony. While Vigilante is saving her, Electrocutioner gets away. Meanwhile, the other clowns chip in and raise $2000 for Hank, but that only covers a couple weeks in the nursing home, so he decides to do something desperate. Wearing his full clown outfit, Hank tries to rob a bank (with a toy gun) but ends up getting shot in the leg and arrested. Because of Vigilante fights Electrocutionerhis circumstances, Hank is acquitted by a jury and Adrian agrees with that decision, believing Hank is no career criminal. Apparently a lot of other people agree, as circus attendance is way up and Hank gets a huge ovation when he comes out to perform. Adrian is at the circus as Vigilante because he expects Electrocutioner to show up and correct the “miscarriage of justice”. Sure enough, Electrocutioner does try to kill Hank and Vigilante jumps him. They fight in the centre ring and the audience isn’t sure if it’s part of the show or not. Electrocutioner thinks Vigilante has gone soft on crime and is ready to kill him when Hank’s fellow clowns go after Electrocutioner, using their various tricks to slap him around. Electrocutioner gets away, but Hank is safe and he and his fellow clowns cover for Vigilante when the cops show up. I’m still not sure what Hank will do about the money he needs; that question is never really answered.

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