A Tribute to the of
Does anyone else out there find it somewhat paradoxical that Batman, perhaps the ultimate loner in the world of super heroes, teamed up with every-bloody-body at one point or another during his long run in the Brave and the Bold title? As I scan through the list in Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide, it simply boggles the mind. From his first official team-up in #59 [April-May, 1965] with Green Lantern, to the beginning of his being a fixture there a few issues later with the Flash in #67, it's literally a who's who of DC characters who cross paths with the Caped Crusader. I'll mention a few here so you can get a taste of what I'm talking about. I should also add the observation that there were numerous repeats as well when he met up with Metamorpho, Hawkman, Green Arrow, The Atom, Metal Men, The Spectre, Plastic Man, Deadman, The Creeper, Aquaman, the Teen Titans and the list goes on. I've not come anywhere close to reading them all, but for the majority of those I have, I find the stories to be remarkably consistent in their quality. Perhaps having the endless revolving door of guest shots kept things fresh enough to allow the creative juices to flow. My selection for this review is no exception, which is particularly remarkable as it's a very unlikely pairing when Batman meets up with Sgt. Rock in issue #84 dated June/July of 1969. The actual on sale date was April 22. There's also a clarifying note from Overstreet of interest. This story contains the first Silver Age appearance of the Golden Age Batman. It is also the final 12 cent issue of Brave and the Bold. The story, entitled, "The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl!" is the work of Bob Haney and is expertly illustrated by Neal Adams, who also gave you the cover. (Adams' original cover and the reason for its rejection can be found HERE.) Editorial supervision provided by Murray Boltinoff.
Batman himself begins to narrate the story, which opens in the Gotham museum, where Bruce Wayne and the museum's curator are looking at a statue of the archangel Gabriel, which was smuggled out of Nazi Germany during the second world war. Bruce comments that the statue is a fake, with the genuine article located in France when a man emerges from the shadows and cold cocks the curator with a pistol, which is soon trained on Bruce Wayne. Wayne recognizes the thug as someone he knows named Von Stauffen and then he is taken away, along with the readership, to a case from the Batman files of several years ago in wartime London.
A youthful Bruce Wayne, who we learn is recently out of school and is secretly working for the Government as Batman, searching out wartime saboteurs, meets up with an acquaintance in London who is soon dead from a buzz-bomb explosion on the street. Before expiring, he confides to Wayne that he has an important message for his superiors regarding the wine at Chateaurouge. The next day, Bruce relays the information to none other than Winston Churchill at number 10, Downing Street. The Prime Minister asks the American to complete his agent's mission in occupied France. Bruce agrees and that night he makes a desperate run for a military aircraft while astride a motorcycle. A well- muscled arm reaches down from the open bay to bring Bruce aboard and face to face with Sgt. Rock and Easy Company. Introducing himself as Jack Pimpernel, Bruce learns that the soldiers are on a mission to Chateaurouge also, but in their case it's to blow a bridge. Soon Easy Company and the tuxedo-clad playboy make their parachute drops. Bruce gets his 'chute tangled on one wing of the statue of the Archangel Gabriel. Sgt. Rock frees him and they then part ways as Wayne assumes the identity of M'sieu Leduc and continues his mission to rendezvous with Nazi Colonel Von Stauffen. His ploy is to pose as a French wine merchant, interested in purchasing the wares of the chateau. An aide appears with a bottle and is heatedly redressed by the Colonel and ordered to retrieve a different bottle. Bruce covertly produces a batarang and knocks an outdoor sentry into unconsciousness, creating a diversion that allows him to explore the wine cellar. During his hurried search, he discovers the bottle in question and realizes that the bottles contain not wine, but nerve gas. The Colonel soon returns and orders his troops to search the wine cellar. The Batman then makes his first appearance and puts the soldiers out of commission. assuming his guise as Leduc once again, he is escorted out, but not before he hears Von Stauffen giving orders that if any Amerikaner soldiers are spotted, Operation Barbarian is to be put into action. Our hero next finds Sgt. Rock and Easy to give them a warning about the events at the chateau. Nonplused, Rock reports that the charges have been placed and they're to simply wait until dawn to blast away. Before further strategies can be discussed, however, a German search party is soon spotted. Easy Company fans out and the Batman again shows up to provide a distraction. As he works his way back to the chateau, he also puts a stop to an execution of French prisoners. Meanwhile, two members of Easy have infiltrated the wine cellar to take some souvenirs. "Bulldozer" and "Wildman" each grab a bottle and try to make a break for it as they're discovered by the Nazis. They take to a rubber raft and the bullets begin to fly when Batman springs into action again, releasing the water from a sluice gate to give them the needed boost to their paddling to push them out of harm's way. The enraged Von Stauffen orders that Operation Barbarian begin immediately. Batman returns to the wine cellar and sees that two of the bottles of nerve gas are missing, leading him to retrieve them from the unwitting soldiers.
