Posts tagged ‘Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez’

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 459 – a mystery writer’s murder, and Man-Bat ends

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Marty Pasko and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez craft a decent whodunnit in Detective 459 (May 1976), but unfortunately it really has little connection to Ernie Chan’s cover.

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The story deals with a successful mystery novelist, whose books always have a trademark “clue before dying.”  He is wealthy, successful arrogant, hated, and fairly obviously going to be the victim.

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His body is found, along with a clue left before dying.  But was the clue really his, or a distraction by the killer?

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Some good action scenes, and a solid mystery that plays fair.

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The concluding half of the Man-Bat story, also by Pasko, with art by Pablo Marcos, has the villain trying to draw supernatural energy off of Man-Bat and She-Bat.  Up to now, there had never been anything supernatural ascribed to them, and though by and large the Man-Bat stories would stay in the realm of the scientific, occasionally he would be portrayed as something magical.

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Much of this story has Kirk fighting the bad guy, both in human form, and as a demon.  It’s not clear which of the two forms is the villains true nature.

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Kirk manages to defeat him, and frees Francine, restoring her to human form.  The Langstroms return a year down the road, when Man-Bat gets a series in Batman Family.

Detective 452 – Batman vs the Crime Exchange, and Hawkman vs Konrad Kaslak

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452 (Oct. 75)  was my first issue of Detective Comics, and I would have just turned 10 years old when this came out.  The story, and its cliffhanger ending, captivated me so much I actively hunted for the follow up issue, the first time I had done that, I think.

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David V Reed, Ernie Chan and Mike Royer craft this 2 part story, in which a well organized criminal outfit provides contacts, clients and information for Gotham’s gangs. Batman captures one of the killers who work for them, impersonates him, and attempts to infiltrate the organization.

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He gets exposed, surrounded, and challenged to defend himself with a gun.  But Batman doesn’t use gun!  What will he do?  At 10 years old I had no idea and was deeply concerned until the next issue came out.

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And at 10 years old I really hated the unusual Hawkman logo that was used for this story – and I still hate it now.  The actual tale, by E Nelson Bridwell and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, is pretty good though.  Hawkman has a lot of trouble against an evil magician and his thieving raven.

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Shayera has a small role in this one, which also sees the return of Big Red, Hawkman’s bird sidekick, not seen since the mid 60s, in Hawkman’s old book. Hawkman realizes the magician is a distraction, the raven is the actual culprit, and Shayera informs him that Konrad Kaslak, one of their earliest enemies from back in Brave and the Bold, is out of prison.

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Big Red swoops in for some bird on bird action, and Kaslak reverts to human form, and is simply no match for Hawkman.

This is the last appearance of Konrad Kaslak until the Hawkworld series in the 90s.  Big Red returns in Super Friends a few years down the road.

 

Detective 449 – Batman herds cattle, and Elongated Man chases a man who walks on air

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Detective 449 (July 1975) features an unusual tale by Elliot S! Maggin, with art by Ernie Chan and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, which climaxes with Batman on horseback, leading a cattle drive through Gotham City.

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The story begins as Batman brings in a man named Tad Wolfe for attempted murder.  Although he witnessed it, something about the situation feels wrong to Batman, and he continues to ponder it.

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Meanwhile, he gets entangled in the cattle rustling plot.  Chan is always great on background details, and his panels of the cattle on the loose look great.

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Batman, as well as other Gotham cops, round up the herds and keep control of the situation.

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The story concludes back with the Tad Wolfe plot line, as Batman has realized that Wolfe prevented his gun from firing, and was taking the heat for his criminal brother.  Wolfe returns a few issues down the road.

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Mary Skrenes and Dick Giordano relate this issue’s Elongated Man story, which opens with Sue informing Ralph that there is a man outside their window – of their high rise hotel.

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Ralph is on the case immediately, following the mysterious man as he rushes away, and shows he can swim as fast as he can fly.

