Posts tagged ‘Frank Chiaramonte’

Detective 516 – Batman closes the Crime Academy, and Batgirl goes all serpentine

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Detective 516 (July 1982) has the second half of the Crime Academy story.  Paul Kupperberg joins Gerry Conway in scripting, while Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte handle the art.

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As Batman penetrates the Crime Academy, the story checks up on some of the continuing plots.  Boss Thorne can’t even get through a game of billiards without Hugo Strange’s ghost showing up to taunt him.

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Jim Gordon joins Jason Bard’s detective agency, declaring his intent to bring down mayor Hamilton Hill.

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So Batman brings down the Crime Academy on his own.  I didn’t take any shots of this, but I should mention that Dick has continued to fall for the exotic Dala, but she turns out to be linked with evil people, and he is in peril (oh, no!)

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The third part of Burkett, Delbo and Giella’s Lady Viper story sees Batgirl wake up, feeling the worse for wear.  She cannot even make it back home before passing out.

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She believes she is having disturbing dreams about being turned into a snake lady like Lady Viper, but when she wakes, amidst a group of homeless people. she discovers the dream is reality.

The story continues next issue.

Detective 515 – the college for killers, and the origin of Lady Viper

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The cover for Detective 515 (June 1982) was a real torment for me.  At 16, I thought it looked too childish to want to buy it, but it also really intrigued me.

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The story, by Conway, Newton and Chiaramonte, is also based on an early Batman story, with the Crime Academy.  To be fair, this story has been retold at least five times by now.

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Vicki comes to Wayne Manor with her photographic evidence that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but almost begs Alfred to prove her wrong. With Batman busy dealing with the graduates of the academy, he decides handle this himself.

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Batman adopts his Matches Malone disguise and joins the academy.

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Alfred contacts master of disguise, Christopher Chance, the Human Target.  A surprise to see him, but you can see the wheels working in Alfred’s brain.

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Batgirl and Lady Viper spend the whole of this chapter locked in combat, but Burkett, Delbo and Giella also work in an important flashback.

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Lady Viper relates her story to Batgirl as she chokes her.  How she found snakes preferable to men, and found a snake god statue that she felt a special connection to.  A moonlight ritual altered her form to the one she has now.

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Lady Viper blows a noxious powder at Batgirl, and flees.

The story continues next issue.

 

Detective 514 – Maxie Zeus on the run, and Batgirl goes to the circus

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Len Wein, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte provide a solid, one issue story in Detective 514 (May 1982).

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Maxie Zeus has escaped from Arkham, and is being driven north through a dangerously snowy, mountainous region.

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Batman is in pursuit, but spins out on the ice and goes off the road.  He is rescued by a nature and peace loving recluse who calls himself Haven.  Batman attempts to get back to the Batmobile, but aside from being attacked by a bear, cannot find his way.

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Maxie Zeus and his men also wind up stuck in the snow, and everyone winds up at a restaurant, with Zeus’ men holding guns.  Zeus commands Haven to fight for his amusement, but Haven will not.  Maxie shows his extreme arrogance, explaining how he is a god, capturing and crushing a bird to show his might.

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Bad move.  The dead bird sets off the massive Haven, who trounces Maxie’s men, with some assist from Batman.  Haven is killed, though.

It had been a couple of years since Maxie Zeus had appeared, and it would be a couple more before he returns, in the pages of Batman and Outsiders.

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Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Joe Giella give Batgirl a scary new enemy in this story.

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Lady Viper, Queen of the Serpents is a heck of a name, but do you really want to argue with her?  And whatever you do, don’t call her Charlene.  After being transformed into a snake-woman, she returns to the circus and kills the barker who had been cheating her.

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After his body is found, with what appear to be vampiric bite marks, Batgirl investigates, heading to the circus he worked at, where Lady Viper is none too pleased to see her.

The story continues next issue.

Detective 513 – A Two-Faced Batman

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Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte conclude a Two-Face story begun in Batman in Detective 513 (April 1982).

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Batman, captured by Two-Face, has been missing for days. Vicki Vale goes to Wayne Manor, revealing her belief that Batman is Bruce Wayne to Alfred and Dick, who just sort of look embarrassed for her, and she leaves.

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Batman’s absence has the city in a panic.  Hamilton Hill goes to consult with Boss Thorne, but he is not at all upset or concerned, happy to have him out of the way.

