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  1. #31
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    Batman #336: "While the Bat's Away..."
    Plot: Bob Rozakis
    Script: Roy Thomas
    Art: Jose Garcia-Lopez and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: A+

    Fascinating read! With the conclusion of The Lazarus Affair, Marv Wolfman is gone from the title, and Rozakis and Thomas fill in with this issue. Essentially, as Batman is recovering from the Lazarus Affair (he had a punctured lung, a broken rib, and was seriously burnt, as I recall) an old villain called The Monarch of Menace steps in and claims to be keeping Batman prisoner, accepting tribute from gullible low level villains to keep Batman off the streets so that they can commit crimes. The story is written well enough, though there are a few silly moments and lapses in logic, and Jose Garcia-Lopez's art is a WONDERFUL breath of fresh air in this comic. Where the heck was he during the Lazarus Affair??

    However, what truly sets this issue apart and impressed the heck out of me was Levitz' contribution as editor.

    Seriously.

    Yes, I've whined and railed against him in this thread so many times as he's compromised artistic vision in order to insert campy villains but, with this final story (Levitz hands over the editing duties to Dick Giordano next issue) he finally pulled it all off here. Here's a full list of all the awesomeness he executed as editor on this final issue:

    - Appropriate references to Alfred's actions in the current issues of Detective Comics, which pique interest without confusing readers who haven't touched those issues.

    - An entire issue dealing with the fallout of the previous storyline. For once, there are continuity-based consequences for getting your ass handed to you in a fight, even if you ended up winning.

    - A heavy continuity that still has a solid footing in events that have been transpiring over the past two years, beginning with the emergence of Gregor Falstaff back during Wein's run on the book. All of that could have easily gone away with the culmination of The Lazarus Affair.

    - An entire rogue's gallery of one-shot bit villains (some of which haven't been seen for almost fifteen years) who would still be operating in Gotham and waiting for an opportunity like Batman's disappearance to spring back into action.


    All in all, this is a watershed moment for comic book editors everywhere. I'm damn impressed at how carefully Levitz weaves all of this Bat Office continuity together so appropriately and unobtrusively into one issue.

    This seems to be the first time that the Bat Office is really and truly paying attention to and utilizing its own continuity. I find that damn exciting.

  2. #32
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    (Gerry Conway's run begins)
    (Dick Giordano begins as editor)

    Batman #337


    "Where Walks a Snowman"
    Script: Gerry Conway
    Plot assist: Roy Thomas
    Art: Jose Garcia-Lopez

    Grade: C-

    On the letter page two issues back, Levitz promised that Roy Thomas would be taking over the title next issue. He wrote the script (though not the plot), only assisted with the plot this issue and the next issue, and completely turns the book over to Conway next issue. What happened?

    This was a far inferior story to the previous issue, in which Batman must battle a man whose mother slept with a mountain Yeti, leaving him as --- THE SNOWMAN. Really. I was writing better stuff than this when I was 8.

    The story is relatively poorly done all around, concluding with Batman assuming that The Snowman let himself be defeated because he was an albino, thus sensitive to bright lights, and he knew that "marker flares are standard equipment for cross-country skiers." Then he repeats "You knew that," asks why to no one in particular, and then says "If the wind could answer for you...I wonder what it would say."

    Absurd melodrama at its worst, especially since the monster showed no signs of guilt nor holding back anywhere in the issue.

    The positive counterbalances are Jose Garcia-Lopez's art, which is once again a competent contrast to the garbage Novick and McLaughlin were turning out. Additionally, though Dick Giordano takes over as editor this issue, we still see another attempt to realize Levitz' long term editorial ambitions for the title, unobtrusively making references to at least six specific points of interest in Gotham City (Gotham Avenue, Police Headquarters in Downtown Gotham, The Wayne Penthouse several miles north, Gotham's Roosevelt Center(??), Mid-Island Park, and Summit Peak) and their geographic relationships to each other, apparently finally executing Levitz plan to map and standardize every block in Batman's city. I'm forced to wonder if Levitz didn't play a heavy uncredited role in this issue.

    Unfortunately, he and Giordano are so busy doing this that they let something incredibly stupid get through. Upon finding a man frozen in ice by an unknown assailant at the beginning of the story, Batman comments "Human footprints...A frozen man. What sort of thing am I dealing with here?"

    I don't know. Maybe MR. FREEZE?

    Seriously, if you're going to add a semi-redundant villain to the Batman rogues gallery, at least have the decency to acknowledge it. Mr. Freeze fought Batman in this very title less than three years ago!