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After the man disappears when cornered in an alley, Ralph deduces it must be the Flash, and indeed, this is another birthday mystery devised by Sue.  What really sells the story, though, is when Ralph explains his deductions, about the Flash vibrating through a wall, and the Flash informs him that he didn’t do that at all, he jumped over Ralph.

“Uhhh, whatever.  I figured it out, didn’t I?

Pure Ralph.

Adventure 466 – Flash, Deadman, Justice Society of America and Aquaman end

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Adventure 466 (Dec 79) is the last issue of the book as a Dollar Comic, and with the next issue it shrinks back to regular size.  All four of the series conclude their runs in this issue, most with arguably their best stories.

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The Flash faces one of his regular enemies, the Weather Wizard, in this story by Cary Bates, with art by Mike Netzer and Vince Colletta.

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Mark Mardon claims to have turned over a new leaf, and intends to use his powers for good, although the Flash doesn’t believe or trust him for a second.  Nonetheless, it seems to be true, although his behaviour seems irrational, if benevolent.

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But even his good intentions prove disastrous, as his drought relief turns into a raging flood.  Flash realizes his change in behaviour is likely connected to increased sunspot activity, and his mental bond with his weather controlling wand has allowed his emotions to become affected.

And though he commits no crimes during this time, he still winds up in prison at the end of the story, after attacking people who called him a hero, enraged that they would insult him so.

A fun little tale, and by far the best art of any of the Flash’s stories in Adventure.

The Flash’s series ends, but he continues in his own comic.

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Len Wein and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez go out on a high note with the final Deadman story, by far the best of his run.  It begins quite simply, as Deadman watches an old man in a park, feeding the birds, and envies him his life.

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When the man pulls out a gun and tries to kill himself, Deadman is horrified, but acts quickly, inhabiting a bird and using that to knock the gun out of his hand.  He follows the old man home, and discovers that he lives with his abusive adult son, a drug dealer, and his innocent grand-daughter.

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Deadman follows the son when he storms out after a fight, pretty much intending to see that he gets arrested.  But when the man heads to the docks and ponders his life, deciding to change, Deadman’s faith is restored, and he tags along to make sure he lives up to his intent.

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The grandfather also heads out, and both wind up at the big boss’s place, where things go horribly wrong, despite the best intentions of the hero and the two men.  Deadman possesses the grandfather, which causes him to freeze, and he winds up getting shot, and dying, as a result.  Th boss kills himself rather than wind up in prison, but at least the son and his daughter survive.

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Even still, this is a dark and powerful story, fully worthy of the last panel of Deadman screaming in frustration.  That happens a lot in Deadman stories, but rarely with as much meaning.

Deadman’s next appearance, in DC Comics Presents, follows up on this tale.  Deadman’s next continuing series comes in the late 80s, in the pages of Action Comics Weekly.

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The entire Justice Society of America appear in this final story, leaving the funeral of Mr Terrific following the latest JLA/JSA crossover, in a story by Paul Levitz and Joe Staton.

After their departure, Power Girl asks Huntress about something she overheard, about the Justice Society disbanding in the early 1950s, and for the rest of the tale, Huntress relates the story to her.  Much of it is a fairly standard super-hero tale, as the team is offered a satellite headquarters, which turns out to be a deathtrap.  They escape, and capture the man behind it, but the last few pages take a surprising twist.

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The man was a Soviet agent, and the Justice Society are summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee to testify about their relationship with him, a session that quickly degenerates into a witch hunt.

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In order to clear their names, they are told they must unmask and reveal their identities to the Committee.  As a group, they refuse, and disappear from the chamber.

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A powerful story, with long-lasting effects throughout the DC Universe.  The story gives a solid explanation of why the team abruptly vanished in the early 1950s, a reason rooted in the issues of the time, even moreso than it appears.

In reality, the publication of the book Seduction of the Innocent, which blamed all manner of mental and social problems with youth on the influence of comic books, had swept the US in the early 1950s, and virtually all super-herores ceased to appear.  So there are really two levels to this tale.

The JSA continue to appear regularly in Justice League of America, and Huntress was soon to get her own series in Wonder Woman.  The next time they had their own book was in the America vs the Justice Society mini-series in the mid-80s.

