Posts tagged ‘Maxie Zeus’

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.

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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

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The split cover for Detective 491 (June 1980) might be considered a metaphor for the variable quality of the stories it contains.

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton contribute an excellent Maxie Zeus story.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jason Bard stars in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City, as we learn his sad background, from Mike W Barr and Dan Spiegle.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Black Lightning wakes to discover himself powerless in this second half, by Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin.

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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.

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Black Lightning isn’t even very stressed about the situation, figuring that he became a hero before he got his powers anyway.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dane has been hospitalized after an attempt on his life, and Judy calls in Christopher Chance to root out the killer.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Alfred gets a solo story, by Bob Rozakis and George Tuska.  He had last solo’d in the pages of Batman Family.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Robin squares off against the Scarecrow in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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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.

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Dick becomes suspicious of one of the new professors after he duplicates Jonathan Crane’s fear demonstration in class, firing a pistol.

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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.

 

Detective 484 – Batman vs Maxie Zeus, the Human Target has a mystery client, Batgirl tries to save her father, Robin returns to the circus, the Demon vs Baron Tyme, and an unsolved case of Batman

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Batgirl’s story gets the cover spot for Detective 484 (June/July 1979), though it’s deceptive in implying that Batman and Robin are also part of that story.

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Batman’s main story, by Denny O’Neil and Don Newton, is a follow up to last issue, as Batman penetrates Olympus, the penthouse retreat of Maxie Zeus.

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We get a bit of background on the villain.  He comes from wealth and education, and is credited as being an organizational genius.  His pretense of being a Greek god is looked on with amusement by his gang, who stay with him despite this.

Although he knows Batman is coming for him, and in spite of the pleas of his men, throughout the tale, that he flee, Maxie Zeus remains secure that he will triumph.

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Batman makes it past Zeus’ bodyguard, Odysseus, and winds up in his “Scylla or Charybdis” trap – between attack dogs and whirling blades.  The scene in which he survives by sending the dogs into the blades is pretty awful, but the only way out.

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Even when he is captured, Maxie does not seem in any way put out. Instead, he is delighted when Batman tells him his pride was his undoing.  And Maxie is not out of the picture, returning in a couple of months.

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The Human Target gets an unusual case in this issue, courtesy of Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  He is called on the phone and warned off of helping Floyd Fenderman, but no such person has contacted Christopher.

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So rather than disguise himself as the potential victim, Chris has to try to find out who the victim is.  He does adopt a disguise for part of the tale.

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But for the climax of the action it is simply Chris being himself.

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The story ends on a cute note, as Christopher discovers that Fenderman has been trying to get into contact with him for days.

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Jack C Harris, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta are the creative team on this Batgirl story, in which she hunts down the men who tried to kill her father.

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She meets with a fair bit of resistance when she insists that the case is hers.  The Gotham police feel it’s their duty to avenge their boss, and want to call Batman in as well.  Fortunately for Barbara, he is busy with Maxie Zeus.

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Despite that conflict, and the cover, this is a fairly simple story.  When she goes to check on her father, she spots the bejewelled nurse, and her suspicions are aroused.  She prevents a second attempt on her father’s life, and rounds up the bad guys.

Not bad, but it could have been much better.

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Robin returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.  There are a number of stories in which Dick returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths, but I believe this one genuinely is the first.

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He is surprised to see posters for the Flying Graysons, but discovers that it’s merely a stage name for performers playing off the notoriety of the dead performers.  Oddly, Dick is neither repulsed nor offended by this.

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The story recaps his origin – the candlelit vow is there.  It is always featured in his origin to this point.  It gets dropped eventually, and I’m going to keep an eye out for when that happens.

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The rest of the story has him stopping some crimes at the circus.  Adequate, but not exceptional.

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Baron Tyme and Jason Blood continue their confrontation before Merlin’s tomb in this story by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.

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The Inspector leads the townsfolk into the remains of Castle Branek, but Tyme is powerful enough to hold them all off as he opens Merlin’s tomb. The distraction does allow Jason the opportunity to turn back into Etrigan.

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Tyme discovers the tomb is empty, and Etrigan beings down the castle around him.  The Demon passes on the Eternity Book to the Inspector, and feels that all is done, but we see that Tyme survived the collapse.

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The final story in the issue is one of the Unsolved Cases of the Batman.  As with the Public Life of Bruce Wayne, this was intended as a back-up story in Batman, but moved here as a result of the DC Implosion.

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The story, by Denny O’Neil, John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin, has a scientist decipher notes by Galileo for the creation of a universal solvent, and a way to contain it.

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He creates the solvent, but cannot contain it, and it dissolves everything, including the notes.  Batman manages to turn it into a non-destructive gas, but the secret is lost.

So the case is only “unsolved” in that Batman did not find out the secret of creating the destructive solvent.  That’s not really unsolved.  That basic problem was likely a factor in ending these “unsolved” tales.