    "Murder on the Midway"
    Writer: Gerry Conway
    Art: Don Newton and Larry Mahlstedt

    Grade: B-

    Robin's first solo backup in this title, as far as I recall. I wouldn't call it exceptionally exciting (and I'm a huge Dick Grayson fan, mind you), but it acknowledges a decent bit of continuity, even bringing back Waldo the Clown from Robin's adventure in DC Comics Presents #31, and the cliff hanger is a decent one. This easily could have been an adequate book-length story.
    Last edited by shaxper; 09-19-2010 at 04:44 PM.

  3. #33
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    Batman #338

    "This Sporting Death"
    script: Gerry Conway
    plot assist: Roy Thomas
    art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: F

    I may not have liked everything Levitz did as editor, but it's damn clear that the quality of this book has dropped off fast with his exit. If The Snowman from last issue didn't do it for you, this time we're given The Sportsman. Honestly, the cover to this one says it all, with a hockey player with a skull on his mask promising Batman that "In this game, Batman, the winner is DEATH!"

    It truly only gets worse from there, so much so that I almost didn't even notice the return of my least favorite art team, Novick and McLaughlin. The story is absolutely absurd, has tons of moments that make absolutely no sense (ex: The Sportsman uses ice skates to skate along a football field so that no one will be able to see the tracks he leaves behind!) and, best, yet, a full fourth of the story is devoted to the origin the Sportsman provides for himself after he's about to kill Batman and, at that crucial moment, decides to explain everything. The short of it is that his dad abused him and did weird medical experiments on him to make him into an athlete, so now he hates all people who love sports and wants them to die. Yeah. Good one.

    Honestly, if I was editor, I would throw this garbage out and just go a month without printing a Batman story. This is inexcusably bad. Unfortunately, looking at the upcoming issues, I think I'm in for a long slump. My best hope is that, when Wein takes over as editor with #353 (though Conway will still be writing), things will improve. Until then, I'll just have to hope that Conway's writing and Giordano's editing both improve with time.

    Chances are, these are the very issues that have caused people to forget/ignore this era of Batman stories. Such a damn shame, too. Wein, Wolfman, and Levitz gave so much to this title that, even with very mixed results, had really set a new bar for it. I guess all that's going out the window now.


    "Killer Under the Big Top!"
    (uncredited. Presumably written by Gerry Conway)

    Grade: C+

    The conclusion to Robin's solo mystery from last issue is decent enough but, like the the A story in this issue, spends far too much time offering explanations. A good mystery should mostly reveal itself to us as we go, not depend upon so much explanation at the end that Dick's word bubbles are literally drowning out the panels.

  4. #34
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    Batman 339

    "A Sweet Kiss of Poison"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell

    Grade: B-

    Conway's first story without Roy Thomas' assistance works out a lot better than the last two. Poison Ivy returns, brainwashing the share holders of the Wayne Foundation into signing over their shares. It's reasonably well done, though not particularly exciting. This may also be the first time Ivy uses her trademark poison lipstick, but I can't be sure on that.

    Some really poorly drawn faces aside (argh! Novick!!!!), the issue worked reasonably well, and there was even a nice continuity touch, with Bruce being exhausted from his adventure in the most recent issue of Detective Comics.

    Most importantly, I was pleased that this attempt to show Bruce having increasing difficulty over balancing his life as Bruce and as Batman didn't directly contradict the parameters Wein set up about how that balance is supposed to work. According to Wein, Bruce slept four hours a night, spent the rest of the time patrolling or in the cave, and only went to work as Bruce Wayne one day out of the week. In this issue, he's disappointed to learn he has left himself less than four hours to sleep, and he's spending more time at the Wayne Foundation because of all the time he's been away (and, presumably, because it's still recovering from the damage inflicted by Gregorian Falstaff). Though I don't know for sure that Conway or Giordano were actually keeping any of this in mind, I'm glad they didn't do anything to contradict Wein's parameters, either.


    "Yesterday's Heroes"
    writer: Gene Conway
    art: Irv Novick and Bruce Patterson

    Grade: B+

    The title does not seem to fit this story at all. Instead, we find Dick still working at The Hill Circus from the last two issues (too bad as I didn't find any of that supporting cast at all interesting), essentially reflecting on what his parents taught him, what Batman taught him, and deciding who he is as a result. Whereas Conway tends to get stuck in excruciatingly long flashbacks, he does an excellent job of balancing flashbacks and present action in this issue, as every move Dick makes while swinging across the trapeze in front of a gasping crowd seems to parallel his reflections.