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After three strong stories it would be nice to say that Aquaman goes out on a high note as well.  I can’t say that, but at least the story, by Bob Rozakis and Don Newton, doesn’t suck.

The underwater Nazis return, as we discover that Helga’s death was simply a hologram, and they have subtly invaded Atlantis.  Vulko turns out to be a hologram as well.

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Mera accompanies Aquaman as he invades their base.  As a kid I found her behaviour on this page suspicious, and noted the subtle clue in the lower left corner of the bottom panel.

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Aquaman also figures out that Mera is a hologram, finds and frees her and Vulko, and brings the Nazi base crashing down around them.  He even gains a new pet, the telepathic mutated Nazi seahorse, Siggy.

Aquaman’s series continues in the pages of World’s Finest Comics a few months down the road.

Adventure 465 – Flash hears mysterious warnings, Deadman deals with slum gangs, the Justice Society hunt for a stolen poison and Aquaman faces underwater Nazis

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Cary Bates, Don Heck and Joe Giella tell an entertaining little tale in Adventure 465 (Oct 79), and at least make a slight reference to the events happening in the Flash’s own comic, although Iris’ murder is never specifically mentioned.

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After stopping a missile, Flash discovers his hearing has become messed up, and begins overhearing an unusual warning about invaders from above.

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After much puzzlement and research, Barry determines that he has temporarily developed the ability to understand dolphins, who were chatting about thieves diving in and hiding their loot in the dolphin tank at the aquarium.  And while in his own book Barry Allen is close to a complete breakdown, here he is content to play ball with the creatures.

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Some beautiful Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez art on this Len Wein story, with Dick Giordano providing the inks.  Deadman does not return to Hill’s Circus after his visit to the lab in the last issue.  Instead he finds himself “strolling” through the slums.

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He comes across a young chopkeeper and his wife, being harassed by a protection scam, and follows (and occasionally possesses) the man as he tries to rally the neighbourhood to stand up to the gang.  When this fails, he tries to find evidence on his own that will bring them down.

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Boston Brand helps all he can, and for a change this story does come to a happy ending, a rarity in a Deadman tale.

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The Justice Society get their only typical super-team adventure in their run in this book.  Paul Levitz and Joe Staton provide a tale in which the team split up in a desperate search for a stolen poison capsule that threatens to wipe out an entire city.

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Levitz does a good job giving the various heroes their moments of glory.  Huntress and Power Girl find vital clues as to who stole the poison – the cleaning lady, trying to help her addict son, unaware of what it truly was.

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Hawkman barges in on Dr Fate, insisting that he help the team, and Inza Nelson gets her only appearance during the JSA’s run in this book.

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Green Lantern and the Flash get to be the ones to actually find the capsule, stuck to a dog’s fur, and destroy it.

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The Dr Fate scene pays off in the epilogue, although only by implication at this point, as Mr Terrific shows up, in a rare appearance, to join the team for the annual JLA/JSA team-up, at which he gets murdered.

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Aquaman encounters some robot-building underwater Nazis in this story, by Bob Rozakis, with art by Don Newton.

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After encountering a hologram of a sea monster, Aquaman finds a hidden city in Antarctica of Nazis, descendants of ones who fled there at the end of World War 2.  Helga serves as his guide, and appears to be fairly open and pleasant, but that is simply a ruse to get him off his guard, at which point they attack and imprison him, replacing him with a hologram.

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The Nazi Aquaman hologram brings Helga to Atlantis, introducing her to Vulko, who just merrily accepts everything in the incompetent fashion he has been consistently showing, but Mera is suspicious.

The climax has Aquaman defeat his double, while Mera gets captured by Helga, but manages to free herself.  Helga appears to die, but this story is far from over.

Funny, in memory these people were connected to the Universal Food Products crew from a few issues ago – the odd uniform on the sailor being a hint at their Nazi background.  But there is no actual connection in this story.  My teenage brain simply found a link where none was intended.

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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