Comics Reviews: Batman 385, Detective 552, Batman & the Outsiders 23, Firestorm 37, Vigilante 19

Batman 385 coverBatman #385 – “Day of Doom” – Doug Moench/Rick Hoberg, Chuck Patton/Alfredo Alcala

This one continues from last time, with Calendar Man fleeing the new subway tunnel ceremony after running into Batman. Jason (Robin) Todd has disobeyed Batman’s orders to stay home and sees Calendar Man taking off, so he follows. Batman was wounded by a mobster’s bullet, so he has to head back to the Batcave for treatment, but Alfred has told him Jason took off and he’s not happy. Robin tracks Calendar Man to a dead-end alley, where he’s ambushed. Calendar Man gets away, but has to leave his motorbike behind. RobinRobin and Batman come to an agreement returns to the Batcave and he and Batman have an argument about his disobedience and whether Batman is treating him like a kid instead of a real partner. Batman finally admits that he needs a partner and that Jason is skilled enough to be that partner, and Jason agrees to obey any order Batman gives without hesitation. Batman gets a call from Commissioner Gordon, telling him about the mobsters who hired Calendar Man. Batman drops by their hideout to ask where Calendar Man is, but the mobsters don’t know so Batman lets them go … right into the arms of the cops outside. Batman knows Calendar Man’s next crime will be based on Lincoln’s Birthday, and narrows Vicki tells off Bill Modellthe target down to Capitol Savings & Loan. He’s right, but Calendar Man blows up a fireworks factory nearby to draw attention away from the bank. Batman knows it’s a bluff but Robin doesn’t and by the time Batman convinces him, Calendar Man has robbed the bank and escaped. The next day, Bill Modell goes to Vicki Vale’s gym to ask her out again. Vicki’s gotten a little strange since she and Bruce broke up, working out like crazy, reading self-help books, and going on a macro diet. (She also claims to be twenty-six … I’d always taken her for older than that.) Bill mentions Bruce’s money and Vicki freaks, saying she never cared about the money and that what she and Bruce had was irreplaceable. That night, Batman and Robin stake out the Reptile House at the zoo, since Calendar Man’s next crime is based on St. Patrick’s Day and St. Patrick supposedly drove the snakes out of Ireland. Robin’s having a little trouble,Robin saves Batman from Calendar Man since his parents were killed in the Reptile House, but he keeps it together and when Calendar Man strikes, Batman goes after him. Robin finds Calendar Man’s getaway cycle and slashes the tires, so this time Calendar Man is forced to flee on foot and Robin follows him back to his hideout. When Batman shows up, he makes Robin promise to stay outside and goes after Calendar man, who has developed a laser rifle to kill Batman. They fight, but Batman’s gunshot wound slows him and he gets in trouble. Robin disobeys again and jumps in, helping Batman finish Calendar Man off. As “punishment” for his disobedience, Batman says he has to have dinner and go to a baseball game with Bruce Wayne.

Detective 552 coverDetective #552 – “A Stump Grows in Gotham” – Doug Moench/Pat Broderick/Bob Smith

This is another of those character stories that Moench liked to do. This one is about an out-of-town hitman named Cutter who comes to Gotham offering to kill Batman if each mob boss pays him $1000 … every month for the rest of their lives. Batman overhears Cutter’s offer and decides to play along, first disguising himself with makeup and hair dye and preparing a drug that’ll slow his breathing and heart rate.. He “runs into” Cutter in the park and fakes his death thanks to the drug. (And thanks to the disguise, Cutter doesn’t know Batman is Bruce Wayne when he unmasks him.) Cutter invites all the mobsters to the cemetery to witness his triumph, but Batman bursts out of the coffin andBatman pounds mobsters in the graveyard pounds all the mobsters, including Cutter. This story is paralleled with a piece Julia Pennyworth wrote for Picture News about a venerable old tree being cut down to make way for apartment buildings. I’m not sure exactly how the two are meant to relate, but the tree stump has a new shoot growing out of it at the end, so maybe that equates to Batman’s symbolic rise from the grave? Or maybe it’s just a metaphor for the renewal of hope, although that doesn’t quite fit with Batman’s part of the story.

Green Arrow – “Poor, Huddled Masses” – Joey Cavalieri/Jerome Moore/Bruce Patterson

Last issue, Oliver (Green Arrow) Queen was arrested in a sweep of illegal Oliver talks to the Manimmigrants and taken to a detention center. (Plus ça change …) He’s taken to see the guy in charge, who gives the usual speech about how he’s doing the illegal immigrants a favour since they’ll never fit into society and tax the resources and so on, while Oliver argues that they’re fleeing a civil war. Both of them are kinda right, but both see the issue in black and white and won’t budge from their position. Oliver is tossed back in a cell, but Dinah (Black Canary) Lance comes to see him pretending to be a lawyer. She slips him a lockpick and some tear gas and he busts out, taking Francisco and his family along. Dinah’s waiting in a car outside, but Oliver takes the wheel, saying his duffel bag with his special equipment (i.e. his Green Arrow stuff) is still in the detention center. He drives through the gates and smashes into the cellOliver smashes into the detention center block, freeing the detainees, who all take off. The guy in charge orders his guards not to shoot them, not wanting to cause an incident (or maybe showing some compassion?) and as Oliver and friends drive away, Francisco points out that the duffel bag was under Oliver’s seat the whole time. What are the odds? Later, Green Arrow is practicing in an alley and we see Onyx, the woman who’s been looking for him the past couple issues, has finally found him.

