Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Batman and Blackhawk

Cover art by Jim Aparo

I have the impression that The Brave and the Bold #167 (October 1980) was a fill-in issue. The art was done by Dave Cockrum rather than B&B's regular artist Jim Aparo and it was a "special story of the Golden Age Batman."  I think editor Paul Levitz saw he was going to be short a story one month, so recruited Cockrum and writer Marv Wolfman to come up with something.

What they came up with is pretty nifty. Set during World War II, it has Batman and the Blackhawks investigating what turns out to be the same case. In Gotham City, the Dark Knight is looking into the theft of scientific equipment by Nazi spies. In Europe, the Blackhawks are trying to find a missing Allied agent. The agent eventually turns up, frozen to death in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

The presumption is that the Nazis have built a freeze ray. But when the various heroes both track down a hidden Nazi base in the Arctic, they discover its a bit more convoluted than that.

Follow along closely. The ray gun in the secret base melts a part of the ice cap into vapor, then transports the vapor to a big submersible hovercraft hidden in Gotham Harbor. Here the vapor is converted back into water, which then smashes into Gotham City as a tidal wave. The
Nazis plan on repeating this on a much larger scale, flooding the East Coast.

Visually, it's a great story. Cockrum's art is excellent and the image of the Bat-plane joining the Blackhawks' Grumman XF5F Skyrockets in a fight against a Nazi super-weapon is alone worth the price of the book.

There are, though, several elements to the story that make me think its a rush job. The scenes in which both Batman and the Blackhawks are following their own lines of investigation are rushed and not really explained well enough to form a strong story. This element of the tale was practically screaming aloud "I need to be a two-parter!"

Also, the final action scene doesn't quite make sense even in a comic book universe. Follow along again: the good guys are bombing the Nazi base, but not doing enough damage. They realize they've got to get inside and simply beat the snot out of every German inside. Okay, in a comic book universe, that's acceptable.

So we see the Blackhawks landing atop the base via parachute. Batman joins in the fight, having presumably also parachuted down. That means they've abandoned their planes.

But when they learn the base is going to self-destruct, they are suddenly back in their planes flying away to safety in the nick of time. No matter how convoluted the comic book logic I employ to explain that away, I just can't get Batman and his allies back in their planes. How the heck did they DO that?

So the story is in many ways a missed opportunity. Had it been made a two-parter, a writer of Wolfman's skill and experience could have done wonderful things. Instead, the story is almost but not quite what it should be.

Even so, there are a few nice Easter eggs hidden in the issue. When the Gotham docks are flooded, take
note of the Hildago Trading Company--a shout-out to Doc Savage. There's also a line of dialogue referencing the Shadow.

We also see a panel in which Bruce Wayne is out with Linda Page, a Golden Age socialite character who appeared in a dozen or so issues during the 1940s. She was also used as a character in the 1943 Batman movie serial. Linda's appearance here is another nice shout-out to the Golden Age.

Besides, for all the faults this story has, it really is pretty sweet to see the Bat-Plane sharing the clouds with those Grumman Skyrockets.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...