On the other hand, he is not happy to start seeing Hugo Strange’s ghost again.

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Everyone is wondering where Batman is. Even Jim Gordon, who has taken to hanging out on park benches now that he has resigned as commissioner.  Barbara tries to convince him to do something other than feed birds.

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And where is Batman, anyway?  Being held in a cage by Two-Face.  He is content to keep him there, no torture or anything, and his people provide food.

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Robin gets the action in this one, tracking Two-Face down.  But bythe time he arrives Batman is already free, thanks to Two-Face himself. Batman has used the food he has been given to make a mask for himself, expecting it to freak out Harvey.  Two-Face breaks the glass to free his double, and Batman takes him down.

Detective 511 – Batman battles Mirage

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Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte provide a full-length story in Detective 511 (Feb. 82), introducing a new villain, Mirage.

The story takes place in the immediate aftermath of the mayoral election. Hamilton Hill won, after Arthur Reeves faked photos of Batman were exposed.

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Mirage is a thief, armed with some wrist weaponry that causes hallucinations in any who look at him. He can affect individuals, or large crowds.

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Vicki Vale is at a racetrack he robs, and takes photos of him.  His effects do not show up in the pictures, an important clue for Batman to protect himself from Mirage’s powers.

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Robin is a supporting character again, giving university another shot as Dick Grayson.  But classes fail to be as interesting as the exotic woman he runs into, Dala.

Fans may recognize this name as the female accomplice/victim of the Monk back in very early Batman stories.  A number of early villains would be re-introduced in the next year.

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Arthur Reeves, upset about losing, goes to the man who backed his campaign and gave him the fake photos – Boss Thorne, recently released from Arkham.  Thorne also reveals that he leaked the undoctored photos to Olivia Ortega, which ruined Reeves’ run for mayor.  Thorne has his own game, and everyone else is just a pawn.

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Batman manages to break Mirage’s spell, and brings him down.  When I read this as a kid, I just loved this villain and eagerly awaited his return. Now, I’m not so sure what I liked, aside from the unusual costume.  Mirage would appear again from time to time, usually in groups with other villains.

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The issue ends with Bruce Wayne stepping down as the head of the Wayne Foundation, and appointing Lucius Fox to take his place. That had more or less been being built up since the moment Fox was introduced, and the position has fit him like a glove ever since.

Detective 495 – The Crime Doctor vs Sterling Silversmith, the importance of a mattress, Batgirl goes after a gang boss, and Black Lightning and Robin end

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Michael Fleisher, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte conclude the Crime Doctor storyline in Detective 495 (Oct. 80).

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Picking up from where last issue left off, the Crime Doctor is amazed that the men who hired him would want to kill him, and works with Batman to escape the building before it blows up.

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It was the bloodthirsty and greedy Sterling Silversmith who ordered his men to turn on the Crime Doctor, just so he could avoid paying for his services.

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Silversmith has his men kidnap the Crime Doctor, while Batman hunts them both.  Silversmith gives Thorne quicksilver to drink.  Batman captures Silversmith, but is too late to help Thorne.  He is still alive, but mentally fried, and confined to a hospital.

This is the final appearance of both Sterling Silversmith, and this incarnation of the Crime Doctor, although another one will pop up in the pages shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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Bob Rozakis and Dan Spiegle share this brief Tales of Gotham City chapter, which deals with a small time gangster who has been stealing from the mob, stashing the money in his mattress.  They are on to him, and he has to pay them back that evening.  Returning home, he finds his apartment on fire.

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He winds up trapped in his burning suite, and uses the mattress to break his fall when he jumps.  The money stuffed mattress winds up with the mobsters, and the man has his life, but nothing else.

A good one.

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Batgirl is after a mob boss in this story, by Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte.

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Barbara is having her own romantic troubles, as office geek Richard Bender tries to make a date with her, while she still longs for the father of the girl she rescued.

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But the bulk of this tale follows her efforts as Batgirl to find proof linking the man, Beeler, to the crimes she knows he is guilty of.  She succeeds, but overall, this story is kind of flat.

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Jean-Marc deMatteis scripts this final Black Lightning story, which deals with street gangs and the crappy life choices for slum kids.

