A Tribute to the of
True confession. I am happily locked in a time warp with regard to the comics I enjoy reading and reviewing. Now that will come as no particular revelation to those of you who have been joining us here at the Silver Lantern and especially those of you who have been reading this feature. Furthermore, there are more than one of you who have taken the time to drop a line and express your appreciation and/or comments, which we're always glad to receive. Allow me to share a couple here. One person mentioned that they "Don't like much of what's available today..." Another, roughly paraphrased, described some of today's comics as "...little more than soft-core porn." I must admit that at first I found that latter comment to be a tad harsh. Then I got the package.
My dear friend the webmaster has gone out of his way to make certain I have plenty of inspiring material to continue my little column and he once again arranged shipment of a small treasure trove of future material. (I estimate that I've currently got enough comics waiting in the wings to keep this up for the next couple of years without going too deeply into the woodwork.) When I opened the box and began going through the issues I noticed a second package. At first I thought the shipper had screwed up. These weren't Silver Age reprints or even originals. In fact, it was kind of a strange hodge-podge of stuff including a temporary tattoo and a few trading cards. There was a sheet of paper in the package explaining that this was your "Bonus Fun Pack" as a token of appreciation for your order. Translation: This is the crap we couldn't unload. I went through it all out of curiosity and found only one thing of use. A Harvey Comics magazine that my 9-year old is enjoying. The rest was mostly indie comic tripe from a few years ago. At the risk of slandering here, I'll reveal that they were all from Image Comics and were delivered under the titles of "Motorhead," "Tribe" and "WildC.A.T.S," where the acronym apparently stands for "Covert Action Teams." The back of one of the comics announced the imminent arrival of a very important cross-over issue. The title? "Deathmate." Oh, goodie.
I didn't actually read any of these, because firstly I really wasn't interested and secondly, after flipping through a few pages in just one of them I was able to get a pretty good idea of the plot...if you can call it a plot. Imagine, if you will, several muscle-bound, sneering, costumed men with only carnage on their minds, accompanied by equally violent women, wearing very little in the way of costumes and extremely form-fitting ones at that. At various points you can see limbs being blown off, blood flying and the odd profanity. Not a smile to be seen. These are the good guys? God help us.
Okay, I guess I got a little carried away on that tangent. Rest assured, however, that they have been properly filed in my wastebasket and I did not walk but ran to my haven of DC Silver Age classics. Small wonder.
So, allow me to shake it off and get right into the good stuff. This time, for your approval, I will review another team-up of two tried-and-true heroes, together for the first time! Well, that's what they trumpet on the cover by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella. I assume they're ignoring Justice League adventures. It's Brave and the Bold #67 from August/September of 1966. Batman and the Flash team up to take on the Speed Boys. The rather melodramatic splash page has Batman holding a red clad body in his arms. "He's gone...The Flash has run his last race--because of me! But please--don't blame me...I couldn't help it!" The title of the story is, of course, "The Death of The Flash!". Art is supplied by Carmine Infantino and Charles Paris.
Now right up front I've got to tell you about the one major beef I have with this issue. It's the running commentary from the writer, Bob Haney. I don't know if he was going through his second childhood or trying to be hip or what, but the slang and flip phrasing begins to grate in a hurry. Here's a sampling from just the first three pages: "Gotham City--where dry, dusty people bid on dry, dusty goodies at a rare book auction..." "Quicker than a bat can wink an eye, the Batmobile grinds like the hot, hot mill it is, until..." "But as Batman floors the go-pedal on the car..." "Not long after, where a society benefit raises a huge amount of boodle via some polite gambling..." Sadly, some of the dialogue is the same. The first thing out of Batman's mouth is, "It's been a real quiet scene with Robin away on a Teen Titans mission! Uh-oh...a tidbit coming in on the police frequency now!" What is this? I'll tell you what it is. It's annoying and distracting. It's like listening to Howard Cosell do sports commentary. It only detracts from the experience. Editor George Kashdan should have smacked Haney around a little and made him come up with something a little more befitting the tale. Okay. Rant over. For now.
The story opens at the aforementioned rare book auction where a figure in a tux with high-top sneakers throws the auctioneer a single dollar and then runs away at super speed with his treasure. Responding to the police call, Batman spots the runner, stating "There's my rabbit...looks like a playboy with his own basketball court!" Aarrgghh! Too many hours of watching Adam West, buddy? So, anyway, Batman chases the guy down an alley which rapidly narrows and he crashes the Batmobile. Yeah. Can you believe it? The World's Greatest Detective crunches his car. I suppose he was forced to get the Bat-wrecker to retrieve it. A little later, another robbery by another well-dressed, sneaker-clad speed demon. Batman gives chase this time in the Whirly-Bat, a one-man helicopter, but is again outrun and again he crashes, this time against a building. He ends up draped over a flagpole while the remains of the Whirly-Bat come to rest on a gargoyle. The next day, it's more of the same with yet another sharp-dressed man making off with a solid gold key to the city. This time, Batman tries a jet pack to aid his pursuit. He loses his quarry in the subway due to a clever smoke screen. It seems the Batman is licked.
