Monday, November 30, 2020

Batman in the 1980s Issue 16: April 1981

The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino

The Brave and the Bold #173

"One of Us is Not One of Us!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Jim Aparo

One of the Guardians of Oa approaches Batman with an unusual request. He says that, among his people, "One of Us is Not One of Us!" and he needs the Dark Knight Detective's skills to help him root out the impostor. For some reason, none of the Green Lantern Corps have returned his calls, so he sought out the "B" team. Before the Guardian arrived, Batman had been heading to a ship to investigate some stolen jewels; the Guardian kindly accompanies Batman and helps him defeat the thugs on board the vessel with some well-placed power rays.

Batman and the Guardian then head west to the Ferris Aircraft Co., where they confront Green Lantern in his secret identity of Hal Jordan, test pilot. Hal at first doesn't recognize either of them, but when the Guardian transforms Hal into Green Lantern, he suddenly remembers that his memory was blocked by his arch-enemy, Sinestro! GL gives Batman a primer on Sinestro's background and the trio head off to the Guardian's home world to try to figure out what's going on.

Jack: I always liked those little blue guys, ever since they set off to find the real America in the O'Neil/Adams run on Green Lantern. This is a fun story with terrific art by Aparo, who turns out to be quite adept at drawing the Guardian. True, there is a lot of back story to fill in, but it's all done in such breezy fashion that I didn't mind. Of course, this sets up next issue's Bat-partner as Green Lantern, and I'm looking forward to the story's conclusion.

Peter: I grew up a Marvel Zombie, so most of the back story to "One of Us..." is lost on me. I'd have liked a Stan Lee-esque (*see Green Lantern #7 for the whole story) notation to let me in on whether this Sinestro story is new to B&B #173 or a tidbit dropped years before. It's this type of story (as opposed to "Robin Takes a Wife") that makes me want to take a deep dive into some of those "lesser" titles like JLA and Green Lantern. I do have to wonder why Sgt. Blue Head would beg the Bats for his help rather than Supes or Wonder Woman. Is good detective work really going to save the day in outer space? Looking forward to the conclusion!

"Knight's Gambit!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

In Jolly Olde England, Nemesis watches as Council member and chess grandmaster Noel Chesterton wins a chess match. Out in the street, Nemesis witnesses the attempted kidnapping of Sir Robert Greene and foils the plot; Chesterton later receives a phone call warning him about Nemesis, but he argues that his current plot is too important to give up. At Chesterton's home, Nemesis fails to stop another kidnap attempt and finds himself under arrest for helping to abduct the man.

Jack: For a Nemesis entry, "Knight's Gambit" isn't half bad. Spiegle seems to have tried a little harder this time out to make his art look professional, and the story moves along at a decent clip. There's a needless interlude where Nemesis wonders what Valerie is up to after he forbade her to accompany him, but for the most part this is an enjoyable backup story.

Peter: Well, it's no Queen's Gambit but it'll pass ten minutes well enough. I'm not as keen on Spiegle's Colorforms graphics (Dan's foregrounds are just as bad as his backgrounds) as you are, Jack; there's not much in the way of storytelling, just a lot of talking heads. 

Detective Comics #501

"The Man Who Killed Mlle. Marie!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Dan Adkins

Mysterious telegrams summon Alfred Pennyworth and Lucius Fox to Paris. An intrigued Bruce Wayne/Batman follows them there (instead of, you know, just asking the guys what's up) and is immediately caught up in a web of intrigue. A French inspector explains to Batman that Fox and Pennyworth were both helping the freedom fighters during WWII, and both may have intimately known the legendary Mademoiselle Marie. 

The Inspector further explains that Marie was murdered during the waning hours of the war by a traitor, but her body was never found. Rumors of a daughter, possibly fathered by one of Marie's aides, have circulated throughout France. Batman meets up with Lucius and Alfred at the meeting point addressed in the telegram just before a trio of machine-gun-toting Parisians enter the room. As Batman is overpowered and knocked unconscious, the group's leader, a brunette named Julia, points a gun at Alfred and lets him know she knows how to use it.

Peter: I'm a sucker for DC war crossovers (and I already know Jack is waving his Mlle. Marie flag below) so I was up for this adventure-thriller but... not much happens here. Perhaps the second part will bring an answer to so many questions. Inherent in a "deep dive" like "The Man Who Killed Mlle. Marie" is the head-scratching time & space continuum problem. We know that Batman (and Robin) took part in WWII stories cuz we've read them, so why is it here the Caped Crusader admits he knows just about nothing about the Freedom Fighters, other than the fact that Alfred fought in the Resistance thirty years before? It's hard not to scrunch up your face and think, "Hey, wait a minute, if Alfred was sixty-plus years old in those old 1940s' Batman stories, how was he in France gunning down Ratzis and making sweet music with Marie at the same time? Yes, I know it further makes no sense for me to dwell on it. "Just get over it," I hear you typing. OK, I will, provided we get a solid conclusion next issue.

Jack: I feel like we heard about Alfred's past as a resistance fighter in WWII not too long ago, but I can't help picturing the tubby Alfred Pennyworth from the Golden Age comics! I'm happy to see Mlle. Marie again but sad to think she was killed at the end of the war; I don't know what's coming next, so I assume she really is dead, even though her body was never found. It's a real shock to see Alfred brain Batman but I can assure everyone that the butler did not kill the freedom fighter. No way, Jose!