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Inspector Henderson and Jimmy Olsen both guest star – both were supporting characters in Black Lightning’s old book.

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The story gets quite violent and intense.  Even after Black Lightning wins, he has to talk the young hood out of killing himself rather than head to prison.

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While Henderson and Jimmy Olsen both next appear shortly in Superman titles, Black Lightning does not return again until the launch of Batman and the Outsiders, three years down the road.

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Harris, Nicholas and Colletta bring Robin’s series to a close with another story about his stresses at university.

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As before, he is getting barked at by Jennifer, and is in academic trouble.  At the same time, he is trying to track the shipment of drugs into the college from Gotham.

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He gets Jennifer’s blessing to spend the night working on an essay, but winds up heading out as Robin.

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He stops the bad guys, but blows his university career.  Without even saying good-bye to Jennifer he leaves Hudson University, riding off into the pages of New Teen Titans.

Dick Grayson would not get a solo series again for many years.  Tim Drake would get a series before Dick Grayson does.

 

 

Detective 494 – a new Crime Doctor, Pinball, Batgirl uses a garage, Robin deals with a hazing death, and Black Lightning fights the Slime Killer

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Michael Fleisher joins Don Newton for the lead story in Detective 494 (Sept. 80).

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A new Crime Doctor, Raymond Thorne, is introduced in this story.  As with the 1940s version, he sells his skills to other criminals, charging extra for “house calls” during the crimes themselves.  With the ambulance to travel in, and the surgical gear as a costume, I always thought this was a great idea for a villain.

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Batman gets alerted to the existence of the Crime Doctor after discovering one of his prescriptions at a crime scene.

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The story also allows us to see Thorne in his everyday life, as a wealthy and successful surgeon, whose life of crime is a thrilling addiction.

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Batman sustains injuries to great for Alfred to handle, and as Dr. Dundee is out of town, his cases are being handled by Thorne.  He patches up Bruce Wayne.  Later, when the Crime Doctor and Batman are facing off against each other, the bandage gets revealed, and Thorne lets slip that he put it there – and both men realize they know who the other is.

The two wind up trapped, after the men who hired Thorne plot to kill him and leave him at the scene, along with Batman.

The story concludes next issue.

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A classic from the day it came out, Pinball was by far the best of the Tales of Gotham City stories, by Jack C Harris, with art by Dan Spiegle.  Set in a pinball arcade, it deals with a drug runner who is so into his game that he lets a young admirer transport the drugs for him.

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After the boy leaves, he learns that a rival gang is on the hunt for the runners.  The news of this, the pinball game, and the young boy’s journey through dangerous territory are perfectly intercut.

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In the end he leaves his game, worried about the kid, and rightfully so.  The punk sacrifices his life to save the boy.  Redeeming, but dark.  This is Gotham.

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Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte are behind the Batgirl story in this issue, which continues the story from the previous one.

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While Batgirl does not have any sort of cave of her own, she does have a friend, Jeff, who runs a garage.  He seems to have a crush on Batgirl, and she feels comfortable storing her motorcycle there.

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Barbara is not above a bit of flirting herself, when she finds out the father of the girl Batgirl rescued the previous issue is single.

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She also discovers that the development plans had been altered, and the original plan buried by slum lords who wanted to hold onto their properties.  She exposes their scheme, and the new housing is built, and the theatre saved.

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It’s back to campus life with this Harris/NIcholas.Colletta Robin story, that deals with a supposed death by hazing, which was really an intentional murder.

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Dick and Jennifer about to go swimming when they discover the body, and once again Dick ditches his girlfriend to go be Robin.

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It’s not one of his harder cases, and he does end up lip-locked with Jennifer.  Considering that their relationship ends next issue, I wanted to include their last really happy moment.

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Black Lightning is back, with a good story by Jean-Marc deMatteis.

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The hero has two major concerns in this story.  As teacher Jefferson Pierce, he is worried about one of his students, who seems to be having some troubles at home.

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As Black Lightning, he is dealing with the Slime Killer, a vigilante doling out bloody street justice.

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Visiting the boy at home, Jeff meets his angry, physically abusive father.

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It’s not much of a surprise when the father turns out to be the Slime Killer, but the story does not shy away from the difficult ending, as the son chooses to support his father, even after he is exposed and arrested.  Not an entirely happy ending, but a good one.

