Batman and the Outsiders #8 (March, 1984)
“The Hand that Rocks the Cradle…”
Writer – Mike W. Barr
Artist – Jim Aparo
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Editor – Len Wein
Cover Price: $0.75
Welcome to the first day of Christmas on Infinite Earths… in July!
Figured this would be a fun little diversion… from this diversion I call blogging. I’ve always enjoyed Christmas stories in comics. They always take me back to my childhood… back when we would only be able to see Holiday programming around the holidays. No on-demand or streaming video back then. We’d actually plan a night around watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The comics would either take the month off from crime-fighting to hit us with a character piece or morality play… or would just add a few snow banks to the backdrop as the heroes went about their usual business. I appreciated it either way, as it gave me something where I could “place” the book in time. Not always the best stories… usually, quite the contrary… but I enjoy many of them anyway…
Also, let’s face it… what better to do on horrendous triple-digit Phoenix summer days than talk about snow-filled Christmas comics, right?
|This is only the start… next month I’ll be dreaming of these “mild” temperatures!
I’ve been looking forward to this theme-week for a little while now, and I’m excited to beat the heat and share some Holiday tales. Hope you enjoy!
We open with a monologue from the Phantom Stranger. In the foreground, we see the Outsiders team (Batman included) being mobbed by what appear to be feral toddlers. As we enter the story proper, we join a pair of expectant parents (Ted and Carol) as they finish up their Christmas shopping. When they arrive home, they are surprised to see the police at their next door neighbor’s house… and so, they pop in.
Inside, they meet Gotham Lt. Freeman, and Batman. As it turns out, their neighbor’s infant child has been kidnapped! The widowed neighbor, Mrs. Deb Whitfield, explains that when she was checking in on her child she was kayoed by an unseen intruder. When she came to, the nursery was a wreck and her child was nowhere to be seen. Ted and Carol take Deb home with them while the police (and Batman) conduct their investigation(s).
We shift scenes to Outsiders Katana and Halo in their civilian garb as they do some Christmas shopping of their own. It’s a fairly depressing scene, as both lament the fact that they do not have any family to celebrate with. This time of year is especially difficult for them both… and so, they return to Outsiders HQ and go about their “Danger Room” exercises with the rest of their team… minus Black Lightning…
Who is visiting the grave of Trina Shelton, a former student of his who was killed by a stray bullet. In the distance, we see Trina’s parents. They appear to hold Pierce responsible for the death of their daughter, and as such have paid a very 1980’s looking woman called New-Wave to have her Masters of Disaster “disappear” Pierce.
Batman follows up on a tip in regard to the missing Whitfield child. His lead brings him to the Gotham City Police Department where he is shown an elderly fellow who cannot speak or walk… but whose prints were found at the scene of the crime. As it turns out, this old fella isn’t a kidnapper… he’s actually the child who was believed to be kidnapped! This is revealed when Batman, on a hint from the Phantom Stranger, cross-references some fingerprints.
We get a brief vignette showing both Metamorpho and Geo-Force unsuccessfully attempt to connect to their loved ones. Rex is call-blocked from talking his lady love, and Brion is unable to get in touch with his brother.
Back to Batman, he visits the Happy Time Nursery School, and finds out that all of the children who were checked in that morning are now inhabiting the bodies of the extremely aged. As Batman pauses to process the information, the Phantom Stranger appears to him once again. They conclude that the next site of these strange aging occurrences will be the Gotham Children’s Hospital.
We rejoin Geo-Force, who comes across the expectant couple from the beginning. Their car is stuck in the snow, and Carol’s about ready to pop! Brion lifts their car and flies them to the hospital. Once there, Carol gives birth to a bouncing… grown-up?
The child is delivered… and is instantly transformed into the villainous Tannarak! The Phantom Stranger is Johnny on the spot, and the two enter into a mystical battle. Luckily, as this is all going down, the Outsiders are delivering gifts to the hospital on behalf of the Wayne Foundation… and Batman is there following up on his hunch.
We get a brief recounting of recent events in Tannarak’s life. He was de-aged to the point where he no longer inhabited a body… he was nothing more than a mass of life-essence… who preyed upon the essences of infant children to get back to the point when he could make a return to a flesh form.
The Outsiders get in on the action, and are soon swarmed by that group of feral children from our opening page. The team carefully neutralizes the threat.
The Stranger and Tannarak continue their fight, and ol’ Judas decides he’s just had enough of Tannarak’s crap. He kills the villain… and in so doing, returns all of the sapped life essence he’d stolen back to their proper owners.
Moments later, Carol begins delivering another baby! The doctors are shocked, as she was surely only carrying one baby this whole time. The Stranger is not surprised, and offers that perhaps a “higher good” intervened to “balance the scales” on this day.
We wrap up with the Outsiders looking through the hospital nursery’s window. Moments such as this make them put their own problems into perspective. They decide that this may just be the most perfect Christmas present of all!
Now, I love Christmas stories and really dig The Outsiders… but, yeah… this was a bit of a dud. I felt like I was missing something the whole time I was reading this… like, why did the babies attack… because they were shot with a ray? What did the Phantom Stranger do to kill Tannarak? Did he really just decide not to screw around anymore… and just off him? I dunno, maybe I’m just dense!
The character bits strewn throughout this issue is where it truly shined. Katana and Halo playing their game of “can you top this” in regard to their lack of families was nice to see, as it came across as quite human. We all know that person who we can’t ever seem to complain around… because, regardless of how bad your day was, you can bet your bottom dollar that their’s was worse! It makes you feel silly and even a bit angry… like sometimes, you just need to vent… and want somebody to listen. Maybe Halo and Katana just aren’t “there” yet…
Rex and Brion’s problems getting in touch with their loved ones was interesting to see as well. We really get the feeling that they are hurting… The holiday season can be especially brutal when you’re away from your family. We come to understand that all of these characters are not Outsiders “in name only”… and it really endears them to this reader.
Jim Aparo’s art is, ya know… really really good. Not a whole lot more to say about that… it’s just a really pretty book to look at! From facials to action… incredible!
Overall, I enjoyed this for what it was… but, like I said above… it is kind of a dud. I felt no connection to Tannarak… or the Phantom Stranger. Throughout the action scenes, the Outsiders could have been interchanged with any superhero team without losing much. Though, the character pieces and art are wonderful.
|I gotta see one’a these…
|LIFESIZED photos of King Kong???