Posts tagged ‘Tales of Gotham City’

Detective 507 – Batman vs the Mannikin, and a virtuoso street performer

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Gerry Conway and Don Newton conclude the story of the Mannikin in Detective 507 (Oct. 81).

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This half of the story gives the reader much more information about the Mannikin.  A former supermodel, disfigured in a car accident, blames those who no longer find her beautiful. She has a devoted assistant,who crafted her exosuit for her.

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Interestingly, Bruce Wayne is the one to dig up information on her, not Batman.  Wayne simply goes to visit a newspaper and discuss models in car accidents.

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Knowing both her identity and her targets makes it not so hard for Batman to track the Mannikin.

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And though the Mannikin is defeated, and her scars revealed, there is little feeling of triumph in this sad, but strong, story.

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Mike W Barr and Dan Spiegle contribute another excellent Tales of Gotham City in this issue, the story of a girl who longs to be a concert violinist, despite her parents protestations.

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The girl works as a waitress, using what money she makes to pay for lessons.  She hopes to attend a concert by her favourite violinist, but a scalper raises the price on her.

Oddly, even though her parents do not support her, they have their own tickets for the concert that night.

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A friend manages to sneak her in through a fire exit.  The violinist freaks out on the audience, saying that only the girl truly appreciates his music.  Then he storms out of the theatre, and joins her as the play on the street for change.

It’s all a bit of a fairy tale, but it tugs at the heart anyway.

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Detective 504 – The Joker’s rumpus room, and Gordon finds a crooked cop

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Jim Starlin’s cover is easily the best thing about Detective 504 (July 1981).

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Gerry Conway and Don Newton are the creative team on this story, which sees the Joker commit some crimes and send some clues, all to lead the Batman to a rumpus room of death.

Olivia Ortega, a reporter, makes her first appearance in Detective.  Usually she reports on the Hamilton Hill/Arthur Reeves mayoral race, but in this one she interrupts that to broadcast some clues the Joker sent to her.  Very obliging.

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The rumpus room does not live up to the way it appears on the cover, and it’s just not a big enough threat, not fun enough,to warrant being the payoff for the story.

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Batman buries the Joker in ice cream. Ha ha.  Sigh.

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Paul Kupperberg, Jose Delbo and Joe Giella give another starring role to Commissioner Gordon in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City.

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After a drug bust at a known location turns out nothing, Gordon realizes there must be a cop on the take, and the evidence points to one he has known all his life, the son of a cop Gordon used to work with.

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The boy tries to turn his back on the mob, but that just puts the two of them in deadly peril.  Gordon just keeps guilting him until he gets them out of it.

Commisioner Gordon, with the super-power of guilt.

Detective 495 – The Crime Doctor vs Sterling Silversmith, the importance of a mattress, Batgirl goes after a gang boss, and Black Lightning and Robin end

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Michael Fleisher, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte conclude the Crime Doctor storyline in Detective 495 (Oct. 80).

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Picking up from where last issue left off, the Crime Doctor is amazed that the men who hired him would want to kill him, and works with Batman to escape the building before it blows up.

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It was the bloodthirsty and greedy Sterling Silversmith who ordered his men to turn on the Crime Doctor, just so he could avoid paying for his services.

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Silversmith has his men kidnap the Crime Doctor, while Batman hunts them both.  Silversmith gives Thorne quicksilver to drink.  Batman captures Silversmith, but is too late to help Thorne.  He is still alive, but mentally fried, and confined to a hospital.

This is the final appearance of both Sterling Silversmith, and this incarnation of the Crime Doctor, although another one will pop up in the pages shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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Bob Rozakis and Dan Spiegle share this brief Tales of Gotham City chapter, which deals with a small time gangster who has been stealing from the mob, stashing the money in his mattress.  They are on to him, and he has to pay them back that evening.  Returning home, he finds his apartment on fire.

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He winds up trapped in his burning suite, and uses the mattress to break his fall when he jumps.  The money stuffed mattress winds up with the mobsters, and the man has his life, but nothing else.

