Posts tagged ‘Merlin’

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.

 

 

Detective 482 – Batman fights an ape, Batgirl in China, The Demon begins, Bat-Mite invades DC, and Robin meets Card Queen

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The second half of the Batman story by Jim Starlin and P Craig Russell opens Detective 482 (Feb./March 1979).

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The villain has captured Batman, and intends to use his mind-transfer machine to take over the hero’s body.  Batman breaks free, and destroys the machine, which traps the bad guy in the ape body.

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While the chapter in the last issue was a lot of detecting and back story, this second half is largely an extended fight between Batman and the ape.

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In an unusual ending, the ape is about to kill Batman when a policeman shoots it, sending it falling to its death.  Not a bad story, but maybe not worth being spread over two issues.

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Batgirl’s story, by Rozakis and Heck, has Barbara Gordon and her friend in the hands of the Chinese.  Her brother Tony Gordon, who had been brought into her series in Batman Family, plays a small but important role in this tale.

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While the Chinese try to force Barbara’s confused friend into admitting she is Batgirl, Barbara escapes and gets into costume, and fights the Sino-Superman to free her friend.

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The story ends with Tony sacrificing himself to blow up the laboratory and end the threat of these “heroes” for good.  Although it kills off the character, it remains a really unsatisfactory ending for his plot line.  Especially as the character never returns, and is never spoken of.

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The Demon, who had appeared with Man-Bat in the final issue of Batman Family, gets his own series for a few issues, while Man-Bat takes a break.  Len Wein, Michael Golden and Dick Giordano re-introduce Jason Blood and his demonic other half, Etrigan, in the character’s first solo storyline since the end of his own book a few years earlier.

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The Eternity Book, which has power over the Demon, is the crux of this tale.  It had appeared in his own book as well.  It’s theft in this story awakens the Demon, who sets out to retrieve it.

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The supporting cast are all brought back.  Glenda had last appeared alongside Jason in a Brave and the Bold team-up with Batman.  Harry Matthews makes his first appearance since the Demon’s book ended.  Randu had last appeared in the short-lived Kobra series, in which he was blinded.  To Wein’s credit, Randu is still blind in this story.

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Glenda’s lack of knowledge about the Eternity Book allows Randu to exposit about Morgaine le Fay and the fall of Camelot, Merlin bonding Etrigan to Jason Blood, and his immortal life since then.

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At the end of the story, Etrigan discovers the book is now in the possession of Baron Tyme, making his second appearance.  He had debuted in the first issue of Man-Bat’s brief series.

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Bat-Mite makes his only appearance in the 70s in this wonderful little story, barging in to the DC offices to demand he get a story.

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As confused editor Al Milgrom tries to explain that he cannot produce a story on his own, Bat-Mite causes writer Bob Rozakis, penciller Michael Golden, inker Robert Smith and more to appear.  Essentially, the entire story consists of the people who produced the story.

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It’s very silly, very Bat-Mite, and was much beloved when it came out.  Bat-Mite next appears in the Ambush Bug History of the DC Universe.

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Robin’s story, by Rozakis and Juan Ortiz, closes out this issue.  It is told as one of the top men from MAZE looks over footage of their local operatives battles with Robin.   We see another aerial battle between Robin and Raven, with Robin stopping the crime, but not the villain.

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Then we are introduced to a new MAZE operative, Card Queen.

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As with the Raven, he stops her crime, but she manages to escape.

This long running storyline culminates next issue.

Adventure 159 – Johnny Quick gets an origin story and the Shining Knight visits the future

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Johnny Quick finally gets an origin story in Adventure 159 (Dec 50), a mere nine years after the character debuted.

The story is entertaining, pitting Johnny against another university student who gets the same abilities.  Very few Johnny Quick stories had him take on villains who had any sort of powers.

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The problem I have with the origin is that it is his professor who devises the speed formula.  Johnny is simply the first one to try it out, and use it nobly.  Later continuity would downplay this, to the point of ignoring it, and have Johnny develop the formula on his own.

