Brave and the Bold #150 (May, 1979)
“Today Gotham… Tomorrow, the World!”
Writer – Bob Haney
Art – Jim Aparo
Colors – Jerry Serpe
Edits – Paul Levitz
Cover Price: $0.40
Just a random one from the pile.
Hmm, maybe I ought to say: Just a ran-dumb one from the pile?
Let’s take a look!
We open with Batman watching a wedding procession… a happy bride and groom are rushing out of the church toward their waiting luxury car. Batman is there due to some terrorist threats having been made… and, whattayaknow, the baddies are actually the happy couple! They abduct a businessman named Edward T. Weeks, before riddling some passerbys with bullets and hopping into their ride and heading off on their “honeymoon”. Batman attempts to hop on the top of the car, however, the thing suddenly sprouts spikes! Welp, I’m not even sure what’s going on just yet… but, we’ll roll with it.
Later on at one of the passerby’s funeral, Batman meets up with the Commish… who, uh… is kind of acting snippy. I must concede, I don’t have a ton of experience with 70’s Batman, was Batman and Gordon’s relationship this combative (or catty) back then? Anyhoo, after “pleasantries” are exchanged, they spy a note on the coffin which states that Bruce Wayne will be the terrorists’ next target!
And whattayaknow, on the very next page… Bruce Wayne is taken hostage! Ya see, the baddies had wired the Stately Manor’s phone line with electricity. Good thing they didn’t get that good a look at the place, otherwise they might’ve found… well, ya know. Oh well, Bruce wakes up some time later inside an old silo, a fake-ass Cobra Commander stood before him. The geek snaps a pic of our man to prove to the public that he’s got ‘im.
Bruce is then introduced to the slab of beef who will be keeping a watch over him. It’s Moses Karns… or, “Keeper” Karns, if you prefer. Oh, and we also learn that the baddies have kidnapped Alfred, so if Bruce tries to escape, his faithful butler will be killed. Karns (awkwardly) backhands Bruce to let him know he means business.
Bruce… get this, strikes back! The two men exchange blows for a bit, with Karns getting the better of the situation. Well, Bruce makes it clear that he “let him win” in order to not raise any suspicion… which begs the question, why even bother throwing a punch in the first place?
Later, Bruce spies some loose boards in the roof of the silo. He takes apart his mattress, which just so happens to be held together by some of the thickest rope you could ever hope to tie a knot with… and manages to escape his circular prison. Before long, he’s back on the streets in the Bat-suit checking in with the Catty Commissioner.
I mean, there’s definitely something up Gordon’s ass here. I really don’t get why he’s being such a jerk. Anyhoo, after more “pleasantries” are exchanged… Batman learns that a “historical print” (a drawing of some old Gotham mining digs) was stolen from his father’s private art collection at the Gotham Museum. He then heads back to the silo before the baddies could be any the wiser. Unfortunately, Keeper Karns has noticed that his prisoner was missing… he nyoinks Wayne back into the silo, informing him that his neck is on the line here too.
Just then, Cobra Commander enters the silo… which seems to get larger dependent on how many people are inside it. Anyhoo, he has brought that Edward Weeks fella with him… because he wants Bruce Wayne to witness Weeks’ execution! And… well, that’s exactly what happens! Wayne is forced to sign a plea for the the Mayor and Commissioner… what this “plea” says, however, is anyone’s guess. This terrorist group wants power… it’s pretty boilerplate bad-guy stuff.
After the dust settles, and Bruce is left all to his lonesome… he devises a plan. He snaps off a chunk of his bedpost and calls for Keeper Karns to enter the silo. Get this, Karns appears to phase through the silo wall… when he, uh… “materializes” (I guess?) Bruce wacks him over the noggin with the bedpost. He rushes off to check in with the Commish at the morgue… only to learn that Edward Weeks is… alive?! No bullets in his bod… and all of his wounds “neatly sutured”. Batman insists that, for all intents and purposes, Weeks must “stay dead”… for now. Gordon doesn’t understand the plan… but goes along with it anyway.
Back by the Silo, Keeper Karns rushes the Caped Crusader… and, check this out, calls him “Wayne”! Oh man, the Keeper knows the secret?!
Batman is tossed back into Silo, where he changes (or is forcibly changed) back into his civilian attire. Cobra Commander arrives a little bit later to reveal the next step in his “plan”. Ya see, he’s hidden an atomic device somewhere in Gotham City… and, if his “demands” (whatever the hell they are?) aren’t met by Thursday, the entire City’s gonna go boom. Very “all or nothing” guy, this generic masked terrorist.
For good measure, however, he trots in Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth… and orders Bruce to kill him! At this point… Keeper Karns (?) starts to rumble with the bad guys! He, Bruce, and Alfred fight back the guards before beating a hasty retreat!
