Posts tagged ‘Jim Aparo’

Detective 500 – 4 Batman stories, two of them team-ups, scads of detectives, and Elongated Man and Hawkman end

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Many anniversary issue build themselves up as being something really special, but few live up to their promise.  Detective 500 (March 1981) is one of the rare ones.  It’s not all gold, but enough of it is.

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The first story, by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, bring us to a parallel world, where a new Batman is about to be born.

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The Phantom Stranger brings Batman and Robin to this world, seemingly so that Bruce will have the opportunity to prevent his parents’ deaths.

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They find this world similar, but different.  James Gordon is still just a lieutenant, and Barbara , though a librabrian, is his fiancee, not his daughter.  Bruce is hunting for information on Joe Chill, while Dick discovers that this is a world with no heroic legends, no caped heroes, nothing to inspire heroism.

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Observing the Waynes, we see that Bruce is hardly a baby hero, more like a rich spoiled brat, but Batman is blind to this.

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Batman’s pursuit of Joe Chill, who on this world is not even from Gotham, and just arriving in the city, brings him into conflict with Gordon, but Batman manages to convince him that they are friends on another world.

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His search for Chill has raised such flags that the man is murdered by the Gotham mobs.  Batman learns that the planned murder of the Waynes is happening sooner than he expected – he had not counted the extra days from leap years.

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Robin, who has been watching the Waynes, sees the murder about to occur, and struggles within himself, thinking that is might be meant to be; but Batman swoops in saves the day, his parents, and himself.

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The Phantom Stranger takes the heroes back to their own world, and they are left to wonder what will become of Bruce, but the reader gets to see the impact the attempted murder had, and that even with his parents alive, young Bruce is on the road to becoming Batman.

Sadly, this is not a parallel world we ever visit again.

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Slam Bradley gets the billing, but this story, a re-write of a Batman tale from the 40s, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, is pretty much a free for all with a vast line-up of detectives.

They are all at a celebration for an older detective, who gets murdered in front of them.

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The original version of this story has Batman working with a number of detective based on famous fictional ones from the era.  This story brings Slam Bradley, Jason Bard, Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target and Roy Raymond together on the case.

For Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith and Slam Bradley, this the first time the character appeared since the end of their own series.

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There are leads in a number of directions, which allow the detectives to split up and pursue them in smaller groups.  The story gives everyone at least one moment to shine, and they wind up stopping a number of bad guys.

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Slam suspects there is more to the case, and it’s Roy Raymond who provides the real solution, that this was an elaborate suicide, designed to prompt the men to tidy up some hanging cases of his.

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Jason Bard and the Human Target both return in the pages of Detective within the next couple of years, while Roy Raymond pops up in DC Comics Presents.  Many of the rest have their next, and final, appearances in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Slam Bradley returns a little after Crisis, returning to the pages of Detective for one story.

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The next story in the issue is a wonderful 2-pager, by Len Wein and Walt Simonson, that uses Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” as it’s text.  Clever, and visually gorgeous.

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The Elongated Man gets his final solo story in this book, by Mike W Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  As well as being a decent mystery story on its own, it delves into the facts around the death of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Chiefly, the identity of the mysterious “Reynolds” that Poe called out for shortly before dying.  The story has to do with a letter explaining who Reynolds was, and leading to an unpublished magazine by Poe.

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Garcia-Lopez’s art is great, and Ralph and Sue are always fun to read about.

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One of his best mysteries, this is also the Elongated Man’s last solo story until his miniseries in the 90s.

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On the downside of the issue, there is this text story by Walter Gibson, with some scattered art by Tom Yeates.  I recall reading this as a kid, but not finding it particularly memorable.  And I dislike text stories like this in comics.  If I’m going to read a book, I’ll read a book.  I read comics for the visuals.

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Hawkman also has his last solo story in Detective in this issue.  Well, kind of a solo, really he and Hawkgirl get equal roles.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert helm this tale, that sees Katar and Shayera trying to solve the mystery of the death of a scientist many years earlier.

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There’s some great Kubert art, and the story itself is not bad, but it’s a bit of a tease.

