Showcase #96 (1978)

Showcase #96 (December-January, 1977/1978)
Writer – Paul Kupperberg
Penciller – Joe Staton
Inker – Bruce Patterson
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Liz Berube
Editor – Paul Levitz
Cover Price: $0.35

Like I said yesterday, on this week’s Cosmic Treadmill on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast (Episode 90 for time-travelers), Reggie and I will be discussing Doom Patrol #121… which features the End of the Doom Patrol… just like the book we’ll be talking about here today (if the cover blurb is to be believed)!  This is part of the Paul Kupperberg “pitch” for the Doomies that wouldn’t bear fruit for almost an entire decade!  This was a three-issue arc, which I’d planned on covering in its entirety… however, my comics library is kind of a disaster area at the moment.  So, let’s look at the final part of the “new” Doom Patrol saga, and see what “The End” truly means…

We open with the new Doom Patrol being held at gunpoint by Central Intelligence dweeb Matt Cable… who I more associate with Swamp Thing than Doom Patrol, never realized that he loomed large throughout DC.  Anyhoo, he’s there to arrest the Doomies, in particular Negative Woman, Valentina Vostok.  He claims that she is a Soviet defector… a cosmonaut who one would assume would be very valuable to the Soviet government.

Well Robotman’s heard about enough, and he gets into Cable’s face.  Matt insists Cliff “climb out of that tin suit”… then proceeds to fire a bullet into his chest.  Not cool, Cable.  He’s shocked to find out that Cliff’s not a flesh and blood human in a suit… though, if he looked at the way his pelvis and legs looked, he’d have to realize something isn’t quite right.  Cliff nyoinks Cable’s gun, reshapes it into some makeshift handcuffs.  He cuffs Cable, and… get this, stuffs him into a locker.  How great is that?

Given this moment of peace, the Doom Patrol kind of takes inventory of the situation.  Cliff’s not too sure about Val, however teammate Tempest appears to be quite smitten with her.  Negative Woman, annoyed by the entire proceeding, decides to split for a bit.  Unfortunately for her… we got some “Comrades” watching from outside… a monocled Colonel and the bearded (the) Cossack.

We rejoin the team as Valentina storms out.  Arani Caulder (wife of the fallen Chief Niles Caulder) finally pipes up.  Thus far, she’s just stood around gawking.  She gets in Cliff’s face to read him the riot act about how he talked to Vostok.  Downstairs, Val runs afoul of… a horse-mounted (the) Cossack. 

The two engage in battle that sees Val change into her Negative Woman form and the Cossack wielding his electron sword.  After a bit of a back and forth, the Cossack runs poor Val through.

Upstairs, the remaining Patrol-mates hear such a clatter… and decide to go downstairs to see what’s the matter.  The find, duh… the Cossack who’s draped their teammate over the back of his horse.  We get a bit of a skirmish, mostly fueled by Tempest’s lustful feelings toward Val… which ends with the Cossack making a spectacular exit… kind of a reverse-Kool Aid Man.

Cliff gives chase, until the Cossack’s mount sprouts wings and takes to the sky.  Robotman returns to his teammates so they may ready their helicopter to give proper chase.  We get a bit of a one-on-one with Arani and Josh, where we learn a bit more about Josh’s feelings for Val… which, if I’m being honest… seems like the dude’s a bit confused.

Back in the locker, we rejoin Matt Cable.  Wouldn’tchaknowit… he’s got a lock-pick.  He finagles his way out of his bindings and escapes the building… running right into our main monocled man, Colonel Brunovich.  It must’ve been in Cable’s contract that he had to look good on one page… because he knocks the baddie out.

In the sky, the Doom-copter narrows in on it’s aerial-equestrian target.  When close enough, Cliff swan dives onto the Cossack’s ride.  He’s shaken off, and begins plummeting to the ground… head-first.  If you know anything about Robotman, you know that’s a bad thing.  Luckily, Celcius (Arani) makes a Bobby Drake-level ice slide to ease Cliff’s descent.

The ice slide ends on an upswing, sending Cliff right back up into the thick of it.  Negative Woman finally wakes up, and helps Robotman to knock the Cossack to the ground.  Once there, we begin the big battle.  Cliff suffers a few gashes from the electron sword… but then, Josh and Arani step in… and go all “full blast” on the Cossack.

Aw man, the Cossack was a robot all along?  Lame.  Anyhoo… the Doom Patrol win the day, Josh Clay gets kind of grabby with Val… something she seems oblivious to… and the foursome decide to officially become a team.  The End…

Not bad… not bad at all.  Not to say it’s great… because it’s not… but, I still had a good time reading it… and really, that’s all that matters.

I enjoy how Robotman is always part of the Doom Patrol regardless of the incarnation.  Seeing him here delivers a completely different dynamic than when he was with Rita, Larry and the Chief… but it’s still the Doom Patrol.  I always look at Cliff as the guy who thinks he’s “getting too old for this crap”, yet still finds himself pulled back in time and again.

Even here, he refers to his new teammates (including the alleged wife of his old boss) as “kids”.  I love that about Cliff.  He’s tired and curmudgeonly… but, he knows there’s a job to do.

Onto the “kids”.  Joshua Clay, Tempest.  I really only know him from the Morrison run, and I thought he was a great “utility” character there.  Seeing him actually in action here was pretty neat.  I do think he fell for Valentina a bit quick, but who am I to doubt true love?  I appreciate he and Robotman butting heads from time to time… it’s pretty much what you would expect to happen.

Arani Caulder, Celcius… doesn’t really get a whole lotta time to shine here.  She’s another character I only know from another era… this would be Paul Kupperberg’s run that started the second volume of ongoing Doom Patrol.  There she was convinced that Niles Caulder was somehow alive, and recruited yet another team of Doomies to seek him out.  If I’m not mistaken, she is among the casualties of Invasion!.

Valentina Vostok, Negative Woman.  Here we learn that she’s a Soviet defector.  I suppose it gets the story from point A to B.  It also introduces some distrust among the Doomies… though, I get the feeling there isn’t a whole lotta trust here to begin with.

Really not a whole lot to say in regard to the meat-n-potatoes of the story.  It’s a rescue story, with an optimistic ending… that unfortunately hit at a time when DC would be getting ready to implode.  Not sure if this is collected anywhere, but still think this is something fans and followers of the Doom Patrol ought to give a look to.  It’s that weird bronze bridge between the Silver Age and post-Crisis Doom Patrol.

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3 thoughts on “Showcase #96 (1978)

  • SonOfCthulhu

    Great review. I picked up the issue before this one hoping it was part of the Drake run and was disheartened to see it was Kupperberg. I mean his run in the late 80's was fine, I was just hoping for Drake. Good to know I still might dig it.

    • Chris

      Same thing happened to me! This was just in a back-issue bin with the other Doom Patrol books… didn't even realize the "Showcase Presents" banner along the top. Thought I was getting some real-deal Doom Patrol. Which, I guess I still did. Not Drake certainly, but not bad either.


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