    Essentially, this feels like the first Nightwing story in the sense that it contains the same level of questioning and self-reflection that Dick will spend the next 30 years subjecting himself to. Unfortunately, as an 8 page B story, it doesn't have the room to do much more than that. It's also weird that he makes no mention of The New Teen Titans, the team he's been leading for a full year now, as he contemplates giving up being a superhero forever.


    "Wonder Woman versus The Robot Master"
    (credits unknown)

    Okay, it was a Hostess Twinkie ad, but this one really took the cake (I guess literally). After The Robot Master attempts to get away from Wonder Woman by creating robot clones of himself, Wonder Woman throws Twinkies at them all, realizing that only the real Robot Master can experience hunger. As he's being hauled away while cheerfully eating a Twinkie, one robot double innocently reflects to the others, "Perhaps we can be re-programmed to enjoy Hostess Twinkies cakes too!"

    Absolutely laugh-out-loud funny.


    EDIT: Didn't realize until now that Conway is writing Detective Comics at the same time. I happen to have those issues too, but I don't plan to read them unless Conway's writing ends up being more enjoyable. I hope writing two Batman stories a month won't be too much of a strain, causing his writing to suffer further.

  5. #35
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    (Gene Colan begins)

    Batman 340: "A Man Called MOLE!"
    writers: Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas
    art: Gene Colan

    Grade: A-

    WOW! Irv Novick finally gets the boot in favor of Gene Colan, and it makes a world of a difference. Instead of the art getting in the way of the story, it actually enhances it. For once, it becomes worthwhile to pause and savor the pictures and panels as you make your way through the pages.

    The writing is also much better this issue, and I'm not sure whether that's owed more to Conway improving as a writer or Thomas stepping in to assist. Bruce and Alfred have an absolutely poignant conversation about Dick's future (though it's still odd that not one reference has been made to Dick leading the Titans for well over a year now in this title), and the narration and dialogue throughout are all of an extremely high caliber.

    The plot, on the other hand, feels like more of the same. A mutated bad guy who is killing people and ultimately gets a long flashback explanation as to how he got this way. The Snowman, The Sportsman, The Mole, it's all the same damn thing, and none of it is done well.

    Anyway, Giordano seems more awake at the helm as editor now. There's lots of little points of continuity and references to past events in this issue. I'm most impressed by the coming Gotham City election that's been brewing incredibly subtly in the background over the past few issues and will no doubt play a major role in the Batman title.

    Oh, and Poison Ivy's scheme from the previous issue is still brewing, as well. I'm a bit surprised that this wasn't mentioned more than once in this issue since Batman is currently under her spell/unable to stop her, and the entire Wayne Foundation is at stake.

    All in all, though, a nicely done issue in spite of its lame plot.
    Last edited by shaxper; 09-19-2010 at 04:44 PM.

  6. #36
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    Batman 341

    "The Ghost of Wayne Mansion"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: B-


    NOOOOOOOOOO! Last issue promised a new era was beginning with the reuniting of Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, yet neither of them are here this issue, and we're back to Novick and McLaughlin! Even the cover, drawn by Jim Aparo, looks terrible (the last one was equally bad), and I'm normally a big fan of Aparo's.

    The story is fair, definitely an improvement for Conway, though the extra touch that Thomas apparently brought to the dialogue last issue is sorely absent now. A "ghost" is apparently haunting Wayne manor, frightening off a steady traffic of people who have attempted to break in, from hobos, to convicts, to kids. Seriously, with the original Batcave and some other equally revealing equipment still in there, couldn't Bruce have set up a perimeter security system? This seems even sillier when it turns out that Bruce DOES have a computer system constantly surveying the old mansion for the sole purpose of constantly updating his map of the mansion that he hasn't looked at in years. Can I get a "huh? What??"

    The story gets better as Doctor Thirteen is called in to solve the mystery and starts exploring the manor, inch by inch, as Batman hides in the shadows and attempts to thwart the doctor's discovery of the Batcave. All of this goes to heck, though, as soon as it turns out that the "ghost" is actually Man-Bat.

    There's also an intriguing B plot in which an old crime boss named Marko returns from his stay at Arkham and quickly regains control over the political machine of Gotham City, which, of course, ties back into the upcoming election that keeps getting hinted at in this title.

    Really, the only odd thing about this issue is one big lack of internal continuity. At the beginning of the issue, Gordon comments:

    "Bruce, it's been years since you moved here to the Wayne Building from your old mansion outside of town...In all that time, someone may have taken "possession" of the building---without your knowledge."