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At the end, Hawkman reveals that the scientist whose death they were investigating was Dr. Erdel, who had died after bringing the Martian Manhunter to Earth.  J’onn had blamed himself, and Hawkman wanted proof that it was not J’onn’s fault.

Hawkman’s next solo outing is the Shadow War of Hawkman miniseries.

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The final story in this issue was also a let-down to me.  Even moreso, as it’s a Batman/Deadman team-up, and those had been above average stories, on the whole.  But Carmine Infantino’s art is not what it was, and Cary Bates’ story doesn’t help much either.

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Pursuing some criminals, Batman gets killed.  Sort of.  Almost dead.  Robin is really stressed, but Deadman shows up and decides to inhabit Batman’s body to bring his killers to justice.

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Oops, someone spilled a plate of scrambled eggs on the comic.  Oh, wait, that’s Infantino’s art for showing Batman and Deadman conversing on the astral plane.

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Deadman moves Batman around and catches the bad guys, and doing so ignites the spark that brings him back to life.  A shame this story closed the issue.  It would have done less damage buried in the middle.

Detective 446 – Sterling Silversmith debuts, and Hawkman returns

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The Bat-Murderer storyline continues in Detective 446 (April 1975), with a Len Wein/Jim Aparo tale that introduces a new villain for Batman.

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Sterling Silversmith has dreams of conquering the silver market, and a belief that gold will lose it’s value, and silver become the more precious metal.  His economic theories aside, Silversmith is extremely callous, and cares nothing about killing anyone who gets in his way, or using any means possible to acquire his silver.

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Only the beginning and ending of this issue reflect the larger storyline.  Otherwise, Batman’s battle with Silversmith could have occurred in any other issue.  While I like the fact that they extended the storyline by showing how it affects Batman’s other cases, I wish they had showed a bit more of an effect.

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Still, the ending, with the cop unable to shoot Batman after he drops off Silversmith, is a good scene.

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Hawkman returns to the pages of Detective with this E Nelson Bridwell story, with art by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson.  Between this story and his last appearance in these pages, Hawkman had resigned from the Justice League, and returned to Thanagar with Shayera.  The equalizer plague struck the planet, and Hawkman returned, bringing Shayera, now both exiled from their world until a cure could be found.

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The story here is a simple one, dealing with thieves that possess a remote control that can send a car, or Hawkman, hurtling into the sky.  They had made the mistake of storing their stolen loot in Carter Hall’s apparently abandoned car.

 

Detective 445 – Bat-Murderer continues, and Robin begins, again

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Len Wein and Jim Aparo’s Bat-Murderer saga has its second chapter in Detective 445 (Feb./March 1975).

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Jack Ryder cameos, recapping the previous issue’s events, and setting up his larger role to come next issue.  Alfred actually asks Batman if he did it, but really we can excuse that lack of faith as the necessary set-up to hear Batman’s side of the “murder.”

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Batman figures that Ra’s Al Ghul must have some knowledge of what is going on, or possible be behind it, and breaks into Gotham prison to question him.  Ra’s openly admits to being behind his daughter’s death, and then promptly pulls out a gun and kills himself.

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In a really nice touch, Batman escapes the prison using one of the Spook’s passages.  But now he is wanted for two murders.

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Robin’s series moves back into Detective from Batman, after a year with no solo tales, in this story by Bob Rozakis and Mike Grell.  Robin joins the rotating back-up slot.

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Robin is still at Hudson University, but his previous supporting cast and campus issue based stories are done.  This tale deals with vandalism of a football from a historic game, and a long held grudge leading to a murder attempt.

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The story isn’t bad, and Grell’s art is a treat.  Police captain Frank McDonald is introduced, and will be a part of the Robin series for the next few years.

Detective 444 – Batman murders Talia, and the Elongated Man and the magic mirror

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A 5 part story begins in Detective 444 (Dec.74/Jan. 75), called Bat-Murderer, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo.  It’s the first story with Ra’s al Ghul and Talia since the end of their big, multi-part story a year earlier in Batman.