"The Five-Fold Revenge of Dr. Voodoo!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

Dr. Voodoo is back in town and he's red-hot angry at Batgirl for foiling his diamond exchange robberies (way back in 'tec #496) so he's going to get at the "lady of the bats" through the people she loves and cares for. First, Voodoo rigs a bomb in the Batcycle and then uses his mental powers to influence mechanic Jeff Cotton to take her for a ride (the cycle, not Batgirl!). Jeff goes boom! Babs feels terrible about Jeff's dire prognosis (critical condition) and looks to office hunk Jim Dover for compassion. But, alas, Jim is under the mental powers of Dr. Voodoo and rudely rebuffs Barbara's whining. At wit's end, Batgirl takes to the skies and it's there that Dr. Voodoo finds her. Knocking Batgirl unconscious, Voodoo injects her with a formula specially prepared to heighten her "painful emotions!"

Peter: Say what you will about Dr. Voodoo. Sure, he's a cad and a diamond thief, a brute, possibly a murderer but... he had the good manners to simmer while Batgirl/Barbara Gordon tended to her legal problems before concocting a new plan for vengeance. Not all baddies would be that polite. But, as to that plan, I'm not really sure why he bothered. He blows up Jeff (and, good job that, surviving a bomb blast to the crotch) and then aims a little lower by forcing Jim to be rude over the phone, only to jump Babs while she's swinging around. I get it, V's trying to get Batgirl's nerve-endings fried, but why not just kill her when he has a chance? Throw her off the building, maybe? Like Jack below, I was impressed with the Delbo-Giella work this issue; obviously the pair were practicing in their off-hours as their work has improved tenfold in just the last several issues. As dumb as this story was, I was still entertained and that's the goal, right?

Jack: Dr. Voodoo was a lame villain back in issue #496; so lame, in fact, that I had forgotten all about him. This story gets off to a good start with a very impressive splash page, picturing a Batgirl voodoo doll being hanged by the neck, but then it meanders around a bit before getting good again at the end. Delbo and Giella draw a nice Batgirl and, overall, Detective is winning the art competition among Bat titles hands down.

Batman #334

"The Lazarus Affair, Chapter Three:
Infinity Island!"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin

Batman awakens and is immediately set upon by a crowd of lunatics. He is strapped to a chair and given a choice: join the followers of his mysterious captor and live a life of luxury, or join the lunatics and be consigned to an underground mine.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Robin and Catwoman quickly escape their captors, find and free King Faraday, and all three take a speedboat to a location in the Indian Ocean. They are captured by giant bubbles and taken to the mine right next door to Batman, who witnesses their arrival and elects to join them. Outside the mine, Talia races around, zapping mutates with a ray gun.

The Bat quartet manage to escape the mine and find Talia, who is suddenly aging before their eyes. She runs to join their mysterious captor, who promises her eternal youth. Batman is not surprised when they all come face to face with Ra's al Ghul!

Jack: Novick and McLaughlin do their best to keep up with Wolfman's speedy plot twists and turns, and actually come up with some decent panels this time out, such as the one reproduced here. Still, there seems to be an awful lot of running from here to there, but to what end? We all knew it was going to be Ra's eventually. So far, Marv has given us 51 pages of "epic" story, with 25 more promised for next issue, but for the life of me I don't know what the point is. Peter?

Peter: You got me, Jack. If you wanted Ra's to come in as your "super-secret villain," try not including his daughter in the "epic" and, for gosh sake's, don't title it "The Lazarus Anything!" Scheduling four issues on this dreck makes no sense to me but, possibly, it might have been more enjoyable if Marv had spilled the beans at the climax of part one. Then we could get to the meat of what's happening on this island. As it stands, there's probably going to be a boatload of exposition next issue. This chapter is especially egregious, with its "air of mystery." If I was Batman when Robin was beseeching him to reveal the mastermind behind the plot, I'd have turned to him and said, "Really? And you want to be my partner?"

"...From the Ashes!"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Dan Spiegle

Susan Talley hires Jason Bard to find out who torched her boarding house, since the mean old insurance man is convinced that she did it and so he won't pay up. While he visits the scene of the crime, Bard is knocked out; when he awakens, he finds a piece of cloth snagged on a piece of wood and deduces that the firebug was none other than Susan's ex-husband. Bard locates the creep trying to burn down his own trailer, but ex-hubby ends up French toast and Bard makes sure Susan will get the insurance money.

Jack: It's depressing to turn the page and see more art by Dan Spiegle. I guess someone out there must love him (there are Frank Robbins fans, don't forget), but I think his art is strictly from hunger. And why bring back Jason Bard? His backup series in the early '70s was nothing special. Really, all he has to distinguish him from any other private eye is a cane and a limp. That's not much to base a series on.

Peter: You're depressed by the art but the script is equally bad. For giggles, though, you can't beat the sequence where Bard explains that there's not time to break down the door so he risks severing an artery or blindness by swinging through a plate glass window. I guess there's plenty of time to stanch the bleeding while the bad guys are beating you up, eh? Spiegle's work is so blah and lifeless, you can't tell which character is which. Bard takes turns looking like the Hulk and a Saturday Night Fever devotee.

Next Week...
A Very Creepy Christmas!

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