A good one.

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Batgirl is after a mob boss in this story, by Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte.

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Barbara is having her own romantic troubles, as office geek Richard Bender tries to make a date with her, while she still longs for the father of the girl she rescued.

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But the bulk of this tale follows her efforts as Batgirl to find proof linking the man, Beeler, to the crimes she knows he is guilty of.  She succeeds, but overall, this story is kind of flat.

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Jean-Marc deMatteis scripts this final Black Lightning story, which deals with street gangs and the crappy life choices for slum kids.

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Inspector Henderson and Jimmy Olsen both guest star – both were supporting characters in Black Lightning’s old book.

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The story gets quite violent and intense.  Even after Black Lightning wins, he has to talk the young hood out of killing himself rather than head to prison.

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While Henderson and Jimmy Olsen both next appear shortly in Superman titles, Black Lightning does not return again until the launch of Batman and the Outsiders, three years down the road.

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Harris, Nicholas and Colletta bring Robin’s series to a close with another story about his stresses at university.

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As before, he is getting barked at by Jennifer, and is in academic trouble.  At the same time, he is trying to track the shipment of drugs into the college from Gotham.

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He gets Jennifer’s blessing to spend the night working on an essay, but winds up heading out as Robin.

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He stops the bad guys, but blows his university career.  Without even saying good-bye to Jennifer he leaves Hudson University, riding off into the pages of New Teen Titans.

Dick Grayson would not get a solo series again for many years.  Tim Drake would get a series before Dick Grayson does.

 

 

Detective 494 – a new Crime Doctor, Pinball, Batgirl uses a garage, Robin deals with a hazing death, and Black Lightning fights the Slime Killer

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Michael Fleisher joins Don Newton for the lead story in Detective 494 (Sept. 80).

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A new Crime Doctor, Raymond Thorne, is introduced in this story.  As with the 1940s version, he sells his skills to other criminals, charging extra for “house calls” during the crimes themselves.  With the ambulance to travel in, and the surgical gear as a costume, I always thought this was a great idea for a villain.

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Batman gets alerted to the existence of the Crime Doctor after discovering one of his prescriptions at a crime scene.

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The story also allows us to see Thorne in his everyday life, as a wealthy and successful surgeon, whose life of crime is a thrilling addiction.

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Batman sustains injuries to great for Alfred to handle, and as Dr. Dundee is out of town, his cases are being handled by Thorne.  He patches up Bruce Wayne.  Later, when the Crime Doctor and Batman are facing off against each other, the bandage gets revealed, and Thorne lets slip that he put it there – and both men realize they know who the other is.

The two wind up trapped, after the men who hired Thorne plot to kill him and leave him at the scene, along with Batman.

The story concludes next issue.

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A classic from the day it came out, Pinball was by far the best of the Tales of Gotham City stories, by Jack C Harris, with art by Dan Spiegle.  Set in a pinball arcade, it deals with a drug runner who is so into his game that he lets a young admirer transport the drugs for him.

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After the boy leaves, he learns that a rival gang is on the hunt for the runners.  The news of this, the pinball game, and the young boy’s journey through dangerous territory are perfectly intercut.

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In the end he leaves his game, worried about the kid, and rightfully so.  The punk sacrifices his life to save the boy.  Redeeming, but dark.  This is Gotham.

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Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte are behind the Batgirl story in this issue, which continues the story from the previous one.

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While Batgirl does not have any sort of cave of her own, she does have a friend, Jeff, who runs a garage.  He seems to have a crush on Batgirl, and she feels comfortable storing her motorcycle there.

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Barbara is not above a bit of flirting herself, when she finds out the father of the girl Batgirl rescued the previous issue is single.

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She also discovers that the development plans had been altered, and the original plan buried by slum lords who wanted to hold onto their properties.  She exposes their scheme, and the new housing is built, and the theatre saved.

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It’s back to campus life with this Harris/NIcholas.Colletta Robin story, that deals with a supposed death by hazing, which was really an intentional murder.