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It opens with Commissioner Gordon telling a policeman not to use the Bat-Signal, that Batman is now a wanted murderer.  Gordon then relates the events of the previous day, Batman stopping a truck hijacking, and discovering that Talia is leading the men committing the crime.  She tosses a gun down in front of Batman, turns and runs away.  In front of witnesses, Batman picks up the gun and shoots her.

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Batman insists he did not pull the trigger, but ballistics shows nothing unusual with the gun, and Gordon is forced to place Batman under arrest.  Batman fights off the cops and flees into the night, certain that he is innocent, but incapable of explaining what has happened.

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Because multi-part stories like this were quite rare, although that was soon to change, each issue this ran in had a disclaimer announcing that the events in these issues were taking place after the events in other Batman comics coming out, to explain why Batman was not being hunted as a killer in those books.

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The Elongated Man returns in this issue.  The last back-up before Manhunter, and the first one after it.

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Mike W. Barr and Ernie Chan tell this story, in which Ralph and Sue stumble across a magic mirror in a small town.  It’s fairly obviously a fake, designed to pique Ralph’s interest, but there is decent mystery story, and a runaway daughter of a dying millionaire.

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After the conclusion to the Manhunter saga, and the heavy events in this issue’s Batman story, happy and romantic ending to the Elongated Man tale sits well.

 

Detective 442 – Biplane Batman, and Manhunter faces his master

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Detective 442 (Aug./Sept. 74) features another Aparo cover, but it’s Alex Toth art on the Archie Goodwin story.

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The story is a murder mystery, with a World War 1 biplane used as a weapon.  It was viewed as a follow-up to the Batman/Enemy Ace tale from a few years earlier, but has no direct connection.

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It’s fairly straightforward, and the villain’s identity is obvious, but it’s the Toth art that carries the tale.

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The penultimate chapter, and last solo story, for Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter series sees Paul Kirk in Japan, hunting down the man who trained him.

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The best page of the story has Christine’s father pulling a gun on her, but unable to use it.  She walks out on him, and the lower half of the page is wonderfully evocative as he heads to his doom.

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Manhunter battles his master, Asano Nitobe, to a standstill, trying to convince him to join his crusade against the Council, but it’s Christine who flies in with the evidence to convince him.

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This marks the end of the Manhunter solo series, as the story concludes next issue in a Batman team-up.

Detective 441 – Batman faces judgement, and Manhunter goes to church

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Jim Aparo does the cover again, for Detective 441 (June/July 1974), but the Archie Goodwin Batman story inside has art by Howard Chaykin.

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This story also features the debut of Harvey Bullock, a Gotham police lieutenant who is not impressed with Batman or his methods at all.  His role is quite small, just at the top of the story, the set-up that leads Batman to the house where he faces Robin’s kidnapper.  Bullock would not appear again for almost 10 years, but eventually become a solid supporting cast member for Batman.

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The bulk of the story has Batman in a trap-filled house, facing a self-appointed judge who has passed sentence on Batman, blaming him for his daughter’s blindness as the result of a mugging, which he failed to prevent.

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The daughter does not blame Batman, and tries to stop her father.  Unwittingly, she succeeds when her blindness leads her in to one of the traps, which kills her.  Heart-broken, her father gives up to Batman.

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This issue contains absolutely the best chapter of Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga, taking place entirely within a crumbling church in Istanbul.  Every person I know who loves this series, picks this chapter as the high point.

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Using information from Damon, Paul Kirk and Christine St. Clair come to Istanbul to infiltrate a gathering of the Council, but what makes this tale great is the American tourist family, exploring the same church at the same time, completely oblivious to the other plot.

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We see that all is not well with the outer members of the Council, who find there always seem to be reasons to keep them out of the precious inner circle.  Christine St. Clair’s father is also introduced, a high ranking member of the outer circle, encouraged to stop his daughter’s investigations.

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Of the tourist family, only the boy sees the battle that occurs between Manhunter and his clones.

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The story has such a great ending, as the boy saves Paul with his toy gun, and his clueless parents drag him away, complaining that all churches are the same.