Next thing you know, Nazi tanks are advancing on Easy and Batman again comes to the covert aid of the troops, laying down smoke bombs so that they can escape. The World's Greatest Detective soon discovers that Operation Barbarian involves the movement of the gas-filled wine bottles via hay wagons that will be going over the very bridge that Sgt. Rock has been ordered to destroy. As Bruce Wayne, or more properly, Jack Pimpernel, he pleads with Rock to move up his timeline and to trigger the explosives when the wagons cross rather than at dawn. Rock refuses, placing the spy under company arrest, so Bruce, ever the resourceful one, decks him and then leaps on the plunger, blowing the wagons and their contents sky high. The grizzled sergeant is convinced upon seeing the debris from the blast, including bottle pieces and Nazi gun parts. Seconds later, Bruce knocks Rock out of the path of a piece of air-dropped U.S. field artillery. The D-Day invasion has begun. Rock promises to repay "Jack" one day for saving his skin and then the story melts back to the present, where Bruce Wayne is still looking down the barrel of Von Stauffen's Luger in the basement of the Gotham museum.
Von Stauffen divulges that the reason for his appearance in Gotham City is to retrieve the statue of the angel, which will allow him to live the high life in South America. Bruce deduces that it was shipped to the U.S. by the Nazi and is solid gold, from the stolen riches of France, disguised as the famous statue of Gabriel. The knowledge, however, does Bruce no good as he's still facing down the weapon of the war criminal and there appears to be no escape. In the next surprising moment, however, a hand shoots out with a Master Sergeant's insignia on it and knocks the erstwhile Nazi unconscious. It's Sgt. Rock, on furlough from Europe. He'd spotted Von Stauffen on the plane and tailed him, showing up in the proverbial nick of time to save the day. Briefly comparing notes, Rock reveals he's made the Army a 30-year career, while "Jack" is now a private investigator. As the old warrior walks away, Bruce thinks, "Look at him--tough, indestructible! Uncle Sam's got nothing to worry about with men like him defending America!" (In light of recent events, the Sage gives an enthusiastic "Amen!" to that notion, too.) Batman then concludes the tale by mentioning that after all those years, this particular case file can now be closed.
This tale, by turns a sort of a hybrid of a James Bond thriller, what with the well- dressed playboy infiltrating the Nazi stronghold along with scenes from The Dirty Dozen thrown in, was a pretty good read that went at a fast clip. Even though I never really followed the military offerings of DC, I had a pal in my childhood neighborhood who did and I read a few of the Sgt. Rock and Unknown Soldier titles. If my hazy memory serves, I could swear that the Unknown Soldier's arch enemy also went by the name of Von Stauffen. Anyhow, I enjoyed the historical backdrop of this magazine and wondered, even though I knew that Batman had been around chronologically since 1939, just how they were going to mesh it all together. I thought it was also sort of an interesting twist in that it was a team-up that wasn't really a team-up, with the Batman doing his work in the shadows, aiding Easy Company without revealing himself. I think Haney did a pretty admirable job and give this story a 7. Not quite a classic, but definitely above average.
How about you? Got an opinion on this review or anything else regarding our favorite era? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm continually looking for your feedback, so indulge me. Join us again in about two weeks when we take another fond glance back at these treasures from the Silver Age of DC comics.
Long live the Silver Age!
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