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Dick and Jennifer about to go swimming when they discover the body, and once again Dick ditches his girlfriend to go be Robin.

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It’s not one of his harder cases, and he does end up lip-locked with Jennifer.  Considering that their relationship ends next issue, I wanted to include their last really happy moment.

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Black Lightning is back, with a good story by Jean-Marc deMatteis.

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The hero has two major concerns in this story.  As teacher Jefferson Pierce, he is worried about one of his students, who seems to be having some troubles at home.

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As Black Lightning, he is dealing with the Slime Killer, a vigilante doling out bloody street justice.

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Visiting the boy at home, Jeff meets his angry, physically abusive father.

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It’s not much of a surprise when the father turns out to be the Slime Killer, but the story does not shy away from the difficult ending, as the son chooses to support his father, even after he is exposed and arrested.  Not an entirely happy ending, but a good one.

 

 

Detective 493 – Batman vs the Riddler in Texas, the Red Tornado’s first solo story, Robin confronts the man in black, the Human Target becomes a trucker, and Batgirl braves the fire

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Good gosh, the Batman Family are really happy about Detective 493 (Aug. 80).  Smiles a mile wild. The Human Target is less happy, falling out of his awkwardly shaped spot, but the clear star to the cover is the Red Tornado, never before or since considered either a member of the Batman Family, or a detective.

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Batman faces off against the Riddler in this story by Cary Burkett and Don Newton, which also introduces a new hero, the Swashbuckler.

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As usual, the Riddler sends a clue before he begins his spree, but it’s Alfred who notices that it is not a real riddle, but a snatch of lyrics from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

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That was all Batman needed, and he is on the trail of the Riddler, following him to Texas.  The story winds up taking place in Houston, using actual locations.

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Batman runs into a local hero, the Swashbuckler, who claims to be the nephew of Greg Saunders, the Vigilante.  He’s not a bad character, though the mask seems a bit excessive.

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The amusement park next to the Astrodome is one of the locations the Riddler leads the heroes to.  His big crime is teased by him saying he was going after the only person who is a bigger riddler than he is.

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Batman and Swashbuckler ponder possible crimes, but Batman figures out he is going after a man named Noone, as “no one” was a bigger riddler in the villains eyes.

Sadly, so far as I know and recall, the Swashbuckler never appeared again.

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Ok, so first of all let me say I like the Red Tornado as a character, I like Tales of Gotham City as a series, and I like Jean-Marc deMatteis as a writer.  Jose Delbo and Vince Colletta aren’t the top of my list, but I don’t hate them.

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But why is Red Tornado starring in a Gotham City story when the character has never been a part of this milieu?  And why, for his first story, is he in the middle of the city’s black ghetto, in the midst of a tale of religious faith and community standing up to drug dealers and the like?

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I guess this was a try-out for his upcoming series in World’s Finest Comics, but I never liked it.  The tear in the android’s eye in the final panel just makes me gag.

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Robin resolves the man in black plot in this issue, by Jack C Harris, Charles Nicholas and Vince Colletta.

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The pressures of being Robin, academic life, his relationship with Jennifer, and his job on the university paper get to be too much for him.  We haven’t even seen him at the paper since his run in Detective began.  Stressed, Dick leaves and heads for Gotham.

Neither Bruce nor Alfred are at the penthouse, but he does run in to Lucius Fox.  Dick heads back to the old Batcave.

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Changing to Robin, he leaves, and runs into the man in black.  Confronting him, he discovers that the man is actually a bodyguard hired to protect Dick Grayson, at Lucius Fox’s orders.  Dick gets that taken care of.

It’s worth noting that this is the same month that the New Teen Titans launched, and Dick’s inability to cope with university would lead into that series.

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The Human Target gets his last solo story in Detective, although he makes a few more appearances in the book.  As usual, Len Wein and Dick Giordano helm this tale of a murdered trucker.

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The man’s body was completely charred, but his vengeful widow hires Christopher Chance to impersonate him, pretending that he survived the murder attempt, to draw out the killer.