 

 

Detective 488 – The Spook sends Batman to death row, Tales of Gotham City begins, Batgirl comes home, the Elongated Man looks for a car, and Robin gets a new girlfriend

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Detective 488 (Feb./March 1980) sees the Spook return.  He had last appeared in an issue of Batman two years earlier.  Cary Burkett scripts, with Don Newton on the art.

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The story also sees Selina Kyle appear, in her budding romance with Bruce Wayne, which had been happening in the pages of Batman.  She, along with much of Gotham, has been reading a runaway best-seller by a man on death row.  His agent and publisher both talk about how much money they could make off a sequel, but of course the author is due to be executed.

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The Spook gets hired to break the man out of prison, and the story adds a mystery element by keeping the identity of the man behind it a secret.

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Lucius Fox, who had been introduced months earlier in Batman, also makes an appearance in this story. giving more background information on the writer.

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The Spook lures Batman to the prison, and uses some special who knows what to make everyone see Batman as the man on death row.  So the Spook breaks the writer out of prison, but no one realizes it, and Batman is due to be executed in his place.

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The Spook even shows up to taunt Batman.  Of course, he manages to escape and catch the writer, the man who hired the Spook, and the big name villain as well.

This was pretty much the last appearance of the Spook, so far as I recall, aside from a couple of stories in the next few years that feature huge line-ups of Batman villains.

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Denny O’Neil scripts the first installment of a new series, Tales of Gotham City.  Some of the stories would feature known characters, but the best of these stories dealt with the every day people of Gotham.

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The first story deals with a cop on his last day before retirement.  He was proud of his record, that he had never had to pull his gun during his time on the force.

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He winds up on a subway car with an escaped convict disguised as a woman, who disappears during the moments the train blacks out in a tunnel.

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It’s a good mystery, for its brevity, and comes to a warm and fuzzy conclusion as the cop subdues the convict without needing to pull his gun and break his perfect record.

True, this is not the dark and seedy Gotham we have come to know and love, but the series would move there.

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Batgirl returns to Gotham in this story by Jack C Harris, with art by Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte.

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The main part of the story deals with rival gang on the verge of a war after the leader of one is murdered, but the better scenes are between Barbara and her father, as they discuss her loss in the recent election.  What caused it, what lessons to take, and where to go from here.

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She averts the gang war, proving that the leader was killed by one of his own gang.

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The final scene shows the exterior of Commissioner Gordon’s house, not something often seen.  He sure seems to make a lot of money as a police commissioner.  I don’t think there is any other story showing him living in such a massive house.

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The Elongated Man is back, with a mysterious car theft in front of a huge crowd, told by Mike W Barr, with art by Eduardo Barreto and Joe Giella.  I don’t know if it’s because this is very early Barreto, or it’s Giella’s inks, but it looks absolutely nothing like his later work.

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The mystery is good enough.  The car simply vanishes, leaving no trace, and Ralph is puzzled until a chance remark by Sue makes him realize the car the crowd saw was just a collapsable shell, not a real car at all.

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Robin’s story, by Jack C Harris, with art by Schaffenberger and Colletta, has a number of wealthy students get kidnapped the first day of the semester.

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One of those grabbed is Jennifer Anne, a pretty blonde that Dick Grayson has been scoping.  So of course he gets into Robin gear to go rescue her.

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The kidnappings turn out to be more extensive than he thought, and Dick learns that he was an intended victim as well.  But knowing that he was meant to be grabbed makes him realize the poor kid, who was handing out assignments to help pay his tuition, is one of the bad guys.

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Robin rescues Jennifer, but Dick gets to make out with her.  There is a “funny” ending, as Alfred gets the ransom note just as Bruce gets Dick’s call about the situation.

But it bothers me that the message seems to be to not trust kids who have to work to pay their tuition.

Adventure 491 – the comic shrinks and expands to digest size, and Shazam begins

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After a gap of six months, Adventure Comics returns with issue 491 (Sept 82), but now it’s a small, digest sized book.  It’s 100 pages long, but virtually all of that consists of reprints.  The only new work in the issue is the Shazam story, continued from the series in World’s Finest Comics, which also recently underwent a format change.

