Comics Reviews: Batman 384, Detective 551, Batman & the Outsiders 22, Firestorm 36, Vigilante 18

Batman 384 coverBatman #384 – “Broken Dates” – Doug Moench/Rick Hoberg/Rudy Nebres

This one starts with the remnants of Dr. Fang’s gang contacting the Monitor (who’s apparently still doing contract work, even though Crisis has already started) to get rid of Batman so they can build up their organization in Gotham again. Monitor calculates that Calendar Man has a good shot at eliminating Batman and contacts him, but Calendar Man isn’t sure he wants the job. He considers himself a thief not a killer, and wonders if his life would be boring without Batman to challenge him. Ultimately, the money decides it for him, but he comes up with an elaborate scheme that will at least give Batman a fighting chance. Speaking of Batman, he’s out in the woods looking for signs of Catwoman after sheBatman figures out Calendar Man's plan bailed out of the plane a couple issues ago. He’s relieved to find the parachute intact and some stones spelling out “thank you” and heads back to Gotham. The Bat-Signal brings him to the scene of Calendar Man’s first crime, a bank vault that’s never been cracked before that’s nicknamed Father Time. That, and a cryptic note Calendar Man left, tell Batman that his foe is basing his crimes on significant holidays this time, starting with the New Year. He radios for Jason to do some legwork on the crime computers and when Batman gets back to the Batcave, Jason has info on Groundhog’s Day, the next significant date on the calendar. Later, Bruce talks to Alfred about his love life; he’s still pining for Natalia Knight and things with Vicki are on the rocks, so Alfred puts in a fighting Calendar Man in the magic shopgood word for his daughter Julia, hoping she and Bruce might make a real connection. That night, Batman and Robin show up at the magic shop where they expect Calendar Man to strike. He’s there all right, but he anticipated Batman figuring out his clue and rigged the place ahead of time. Calendar Man ends up stealing a magician’s “disappearing box trick” and gets away. Batman deduces Calendar Man’s next target will be a magic show the Lincoln Theater, since Lincoln’s Birthday is the next important date on the calendar … this was before Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays were combined into President’s Day. The next night, Alfred has arranged for Bruce and Julia to have dinner at Wayne Manor, but since Batman and Robin have to stake out the theater, Julia getsCalendar Man escapes from the theater stood up—again. Alfred can’t give away Batman’s secret, but he urges Julia to give Bruce another chance, saying there are reasons he acts like such a dick sometimes. At the theater, Calendar Man does show up, interrupting the magician’s show and stealing a diamond necklace that was part of the act. Calendar Man gets away again, but leaves another clue … a calendar marking the 21st of March (three days from now) as the day Robin will die.

 

Detective 551 coverDetective #551 – “The First Day of Spring” – Doug Moench/Pat Broderick/Bob Smith

This one starts not long after the above issue ended, with Calendar Man in his hideout contemplating killing Robin to get to Batman. Across town, Dr. Fang’s men are getting impatient that it’s taking Calendar Man so long to eliminate Batman, so one of them (Rico) decides to go after the Caped Crusader himself. Meanwhile, Batman, Robin, and Alfred try to figure out Calendar Man’s next target and suspect he’ll try to disrupt the opening of a new subway line (the Hart Line, since Valentine’s Day is the next major date on the calendar). ButBruce talks to Jason now that Batman knows Robin is a target, he doesn’t want him in the line of fire and tells him he has to stay home. Naturally, Robin doesn’t like that and they have an argument, which Batman ends by pulling rank and ordering Jason to stay home. Later, Bruce apologizes for being so harsh and tells Jason he thinks of him as a son and is afraid of losing him. Jason accepts that and says he’ll stay behind, but I think we all know that ain’t happening. The next day at the subway opening, Julia tells Vicki she and Bruce had a date and she was stood up; Vicki’s Batman fights Calendar Manstill not over Bruce, so she isn’t happy to hear Julia is dating him (or trying to). Calendar Man shows up with some explosive arrows to wreck the subway tunnel. Batman stops him, but Rico is there too and shoots Batman in the shoulder. Batman takes Rico down quickly, but Calendar Man gets away, leaving another calendar page with March 21st marked in red. Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred has some disturbing news … Jason has taken off somewhere, and he took his Robin costume with him.