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It works, but the victory is not all the widow hoped for, as she learns that the hired killer was just doing it for the money, hired by a rival trucking firm, and there was nothing personal in any of it.

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Batgirl has the first chapter of a longer story, by Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Joe Giella.

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It begins with a spat between her and Roger Barton over rival housing development plans.  Barbara goes to inspect the site of the theatre in question, and is surprised to find the protestors not interested in the theatre at all.

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Her attention gets drawn by a nearby fire, and she changes to Batgirl, and winds up saving the little girl who had been held hostage by Cormorant, and was still living in fear.

 

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 490- Batman relaxes in a garden, Batgirl learns to dance, a snowy encounter, Robin takes a test and Black Lightning takes a shower

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton being their League of Assassins war storyline to a conclusion in Detective 490 (May 1980), although it’s a bit less confrontational than the cover implies.

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Batman fights Lurk for the second time, following their encounter in a DC Special from a couple of years earlier. Lurk looks almost identical to Ra’s Al Ghul’s earlier sidekick, Ubu.  In later years, it would be established that Ubu is more of a title than a name, so Lurk would be the second Ubu, really.

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Working with the seismologist Batman freed last issue, he determines that the League’s plan is to cause an earthquake.  Checking the fault lines, Batman figures out that the goal must be a high level peace conference being held in an estate on the line.

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Batman has to fight his way in, and warns the men to leave before the earthquake hits, and is less then impressed with one religious leader who refuses to go, saying it would be bowing to terrorism.

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Ra’s Al Ghul, the Sensei and Talia only show up for the last few pages.  Talia shoot Batman with a tranquilizer, and takes him away, as his father and the Sensei have their standoff in the mansion.  It gets destroyed in the earthquake.  Though the implication is that both men have died, Ra’s Al Ghul shows up in Batman not too long down the road.  The Sensei, however, may well have died, as his next appearance is in the Deadman mini-series, set years earlier.

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The story concludes as Batman and Talia relax in a garden as she tends to his wounds.  The big battle with a bit of a let-down, but the ending is strong, if only because it is such an untypical, happy ending.

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Batgirl’s story, by Mike W Barr, John Calnan and Joe Giella, has her on the trail of someone who is trying to kill a b=famous ballet dancer.

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In order to keep an eye on the potential victim, Barbara goes undercover as a ballerina.  Probably wise, as the murder attempts just keep coming.

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The story has a sadly ironic resolution, as the wannabe killer is revealed as the ballet master’s son, who felt his father was keeping him out of the spotlight.  The father is devastated – he was planning to retire that night, and make his son the main dancer.

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Bob Rozakis and George Tuska craft an excellent Tales of Gotham City in this issue.  There is no talking, but the narrative relates a radio interview with a policeman about how women need to keep safe and know how to protect themselves.  As we read this, we watch a woman struggling to drive during a snowstorm.  Her car gets stuck, and she sees a shadowy man approach.

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The story has a happy ending – the man is a police officer – but it’s great to see that the woman is shown capable and prepared to defend herself.

So a good story, if not a really “Gotham”-y story.

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Jack C Harris, Alex Saviuk and John Calnan put Robin into the middle of an exam nightmare in this issue.

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After a teacher finds evidence that some students had the exam questions before the test, he announces that there will be second exam, the first was invalid.  Jennifer comes to tell Dick, and almost catches him in his Robin gear.  Perhaps he should change out of it before sleeping.

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The professor himself turns out to be the bad guy, selling the exam results for extra money.  Perhaps not a ground-breaking story, but certainly a realistic, university-based tale.

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Black Lighting, who had not been seen since an issue of World’s Finest the previous year, begins a short run in Detective with this issue.  Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin are teh creative team as high school teacher Jefferson Pierce dons his costume again to help another student.

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The story is a curious one.  It begins with the student kidnapped out of the school showers.

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The trail leads him to drug dealing gangs, and an aging voodoo queen, but even still, Black Lightning cannot make any sense of their actions.

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But the voodoo queen knows what she is doing, even if no one else does.  The story ends with an electrocuted Black Lightning and the student trapped together.

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