Detective 440 – Batman and the hillbillies, and Manhunter on the run

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Jim Aparo provides the cover for Detective 440 (April/May 1974).  As well as the Batman and Manhunter stories, among the reprints is Simon and Kirby Manhunter reprint from the 40s.  Curious that they did not reprint more of his tales during his run in this book.

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Batman’s story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Sal Amendola and Dick Giordano, has him coming to the rescue of a girl from a rural mountain community who has come to Gotham, but is being dragged back by her brothers.

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Her family intends her to be a sacrifice, to lift a curse they believe is on them.  Essentially, though, what they intend is to feed her to a big bear.  Batman prevents this, and beings her back to the (relative) safety of Gotham.

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The Manhunter story, by Goodwin and Simonson, has Paul Kirk and Christine St. Clair on the run from her boss, Damon Nostrand, as Paul continues to relate his tale.

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The Council was formed of the greatest thinkers after World War 2, determined to prevent another one from occurring.  Over time, this group became corrupted and controlling.  They run a huge, international organization, with many people of power and influence among their number.  Paul was revived to be the leader of their clone army, but is less than impressed with the organization.

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His first assignment was to kill Damon Nostrand, but instead he goes there to warn him.  Of course, it’s a test to see if Paul will kill him, and he fails miserably.  He flees to Africa, and seeks out the son of a weaponeer he had worked with.

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And thus, he acquired his Manhunter gear.  Ironically, though he began his new career by refusing to kill Nostrand, he and Christine wind up leading him to his death in this tale.

 

Detective 438 – the monster of Wayne Manor, and Manhunter goes to a bank

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Detective Comics goes to 100 page size with issue 438 (Dec./Jan. 73).  It’s mostly reprints, and between this and the similarly sized Batman comic, they reprint the Outsider and Zatanna sagas over the next few months.

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The lead story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Jim Aparo and a cover by Mike Kaluta, deals with reports of a monster seen lurking around the, currently abandoned, Wayne Manor.  Bruce and Alfred are, for obvious reasons, extremely reluctant to let anyone go poking around there, especially a ghost hunter who has just arrived in Gotham.

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When Alfred gets attacked, Bruce has no option but to allow an investigation.  We see the monster at this point, and it’s clearly a human, with something very wrong with him. The monster is, in fact, Ubu, the henchman of Ra’s Al Ghul, wounded after his last encounter with Batman, and seeking vengeance.  And Batman’s suspicions about the ghost hunter also prove to be correct, that he is entwined with the League of Assassins as well.  Ubu kills the ghost hunter, but is captured by Batman.

Ubu’s near death state in this story, followed by his hale and hearty appearance when next seen, is the first indication that Ubu is likely a title, rather than name, and that there have been a few of them.

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Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter continues in this issue, as we meet Damon, Christine St. Clair’s boss.

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This chapter details more of the observations Christine has made of Paul Kirk.  He went to a bank in Swizerland to withdraw money from an account dormant since the 1940s, looking much like he did back then.  He seems to be being followed by ninja assassins, although he consistently defeats them.

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To make things even more puzzling, his attackers wear similar costumes, although blue instead of red, and all look like Paul Kirk as well.  And while Christine is on the up and up, we see that there is more to Damon, who burns her report at story’s end.

Detective 437 – the Deathmask, and Manhunter begins

 

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Jim Aparo does his first work in Detective Comics with issue 437 (Oct./Nov. 73) on this Archie Goodwin story.

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The story centres around a giant mask on display at Gotham’s museum.  Encrusted with gems, the mask comes with dire legends and warnings, which seems to come true, as people start getting killed.

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The backstory to the mask gives Aparo reign to show ancient and foreign lands, something he particularly excels at.

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While the solution to the murders has nothing to do with the curse, it’s simply being used by the killer as a distraction from his real motives, the story ends with a nicely ironic touch, the mask itself killing the killer.

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With little fanfare, the Manhunter series by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson also begins is this issue, putting the rotating back-ups on hold.  Paul Kirk, not seen since Adventure Comics from the 1940s, returns, in new garb, but no older than he was back then.