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The story also has its own problems with continuity, in that both Johnny and the villainous Charley are immediately able to use the speed formula to fly.  This use of the power did not appear in the earliest Johnny Quick stories, and only sort of developed unintentionally, a byproduct of the way Johnny’s speed was shown, with multiple images in the same panel.  Fitting many Johnnys into one panel relied using all the space available, and Johnny was shown in the air before the stories actually admitted that he had the power of flight.

 

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Sir Butch returns as the Shining Knight tries to visit Camelot but goes the wrong way through time and winds up in the far future.  Merlin used the wrong tincture in his spell, though you would expect after so many trips through time that the Shining Knight might have noticed something was wrong.

As much as I love Frazetta’s art on this series, I feel a little let down by this tale, which doesn’t show a future world to a degree I would wish.

Sir Justin winds up stumbling into a plot to overthrow the government and establish a dictatorship, while Sir Butch falls in love with the daughter of the Chief Councillor.  Merlin retrieves the two of them and brings them to Camelot just after Sir Justin defeats the conspirators, but before Sir Butch can even get his first kiss.

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Adventure 153 – Mordred pits the Shining Knight against Bellerophon

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Mordred makes his only appearance in the Shining Knight series in Adventure 153 (June 1950), and conveniently happens to be in the right place when Bellerophon (from Greek mythology) winds up transported to Camelot by fumes from a magic cave.

That sounds dumb, I know, but the story is better than most of the Shining Knight’s tales, and is by Frazetta to boot.

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Mordred hates Sir Justin, of course.  No need to give any reason behind that, Mordred is already the villain of Arthurian legend.  He lies to Bellerophon and convinces him to battle the Shining Knight.

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As both combatants have flying horses it makes for quite the battle.  In fact, the two are so evenly matched that neither actually triumphs.  Merlin figures out when and where Bellerophon is from and sends him back to his own time.

Mordred sulks, but is not punished in any way.

 

Adventure 145 – Shining Knight in pre-colonial America

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Lovely art by Ruben Moreira on the Shining Knight story in Adventure 145 (Oct. 49).  Wish I could say the story lived up to it.

Unlike previous issues, in this tale Sir Justin’s time travel is dependent on him carrying Excalibur.  Which he drops.  Because a seasoned warrior tends to drop their weapon for no reason.

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This lands him in North America before the Euorpean invasion, and Sir Justin meets a tribe of Sioux, or Iroquois, or Haida.  Depends on which character or background set one is looking at.

So it’s best to just ignore the plot, such as it is, and allow the beautiful art to wash over you for this one.

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Adventure 132 – Aquaman meets Aquagirl and Shining Knight meets Sir Butch

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The Aquaman story in Adventure 132 (Sept 48) is the first of many that will toy with the idea of an “Aquagirl.”  Most heroes had a romantic interest of some sort, even if she was a villain, but Aquaman’s nautical exploits kept him acting solo, and single.

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As would be the case for many years to come, the “mermaid” in this story is no such thing.  She was being blackmailed into pretending to be a mermaid as part of an elaborate hoax by an embezzler to make the witness to his crime, and to the mermaid, seem insane.

 

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Sir Butch gets a proper introduction and “origin” in the Shining Knight story in this issue.  It’s likely this story was written before his first appearance 8 months earlier, but also possible that it was not, despite taking place before it.  The earlier story may have been run as a try-out of the concept, and positive reader response made them bring back the character.

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Butch is introduced as a tough street kid, who nonetheless happens to hang out in museums mocking the exhibits.  Wanting to teach the boy some respect for history, Sir Justin gets into his Shining Knight garb just as Merlin casts a spell to transport the Knight back to Camelot, which has the effect of bringing the boy along as well.

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Butch accompanies the Knight as he battles Archimago (who was also the bad guy in the earlier Sir Butch story), and frees the captive Elaine.  The rest of the Knights of the Round Table had beat defeated by Archimago, and King Arthur had Merlin bring the Shining Knight back in time as a last resort.

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Butch does nothing to help defeat Archimago, but is knighted by King Arthur anyway, becoming Sir Butch as the story ends.

 

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