    This poses two problems. One is that it can't be years since Batman #217 when Bruce moved out of the mansion because that was the very issue that Dick went to college, and he apparently hadn't been there for very long when he decided that college wasn't for him and dropped out of school only a year ago.

    But the second, and more obvious problem is that Gordon should know Bruce was at the mansion JUST LAST ISSUE, setting it up as temporary residence for a wealthy industrialist being targeted by The Mole. If someone had been living there at the time, I think the swarm of cops guarding the woman would have noticed. Weirder still, Bruce's battle with The Mole at Wayne Manor last issue is referenced numerous times later in the issue.

    Finally, one of the indications that a ghost was at the manor was the sight of flashing lights in the sky over Wayne Manor. How the heck would Man-Bat have caused that? Somehow, I suspect they won't answer that question next issue.


    "Murder Will Out
    writer: Robin Snyder
    art: Adrian Gonzales

    Grade: D

    This is the second time that a one or two page mystery has been provided in the book, and this one is just as disappointing as the last. The point is to show just how quickly an able detective like Gordon or Batman can use logic to solve a crime after listening to the suspects' testimony, but it ends up just making me uncomfortable as they quickly leap to a conclusion based on circumstancial evidence and then grin widely as a man or woman's life is about to be ruined by their testimony against him/her. Granted, we're not supposed to read that far into it, but I certainly hope Batman wouldn't proclaim me a killer with the only flaw in my testimony being that "no one would be writing in the dark!"


    "Night of the Coven"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    Art: Trevor Von Eden and Mike DeCarlo

    Grade: F

    Argh, these Robin solo stories by Conway are really starting to bore me. Each starts in the middle of the boring action, flashes back to how it all began, and are told from Robin's point of view (assuming that Robin is thoroughly boring, humorless, and a tad bit overly smug). In this case, Robin hitches a ride with a hick who hates city folk. That, combined with the fact that the man has an odd tattoo of a scorpion, is enough for Robin to decide that the guy is up to no good and therefore must be tailed. Sure enough, he's the leader of a coven of witches that sacrifices virgins in the woods.

    The real crime of this story, though, is what it does to Robin's continuity. Robin's been leader of the New Teen Titans for over a year now, and it's never once been mentioned in this title. Odd since it's Robin's only true family and sense of belonging now that he's left Batman. It's also the best writing Dick Grayson ever received as a character. But that's okay. Maybe it's an editorial policy since the Titans are managed by another office.

    But here's where Conway takes it too far. In this issue, Dick leaves the Hill Circus, which he's been working at for the past three issues after solving a murder mystery for them. As he leaves, with a tear running down his eye, he remarks, "These past few months -- have been about the best time of my life."

    Come on. Really?

  7. #37
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    Batman 342

    "Requiem For a Hero"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin

    Grade: B


    Part two of the Man-Bat story proves even slightly more entertaining than the first one. While Novick and McLaughlin's faces are still killing me, the action is depicted adequately, and they at least get a little more free with their panel arrangements once Batman ends up in a cave fighting Man Bat (maybe that was just McLaughlin).

    In the story, Bruce learns what's become of Kurt Langstrom (aka The Man-Bat) in recent years, as Conway and Giordano take a comprehensive trip through several years of continuity across a variety of titles via flashback, ultimately showing that Langstrom's anger at Batman over something that happened in Brave and the Bold #165 and DC Presents #35 led him into a self-destructive spiral, ultimately resulting in his regression as Man-Bat. For once, a Conway flashback proves reasonably interesting.

    Our mysterious mobster returns from last issue as well, only now it's Rupert Thorne, not someone named "Marko," and a similarly complex history, involving killing Hugo Strange and losing his mind, is hinted at but neither explained by Conway nor annotated by Giordano.

    Finally, Batman and Man-Bat have a second encounter, only this time it becomes clear that Man-Bat is now somehow convinced that Batman is responsible for his daughter's death (even though his daughter is alive and well). It's also obvious that Batman's serum for curing Man-Bat no longer works. And, even if it does, the real problem is a mental illness of which reverting to Man-Bat is only a symptom. Clearly, this story is to be continued.

    More references are made to the upcoming election and to Poison Ivy's plot to take over the Wayne Foundation, as well.

    As an added change in this issue, it ends by soliciting what's coming up in Detective Comics; a logical yet innovative new way to utilize the combined Bat Office.