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This globe-trotting story follows agent Christine St. Clair as she hunts down the Manhunter.  In this first chapter, she listens to the tale of a monk, who witnessed Manhunter’s defeat of a number of trained assassins.

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Every single page of this saga has exceptional art, and the story is captivating.  The reader, like Christine, is left unsure as to Manhunter’s motives and the bigger picture at this point.  But the reader does get a chuckle at the end, with the revelation that the narrating monk is really Paul Kirk, which Christine remains ignorant of.

Adventure 464 – Flash vs Abra Kadabra, Deadman gets trapped by psychics, Wildcat retires, Aquaman defends Atlantis and Wonder Woman ends

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Deadman gets featured on the cover of Adventure 464 (Aug 79), which was intended as the cover for an issue of Showcase, before its cancellation in the DC Implosion.

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The Flash deals with Abra Kadabra, the “magician” from the future who uses advanced science as if it were magic, in this story by Cary Bates, with art by Don Heck and Joe Giella.

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Kadabra makes everyone in Central City perceive the world as being upside down, primarily to distract and disorient the Flash, while he seeks for the thing he plans to rob – an applause machine, used in tv recording.  Abra Kadabra’s primary motivation was always to get attention and applause, so it’s an appropriate goal, with the explanation that these no longer exist in the 64th century.

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The Flash defeats him and turns him over to police from his era, but in a nice touch, allows him to keep the machine anyway.

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As with the cover, the Deadman story in this issue, by Len Wein and Gerry Conway, with art by Jim Aparo, was intended for Showcase.  The cancellation of that series as part of the DC Implosion resulted in the story being printed here instead, and is the reason it does not use any of the locations or supporting cast from the previous issues.

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A group of scientists doing psychic research attempt to contact the spirit of Boston Brand in a seance, and succeed better than they expected, as Deadman gets pulled against his will to them.

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A fire breaks out, and the team believe the ghost is responsible, but Deadman knows it had nothing to do with him.  Taking over the body of one of the team, he tries to figure out the solution with them, and suggests the one acting as the medium, Annabelle, may have telepathic powers of her own.

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Eventually, Deadman figures out that it is the head of the project who is manipulating events.  He is an “omnipath, ” capable of controlling other psychics and supernatural beings, like Deadman.  Their battle winds up destroying the lab entirely, and the facility closes down.

Not a bad Deadman story at all, but very different than the series aleady running in Adventure, and as a kid I was disappointed in the tale.  I suspect had it been published in Showcase as intended, I would have enjoyed it much more.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Staton follow up the last Justice Society epic with a low-key tale, which is almost a Wildcat solo story.  Power Gir, Huntress and Robin appear only on the first and last pages.  The rest of the story has Ted Grant going out to his old gym, now closed down, and encountering kids coping with slum life and street gangs.

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He decides that he can do more good by re-opening the gym and being himself, rather than hanging around heroes much more powerful than he is, and chooses to retire from being Wildcat.

This is, I think, the third story that has Wildcat retire.  It was no more permanent than any of the previous ones.

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Wonder Woman’s series in Adventure ends with the conclusion of her battle with the Queen Bee, by Gerry Conway, wit art by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella.

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Zazzala attempts to murder Wonder Woman with a huge dose of bee venom, and there are a couple cool pages that show her “inner battle” with the bee poison, shown as giant bees.

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Zazzala manages to use her scientist-brain powered craft to short out the Justice League satellite, incapacitating the members on board, but Wonder Woman recovers from the poison and catches up to her.  She defeats Zazzala by throwing her into her own machine, shorting out her brain – although only temporarily, as she shows no lasting effects of this.

Wonder Woman continues in her own comic, and Queen Bee next appears in the Super Friends comic, the same issue that forms the Global Guardians.

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The issue ends with a largely unremarkable Aquaman story, written by Bob Rozakis, with art by Don Newton.

The story pits him against Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Markos, who sets up a pollution nullifying plant above Atlantis, but as a front for his armed goons to attack it.

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Aquaman defeats Markos’ men, and exposes his Detox ship as a front, but Markos sails away, vowing revenge.

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