Batman and the Outsiders 23 coverBatman & the Outsiders #23 – “The Search for Halo” – Mike W. Barr/Alan Davis

Last issue, Halo and the other Outsiders found out that she’s really an Aurakle (an ancient energy being with no physical form) that took over the dead body of Violet Harper because it wanted to experience physicality. (Paging the Beyonder …) The other Aurakles found Halo and took her, planning to separate the renegade Aurakle and bring it back home with them, but the Aurakle likes its new existence as a human (or quasi-human) and doesn’t want to lose that. Too bad the other Aurakles aren’t giving Halo a choice. Batman and the other Outsiders are looking for Halo and Katana has an idea how they might find her. They go to Tokyo to see the oyabun of the yakuza, who has the means for Katana toKatana establishes contact with the trapped Aurakle communicate with the souls trapped inside her sword. (Katana wastes a few of the oyabun’s guards … good thing Batman was outside.) The oyabun hands over the stuff she needs and Katana reaches the souls inside the Soultaker … including the Aurakle she “killed” last issue when her sword was electrified by Black Lightning. Because of the nature of the Soultaker, the Aurakle has to obey Katana, who orders it to return to the other Aurakles and bring the Outsiders along. After a brief fight, the Outsiders use the Aurakles’ vulnerability to electricity to free Halo, but Geo-Force and Katana are captured. Halo is willing to sacrifice herself for her friends (especially Katana, who’s almost Black lightning and metamorpho zap the Aurakleslike a mother to her), but the Aurakles aren’t in a bargaining mood. Metamorpho turns into a copper wire and strings himself through all the Aurakles, allowing Black Lightning to zap them all at once. Batman points out that they could kill all the Aurakles and that convinces them to let everyone go and return them to Earth. Apparently it was the weird radiation in Halo’s brain that allowed the Aurakles to come to Earth in the first place, but now that Dr. Jace has duplicated that radiation, the Aurakles are somehow prevented from accessing it; I’m not sure exactly how that works … maybe duplicating the radiation removed it from Halo’s mind? Whatever … Batman’s not worried about the Aurakles returning, so I guess there’s no reason for me to worry about it. KatanaHalo leaves the team figures everything can go back to normal now, but Halo feels guilty about hijacking Violet Harper’s body, wondering if she might’ve still been alive when it happened. Katana points out that Violet was an asshole, a killer and thief, but Halo says it’s not her place to pass judgment on people, so she decides to take some time away from the Outsiders to get her shit together. Halo promises she’ll return, but Katana’s still heartbroken.

 

Firestorm 37 coverFirestorm #37 – “Not in Our Stars, But in Ourselves” – Joey Cavalieri/Alex Nino

This issue basically reads as a filler story, probably something left over from inventory that they used when the regular story was late. There’s a framing device about Ronnie and Professor Stein discussing why they had trouble (as Firestorm) using their powers while at zero atomic density. (There’s also a running joke about Ronnie being grossed out after trying sushi for the first time.) Stein has a theory that something organic caused a backlash and short-circuited their powers, likening it to something that happened shortly after they got their powers and that leads us into the flashback that makes up most of the story. Basically, Ronnie was having nightmares about making a mistake with his powers and getting innocent people hurt, including a dream-within-a-dream about a meteorite at the Science Center that suddenly started growing. When Firestorm tried to change its atomic structure, there was athe spore goes crazy backlash and a bunch of people died. After waking up, Ronnie heard a report on the radio about a meteorite at the Science Center growing out of control and went to check it out. Because of his dream, he was more cautious and realized the “meteorite” was actually a space spore and therefore organic in nature. He ended up enclosing the spore in a lead box and heating it up to kill off the spore before disposing of it. The flashback doesn’t really answer why Firestorm couldn’t use his powers at zero density, but it gives Stein something to think about. They leave the restaurant and discuss their upcoming move to Pittsburgh, but end up having to stop a car that’s out of control. Just another day for Firestorm, I guess.

Vigilante 19 coverVigilante #19 – “Ups and Downs” – Marv Wolfman (plot), Paul Kupperberg/Denys Cowan/Rick Magyar

This is one of those stories where we join the action already in progress (Vigilante and a Chinese-American gangbanger named Billy are beating the shit out of each other) and get multiple flashbacks showing how we got to this point. I’m not a big fan of that storytelling technique, although this one is slightly different since the Vigilante/Billy fight is interspersed with the flashbacks right through the story. Basically, Billy belongs to a Chinatown gang (the Jade Tigers) who have a big rivalry with the Red Dragons. The Dragons have recently been using some heavierVigilante and Billy fight hardware and Billy hears rumours that one of the big Tong outfits is backing them. Billy doesn’t care, he just wants to beat the Dragons and come out on top, even though his father urges him to stay out of the gang life. Turns out Billy’s father works for the Tong and he’s the one supplying the Dragons with their guns. He shoots some of Billy’s friends and Billy skewers him before realizing who he is. Vigilante heard about a big gang fight in Chinatown and came to stop it before it got out of hand. He ends up fighting Billy and they give each other a pretty hefty beating, before Billy’s father shoots Billy, dying right afterward. In his Adrian Chase leaves his costume behindcivilian identity of Adrian Chase, Vigilante has just been made a judge and swore to himself that he’d give up his costumed activities to avoid any moral conflicts. Stopping the gang fight was supposed to be his final act as Vigilante, and after seeing Billy gunned down by his own father, Chase is convinced that he needs to give up being Vigilante forever and concentrate on dispensing justice the legal way. So he strips off his costume and dumps it in a garbage can, leaving Vigilante behind forever. We’ll see how long that lasts.

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