We then jump over to Central City, home turf of The Flash, where he's busily meting out some justice to thieves when he begins to experience some difficulties of his own. He feels dizziness, weakness and shortness of breath. He visits a physician who passes on the grim news that his body is being run to death from his super speed feats.
Part II opens with Flash in his civilian garb of Barry Allen receiving a communication from Batman requesting his help in Gotham City with the super speed crime wave. Barry struggles with the thought that each time he uses his talents he shortens his life, but determines that The Flash must answer the call. He does, however, opt to take a train to Gotham in order to conserve himself. He hasn't been in the city two minutes before a truck full of the sneaker thieves pull up and discharge the hoods who promptly begin rushing through the gridlocked traffic, lifting personal valuables. Flash takes off after one of them and soon discovers he's only a fraction faster in his current condition. He finally nabs his man, but the sneakers burn up while he is recovering before he can examine them. Batman shows up moments later and asks about it, but the proud Flash refuses to divulge his malady. Batman discovers that the hood is wearing asbestos socks to protect his feet and that the shoes had somehow been rigged to dissolve rather than be captured. The perp defiantly tells the Dark Knight that he will never beat The Speed Boys.
Our writer then takes us to an old brownstone where a clandestine meeting is taking place. The sign above the door reads "Accelerated Gentlemen's Club." Very subtle. Inside at a large table, we find several men in tuxes and sneakers, with large white handkerchiefs covering their entire heads, discussing matters of business. The sneakers, we learn, are able to give their wearers fantastic speed because of a radioactive isotope combined with certain meteorite fibers. (Meteors have fibers?)
Next we zip over to the office of Police Commissioner Gordon, who is outlining the route through the city of the Queen of Buldavia the next day. (I had trouble finding that on the map, by the way.) She will be wearing the Valdosta Emerald, an irresistible target for the Speed Boys. Sure enough, during the motorcade, the Queen decides to stop and greet some children gathered on the sidewalk. Wouldn't you know that one of them is a cleverly disguised Speed Boy who's really a midget. He makes off with the necklace, but is quickly bagged by the combined efforts of Batman and The Flash. Bats sees that the valuable necklace, however, is merely a paste imitation. Directly afterward, more trouble as Flash collapses.
Part III shows the leader of the Speed Boys receiving the real necklace through a clever switch. Meanwhile, Batman takes Flash to a doctor for an examination and the truth is revealed. He is running himself to death. Due to some surveillance by the Speed Boys, they learn this fact, too and plan accordingly. Within a short while, while our heroes are patrolling in the Batmobile, a carefully orchestrated series of robberies occur with multiple members of the gang sending Flash off in all different directions until he staggers and falls to the concrete, seemingly dead. The gang collects his body and sends a taunting transmission to Commissioner Gordon, showing off their prize and warning them that they shall continue their raids. Batman, reeling from guilt at the loss of The Flash, nevertheless decides to employ his detective skills. He examines the shoe of the captured midget, determining that it has traces of Lead, which means it must have been coated with a radioactive substance. He also examines the backdrop behind the picture of the spokesman for the Speed Boys to try to determine where he was transmitting from. He comes upon the brownstone and pulls a page from Santa's book, going down the chimney. The famed utility belt is called into play and the floor is soon soaked with oil, while Batman maneuvers with the use of crampons on his boots. He trusses up everyone but the leader, who shoots the Batman prior to leaping out the window. On the street, to his great surprise, he is pursued by The Flash! Thinking he can run him to his doom, the leader pours it on, but is eventually caught by the revived speedster.
In the final panels the story is wrapped up. Flash, apparently in a coma, was revived by exposure to a pile of the infamous sneakers. Batman deduces the radiation from them somehow had a curative effect on the crimson comet. No explanation from Batman as to how he survived the gunshot. I can only conclude he was using kevlar or the ancestor of it. The story ends with the Speed Boys safely incarcerated and our Brave and Bold heroes safe and sound.
As I look this issue over I find it has some of the elements I so very much enjoy. A good team-up tale, decent art and a pretty fair plot, but as I ranted at length before, Haney's tone was pretty annoying. He seemed to ease off toward the end and let more of the action speak for itself, but I wish someone would have muzzled the clown. The other thing I had difficulty with was the portrayal of Batman as being inept at the beginning. His humiliation at the hands of the gang was a bit much. Sure, you can't bag them immediately or you'd have no story, but crashing the Batmobile and the Whirly-Bat? Therefore, it's a 6 this time around. Not a bad comic but neither was it great.
Your turn. As demonstrated above, we do read and enjoy feedback, so leave it here at the Guest Book or poll or feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget about the mailing list sign up, too. See you in a couple of weeks with the next installment of The Silver Age Sage.
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