This month’s Batman stories are a little different, both of them being more focused on inner conflict than on pounding bad guys. This is issue is basically about how Batman sometimes has trouble maintaining two identities and the toll it takes on him. In a way it’s almost funny: the story starts with Batman having been up for three days and four nights with hardly and rest. Now he’s looking forward to actually spending a day asleep in bed, but various unexpected events conspire to keep him awake. First he has to tune up the Batmobile and update the crime computers. Then Alfred tells him some contractors are there to work on the mansion, so Bruce Wayne has to meet with them. He has to drive Jason to school and almost falls asleep at the wheel, then has to meet with Jason’s guidance counselor (about Jason being tired at school all the time!) and his car gets a flat on the way home. Bruce figures he can finally go to bed, but Lucius Fox is waiting to go over a bunch of Wayne Foundation business. After a few hours of that, Bruce decides to skip lunch and go straight to bed but ends up accepting a date from Julia for the following night, then gets tangled up with Vicki when she calls and insists on coming over in an hour. The workmen bust through the roof of Bruce’s bedroom, so he goes to take a bath (stepping in a paint tray on the way) and when Vicki shows up she tells him Bill Modell has proposed to her and urges Bruce to make up his mind how he feels about her. Bruce is so sleep-deprived he can’t think straight and Vicki ends up telling him he’d better show up to take her on a date tomorrow night or they’re finished. It’s now late afternoon, so Bruce has to go pick up Jason (Alfred can’t go, since someone has to watch the workmen to make sure they don’t find the secret doors that lead to the Batcave) and when Bruce and Jason return, Amanda Groscz (Jason’s Welfare caseworker) is waiting to see Bruce. When she finally leaves, Bruce notices the Bat-Signal and decides he’d better not ignore it. Putting on the Batman costume reinvigorates him temporarily and he quickly deals with a robbery gone bad at a grocery store. But the Bat-Signal is still shining, so he drops by police headquarters and finds out a serial rapist has struck in the park every night for a week, even though the park is full of cops in civilian clothes. Batman checks it out and discovers (by accident) that the rapist is dressed up like a woman. After pounding the rapist, Batman ends up dealing with the usual crop of burglars, arsonists, and muggers before finally curling up on a ledge next to a gargoyle for a long sleep. He seems to have forgotten his dates with Julia and Vicki, but I guess sleep is more important at the moment.
This is another different sort of story, this time focusing on Batman’s pursuit across Gotham of a punk named Joey Redwine, who stole a candlestick from a church. The chase is interspersed with scenes from Redwine’s past, showing how he came to be where he is now. His father abused him and he learned to lash out, slapping around his schoolmates, including the girls. A girl named Gloria (who he kinda liked) was nice to him, but she was a religious girl and Redwine couldn’t break away from his anger, so he ended up vandalizing her church. Years later he had a kid of his own and took out his anger on the kid and his mother. Redwine ended up getting hooked on heroin to run away from his problems and got so desperate he robbed the church. Turns out Gloria became a nun and when she caught Redwine stealing the candlestick, he beat her to death and that’s why Batman is chasing him now. During the chase, Batman keeps trying to get through to Redwine, telling him he’s not beyond redemption even now. I’m not sure if Batman really means that, or he’s just saying it to get Redwine to give up. Batman’s usually pretty harsh (and cynical) with criminals, but if he knows Redwine’s background, maybe he’s making some allowances for a victim of circumstance. The story ends with Redwine being cornered and jumping off a roof. Batman does seem genuinely sorry when he’s next to Redwine’s splattered corpse.
Green Arrow – “Night Olympics Part 2” – Alan Moore/Klaus Janson
This one starts right where we left off, with the punk archer shooting an arrow into Black Canary. She’s not dead, so Green Arrow goes after the guy, whose name is Pete Lomax. Lomax is just some asshole who figures heroes like Green Arrow and Black Canary are nothing special because they don’t have super-powers. Lomax says anyone could just put an arrow (or a bullet) into them anytime they want. Lomax soon learns what sets Green Arrow apart, as the Emerald Archer uses his own skills to stop all of Lomax’s pitiful attacks. Lomax is so freaked out he faints and when Green Arrow visits Canary in the hospital he confirms what she thought last issue … criminals really are getting stupider.
This issue is basically filler before the regular storyline resumes. It contains three solo stories, the first one dealing with Katana’s guarding a priceless Oriental vase that’s being taken to a museum. The cops are afraid criminals will try to steal it, which is why Katana’s involved. The story plays out with a voice-over from a college football game, where the action on the field mirrors Katana’s fight against the thieves. After a fake-out, Katana is chased by the thieves but makes it to the museum with the vase, where the cops are waiting to arrest the guys chasing Katana.
“Jaws 4—Gotham 0” – Mike W. Barr/Trevor von Eeden
This is a Brion (Geo-Force) Markov solo story where he goes to an aquatic theme park and ends up fighting a disgruntled inventor who uses his mechanical shark to attack the park. Geo-Force’s heroics are complicated by a reporter (Joan Lincoln) who catches herself to Prince Brion looking for a story. Geo-Force manages to smash the killer robot shark, catch the inventor, and protect his secret identity. It looks like he even gets a date with Joan (as Prince Brion) at the end.