Green Arrow – “Sanctuary” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome K. Moore/Bruce Patterson

This one’s a “socially responsible” story about the war in El Salvador and the refugees who fled north into the United States … illegally, but they didn’t really have much choice. Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance (Green Arrow and Black Canary, in case you didn’t know) are hanging out as a greasyOliver decks an Immigration officer spoon when some Immigration dudes bust in to round up the illegal immigrants. Oliver protects one kid (Guillermo), who’s actually a naturalized citizen, but a bunch of others are taken away. Guillermo asks Oliver to check on his brother, Francisco, who’s hiding in the basement of a church. Oliver goes to see Francisco and we get some stuff about the war and the immigrants. They’re interrupted when the same Immigration guys show up, hauling everyone off to a detention center … including Oliver. There’s an epilogue showing Onyx with the dude she met last issue. He offers to let her stay in the basement of his store and she wonders if she can trust him.

Batman & the Outsiders 22 coverBatman & the Outsiders #22 – “What She is and How She Came to Be” – Mike W. Barr/Alan Davis

This one starts with the Outsiders (and Dr. Jace) on what remains of the JLA Satellite, which was wrecked by the Martians in JLA 229. Batman is getting all nostalgic while sifting through the ruins, although we find out he left a “back door” in the security system when he set it up, so he’s not all sentiment. The team is there to use the Satellite computers to scan Halo, after the revelation from a couple issues ago that Violet Harper supposedly killed her Boyfriend, Mark Denninger. There were some anomalies in Violet’s brain patterns, so Batman figures the JLA’s sophisticated scanners canAurakles come after Halo figure out what’s going on. While Black Lightning powers up the machines, Katana tries to comfort Halo, who’s feeling guilty about (possibly) being a murderer. When they scan Halo’s brain, Dr. Jace finds some weird radiation and duplicates it to stimulate Halo’s memory. It works and Halo says she technically not a person, she’s an Aurakle, an energy being that took Violet Harper’s body as a vessel. We get an origin story for the Aurakles; apparently, they came into existence with the big bang and reproduced asexually, dividing to create more of themselves. Their primary goal is gathering knowledge, but the Aurakle Aurakles' historyinhabiting Halo is different from its fellows, since it was always fascinated by organic beings … by life, instead of the inorganic matter of the universe (which sounds a bit like the Beyonder in Marvel’s Secret Wars). The Aurakle observed Violet Harper being killed by Syonide in Markovia and ended up inhabiting Violet’s body, reanimating it but losing her memories and personality, since the Aurakle is technically just energy. The Outsiders thin Halo has lost it, but she insists she’s telling the truth and they soon find out she is when the other Aurakles show up to take their errant comrade back. Halo resists and the Aurakles wonder if forcing a separation might kill Violet and the Aurakle (although the Aurakle’s life is the only one they seem to care about). Halo (or theGeo-Force rescues his teammates from space Aurakle inhabiting her) doesn’t want to leave with the other Aurakles, so the Outsiders try to stop them from taking her. The Aurakles are vulnerable to energy attacks, which gives the Outsiders a chance, but the Aurakles end the fight by blasting a hole in the Satellite wall. The Outsiders are pulled into space, but Geo-Force manages to gather hem all and bring them back through the breached wall, which Metamorpho seals with his body. The Aurakles disappear, taking Halo with them, and the Outsiders swear to find her.

Firestorm 36 coverFirestorm #36 – “Slowly I Turned … Niagara Falls” – Gerry Conway/Rafael Kayanan/Alan Kupperberg