    "Burn, Robin, Burn"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Trevor Von EEden and Frank Chiaramonte

    Grade: F

    Robin is my favorite comic book character of all time, and yet Conway is making me hate him. In addition to all the other terrible characterization Conway has lent to him over the last few issues, he's now made Robin an elitist ass as well, accusing the villain of pretending to be a "dumb Good-Ole Boy." You gotta love it.

    It's also fun how Robin was unable to stop a couple of cultists from capturing him and tying him to an upside down cross last issue, yet he's able to escape from the cross (by wiggling it back and forth until it falls, loosening the ropes???) and take them all down at the same time in this issue. Finally, though he gets the intended sacrifice away from the cultists, he makes absolutely no attempt to capture any of them or bring in the authorities. He literally steals the cult leader's truck and drives off with him desperately trying to catch up.

    Nice job, Robin. You've saved one girl, but left the cult free to kill a hundred more.

    These horrible, horrible back-up stories need to stop.
    Last edited by shaxper; 09-19-2010 at 04:45 PM.

  8. #38
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    Batman 343

    "A Dagger So Deadly..."
    writer: Gerry Conway
    artist: Gene Colan
    embellisher: Klaus Janson

    Grade: D+


    In this issue, Batman faces Dagger, "a startling villain" so intense that he can yell a threat at a bus he's sent careening off the road and (through the magic of terrible writing) expect to be heard by them; a man so deadly that he can throw a knife through the hood of the Batmobile, magically know the exact layout of the engine brick within the specially designed Batmobile, and therefore hit the engine in exactly the right place to somehow trigger an oil fire in the car; a man so shocking that he can pull off a purple leotard with a big D on it (you know, for "Dagger"). Man, this one hurt. I think Conway is either getting dumber or is assuming that we are.

    Though there's some nice continuity in this issue (references to Man-Bat and the previous issue of Detective Comics, the continuing of the Poison Ivy and Rupert Thorne B plots), the issue also finally outright conflicts with the carefully considered parameters Wein laid out about how Batman manages to balance his vigilante lifestyle with that of Bruce Wayne. According to Wein, Bruce slept four hours a night, spent the rest of the time on patrol or in the cave, and went to work at the Wayne Foundation one day a week. Conway's been showing Bruce going to work everyday, and I've excused that as being due to the foundation's recent financial crises, but in this issue, Batman laments "Lately I've been averaging only four hours of sleep a night. It's not nearly enough." Well, there goes the best thing that Wein's run gave us. I guess this therefore begs the question of why Batman is suddenly so overwhelmed with his double life now? Even with all the crises he's currently facing, nothing seems to be especially overtaxing him. Conway keeps depicting him on the verge of a breaking point in balancing his two lives, but he fails to provide an adequate reason why.

    Even Conway's art (not as impressive as three issues ago, but still better than Novick and McLaughlin) and a nice Conway/Giordano cover can't bury the stink of this story.

    "Odyssey's End"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Trevor Von Eeden

    Grade: F

    If the Dagger storyline in this issue was the BEST work Conway could come up with for this issue, just imagine what crap he turned in for the backup story. Robin and the girl he rescued from the previous issue (still drugged up and nearly comatose) get to the first hospital they find and manage to conveniently walk in on a bunch of criminals who have taken the entire hospital hostage (though we never see nor hear of a single hostage) and are now posing as its staff in order to receive its drug shipment. This can't possibly be worth the effort. There are FAR easier ways to get drugs illegally, man!

    Things get even more stupid as Robin decides that, rather than take them down, he must rescue the girl back from them even though she is clearly in absolutely no danger (they left her standing in an unlocked, unguarded room) and even though he expresses absolutely no concern for any of those other hundreds(?) of hospital staff and patients being held against their will that we never see. Naturally, he gets captured, naturally they try to kill him overly elaborately with an overdose of sleeping gas, naturally they leave the room before he's dead, and naturally they decide to leave the nearly comatose girl standing in the room with him so that she can suddenly wake up and free him.

    Best yet, just as Robin breaks free and some semblance of action and fun looks like it's finally about to start, Robin's narration says "Why dwell on what happened next?" and cuts to the resolution. Maybe because the action you've been building up to throughout the whole damn story is the only part readers might actually want to read! GEEZ!

    If all of that isn't stupid enough, the issue ends with Robin asking a police officer to reward him with a bus ticket back to Gotham. This is brilliant because:

    1. Robin isn't carrying ANY money even after working a job at the Hill Circus for over a month?

    2. Robin couldn't have phoned home to Bruce for money or transportation? Didn't it say in the beginning of the issue that he no longer feels the need to reject Bruce or his influence? Clearly, tarnishing his reputation as a selfless hero was a far more logical choice.