This is a Black Lightning story that starts with Jefferson Pierce going to the slums to look for one of his students (Franklin Lewis) who hasn’t been to school for a week. Franklin says he’s done with school and prefers to take what he wants. He shows Pierce a costumed guy calling himself Ghetto Blaster who’s smashing old tenement buildings with his suit’s vibratory powers. Pierce changes to Black Lightning to confront him, but it doesn’t go well. A chance remark leads Lightning to figure out who Ghetto Blaster really is … a bank robber who stashed his loot in the cornerstone of a building ten years ago. A fight in prison caused amnesia, so he can’t remember which building the money’s hidden in. He decided to bust up every building in the neighbourhood to find the cash and admits if he couldn’t find the loot in an abandoned building, he would’ve started smashing up the people’s homes next. That turns the crowd (including Franklin) against him and Black Lightning kicks his ass. The next day, Franklin shows up in school again.
This one continues where last issue left off, with Firestorm getting crushed under a giant block of ice. Firestorm came to Louise Lincoln’s New Jersey lab to investigate the fire and got more than he bargained for when he found out Lincoln had been turned into a new Killer Frost. She leaves Firestorm to be pulverized by the ice block and takes off, fighting her way through the cops and firefighters outside. Upstate, Plastique finds out that Le Flambeau and her other cohorts were unsuccessful in their blackmail attempts designed to free her from prison. Her lawyer gives her some new clothes and injects her with an experimental drug that’s supposed to give her explosive powers. The drug works and Plastique blasts her way out of the prison. Back at the New Jersey lab, Professor Stein goads Firestorm into lifting the ice off of himself by taunting him about being nothing more than a dumb jock. (And we get a scene reminiscent of Amazing Spider-Man 33 when Firestorm pushes the ice block off himself.) Ronnie realizes Stein’s insults were meant to motivate him, but he admits he really does think of himself as nothing more than dumb muscle. Stein assures him that isn’t true and they go looking for Killer Frost, but can’t find her. After splitting into Stein and Ronnie Raymond, Stein tells Ronnie about his job offer at Vandermeer University in Pittsburgh. At the Daily Express, Felicity Smoak drops by to see Ed Raymond (Ronnie’s father) and they go out to dinner. Ed opens up about his past and they end up making out in the park. At Concordance Research, Ronnie isn’t happy about Stein wanting to take the Pittsburgh job, since it would mean the end of Firestorm. Stein assures Ronnie that he’s got more going for him than just Firestorm, but they’re interrupted by a news report about Killer Frost taking over the old Hudson Nuclear Plant, where Firestorm was first created. Stein figures Killer Frost needs the nuclear energy still present in the plant to feed her hunger for heat. There’s a brief interlude at Vandermeer University (which seems to be kind of an analogue for Carnegie-Mellon), with a bestial-looking person sneaking into an office and looking at Professor Stein’s file. At first I thought it was Hyena, but this is actually a new character called the Weasel. At the Hudson Nuclear Plant, Killer Frost tries to absorb the energy in the core. Firestorm whips up a lead shield to stop her and turns immaterial (by changing his atomic density to zero) so she can’t freeze him. Stein tells Ronnie to change the room into a giant freezer unit, which will deprive Killer Frost of the heat she needs and put her into a coma. But Firestorm’s lower density prevents him from using his powers to transform the room’s atomic structure (which Stein thinks is weird, since he’s never had trouble using his power at a lower density before). Firestorm decides to change back to normal density and transform the room to a freezer before Killer Frost can react. Unfortunately, Plastique has snuck into the facility and blasts Firestorm as soon as he turns solid. Plastique then proposes a partnership between her and Killer Frost.
This is a different sort of issue, reading as more “mature” than usual. Vigilante was supposed to be kind of a mature title at the time, but Wolfman usually just goes through the motions, tossing in some swear words and a hint of sex to spice things up. But Moore’s version of “mature” is more realistic; the characters act like real people, with good points as well as bad. The only real problem I have with this story is that the main villain (an abusive husband/father) has no real motivation … he’s just an asshole who wants to resume molesting his daughter even though he just got out of prison. I guess real-life abusers aren’t all that logical, but it just seems like this guy is there mostly to drive the plot. As I said, this is about an abusive prick (Carl Linneker) who gets out of prison and goes right after his ex-wife (Joanne) and their kid Jodie. Joanne calls Adrian Chase for help since he prosecuted Linneker and Chase hears the door being kicked in and changes to Vigilante to check it out. Joanne tells Jodie to run and tries to stab Linneker, but he kills her instead. Jodie takes off and almost gets run over by a couple of hookers (Louise and Fever) in a car. When thy find out what she’s running from, they take her back to their place to hide her. Vigilante finds Joanne dead in her apartment, but Linneker is long gone. Jodie tells Fever and Louise that her mom was trying to phone the D.A. Adrian Chase. The ladies are wary of contacting him, since they currently have a shitload of weed in their apartment. (I assume they’re dealing, since I can’t imagine they’d have forty kilos for “personal use”.) Fever calls Chase from a phone booth and mentions Jodie, asking him to meet her in an alley. Vigilante figures it’s a shake-down, so he roughs Fever up a bit, but she’s tougher than she looks. At the apartment, Louise is trying to be a good host and goes to the grocery store to get Jodie’s favourite sugary cereal. In the alley, Vigilante finally subdues Fever and she tells him she’s trying to help Jodie. She also mentions the huge pile of weed at her place, which Vigilante chooses to ignore. At the grocery store, Louise tells the clerk she’s buying cereal for a kid who’s staying with her; unfortunately, Linneker is in the store and puts two and two together, following Louise back to her place. When Vigilante and Fever arrive, they find Louise has been stabbed and Jodie is gone. Louise dies and Fever freaks out, swearing revenge on Linneker. Vigilante protests for a bit, but when he realizes what kind of scumbag Linneker really is, he agrees to bring Fever along on the hunt. We’ll see the results of that next issue.