This one starts with a quick prologue of the cops finding a body at Vandermeer University in Pittsburgh. That guy was torn apart and the cops wonder if it was an animal, but we see it was actually the Weasel (who was prowling around the university last issue). Speaking of last issue, Firestorm went to the Hudson Nuclear Plant to confront the new Killer Frost, but ended up getting blasted by Plastique. Firestorm wakes up in the rubble and Ronnie gets worried when Professor Stein’s mind won’t respond to him. Forced to figure things out without Stein’s advice, Firestorm realizes the plant’s core is exposed, so he seals it up and heads outside. He findsFirestorm helps a frozen cop some cops who were frozen by Killer Frost and blasted by Plastique. Firestorm takes a survivor to hospital and the cop tells him the deadly duo were heading north. In Washington, Lorraine Reilly and her father see a news report about Killer Frost and Plastique heading for Niagara Falls. Lorraine figures Firestorm is involved and might need her help, so she changes to Firehawk and heads north. At Niagara Falls, Plastique wants to blow up the hydro-electric plant and asks Killer Frost to freeze the Falls, thus crippling the parts of Canada and the United States that depend on the Falls for power. Killer Frost agrees (and it Killer Frost and Plastique make plansalmost seems like she’s coming on to Plastique), even though she doesn’t have the same motivations as her predecessor. This Killer Frost has no hatred of men, but she does seem to have some kind of survivor’s guilt about Crystal Frost dying while she lives on. Firestorm (with Professor Stein still “missing”) shows up just as Killer Frost is trying to freeze the Falls. He stops her but almost gets frozen for his trouble. Firehawk shows up to free him and casually mentions that she loves him, which kinda throws him for a loop. They divide up the workload, with Firestorm going after Plastique while Firehawk takes on Killer Frost. Firestorm tries to trap Plastique in some metal, but she blasts her way free and comes after him. Killer FrostFirehawk tricks Killer Frost into freezing herself tries to freeze Firehawk, who knows that cold saps Frost’s power. Firehawk flies under the water and suckers Frost into trying to freeze the river, but ends up drenching Frost with icy water. That shuts down Frost’s metabolism and basically freezes her into an ice floe. Meanwhile, Firestorm tricks Plastique into trying to blast him, but he turns his body insubstantial so Plastique blows a hole in the floor and is knocked out by the recoil. Firestorm and Firehawk celebrate by getting romantic. Later, Firestorm splits into Ronnie and Professor Stein, who has a mild concussion from the blast at the nuclear plant. I guess that’s why he was unresponsive when they were merged. Firestorm fakes out PlastiqueRonnie and Stein discuss Stein’s job offer in Pittsburgh (at the aforementioned Vandermeer University) and Ronnie admits he was worried about being on his own if Stein took the job, not to mention that being the end of Firestorm. But he now knows he can stand on his own without Stein’s help, so he wishes Stein well in his new job … although he’ll still miss him as a friend. Outside Stein’s hospital room, Ronnie runs into Doreen and apologizes for being a dick to her lately. She’s pretty understanding, but when she mentions university, Ronnie has a brainwave … if he goes to university in Pittsburgh, he and Stein can continue being Firestorm. He runs to tell Stein, leaving Doreen wondering what the hell’s going on.

Vigilante 18 coverVigilante #18 – “Father’s Day Part II” – Alan Moore/Jim Baikie

This is the conclusion of the story from last issue, with an abusive father (Carl Linnaker) killing his ex and kidnapping his daughter (Jodie) so he can abuse her some more. The action in this issue is interspersed with lines (and photos) from a letter written by Linnaker to Jodie. He goes on about how he loves her and nobody understands him; it’s almost like Alan Moore is trying to make him sympathetic, or at least humanize him a bit. It doesn’t really work (at least not for me) since we’re talking about a dude who’s raping his own daughter … there’s notFever's take on authority much you can do to humanize that, and Linnaker’s excuses just make him sound like more of an asshole (or a nutcase). Anyway, Vigilante and Fever track Linnaker and Jodie while engaging in a discussion about authority and the patriarchy and how fucked up the world is. It sounds like Fever might have experienced something similar to what Jodie’s going through. Linnaker’s not hard to track, as he’s kinda going on a rampage, robbing a gun store and driving around like a maniac. Fever catches up to him and he runs into a huge oil refinery. Vigilante chases him, despite the danger of an errant shot blowing them all Vigilante fights Linnakerto hell. Vigilante fights Linnaker, who recognizes him as Adrian Chase, the D.A. who put him away. Vigilante gets the upper hand until Jodie shoots him with the gun Linnaker stole, showing how screwed up she is by what her father did to her. She thinks she has to protect him, but Fever runs Linnaker down with her car, then does a brake-torque on his head, splattering his brains all over. Jodie freaks out, but later in the hospital, she seems to have forgotten everything that happened. Vigilante asks Fever if killing Linnaker was right and she says it wasn’t right or wrong, just necessary. She accuses Vigilante of beingFever wastes Linnaker a bleeding-heart liberal, which he finds hilarious, then takes off. The story ends with Vigilante reading the letter he found on Linnaker’s body with all of Linnaker’s twisted thoughts in it.

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