Barr, Novick and Calnan continue the saga of the half-Superman in Action 538 (Dec.82).
With Superman too afraid to face him, and the police helpless against his armor, Jackhammer makes the most of being the most dangerous man in Metropolis.
When Superman does finally confront him again, he is once again overpowered by Jackhammer. But the crowd is none too pleased, and they step in, hurling anything they can find at the villain. When he turns to attack the crowd, Superman takes his opening, and knocks out Jackhammer. Still, this should have been a nothing fight for the hero.
Rozakis, Saviuk and Colletta clarify things in this chapter of the Aquaman story. The woman has a lot of trouble getting control of her hard water powers, but Aquaman still believes this is really Mera.
And though it does turn out that he is correct, it’s not such a good thing. It’s Mera’s body all right, but she is under the control of someone else. Some who Aquaman has just instructed in how to use Mera’s powers.
The story continues in the next issue.
Mike W. Barr, Irv Novick and John Calnan are the creative team on Action 537 (Nov. 82), as a new villain takes advantage of the weakened Superman.
Superman attempts to travel into the past, and rejoin with his other half, still trapped in the middle ages. But Lord Satanis stops this journey, even though the other Superman is in the hands of his enemy Syrene.
Of all the various stories that see Superman turn into two people, I think this one spends the most time with only one version of the split character. We briefly see the captive other half, with Syrene. But the story really deals only with the one in the present.
Superman’s weakened condition has made the news, and a new villain, Jackhammer, is excited about that, and eager to face the hero.
And despite being a not very impressive villain, with armored extendy punches, he does beat Superman at the end of the story.
Rozakis, Saviuk and Giella continue Aquaman’s hunt for Mera, as he questions the woman who looks just like her. Though she claims to be human, Aquaman is so certain that this is his wife that he convinces her to go swimming with him.
She agrees, and to her surprise, discovers that she is able to breathe underwater, and even manifest the same hard water powers that Mera has, but still has no memory of being that person.
Mike W Barr’s run on Detective comes to an end with issue 581 (Dec. 87), the concluding half of the two Two-Faces story, with art by Jim Baikie and Pablo Marcos.
This part of the story makes reference to the new origin of Jason Todd, recently detailed in the pages of Batman, in which Two-Face was responsible for the death of Jason Todd’s parents. But it feels almost tacked on, as if the story was written before that element was added. It’s not the basis or core of the story, as one might have expected.
Paul Sloane’s wife is brought in to restore his sanity, much the way Gilda Dent was used in the 40s. Paul joins Batman and Robin for the final fight against Two-Face, for little reason other than to allows the cover image to take place.
Although Harvey attempts to pretend to be Sloane at the end, Batman uses their varying handedness to expose Harvey.
Not a bad story, but all in all Mike W Barr’s run seemed to be more suited to pre-Crisis, with the appearance of the Mad Hatter, and the use of Paul Sloane.
Jim Baikie joins Mike W Barr for this two-part Two-Face story, which begins in Detective 580 (Nov. 87).
The story appears to open with Two-Face waking up and discovering his facial deformity. One might almost think that this is re-telling his first appearance or something. An alert reader will notice that at no point does the narration call this man Harvey Dent, and remember the unspecified medical procedure performed by the Crime Doctor at the request of Two-Face in the previous issue.
Two Face begins a series of robberies that do not follow his usual pattern, until Batman realizes he is going after people who create doubles of other people. Noticing that Two-Face is using his “wrong” hand, Batman deduces that this is really the actor, Paul Sloane, not seen int he comics for over thirty years. He was the actor playing Two-Face who got scarred the same way, and went on a crime spree. His face was operated on at the end of that story, but Harvey had the Crime Doctor undo the surgery.
Figuring all this out doesn’t do a lot of good for Batman, as he, Robin and Paul Sloane all wind up in Two-Face’s death trap at the end of the issue.
Mike W Barr brings back the Crime Doctor in Detective 579 (Oct. 87), but the more significant thing about this issue is that it marks the first with Norm Breyfogle as the artist.
The last time the Crime Doctor had appeared his mind had been fried by Sterling Silversmith. He appears completely healed from that, but no longer seems to be aware that Batman is Bruce Wayne. Crisis on Infinite Earths provides an easy explanation for all that. Two-Face appears briefly, using Dr. Matthew Thorne’s services for reasons not clear until the following issue.
The Crime Doctor is given an entertaining sidekick, the aggressive Nurse Rench, who serves as his muscle.
