Posts tagged ‘Black Mask’

Detective 864 – Batman returns, and the Question and the Huntress face Vandal Savage

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Bruce Wayne is back, and Batman returns as the lead feature in Detective Comics 864 (June 2010), in a story by David Hine, Jeremy Haun and John Lucas.

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Jeremiah Arkham is now a resident in his own asylum, after being exposed as the new Black Mask.  Much of his story over the last few years has been very unusual, but also spread around over a number of books and one-shots.  This 2-parter ties up a lot of loose ends.

Although the inmates expect to be able to torment Arkham now, he still knows all there is to know about them, and their families, and now has Black Mask’s ruthlessness.  No one messes with him.

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When a man shows up a a police station, with a bomb strapped to him by Black Mask, Batman heads to the asylum to question Jeremiah.  He reveals his three secret cases, seen in an Arkham Asylum special a year or so earlier – No-Face, Mirror Man and Hamburger Mary.  The first two share names with old Batman villains, but are completely different characters.

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Jeremiah brings Batman to show the three to him, but the entire story suddenly goes completely haywire and surreal.  What is going on with Arkham?  The only hints given are his time spent with Hugo Strange, and the unusual jester wand.

The story concludes next issue.

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Rucka and Hamner begin this installment of the Question by recapping the Biblical origin of Vandal Savage, who has now been identified with Cain.

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He has no problem holding off Huntress and the Question.  And if you can handle having a burning mark on your face, is a crossbow in the eye really likely to slow you down?

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In the end, he forces the women to make a choice.  One of them must accept his burning mark as their own, or he will kill them both.

The story concludes next issue.

Detective Annual 11 – Azrael causes problems, the Riddler goes for an old standard, and Oracle teams with Looker

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There are three stories in Detective Annual 11 (2009), the first, which is also the longest, being a continuation of a story from this year’s Batman Annual.

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The story, by Fabian Nicieza and Tom Mandrake, deals with another secret society, this one out to raise a demonic spirit through the seven deadly sins, and the sacrifice of children descended from earlier cult members.

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Batman and the Question work on it together from their side.  Azrael has his own agenda, and Robin has gone in disguise as one of the children, and already been kidnapped.  Renee does not take long to realize that it is Nightwing now wearing the Batman costume.

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Azrael learns that the sacrifice depends on the children being of the blood of the earlier ones, which of course means that, should Robin get sacrificed, the spell will not work.

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Damian does break free, and his identity as Robin is exposed.  The evil cultists try to lure him back.  I’m not sure that sending an aggressively naked older woman is the best way to lure a 10 year old boy, even if it’s Damian.

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But it’s Azrael to the rescue anyway, and he joins with Robin as they take down the cultists, in a manner as overtly violent as only Damian and an Azrael can be.

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Batman and the Question are rushing to the scene.  The cultists are in a penthouse, and the story gets a moment of levity as Batman sends Renee up to the roof quickly.

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Frankly, this story failed to grab me, even with Mandrake’s art.   I do like Harvey Bullock’s crude way of explaining how he knew Renee was the Question, and there are some other good moments.

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The story ends with both the villains and the heroes angry with Azrael.  I have never liked any version of that character, which probably explains why I don’t care for a long story featuring him.

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There is a very cute 2-page “L’il Gotham” story, by Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen.  Not much in the way of plot, the Riddler does a variant of the St. Ives riddle song, though calling it Poison Ives.  A staggering amount of cameos in this, for only being two pages.  Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Commissioner Gordon, Batman, Batwoman, Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, as well as the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, Clayface, Mad Hatter, Joker, Scarecrow, Black Mask, Croc, Hush, Ra’s Al Ghul, and even the original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker, with Scarface.

Of the three stories in this issue, it’s sad that I enjoyed this 2 page piece more than the others.

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The final story in the issue, by Amanda McMurray and Kelly Jones, features a team-up between Oracle and Looker.

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There is a bad guy who thinks he is a vampire, but isn’t, and who is obsessed with Barbara Gordon, though we never find out why.  Looker is unaware that Barbara is Oracle, and is kept in the dark. Looker has become a vampire herself during her time with the Outsiders, so she is the perfect one to take down a faker.

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The ending of the story leaves more questions than answers, and was clearly intended to be followed up.  As far as I know, it never was.

 

 

Detective 810 – Why the Joker is pissed, and Croc ends

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War Crimes, by Gabrych, Woods, and Bergantino, continues in Detective 810 (Late Oct. 05).

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Batman finally figures out that Aaron Black is Arthur Brown.  Now, to be fair, the Cluemaster had supposedly died in the debut issue of the Suicide Squad revival a year or so earlier.  So Batman didn’t know he was alive.  But really, Aaron Black?  And so concerned about Spoiler?

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Black Mask has been impersonating Batman, framing him for a series of murders, and he attacks Stephanie’s mother on live tv.

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Batman shows up in time to save the woman, but after the feed is cut, so people will not know he was not the attacker.

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Black Mask gets away, simply by putting others in danger.  But he runs afoul of the Joker.  As far as the Joker is concerned, killing Robins is his shtick, and Black Mask had no right to hone in.

The story concludes in the next issue of Batman.

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Croc’s story comes to a bitter ending, by Gabrych, Castillo and Rick Purcell.

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The doctor tries a number of potential cures on Croc, and one even changes him back to a form he was comfortable in, but the Hush virus is too strong and mutates him again.

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Regretfully, but hungrily, he eats the doctor.  His more bestial state appears permanent.