During the skirmish, it becomes clear to Bruce that his “Keeper” has been, in reality… Superman! We learn that he’s in Gotham because Jimmy Olsen was one of the people the bad guys abducted.
Oh, we also find out that the bad guys are part of an organization called the Battalion of Doom… ya kidding me? Oh well. The baddies called Olsen’s (and Kent’s) boss, Morgan Edge to tell them they had Jimmy and to coerce some cooperation out of the news media. Edge refuses, because he’s an a-hole. He even tells the terrorists to “go ahead and kill him!”… the “him”, of course, being Jimmy.
So… Superman threatened Edge, and went undercover as Keeper Karns (the real Karns… because, I guess there’s a real one… is locked away in a Mexican prison). He knew if the Battalion saw Superman in the skies of Gotham, they wouldn’t hesitate to “off” Olsen. He claims that he didn’t fill Bruce in on his true identity because he didn’t know if the Silo was bugged. Okay… about that… this is pre-Crisis Superman, right? The fella who could, if he wanted to, push entire planets out of orbit… could perform precision surgery… could basically do anything, is what I’m trying to say… and he couldn’t deduce whether or not a single Silo was wired?!
The World’s Finest then put their heads together trying to figure out where the Battalion of Doom might’ve locked up the rest of their hostages (including Jimmy Olsen). It’s Alfred who cracks the code by… looking at a newspaper. Ya see, Cobra Commander always carried around this particular copy of The Gotham Gazette (which wasn’t made apparent in the art). Anyhoo, there are certain letters circled on the rag… and, if you held it up to an equal-sized map of Gotham City (which the fellas conveniently have) we learn the eight locations where the hostages were being held. Batman calls Gordon to fill him in.
An hour later, eight simultaneous raids take place.
Now, all that’s left is finding the atomic device. Superman realizes he’s going to have to reveal himself… and, get this, “Jimmy will have to take his chances”. I suppose the lives of everyone in Gotham are worth more than Jimmy. Heck, I’d probably step on Jimmy before squashing an ant, personally.
Superman and Batman check all around Gotham for clues… until the latter finally comes across one! At the Gotham Museum, he spies a note crudely scrawled on some of the signage to “check office, old print”. He suddenly remembers how that one print of his father’s had been recently stolen.
If you recall, it was some old mining diagram. We learn that it was of an old lead mine… as luck would have it, it’s just adjacent to the Batcave! Man, if only this Battalion tried a little harder, they’d have had all the goods on Batman. They wired Wayne Manor… they’re messing about in mines next to the Batcave… so close, yet so far.
Superman… for whatever reason… changes his clothes into that of a sewer inspector (complete with phony mustache!) and heads into the lead mine. Wouldn’tcha know it… he finds the atomic device! He grabs the thing and chucks it into orbit before it blows… and the day is saved!
This was… hmm… what the word… uh… oh, yeah… pretty dumb!
Not outright bad or anything… but, ya know, kind of a chore to get through? Felt endless… and not in a good way. Ya know how some comics feel like they last forever, but you still come out of it wanting more? This was not one of those comics.
The entire premise here is very “threat of the week”… likely not anything that will ever need to come up again down the line. That’s all well and good, I guess… but, damned if I felt like the last several hours of my life I’ve devoted to this thing was time well spent.
Let’s look at Superman for a bit. I know he was powerful in the Silver and Bronze Ages… but, dude can phase through walls now? I don’t understand what was up with that scene… and, yeah, “it’s Haney”, so why bother even thinking about it… but, where did that even come from… and, what’s more… why? When I saw that, I figured “Okay, so the secret co-star is probably… Martian Manhunter, then?” But, no! It’s wall-phasing Superman! Did I miss something here? I do have a tendency to be dense every now and again… maybe this is one of those times!
Also, how could Superman not know where the rest of the hostages were? I get that the nukes were buried under lead… but, he should’ve been able to suss out the other abductees, right? So weird… and uneven. We’re playing the ball from like four or five different positions on the field here!
What was up Jim Gordon’s ass here? Were he and Batman on contentious terms in the late 70’s? That doesn’t feel right to me, though, again… 70’s Batman isn’t really my jam or wheelhouse, so I can’t speak to that with any authority. Just felt really forced here. Maybe a reader with more experience with this era can fill me in/set me straight?
The art was mostly great. There were a few very awkward panels… but, overall, up to the standard we’d expect from Jim Aparo.
Overall… well, personally, I’d say you could skip this one and not miss it… though, if you’re down with the “Zaney”, you may absolutely love this… and think that I’m a damned fool (which I very well may be!). This issue has been collected in trade a few times over and is available digitally.
(Not Quite the) Letters Page (click to enlarge):