Comics Reviews: Batman 382, Detective 549, Batman & the Outsiders 20, Firestorm 34, Vigilante 16

Batman 382 coverBatman #382 – “The Vengeance Spiral” – Doug Moench/Rick Hoberg/Rudy Nebres

Last issue, Batman and Robin rescued some hostages at the Egyptian Embassy from a terrorist called Darkwolf, who managed to get away (which doesn’t sit well with Batman). Meanwhile, Vicki Vale and Julia Pennyworth followed a lead on a mysterious panther that had attacked a couple of people in Crime Alley and ran right into the big cat … and its master, Catwoman. Given their history (in issue 355), Vicki is understandably wary around Catwoman, but Catwoman only cares about her panther, Diablo. Vicki tries to get some answers from Catwoman, who gets pissed off at her. Before things escalate, Batman and Robin show up and Catwoman tells him Diablo has been poisoned … by Darkwolf. She relates how she and DiabloCatwoman's history with Darkwolf stopped Darkwolf from attacking a museum in Egypt a few years ago, leaving Darkwolf’s face scarred by Diablo’s claws. Darkwolf’s attack on the Egyptian Embassy in Gotham is because he found out Catwoman lives in Gotham. Before taking over the Embassy, Darkwolf went by Catwoman’s place and poisoned Diablo with cyanide, which drove the panther nuts and sent it on a killing frenzy. Batman says there’ll have to be justice for that, but it’s too late … Diablo dies from the poison and Catwoman is devastated. Meanwhile, Darkwolf tries to get out of the country, but starts some shit at the airport, shooting off a gun and taking over a jet that’s waiting to take off. When the report comes over Batman’s radio, Catwoman insists on Catwoman pretends to be a flight attendanthelping catch Darkwolf. At the airport, Batman tells Commissioner Gordon to convince Darkwolf he needs another flight attendant to keep the passengers calm. Darkwolf agrees and Catwoman goes aboard, dressed as a flight attendant. Batman disguises himself as ground crew and jumps on the wing. To keep Darkwolf from noticing him, Robin runs out after the plane as it’s taking off, making it look like he was trying to get aboard and just missed it. The ruse works and Darkwolf doesn’t notice Batman clinging to the other wing. Catwoman gets the emergency door open for Batman before they get too high and then she jumps Darkwolf, raking his face with her nails. He throws her off and Batman jumps him, which shocks Darkwolf since he assumed Batman was killed in the Embassy explosion last issue. Darkwolf reaches for a grenade and Catwoman snatches it from his handCatwoman grabs the grenade and is pulled out the open door. Batman tosses his parachute after her, but he can’t tell if it reaches her before the grenade goes off. Darkwolf shoots Batman in the ribs and the Caped Crusader goes nuts, pounding Darkwolf right through the cockpit door and knocking out the pilot, which sends the plane into a nosedive. Luckily, Batman’s a pilot and he lands the jet safely. Later, Gordon tells him there’s no trace of Catwoman and Batman says he’ll bury Diablo. Julia thinks the last line of Vicki’s story should read “He loved her.” But don’t worry, we’ll see Catwoman again some time … she does have nine lives after all.

Detective 549 coverDetective #549 – “Dr. Harvey and Mr. Bullock” – Doug Moench/Pat Broderick/Bob Smith

This issue spotlights Harvey Bullock, although I’m not sure if the ideas presented here about his “hidden depths” actually stick. We start with the Bullock we know: loud, clumsy, messy, disorganized, driving a car that’s falling apart … in a word, Bullock. But when he gets back to his crappy apartment in one of Gotham’s slums (after breaking up a fight between a couple of Skull Smashers outside), we see he’s an old movie buff,Harvey's place vandalized with a bunch of posters on his walls of classic movies and actors (Chaplin, Cagney, Clara Bow, Veronica Lake). Harvey’s diction even changes when he’s contemplating the posters and we get some Batman parallels where he wonders if the real Harvey Bullock is the refined movie fan or the rough street cop. In the end, he doesn’t much care, as long as he can keep them separate. He gets a call from the station about meeting some informant, but it turns out to be a ruse. Bullock realizes what’s going on and rushes home to find his place trashed, with all the movie posters smashed or spray-painted. He knows Harvey and Batman pound gang memberswho’s responsible … one of the Skull Smashers he roughed up earlier, so he tracks the punk down and beats the shit out of him. Unfortunately, the rest of the gang shows up to help their pal and Bullock is trapped in a dead end alley. Batman arrives on the scene and the two of them pound the gang members (while making uncharacteristic quips to each other). In the aftermath, Harvey reaches out to the kid who vandalized his place, saying nobody is completely good or bad. This is an interesting take on Bullock, but like I said, I don’t think it really stuck. Most writers depict him as advertised, with no hidden depths.

