Detective 486 – Maxie Zeus causes deaths from a distance, the Human Target joins the Sea Devils, Batgirl chases Killer Moth, Alfred protects the penthouse, and Robin unmasks the Scarecrow
Maxie Zeus returns, though he spends the entire duration of the story from Detective 486 (Oct./Nov. 79) in Arkham Asylum. But that is sort of the point, as he announces which rival gang members he wishes to die, and how they will do so. And when the first dies while skydiving, of the “thunderbolt” that Zeus ordered, Batman gets on the case.
Denny O’Neil and Don Newton relate this story. It’s really not hard to figure out that Maxie Zeus’ lawyer is carrying out his commands, although how he is doing it is a bit of a mystery.
Batman figures out how the parachute death was pulled off, and tries to warn of Zeus next target, who was warned he would die in brimstone.
And though Batman exposes the lawyer’s guilt, and stops his plot, a chain reaction does cause the man to die in sulfur – as brimstone is now called.
Maxie Zeus returns a few months down the road.
The Human Target is called in to sub for an actual hero in this story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano. The story never states it, but the man he is impersonating, Dane Dorrance, and his girlfriend Judy, are both members of the Sea Devils, having last appeared a couple of years earlier in Showcase 100.
Dane has been hospitalized after an attempt on his life, and Judy calls in Christopher Chance to root out the killer.
Once again, the story isn’t about figuring out who is trying to kill him, it’s about the action and fun, and Dick Giordano’s beautiful art. I have no complaints.
Dane Dorrance and Judy next appear, along with the other Sea Devils, in Action Comics in the early 80s, the lead-in to the Forgotten Heroes.
To a degree, this story, by Jack C Harris, Don Heck and Joe Giella, follows up on events from an issue of Batman the previous month, which had both Batgirl and Killer Moth in it.
Killer Moth is back to his original scheme, providing insurance and escapes for criminals who pay his premium. When Batgirl gets involved, Killer Moth thinks that she has pursued him all the way from Gotham to Washington DC, unaware that she has made that her base for a while now.
When the son of one of his victims mentions that Killer Moth hired his father to make shoes, Batgirl realizes that is where he has his homing device on the villains, and takes their shoes, messing up his plan. Kind of a lame plan that can be messed up by taking someone’s shoes. His old Mothmobile is back though, at least in two panels of this story.
It’s four more years before the character returns. Because she debuted against him, Killer Moth pretty much became a Batgirl villain.
Alfred gets a solo story, by Bob Rozakis and George Tuska. He had last solo’d in the pages of Batman Family.
In this story he gets grabbed by hoods while entering the Wayne Foundation Building, and taken as a hostage to the penthouse. He does his best to get rid of the thieves before Batman shows up, possibly exposing his identity.
Alfred remains his unflappable self throughout the tale. He gives the men drinks, in order to get their fingerprints, and tries to fob them off with worthless stamps.
In the end, it’s his mention of Commissioner Gordon that drives them away (though it’s surprising they don’t think he’s lying). Alfred traps them in the elevator, and then prepares the house for Bruce’s arrival.
Robin squares off against the Scarecrow in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.
The Scarecrow comes to Hudson University, where he holds four professors in his thrall, tormenting them with their personal fears unless they pay him off.
Dick becomes suspicious of one of the new professors after he duplicates Jonathan Crane’s fear demonstration in class, firing a pistol.
But having the professor duplicate his research was just part of the Scarecrow’s cover. Robin exposes Crane, tearing off his disguise, when the Scarecrow mentions that he had been in the school alone, but while impersonating a man terrified of being by himself.