Detective 491 – Maxie Zeus and the Golden Fleece, the origin of Jason Bard, Robin has a tail, Black Lightning shorts out, and a new job for Barbara Gordon
The split cover for Detective 491 (June 1980) might be considered a metaphor for the variable quality of the stories it contains.
Denny O’Neil and Don Newton contribute an excellent Maxie Zeus story.
It begins with a Wayne Foundation scientist showing Bruce Wayne some actual gold cloth he had created – before gunmen burst in, kill him and steal the cloth. Bruce does his best to pursue them, but most of them get away.
Batman impersonates one of Maxie Zeus’s captured men, and goes to see him at Arkham. Batman slips up, not knowing the plans, and Maxie knocks him out, and escapes.
The story takes a surprising turn, as we discover that Maxie’s plan for the cloth was to give it to his daughter, Medea, as a gift. Batman has the grace to stop this, but provide a different gift for the girl. This is Medea’s first appearance, but she would become an integral element of Maxie Zeus’ world.
This gets followed by another great scene. Batman and Maxie leave the home where Medea is being raised, and have a calm conversation about Maxie’s plans, and the fact that the murder was not part of the scheme – and all the while Batman is fighting Maxie’s men.
Batman solves the murder mystery, a rival co-worker, but it’s the scenes with Maxie Zeus that stand out so much.
Maxie Zeus returns in an issue of Batman later in the year.
Jason Bard stars in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City, as we learn his sad background, from Mike W Barr and Dan Spiegle.
We learn that Jaosn grew up in a small town, the son of an alocholic, abusive, criminal father, and a long-suffering mother whose suffering was cut short when the father killed her.
After being discharged from the army because of his wound, Jason became a detective, in the hopes of one day finding and apprehending his father. He does find him, and the man is even worse than Jason remembered. Still, he is not pleased when his father dies in a shoot out.
A really good background story for this character, and Dan Spiegle’s art is perfect for it. I wish he had done more Jason Bard stories.
On the weaker side of the issue, we have the Robin story, by Jack C Harris, Alex Saviuk and Vince Colletta.
I should have mentioned in the last post, that starting with the last issue, Robin notices that he, and Dick Grayson, are being followed by a mysterious man in black. He will pop up in each story until his character is explained.
This story deals with a killer on campus, and evidence that points to a black basketball player with anger management troubles. Robin realizes the guy is just being framed, and finds the real killer.
Black Lightning wakes to discover himself powerless in this second half, by Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin.
I remember reading this as a kid, and expecting that this story would see the boy he was trapped with gain his powers, but nope, nothing like that. We do learn that the voodoo queen’s big plan was this spell, that would make her son and Black Lightning equal in power. But the spell did not give her son powers, just removed those of the hero.
Black Lightning isn’t even very stressed about the situation, figuring that he became a hero before he got his powers anyway.
The Batgirl story in this issue, by Cary Burkett, with art by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella, would have repercussions that lasted through Crisis on Infinite Earths and beyond.
Crime boss General Scarr debuts, upset that Batgirl has returned to Gotham, and figuring that she will be a menace to their plans. Apparently Batman doesn’t bother him at all, but whatever. He has brought in a hired killer, Cormorant, to kill Batgirl.
Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon has started a new job, as the head of social services, for the Human Research and Development Centre, which sounds very vague yet progressive. She meets a couple of her co-workers, a handsome but rude man, Richard Bender, and an unattractive but pleasant and brilliant one, Roger Barton.
Cormorant lures Batgirl to the roof of a building by dangling the dummy of her from a flagpole, as seen on the splash page. He holds a little girl hostage, demanding she stand out in the open and allow herself to get shot.
We appear to see her fall to her death at the end of the story. Obviously not, and it continues next issue.