Green Arrow – “Night Olympics” – Alan Moore/Klaus Janson

This is a different take on Green Arrow, with some of Alan Moore’s usual musings on what it really means to be a super-hero. Green Arrow and Black Canary track down some guys that ripped off an electronics store and have some interesting encounters. Green Arrow’s opponent completely loses hisarcher aims at Green Arrow and Black Canary shit and a cop explains that he’s having a “super-hero psych-out” after being apprehended by Firestorm (and later by Metamorpho) a while back. Black Canary’s opponents consider fighting but ultimately surrender because they think she’s Wonder Woman. Parallel to this is some dude who gets a fancy bow and arrows from an underground supplier and goes out to stalk Arrow and Canary (after wasting the supplier). As Arrow and Canary talk about how their relentless fight against crime seems to be eliminating all the semi-competent crooks (leaving either losers or ultra-competent criminals) the nameless assassin draws a bead on them.

Batman and Outsiders 20 coverBatman & the Outsiders #20 – “Death and Remembrance” – Mike W. Barr/Jim Aparo

This one starts with Jane Denninger meeting Syonide and Tobias Whale. (This Syonide is a woman, not the guy who fought Black Lightning a while back.) Jane has a grudge against Violet (Halo) Harper, since she blames Violet for the death of her brother Mark. Whale wants something from Violet too, so he’s willing to work with Jane (or use her) to get what he’s after. They stop by the Harper house early, grabbing Violet’s parents (who look older here than they have in previous issues) and surprising Violet before she can change to Halo. After Syonide knocks her out, Whale takes everyone to Mr. Harper’s lumberyardMoon injects Violet with truth serum where he has a doctor named Moon ready to interrogate Violet. Moon injects her with a sedative/truth serum mix which weakens her. Since she can’t turn into Halo, she plays along, pretending to cooperate while triggering the Outsiders alarm in her necklace. Batman receives the alarm and orders Geo-Force to head to Missouri while he alerts the others. In Missouri, Violet tells Whale she can’t remember anything before waking up in Markovia (although she avoids mentioning the Outsiders). Whale threatens her parents and her father figures she won’t care … apparently Violet was a real asshole before she disappeared. Violet begs Whale not to hurt her parents (which Jane tells how bad Violet wasmakes her mother think she’s changed) and Dr. Moon says he might have another way to get the truth out of her. Moon hooks Violet up to a brain scanner, which shows some strange readings. Violet wants to get her memory back, so she goes along with Moon, who asks Jane to jog Violet’s memory by relating what she knows. Jane tells how Violet was a cigarette-smoking, leather jacket-wearing bad girl who latched onto her brother Mark, filling his head with ideas about getting out of their craphole town. (Jane and Mark’s parents are dead, so there’s definitely some jealousy from Violet taking Mark away from Jane, so to speak.) Jane tells how Violet and Mark found some dude in a burning carSyonide tells how she killed Violet and he handed them a file folder, saying he’d make it worth their while if they saved him. But when Violet read the file, she just let the guy die, smiling the whole time. Turns out the file had a formula for a new drug that’s so addictive it makes heroin look like candy. Whale wanted the formula (and still does) and Mark called to shake him down for some cash. Whale was ready to squash mark for his insolence, but Mark and Violet took off for France, so Whale sent Syonide to track them down. She found Mark in Paris, dying of an overdose. He claimed Violet injected him and left him for dead, which freaks Violet out since she Katana takes down Dr. Mooncan’t remember what really happened. Syonide tracked Violet to Markovia and supposedly killed her, stripping her body of all identification. Syonide is curious as to how Violet survived, but whale still wants the formula for the drug. Since it wasn’t on Violet’s body, he figures she memorized it (apparently she has a photographic memory), but before he can lean on her too hard, Geo-Force comes busting in. Unfortunately, he’s exhausted from flying across the country at top speed, so Syonide takes him down pretty easily. The other Outsiders are right behind him and start pounding Whale’s men. Whale and Jane take off, while Katana takes down Dr. Moon (sparing his life on Violet’s request). Syonide knocks Kartana out and tries to zap Violet, butViolet tells Tatsu she lied about her memory returning her father picks up a gun and shoots Syonide (which doesn’t seem to bother her much). Syonide shoots her poison darts at the Harpers and takes off. As the Harpers die, Violet’s father says he was wrong about her being bad and Violet tells them she remembers her old life now and how much they loved each other. A few days later at the cemetery, Katana tries to comfort Violet (who she still refers to as Gabrielle) and Violet admits she was lying about getting her memory back, to give her parents some comfort in their final moments.