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E Nelson Bridwell, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte helpm the tale as Satan assembles a crew to take out the Marvel Family, which now includes Kid Eternity, revealed to be the long-lost brother of Captain Marvel, Jr back in World’s Finest.  Ibac and Sabbac are joined by newer villain Darkling, as well as Master Man, Kid Eternity’s old enemy.

They take the Marvels by surprise while they are in their normal human form, binding and gagging them.

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It’s Kid Eternity who saves the day, getting loose of his gag and calling up Zeus.  Smart move, as Zeus is able to send the magic lightning bolts that transform Billy Batson, Mary Batson and Freddy Freeman into Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel, Jr.

Together the four heroes take down Ibac, Sabbac and Darkling, but Master Man has called up four evil gods of his own.

The story concludes next issue.

Adventure 463 – Flash battles an Image-Eater, Deadman gains a body, the JSA bury Batman, Aquaman defeats the evil farmers and Wonder Woman takes on Queen Bee

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Adventure 463 (June 1979) opens with a Flash story that is only remarkable in the way it ignores the major events taking place in his own book at this time.

Cary Bates, Don Heck and Joe Giella tell a story that has the Flash returning from a visit with Jay Garrick on Earth-2, and stumbling across an ancient spirit, the Urtumi, that feeds on the after-images he leaves behind while running.

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I never understood how Don Heck got so much work in comics.  I don’t believe there was ever a single panel he drew that I liked.

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Conversely, I don’t think there was ever a single panel Jose Luis Gacia-Lopez drew that I didn’t love.  With Frank Chiaramonte on inks, and Len Wein in the driver’s seat, the Deadman storyline that opened his run in Adventure comes to a powerful conclusion.

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Despite Kronsky’s unstable nature, Deadman still holds out hope that his helmet will create a new body for him, and he tries a variety of ways to access it.

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Finally, he inhabits Inga, and almost succeeds at his goal, but the body explodes.  The helmet will only work for Kronsky, and only almost worked for Inga because of their genetic similarity.

Ultimately, Kronsky sacrifices the helmet, which is driving him insane, to be able to stay with his family.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Staton bring the death of Batman storyline to a conclusion, as Dr Fate leads the team in hunting down the man responsible, Frederic Vaux, a patsy of darker forces.

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Vaux used the powers he was given to convince Jensen that Wayne had framed him, and gave him the power to destroy him.  Why did the mysterious dark forces choose to operate in such a roundabout way?  That’s never addressed, and this final chapter is not really very fulfilling in terms of the villains.

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Vuax casts a spell to remove the memories of everyone on Earth, part of the larger plan to enslave him.  After his defeat by Dr Fate, as the spell begins to wear off, Fate makes sure that the exact circumstances of Bruce Wayne’s death are not remembered, restoring his secret identity, as well as those of Helena and Dick Grayson.

All in all, the death of Batman storyline is far better in terms of what it achieved, than in how it achieved it.

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Aquaman’s battle with United Food Products over their farming of the sea beds near Atlantis concludes this issue, by Paul Kupperberg, Don Heck and Joe Giella.

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Aquaman is opposed by the Atlanteans, Vulko, Mera and even Aqualad, whom he gets into a fight with, but he pursues the UFP anyway, with Aqualad in hot pursuit.

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The leader proudly proclaims that the true plans were to destroy Atlantis, and please note the unusual garb of the sailor standing next to him in the first panel.  As I said, there is more to this storyline than it seems at first.

Aqualad overhears, and joins Aquaman as they destroy the UFP base.  Back in Atlantis, even Vulko finally concedes that the UFP were dangerous.  But their plans are far from over…

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Wonder Woman is seen at work for the only time during her run in Adventure, as astronaut in training Diana Prince, in this story by Gerry Conway, with art by Joe Staton and Frank McLauglin.

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She is sealed in a sensory deprivation test, which saves her when a swarm of deadly bees attack NASA.  She uses her lasso to round up the bees, saving her co-workers, and then follows them back to their giant lair.

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She discovers JLA villain Zazzala, the Queen Bee, an alien conqueror.  Though she bests Queen Bee in combat, she is forced to release her when Zazzala reveals that the scientists stung by the bees had their minds drained as the result, and the honetcomb contains their combined mental faculties, which only Zazzala can return to them.

Queen Bee last appeared facing the Justice League three years earlier in their own book.  The story concludes next issue.

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