    3. Does he expect to ride the bus the entire way to Gotham in costume? That's gonna get a bit awkward. Yet, if Dick Grayson is riding that bus home and Robin isn't, how hard would it be for someone to put two and two together?

    I really really really can't take anymore of these backup stories.

  9. #39
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    Batman 344: "Monster My Sweet"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Gene Colan and Klaus Janson

    Grade: A


    On the one hand, the cover to this issue is a major tease. It promises "The story you've been waiting for!" while Batman is being strangled by arms that clearly look like they belong to Swamp Thing. Unfortunately, that does not prove to be the subject of the full length story within.

    On the other hand, Wow. Gerry Conway...actually trying? That's the only explanation I can give here because the same writer who's been torturing me with insultingly stupid garbage for the past few issues suddenly provides a thoughtful, complex plot with incredibly well written narration. It truly feels like a completely different writer. I've heard that Conway has a tendency for being off and on, but I never imagined such quick and extreme shifts between the two.

    This issue finally provides the long anticipated election of '81 as well as the conclusion to the Poison Ivy dilemma. While the election story ends up being a tad bit anti-climactic, Batman's solution to the Poison Ivy situation from several issues back (she hypnotized Bruce and the board of the Wayne Foundation to sell off all the stocks, give her the money, and not tell anyone about it) is quite clever and fun to watch. She ends up mutating her assistant and sicking him on Batman (thus the Swamp Thing-like arms), and Robin shows up at the last moment, reuniting the Dynamic Duo for the time being.

    Colan really fires up the artwork and puts in a far more serious effort than in the last issue, truly bringing each panel to life. I suppose some of this may, in part, be due to Janson's contributions, but the best of it seems so "Colan-esque". Perhaps most importantly, he creates the iconic Poison Ivy with his images, representing her for the first time with a sultry, almost erotic relationship with her plants as they weave between and caress her fingers while she talks business with mob bosses. Absolutely breath-taking, and it adds so much to Conway's often flat dialogue and characterization. Also of interest, Colan manages to pull off a dark and menacing, yet relatively happy looking Batman who smiles while toying with Ivy and looks positively ecstatic when he comes to the realization that Robin has come back. Very intriguing take on the character. Colan really becomes a co-author in this issue, saying just as much with his art as Conway says with his words.

    Really a fantastic issue. I hope the next few will be of a similar caliber.

  10. #40
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    (Batman and Detective Comics begin crossing over)


    Batman 345

    "Calling Doctor Death"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Gene Colan and Klaus Janson

    Grade: B

    Conway's beginning to taper off a bit again in this issue, as Batman must fight Doctor Death, a man who is dumping a deadly allergen all over the city and demanding a heavy ransom for the antidote. Sure enough, Bruce meets him in exactly the same way that he met the Snowman only a few issues back. He's hosting a society gathering, notices the strange guy everyone's paying attention to, and surely that's Batman's next new antagonist. It just feels a bit tired. It's also a jarring transition watching a happier, buddy-buddy Batman and Robin leap from chatting in the Batcave to savagely throwing a potential criminal informant through a store window. The desperation or moral outrage that might almost justify these actions seem sorely absent here. They just come off as sociopaths getting overly violent.

    Finally, the story ends with a silly, overly-elaborate, and entirely non-sensical trap in which Batman and Robin are hung from a bridge with one rope tying Batman's right arm and Robin's left arm together. Dr. Death boasts, "How can you free yourself--without letting your partner slip to his doom?" I don't know. Maybe by having both hold onto the rope with their other arms? Maybe by using the utility belts that Dr. Death clearly hasn't removed??

    From a continuity perspective, there's a B plot involving the return of Viki Vale and her secret agenda, the developing of a relationship between Dick and the mysterious Dala, Gordon being asked for his resignation from the new mayor, the resolution of Bruce's divided lifestyle crisis (he's resigned from the Wayne Foundation and is back to being a carefree bachelor), and the evolving of a new relationship between Bruce and Dick that's actually handled extremely well here.

    The story ends as a to be continued...in Detective Comics. What started as a nice attempt to unify the continuity of the Bat titles has now evolved into a cheap ploy to make you buy two issues a month. Considering how much I'm not enjoying Conway's writing, I feel no desire to check out part 2. I just need to get through these issues of Batman until Doug Moench comes on.


