Posts tagged ‘Walt Simonson’

Detective 440 – Batman and the hillbillies, and Manhunter on the run

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Jim Aparo provides the cover for Detective 440 (April/May 1974).  As well as the Batman and Manhunter stories, among the reprints is Simon and Kirby Manhunter reprint from the 40s.  Curious that they did not reprint more of his tales during his run in this book.

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Batman’s story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Sal Amendola and Dick Giordano, has him coming to the rescue of a girl from a rural mountain community who has come to Gotham, but is being dragged back by her brothers.

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Her family intends her to be a sacrifice, to lift a curse they believe is on them.  Essentially, though, what they intend is to feed her to a big bear.  Batman prevents this, and beings her back to the (relative) safety of Gotham.

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The Manhunter story, by Goodwin and Simonson, has Paul Kirk and Christine St. Clair on the run from her boss, Damon Nostrand, as Paul continues to relate his tale.

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The Council was formed of the greatest thinkers after World War 2, determined to prevent another one from occurring.  Over time, this group became corrupted and controlling.  They run a huge, international organization, with many people of power and influence among their number.  Paul was revived to be the leader of their clone army, but is less than impressed with the organization.

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His first assignment was to kill Damon Nostrand, but instead he goes there to warn him.  Of course, it’s a test to see if Paul will kill him, and he fails miserably.  He flees to Africa, and seeks out the son of a weaponeer he had worked with.

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And thus, he acquired his Manhunter gear.  Ironically, though he began his new career by refusing to kill Nostrand, he and Christine wind up leading him to his death in this tale.

 

Detective 439 – Batman goes berserk, and the secret of Paul Kirk

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Batman loses control in Detective 439 (Feb./March 1974), in a Steve Englehart story, with art by Dick Giordano, who also provided the inks for Neal Adams’ cover.

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The story opens with a simple robbery, but the gunman shoots and kills a woman in front of her young son, which Batman sees.

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After a brief flashback to his own parents’ deaths, Batman gets enraged, and spends the rest of the story in relentless pursuit of the man and his associates, despite their constant attempts to kill him.

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Batman does not speak a lot in this story, which helps convey his singularity of purpose.  I really love the scene where he dangles the criminals car keys in front of them.  The nervous chatter of the hoods, compared to Batman’s silence, also boosts the mood to the piece.

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Perfectly told, this story is fairly simple, really, but still very powerful in execution.

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The final page, of him unmasked and crying in front of his parents’ portrait, is a crushing denouement, but the perfect coda to this tale.  The vengeance will never heal the grief.

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Christine St. Clair meets the wounded Manhunter face to face in this chapter of Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga.

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Paul fills her in on his backstory, and we see a montage panel reflecting his stories from Adventure Comics.  We learn that after the end of World War 2, seeking danger and excitement, Paul went big game hunting in Africa, which didn’t go exactly as planned.

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Squished by an elephant.

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His body was retrieved by a secret organization called the Council, and cloned.  The clones trained in martial arts by a supposedly dead master, Asano Nitobe.  Paul himself was eventually revived, intended to lead his clone army, but disagreed with the extreme domination plans of the Council, and has been fighting them ever since.

But is Paul really the revived Paul Kirk, or just a clone who believes he is the original?

Detective 438 – the monster of Wayne Manor, and Manhunter goes to a bank

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Detective Comics goes to 100 page size with issue 438 (Dec./Jan. 73).  It’s mostly reprints, and between this and the similarly sized Batman comic, they reprint the Outsider and Zatanna sagas over the next few months.

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The lead story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Jim Aparo and a cover by Mike Kaluta, deals with reports of a monster seen lurking around the, currently abandoned, Wayne Manor.  Bruce and Alfred are, for obvious reasons, extremely reluctant to let anyone go poking around there, especially a ghost hunter who has just arrived in Gotham.

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When Alfred gets attacked, Bruce has no option but to allow an investigation.  We see the monster at this point, and it’s clearly a human, with something very wrong with him. The monster is, in fact, Ubu, the henchman of Ra’s Al Ghul, wounded after his last encounter with Batman, and seeking vengeance.  And Batman’s suspicions about the ghost hunter also prove to be correct, that he is entwined with the League of Assassins as well.  Ubu kills the ghost hunter, but is captured by Batman.

Ubu’s near death state in this story, followed by his hale and hearty appearance when next seen, is the first indication that Ubu is likely a title, rather than name, and that there have been a few of them.

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Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter continues in this issue, as we meet Damon, Christine St. Clair’s boss.

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This chapter details more of the observations Christine has made of Paul Kirk.  He went to a bank in Swizerland to withdraw money from an account dormant since the 1940s, looking much like he did back then.  He seems to be being followed by ninja assassins, although he consistently defeats them.

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To make things even more puzzling, his attackers wear similar costumes, although blue instead of red, and all look like Paul Kirk as well.  And while Christine is on the up and up, we see that there is more to Damon, who burns her report at story’s end.

Detective 437 – the Deathmask, and Manhunter begins

 

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Jim Aparo does his first work in Detective Comics with issue 437 (Oct./Nov. 73) on this Archie Goodwin story.

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The story centres around a giant mask on display at Gotham’s museum.  Encrusted with gems, the mask comes with dire legends and warnings, which seems to come true, as people start getting killed.

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The backstory to the mask gives Aparo reign to show ancient and foreign lands, something he particularly excels at.

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While the solution to the murders has nothing to do with the curse, it’s simply being used by the killer as a distraction from his real motives, the story ends with a nicely ironic touch, the mask itself killing the killer.

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With little fanfare, the Manhunter series by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson also begins is this issue, putting the rotating back-ups on hold.  Paul Kirk, not seen since Adventure Comics from the 1940s, returns, in new garb, but no older than he was back then.

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This globe-trotting story follows agent Christine St. Clair as she hunts down the Manhunter.  In this first chapter, she listens to the tale of a monk, who witnessed Manhunter’s defeat of a number of trained assassins.

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Every single page of this saga has exceptional art, and the story is captivating.  The reader, like Christine, is left unsure as to Manhunter’s motives and the bigger picture at this point.  But the reader does get a chuckle at the end, with the revelation that the narrating monk is really Paul Kirk, which Christine remains ignorant of.

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