Detective 809 – War Crimes begins, and Croc needs help

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Andersen Gabrych and Pete Woods return, with Javier Bergantino on inks, for War Crimes, a four part sequel to War Games, beginning in Detective 809 (Early Oct. 05), and continuing though the following issue, and the two issues of Batman the same month.

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The question of blame for the events in War Games is central to this storyline.  Batman takes down the head of the Vosovs, but even she blames Batman for the revived warring.

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Bruce Wayne is sent the tape of a tv show, in which a heavily scarred survivor, Aaron Black, is interviewed, and talks about the torture and death of Stephanie Brown at the hands of Black Mask.  He reveals her identity as Spoiler, and as Robin as well.

Batman goes to see Leslie Thompkins, only  to find that she has left Gotham completely.  And Stephanie’s medical records have been stolen as well.

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Batman runs into Aaron Black, and has the guts to stand up to him and defend his position, but gets a bit more scared when the Joker shows up.

The story continues in the next issue of Batman.

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Gabrych also scripts the Croc story, with Castillo and Ramos on the art.

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As dangerous and threatening as he is, Croc still maintains enough sanity to not eat the doctor, who he is relying on to cure him from the virus Hush injected him with.

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The last page of the story makes one wonder about the doctor’s motives, but that’s just for the cliff-hanger.  She stays true to her oath.

The story concludes in the next issue.

 

Detective 800 – fallout from War Games, and a teaser for City of Crime

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Andersen Gabrych, Pete Woods and Cam Smith end their run on this book with an epilogue to War Games, in Detective 800 (Jan.05).

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Batman finds himself on the wrong side of the law once again.  Akins is still out to get him, and the police blame him for the deaths of many of the comrades during War Games.

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With her Clock Tower base destroyed, Barbara decides to leave Gotham, and set up as Oracle somewhere else – corresponding to events in Birds of Prey.  And with Barbara gone, Jim Gordon also feels it is time to move on.

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Orpheus turns out to be a more successful martyr than hero, and Onyx leads his old followers, and new devotees.

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There is a kidnapping in this story, and some action.  Batman tracks down the kidnapper, the Mad Hatter, who is using a mind-controlled Croc as his muscle.

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But the real goal is not the kidnapping, but luring Batman, so that Black Mask can gloat, and show off the degree of control he now has, thanks to Batman.

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About his only friend left is Catwoman, who learned his identity during Hush, and can still can break through his dispassionate shell.

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The second story in the issue is a teaser, or a prologue, for City of Crime, which will run in this book over the next year.

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David Lapham is the writer and artist.  The story, if there is one, is not very clear, but certainly sets an evocatively threatening mood.

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The art is great, but the lack of focus or direction left me concerned.

 

Detective 799 – Batman’s plans go very wrong, and Poison Ivy’s plans work out

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Gabrych, Woods and Smith open the third act of War Games in Detective 799 (Dec. 04).

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Batman now has a desperate Commissioner Akins on his side. All the gangs have gathered in the big arena, with Tarantula looking after the kids in the crowd.  Batgirl, Robin and Nightwing are all stationed outside, with the police armed only with rubber bullets, at Batman’s insistence.

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Orpheus takes the stage, and is meant to give a speech that will unite the gangs under him, and thus, under Batman.  But that does not happen.  Because it’s not Orpheus under the helmet, it’s Black Mask (though Batman does not learn that in this issue).

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Onyx does find the corpse of the real Orpheus, but too late to warn anyone.

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Batman swings down into the arena, attempting to take control of the situation.  But even that goes very wrong.  Firefly hits him with a jet of flame on his way down, and a burning Batman in the midst of dozens of criminals does not inspire terror.

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Aside from Firefly, The Electrocutioner, Scarecrow and Tweedledum and Tweedledee appear in this issue.  Some of the gang members come pouring out the arena, and get into a shooting match with the police.  But they have real bullets and the police do not.

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By the end of the issue, it is total chaos.  Commissioner Akins has had enough, and issues a shoot to kill order on Batman and his entire crew.

The story continues in Legends of the Dark Knight.

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The Riddler’s story also comes to a close this issue, by McCarthy, Castillo and Ramos.

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Ivy quickly catches up with the Riddler.  Not much use trying to hide from her in her own jungle.  Although the Riddler is waiting for Ivy to kill him, her intent is more subtle, and she continues to degrade and humiliate him.

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In the end, she simply turns her back and contemptuously walks away.  Her goal was to destroy the Riddler, not kill Edward Nigma.  And she has succeeded.

Detective 732 – Batgirl vs Black Mask

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The mysterious new Batgirl is at the centre of this 2-part story, which concludes in Detective 732 (May 1999), by Greg Rucka and Frank Teran.  It’s part of No Man’s Land, running through the Bat-books this year.

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The art is particularly well suited to the tale, making it all look like a horror film.  Batgirl has less trouble taking on Black Mask and his gang than might be expected, but that’s fine, as there are other things equally important going on.

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After Batgirl turns Black Mask over to Batman, she tags along to find out what he does with his prisoners.

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We find a jail, now under the command of Lock-Up, with the KGBeast as his assistant.  They have less trouble keeping people in, than keeping people out, who are starving and want some security.

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Barbara Gordon observed the battle between Black Mask and Batgirl.  She has figured out who it is, and confronts Batman, furious that he turned over her secret identity to someone else.

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Jim Gordon and Sarah Essen are having a fight of their own, both frustrated with the situation in No Man’s Land, and their inability to effectively change things, venting on each other.

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Although, as Montoya awkwardly discovers, the fight between the Gordons has a happy ending.

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The story closes on an unusual trial, with an unseen judge, and the Tally Man serving as executioner.  A tease for an upcoming storyline.

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