    "Terror Train!"
    writer: Bruce Jones
    art: Trevor Von Eeden and Pablo Marcos

    Grade: D

    A new solo Catwoman series begins...badly. "The Catwoman: Heroine or Villainess? Now YOU can decide!" an interior cover promises, except that she's clearly a good guy from the onset of this story. No aspect of the story in any way raises questions about this.

    The story begins with a really silly dream sequence in which she's marrying Bruce Wayne, with Robin and James Gordon congratulating him. WHY? Unless she knows he's Batman, these two people shouldn't mean a darn thing to him.

    She's then asked to assist the police by having a plain-clothed cop approach her at gunpoint and telling her to come with him without identifying himself because, "we weren't certain you'd...ah...cooperate"?? They tell her that trains have been mysteriously disappearing and then reappearing days later with passengers and belongings intact, and ask her to take on the case. She does so without any second thought. Why?

    All in all, this may prove to be a decent mystery (it's continued next issue), but the characterization and writing are absolutely terrible.
    Last edited by shaxper; 02-01-2011 at 09:37 PM.

  11. #41
    Run Runner shaxper's Avatar
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    Batman 346

    "Half a Hero"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte

    Grade: C

    Gene Colan...we hardly new ye. I certainly hope he's coming back. The art in this issue is adequate for the most part, but they give Two Face the absolute worst looking, most awkwardly arranged face. It really is distracting.

    The story itself is insultingly generic. Two Face escapes from prison with a hypnotic coin, then sets up a fun house divided in half -- one half looks ritzy while the other looks rundown. Add to this some guillotines that come out of the ceiling, random fire traps, trick glass walls, nerve toxins, and henchmen equipped with microscopic nose filters, and you're once again given the kind of story a five year old could write.

    Oh, and Harvey has a new girlfriend, even though the last time we saw him in these pages he was undone only by the words of Gilda, his wife and lover. No explanation is given about his moving on. That must have been one heck of a coin flip.

    Speaking of girlfriends, it turns out that Dick's new girlfriend is intentionally trying to manipulate him into some sort of trap.

    It also now turns out that Mayor Hill is also working for Rupert Thorne. Had he been backing both sides all along, or did he switch when he saw which way the tide was turning?

    Really the only part of this story that was handled well was the continuation of Bruce's inability to balance his two lifestyles. Even going back to Bruce being a playboy has not relieved all of the tension, and so we see him hurt both Lucius Fox and Vikki Vale in attempting to find that balance again, this issue. Nicely done, though I still don't feel that Conway has given us any explanation as to why this balancing act suddenly got so difficult for Bruce over the past few months. It really seemed to come out of nowhere and for no reason.

    This is another story that gets wrapped up in Detective Comics, and I have no desire to pursue it there.


    "In the Land of the Dead!"
    writer: Bruce Jones
    art: Trevor Von Eeden and Pablo Marcos

    grade: F

    The Catwoman train mystery from last issue continues and gets even worse. It turns out that the detective who hired her is actually an undercover Nazi nationalist trying to find a diamond with a hidden formula for hydrogen bombs which his father lost while (coincidentally, because he in no way planned for her presence on the train) struggling with Catwoman's father many years back. As a result, he's been stealing trains by using elaborate holographic projectors that he just happened to have lying around, and then searching the trains for the diamond. Unfortunately, he is undone in the end by Catwoman. Though we never saw this happen, her explanation is that she found those same holographic projectors that we never see, somehow knew how to reprogram them and turn them against the detective, and somehow did all of this while she was tied up and guarded by the detective's men.

    I honestly don't think Bruce Jones even bothered to read this script once after he wrote the first draft.

  12. #42
    Run Runner shaxper's Avatar
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    Batman 347: "The Shadow of the Batman"
    writer: Roger Slifer
    art: Trevor Von Eeden and Pablo Marcos

    grade: A

    Roger Slifer gives us a nice break from Conway this issue, telling the story of two kids considering their first bank heist and showing how Batman persuades them to make the right decision without ever even meeting them. Though the dialogue is a bit clumsy and unreal, this is a particularly well done story in which the kids draw upon what they've heard/know about Batman while trying to weigh whether or not they should risk going ahead with a bank heist. Impressively, it's not the menacing threat Batman poses to the criminal world that dissuades them; its the example of righteousness he's set for them, even while they admit that they didn't want to respect him and tried to pass him off as an out of touch defender of the rich status quo.

    On so many levels, this felt like an O'Neal/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow story, only a little more honest and in touch with social reality.


