Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Brotherhood of the Fist Part 2: DETECTIVE COMICS #723

In the first part of "Brotherhood of the Fist", the mysterious and deadly Monkey Fist cult, in an effort to restore their honor and pride--launched an all-out assault on the Green Arrow Connor Hawke and every other renowned martial arts master in the DC Universe.  Connor teamed up with Batman to ward off the Emerald Monkeys, but a self-destruct mechanism in may have trapped them beneath a mountain.

Detective Comics #723: "Brotherhood of the Fist Part 2: Fight Back to Gotham" was written by Chuck Dixon, drawn by Alex Maleev, inked by Bill Reinhold, and colored by Gloria Vasquez.  I first read this issue back in 1998 when it came out, but I completely forgot that Alex Maleev worked on a couple issues of 'Tec in the '90s.  Also, I made such a big deal of Maleev drawing Black Canary in last November's issue of Batman: The Dark Knight that I forgot he had already drawn her in this issue sitting in my old longbox.

The issue opens with Batman and Connor Hawke crawling their way out of the smoldering wreckage of the Kobra headquarters and finding themselves isolated on the snow-capped mountain.  Isolated, but not alone.  More assassins crawl out of the snow and attack.

Meanwhile, Nightwing has returned to Gotham City, which is still recovering from the cataclysmic earthquake that nearly destroyed the entire city.  He teams up with the new Robin, Tim Drake, and the two head out on patrol together.

While Nightwing and Robin fight Monkeys in the city, Batman and Connor fight them in the country.

I love how Batman speaks of Oliver Queen to Connor in these issues.  You can't help but read the subtextual respect and mourning even when it sounds like Batman is criticizing the former Green Arrow.

Before long, the snow Monkeys give up the fight and run from Batman and Connor, choosing to let the mountain itself kill them.

Back in Gotham, Nightwing and Robin are pinned down by spear-tossing Monkeys when Eddie Fyers shows up and guns them all down (the assassins, not the heroes).  Fyers knows Tim Drake from a previous encounter, which is all that keeps Nightwing from attacking the man he calls a "murderer".

Instead, Fyers tells them about the Silver Monkey, the Monkey cult, and the fact that anybody with martial arts mastery (including Judomaster, Katana, and the Question) has been targeted.

After Nightwing convinces Fyers to bug out of town before Batman gets back, he and Robin go to Oracle to confirm the ex-CIA spook's intel.

This issue came out between Birds of Prey: Manhunt and the ongoing series.  Black Canary is still working as Barbara Gordon's field agent.  She was on a simple recon mission working a case when the Monkeys attack her.

Elsewhere, at the Brotherhood of the Monkey Fist's lair, the Sensei tells his followers that Connor Hawke and Batman are dead and that the time is right for the Monkey cult to take its place as combat champions of the world.  Of course, the original Silver Monkey, who is sitting in a prison cell, doesn't believe Connor is dead.  And he's right.

Like the first part of the story, chapter two of "Brotherhood of the Fist" is a fun, action-packed story.  The infusion of Nightwing and Robin into the story brings a youthful energy and levity that could be lost in Batman's brooding and Connor's stoic determination.  Fighting crime isn't a war for the Robins the way it is for Batman; it's a job.  A job they enjoy the hell out of, but a job nonetheless.  Batman can't turn it off, but Tim and Dick can, which gives them a swagger and attitude while they patrol that resonates like Spider-Man or Daredevil.

The other terrific part of the story are the cameos and guest appearances.  Black Canary and Bronze Tiger are two of my favorite characters, and to see them together, actually working together now, is a treat.  Can't wait to see what happens to them tomorrow when I review Part 3!

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