Firestorm 34 coverFirestorm 34 – “The Big Freeze” – Gerry Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Alan Kupperberg

Last issue, Firestorm invaded the hideout of Le Flambeau and his cohorts, arsonists who threatened to burn all of New York City if Plastique wasn’t released from prison. While fighting Le Flambeau, Firestorm accidentally triggered his incendiary device, blowing up a blimp outside (the Goodwear Blimp) and spreading flames over the streets. Professor Stein thinks Manhattan might end up burning after all, but Firestorm flies out and uses his powers to absorb all the flamesDoreen finds Firestorm familiar and save a bunch of bystanders, including Ronnie’s friends Doreen, Jefferson, and Cliff. (Well, Cliff’s more an acquaintance than a friend.) Doreen seems to almost recognize Firestorm as Ronnie, which worries Stein. But Ronnie isn’t to bothered by it and heads back to wrap up Le Flambeau and his gang. When Plastique hears about Firestorm’s interference in the plan to get her released, she’s pretty pissed off. The rest of the issue is mostly downtime stuff: Ronnie taking a chemistry test at Ronnie forced to apologize to Cliffschool (which goes way easier than he thought it would) and attacking Cliff because he thought Cliff shot a spitball at him (It turned out to be someone else and Ronnie has to apologize.); Professor Stein talking to his colleagues about a new job opportunity in Pittsburgh; and firefighters trying unsuccessfully to put out the blaze at the lab where Louise Lincoln’s experiment blew up last issue. (The firefighters can’t get close enough to see that there’s a big bubble made of ice in the middle of the conflagration.) At the Daily Express, Felicity Smoak approaches Ed Raymond wanting to do an article about how Firestorm ruined her business (twice!). Ed is interested, and not just in the article … he ends up asking Felicity out. After the test, Doreen and Firestorm puts out the lab fireRonnie talk and she opens up about how much he hurt her by ignoring her to hang out with Lorraine. Before Ronnie can figure out what to say, Stein triggers the Firestorm matrix and Ronnie disappears (conveniently while Doreen’s back is turned, so she assumes he just walked away while she was spilling her guts). Ronnie is pissed off until Stein tells him about the explosion at the lab where Louise Lincoln was trying to recreate the experiment that created Killer Frost. Firestorm heads to the lab and using his atomic powers to put out the fire. Firestorm finds the ice bubble and heads inside, but gets ambushed by Louise Lincoln … who has become a new Killer Frost.

Vigilante 16 coverVigilante #16 – “Under the Sidewalks of New York” – Paul Kupperberg/Alex Saviuk/Rick Magyar

This one starts with a robbery aboard a subway train, setting the theme for the whole issue. Meanwhile, Vigilante is trying to track down Electrocutioner, but not having any luck. Vigilante wants to find Electrocutioner before he starts his new civilian job as Judge Adrian Chase, after which he’s vowed to retire his costumed identity. The next day, Marcia King (Adrian’s girlfriend who works in the D.A.’s office) is on a subway train when it gets robbed. The thief slaps her around pretty good when she refuses to give up her briefcase and we see that this is no small-time crook;Marcia gets pounded by the thief he (along with a bunch of other thieves on the same train) knows how to access the emergency door release and the band of thieves escapes by going through a locked door in the subway tunnels. It looks like these guys know their way around pretty well and it turns out the mastermind behind everything (Keith Pitkin) used to work for the Transit Authority. When Adrian finds out about the beating Marcia took, he goes to see her in hospital and heads out to find the thieves. Vigilante taps into the Transit Authority computers to monitor any trouble and when he notices a stalled train, he heads for the tunnel. His instincts are right; Pitkin an his gang just robbed that train and are heading into the Vigilante survives the train crashtunnels. Turns out Pitkin found an old map while working for the Transit Authority that showed some disused access tunnels, so he figured they’d make great escape routes during robberies. Vigilante pursues the gang through the access tunnels and into another subway tunnel where they almost run him down with a subway car. He smashes his way aboard and knocks out one of the thieves (the one who pounded Marcia, although Vigilante doesn’t know that), but Pitkin and company jump out, leaving the subway car heading full speed for a dead end. Vigilante manages to slow the runaway car down and survives the crash, though the thief he knocked out ends up dead. A neat way for Kupperberg to make the guy pay for what he did to Marcia without having Vigilante just blow him away. Pitkin’s gang are ready to give up theirVigilante pounds Pitkin robberies, but Pitkin says their jobs up till now where just a smokescreen and unveils his big plan … hitting the train that collects the money from the subway stations every day. That train will be full of cash and nobody will be expecting them to hit it, although it’s still got heavy security. But Vigilante anticipates them and stops the money train before it gets within reach of the gang. Pitkin isn’t sure why the train stopped and while he’s distracted, Vigilante sneaks up and takes out his men, one by one. Pitkin tries to run, but Vigilante catches him and pounds him.

2 thoughts on “Comics Reviews: Batman 382, Detective 549, Batman & the Outsiders 20, Firestorm 34, Vigilante 16”

  1. Are there trade paperback collections of Batman and the Outsiders? I’ve only read a few issues of the series, but tey were really good.

    I’ll also have to look for a copy of Batman #382. I didn’t know Rudy Nebres had worked on the Dark Knight. His style is certainly a good fit for the character

    1. From what I could find, Batman & the Outsiders has been reprinted in a couple of trades: there’s one Showcase Presents volume that goes up to issue 19 (I think those are in black & white); and there’s a 3-volume hardcover set reprinting the entire series … I imagine those are in colour, but probably more expensive.

      You’re right about Rudy Nebres art fitting the dark aspects of Batman really well, but it looks like the only issues he inked were 382 and 384 (my review of which is coming up in a month or so).

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