    The back-up feature for this issue consists of three more "Just-A-Moment Mysteries" by Robin Snyder. I'm just not a fan of these at all. A hero doesn't instantly point their finger and call someone a killer the second they find an inconsistency in an informal testimony given just moments after a murder. Add to that absolutely no room for dramatic pacing, and you have something that feels every bit as crude, though far less enjoyable, than those Hostess Cakes ads. At least those writers understood their limitations and weren't trying to be taken seriously.

  13. #43
    Run Runner shaxper's Avatar
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    Batman 348

    "Shadow Play"
    writer: Gerry Conway
    art: Gene Colan and Klaus Janson

    grade: B+

    I honestly can't decide if Conway puts more effort into his stories when Colan's around or if Colan's art just makes bad stories that much more enjoyable because, once again, I had fun with this one.

    The issue begins with Bruce and Dick permanently returning to Wayne Manor. It had been flirted with a number of times over the past few years, but Conway and Giordano have finally ended a major chapter of Batman history, beginning in #217 with Robin leaving, Bruce moving to the Wayne Foundation, and the stories getting gritter and down to street level. Robin is back in college and by Batman's side again, the corny super villains are back, and now so is Wayne Manor. Honestly though, I'm not complaining. 11 years was ample time to explore that new direction for Batman. A return to the familiar, aided with a new sense of continuity and (hopefully) adequate bronze age writing should provide some enjoyable adventures.

    So the issue begins with the move back into the old cave, provides a welcome, heartfelt laugh between Bruce and Dick (who had been at odds for so long) as the giant Lincoln Penny gets away from their grasp and rolls through the cave, and does an excellent job of reintroducing the Man Bat conflict (which has been on the back burner for many months now) as Langstrom's wife comes charging through the front door with her adorable daughter in her arms. It's amazing how much action and emotion Colan lends to these little moments.

    Ultimately, Batman feels guilty for having neglected his search for Man Bat and resumes it, this time with Kirk's daughter by his side so that Man Bat can see she is alive and well (he's mad and convinced that Batman allowed her to die). This aspect of the plot is ridiculous for a number of reasons, including:

    1. Bruce spent months searching the caves near Wayne Manor for Man Bat and came up with nothing. Why would he expect to find him now?

    2. Really? Bringing his little daughter (probably about 3 or 4 years old) into this combat?? Kirk is clearly not well and, even if he was, a child seeing her father as a mutated bat is going to make for years of therapy.

    Surely, in his delusion, Man Bat kidnaps the girl, leaving Bruce to wonder what he was thinking when he brought her along. Still, it all works out in the end.



    "The Man, The Bullet, The Cat" Part 1
    writer: Bruce Jones
    art: Trevor Von Eeden and Pablo Marcos

    Grade: B


    Surprisingly, this Catwoman back up story proves to be a lot stronger than the last two severe disappointments. Random circumstance leads Selina to become acquainted with Daniel Brown, presidential candidate for a labor union. He's received death threats and asks Selina to protect him. Rather than blindly agreeing to do so (as she did in the last story), Daniel works hard to persuade her and succeeds. Unfortunately, right before the big speech (when an assassination attempt is expected) Selina ends up witnessing a bully terrorizing employees at the local Hamburger Heaven and is unable to stop herself from intervening. She gets to the speech too late; just in time, in fact, to hear a gun shot and news that Brown has been shot.

    All in all, the plot is only adequate, but Jones lends some very likable characterization to Brown and Selina, making this story feel more real and enjoyable as it unfolds. I really liked this one and hope part two lives up to it.
    Last edited by shaxper; 09-19-2010 at 07:39 PM.

  14. #44
    Gotham Guardian Captain Jim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shaxper View Post
    The story ends as a to be continued...in Detective Comics. What started as a nice attempt to unify the continuity of the Bat titles has now evolved into a cheap ploy to make you buy two issues a month. Considering how much I'm not enjoying Conway's writing, I feel no desire to check out part 2. I just need to get through these issues of Batman until Doug Moench comes on.
    That seems like an odd decision. Why would you only want to read half of a story, especially if you have the other issue available to you?

    Besides, my recollection is that Conway has some really good stories coming up shortly down the pike, toward the end of his run.
    Jim Zimmerman
    Co-moderator, CBR Batman Forum

  15. #45
    Elder Member zryson's Avatar
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    thanks shaxper; it was a cool run. i bought 300-400 off ebay for around $90 i think. most in very fine condition from memory. i love reading older batmans prior to the 2000's but the 70s and 80s run was very cool

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