Right from his first story, Norm Breyfogle shows his ability to blend real and surreal together in the same panel. His two-dimensional Batman seems far more threatening than a fully rendered image might.
Matthew Thorne has his hands crushed at the climax of this story, once again ending the career of the Crime Doctor.
Mike W Barr and Todd McFarlane bring Batman: Year Two to an end in Detective 578 (Sept. 87).
Things have been going very well between Bruce and Rachel. So well that he proposes, and she accepts.
Things are not going so well between Bruce and Joe Chill. As Batman he rescues Chill after an explosion injures him. The panel in which he holds a gun to the sleeping man’s head is not given the prominence I would have expected, but the scene is still disturbing.
After Chill wakes up, Batman begins to argue with him, eventually unmasking and revealing that Chill killed his parents. It seems that Batman might actually kill Joe Chill, but the Reaper shows up and murders Chill instead.
This leads to the final battle between Batman and the Reaper, which ends with Judson Caspian unmasked, and falling to his death. Rachel, distraught over the revelation that her father was the murderous vigilante, calls off the engagement.
It’s certainly no Batman: Year One, but there are some good things in this storyline. Rachel and the Reaper would both return in a couple of years, in the Batman – Full Circle one-shot. The story was also the basis for the Batman – Mask of the Phantasm animated movie.
Barr, McFarlane and Alcala continue Batman: Year Two in Detective 577 (Aug. 87).
Todd McFarlane really loves drawing capes. And he’s really good at it. Good enough that Batman’s cape is worthy of the two page spread it gets in this issue.
Bruce is still oblivious to the Reaper’s identity, so his romance with Rachel continues, with the blessing of the equally oblivious Judson.
Bruce is far from oblivious about Joe Chill though, and has a hard time working alongside him, even though Chill helps him against the Reaper.
The story conlcludes next issue.
Todd McFarlane and Alfredo Alcala take over the art on Mike W Barr’s story as Batman: Year Two continues in Detective 576 (July 1987).
Bruce practices using a gun, but it’s not a weapon he feels comfortable with, and he doesn’t do very well with it.
This issue also gives the background to the Reaper. The story is consciously parallel to Batman’s origin, as Rachel and her father witnessed the senseless slaying of her mother. Judson was also wounded, although he recovered in time, and adopted the guise of the Reaper to avenge his wife’s death. The similar childhood trauma of Rachel and Bruce helps bring them together.
The Reaper appears for more threatening with McFarlane and Alcala rendering him. He also is proving quite effective against Gotham’s underworld. So much so that the gangs make common cause with Batman to take down the Reaper.
In a bitterly ironic twist, Joe Chill is assigned to be Batman’s gun man on behalf of the mob. Chill is completely unaware that he was the one who killed Batman’s parents.
Detective 575 (June 1987) begins the four part Batman: Year Two storyline. A sequel only in concept to Batman: Year One. Curiously, although Mike W Barr writes the entire storyline, Alan Davis and Paul Neary provide the art for only the first issue.
Through Leslie Thompkins, Bruce Wayne is introduced to Judson Caspian and his daughter Rachel, both recently returned to Gotham after many years abroad.
Bruce is quite smitten with Rachel, and only mildly deterred when she announces her intentions of becoming a nun.
But it’s Rachel’s father that Bruce should have been interested in. We discover that he is The Reaper, a murderous vigilante that had plagued Gotham in years past, but who has not been seen in a long time. About the same amount of time Judson Caspian was in Europe.
And Caspian resumes his alternate identity, using his deadly blades to eliminate the criminals he finds.
Batman encounters the Reaper, but finds himself outmatched, and has to flee.
The issue concludes as Batman decides he may need to arm himself with a gun in order to be able to match the Reaper.
Continuing the story from the previous issue, Detective 574 (May 1987) sees Robin being tended to as Batman flashes back to his origin, thanks to Mike W Barr, Alan Davis and Paul Neary.
The story really serves to re-introduce Leslie Thompkins. She appears a bit younger, and definitely more active, as she now runs a clinic, and is a practicing doctor. She operates on Robin and takes care of him, as she and Batman reminisce on their shared past. From this story on, Leslie has known of Bruce’s alter ego from the moment he adopted it.
This expands on the earlier stories, in which Leslie took care of Bruce immediately after his parents’ murders. Now, she and Alfred are shown as the guardians of young Bruce all the way until adulthood. Interestingly, the story passes on detailing the origin of Robin to any degree, likely because they were already planning to change it.