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The issue’s back cover features a pin-up of Batman’s major villains.  The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face are joined by the Scarecrow, who hasn’t usually made the cut for such spreads before, as well as Ra’s Al Ghul, the new kid on the block.  Catwoman’s appearance is a bit out of date, as she had already started on her road to reform, but I’m not complaining.

 

 

Detective 483 – Maxie Zeus debuts, Human Target begins, Batgirl goes on a date, the Demon returns to Castle Branek, Robin wipes up MAZE and a kangaroo race

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton bring back Leslie Thompkins in this follow-up Crime Alley story, which also serves to introduce the new villain Maxie Zeus.

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It’s once again the anniversary of the deaths of his parents, and Batman heads to Crime Alley, where he once again comes to the aid of Leslie Thompkins.  This story is the first to raise the notion that the deaths of the Waynes affected the entire city, sent it into a decline.

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Batman gets word that crime boss Maxie Zeus is having men spread poison gas through an entire apartment building in Crime Alley, just to kill one man, and Batman sets out to stop them.

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He does so, saving the innocents, as well as the man Zeus intended to kill.  Leslie still hasn’t pieced together that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but her dialogue hints that she isn’t too far from the secret.

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The ending warns Maxie Zeus that Batman is coming for him, which happens next issue.  Although not much is done with Maxie Zeus in this first story, it helps build him as a powerful threat to be faced.

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Christopher Chance, the Human Target, has his back-up series move from the Brave and the Bold to this book,a result of the DC Implosion.  Christopher Chance works as a bodyguard/impersonator.  If someone has threatened your life,he will take on your identity and flush out the wannabe killer.

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In this story, by Len Wein, Howard Chaykin and Dick Giordano, he takes on the identity of a Hollywood actor, after a number of incidents on a film set lead him to believe someone is trying to kill him.

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It’s not hard to solve this one, there is really only one viable suspect, but the story is fun is the art is great.

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Batgirl faces off against some homegrown terrorists in this story by Bob Rozakis, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.

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After rounding up part of the gang, she gets asked out on a date by a soldier, who had first met her when she battled Madame Zodiac in the Pentagon, in a late issue of Batman Family.  Barbara agrees, but the date quickly turns into a farce.

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The evening lurches from disaster to disaster, and though it is terrible for the two on the date, it’s certainly entertaining for the reader.

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Just as the silliness threatens to outlast its welcome, Batgirl is reminded of something the terrorists said, and realizes they are going to attack Washington Monument that night.  She and her soldier boy wind up working together to round up the remainder of the gang, so the date is a success after all.

What I really appreciate in this story is that, with the date plot, it’s basically a romantic story, but it does not weaken Barbara, or put her in a subservient position to the soldier in any way.

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Steve Ditko takes over the art for the rest of Len Wein’s Demon story, as Etrigan faces off against Baron Tyme.

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Baron Tyme fills in his story between the events of Man-Bat and now.  When he vanished in that book, he was drawn into a nether realm, which allows him great knowledge, but is a torture to his body, which is trapped between dimensions.  With the Eternity Book, he intends to open Merlin’s tomb in Castle Branek, and use him to return completely to this world.

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The story brings back the town’s inspector, who looks straight out of a Frankenstein movie.  The Demon attempts to reach Merlin’s tomb before Tyme does, but does not succeed.

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Tyme uses the Eternity Book to force Etrigan to transform back into Jason Blood, and then traps him, as he prepares to open the tomb.

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Robin’s long battle with MAZE comes to an end in this story by Bob Rozakis and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The leader of MAZE has brought all his members together, which turns out to be a good thing for Robin and the police, as they bust in.  Raven flees, and Card Queen shows her true colours, betraying MAZE and helping to bring them down.

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Card Queen is revealed to be Duela Dent, in yet another identity.  This (and last issue) are her first appearances since the break-up of the Teen Titans.  She would not appear again until the wedding of Donna Troy in New Teen Titans.

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But the story is not yet over. Dick confronts Lori Elton and her new boyfriend, who Dick reveals to be the Raven. As the guy tries to fight back, and loses, Dick goes on to explain a number of dangling plot threads, bringing this long tale to a satisfactory, if sad, conclusion.

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The final, silent, page is quite powerful.  Lori attempts to return to Dick, but he rebuffs her.  As he walks away from the rest of the students, he looks stronger, and more like a man, than at any time before.

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The final story in this issue, by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, was intended to be one of the “Public Life of Bruce Wayne” stories that ran in the back pages of Batman, until the DC Implosion ended that.

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It’s silly, but entertaining, and sort of clever.  Knowing that an Australian hit man has come to Gotham, Bruce Wayne finances a kangaroo race in the city, in order to draw him out.

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Once he has spotted the man, he follows him as Batman, finds the men who hired them, and rounds them all up.

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There is also a nice pin-up on the back page of the current Batman family, with Batgirl, Robin, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.

 

 

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