Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Calculator Saga Finale: DETECTIVE COMICS #468

Continuing from this week's amazing exploits of Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hawkman, the Atom, and Elongated Man individually combating The Calculator, writer Bob Rozakis brought this thrilling saga out of the backups and into the main pages of Detective Comics.  Joining Rozakis was Marshal Rogers, making his debut on the character of Batman, along with regular inker Terry Austin.

Detective Comics #468: "Battle of the Thinking Machines" opens with the Caped Crusader swinging by a construction site where the Calculator is robbing a newly unearthed time capsule of its centuries-old trinkets.  The Calculator uses the equipment on his chest and head to project an axe; he hurls it at the rope Batman uses to swing down, cutting the line and sending Batman falling to the street.

Calculator anticipates every one of Batman's attacks with the gadgets from his utility belt, effortlessly thwarting the Dark Knight's attempts to capture him.  At last, Batman gets the better of Calculator by using the criminal's own projected objects against him.

As Batman takes the Calculator into custody, the villain pushes some buttons on his chest piece, claiming he will turn defeat into victory.  This is basically the same thing Calculator has been saying for the past five issues of Detective.  Every time one of the Justice Leaguers smacked him down, Calculator bragged that this was all part of his plan.

The next day, Morgan Edge of Galaxy Broadcasting calls Bruce Wayne, hoping to sway the wealthy playboy into voting his way on some boring corporate stuff.  Bruce isn't interested in dealing with Edge, and he blows him off so he can head to a meeting of the Justice League of America.  Of course, he doesn't tell Morgan Edge he's meeting the JLA, and Edge assumes Wayne is jet setting with some supermodels.

In the Justice League Satellite, Batman tells Black Canary, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Elongated Man, and the Atom that the Calculator broke out of jail that morning.

The heroes discuss the Calculator's crime wave when Aquaman interrupts their meeting to tell them that the Calculator is committing a crime in Central City.  Aquaman is only there on Monitor Duty, and the Flash is away from Central City battling in the future.

The six heroes teleport down to Star City only to find the Calculator waiting for them, even applauding their arrival as it fits right with his plan.  Green Arrow fires a boxing glove arrow, but Calculator redirects the shot directly at Elongated Man.

Using his uncanny and ill-defined powers, the Calculator turns the heroes' attacks against each other, as Batman's batarang snaps Green Arrow's bow line just after he misfires, sending the arrow back at Batman.  Black Canary stumbles into Elongated Man and gets tangled up.  Hawkman drops Atom on Calculator from a distance; the Atom's full weight should smash Calculator, but he bounces off harmlessly.  Then Hawkman moves in for the attack.

The Atom changes to his normal size and appearance as Ray Palmer.  He takes a swing at Calculator but cannot connect.  Ray is physically unable to hit the Calculator.  As the villain saunters off in victory, he reveals that by allowing himself to get captured by each of them in the past, he inoculated himself to ever getting caught by these six superheroes ever again...


Okay, Rozakis, that is some straight-up Bob Haney level insanity!  You couldn't provide a better explanation than that?!!

The next day, Bruce Wayne is obsessed with finding a way to stop the Calculator when Morgan Edge shows up to nag him about the Galaxy sale at the board meeting.  Edge's sudden appearance gives Bruce the inspiration for how to thwart the Calculator, but it pisses Edge right off as he has twice been ignored by Wayne.

Later, the Calculator reads that S.T.A.R. Labs in Central City is going to launch another time capsule, so he goes to, like, rob it or something.  Along the way, he uses his head projector thing to create a blizzard and freeze a pair of police officers attempting to arrest him.  When he arrives at S.T.A.R. Labs, he creates a crane to hook the time capsule.  Then Batman arrives.

Batman throws some gadgets but they have no effect on the Calculator, of course.  The Calculator projects a large cage and throws it at Batman.  Then, inexplicably, the floor rotates changing Batman and Calculator's relative position, thereby dropping the cage down on Calculator.

See, Batman could not capture the Calculator, but the Calculator could capture himself.  He rages and howls and his equipment sputters and breaks down on him.  Later, Batman explains to his fellow Justice Leaguers how he tricked the Calculator.

Then an irate Morgan Edge calls to complain about stuff we don't care about.

Maybe the reason you've never seen Batman laughing is because it looks creepy as hell!  Seriously, Marshall Rogers makes him look insane in that last panel; this should be a cliffhanger into a Joker story!

Speaking of Rogers, his figure design and panel work is pretty solid.  I especially like he deviates from the normal construction to throw out some interesting special effects, like how Hawkman crashes during his fight with Calculator.  On the other hand, he's pretty spartan about backgrounds in a lot of these pages.  Rogers would go on to be one of the best Batman artists of his time, but this early issue needs a bit more work.

The story is pretty crazy.  As a climax, I like that Rozakis brought the five heroes back to help Batman foil the Calculator, even though none of them were particularly helpful.  The Calculator would eventually become a serious villain for the DC Universe in general and for the Birds of Prey in specific.  At this early stage of his career, however, he's pretty much a joke.  His costume is lame and his powers are so wonky and inconsistent that it's hard to take him seriously.  I mean, Signal Man was better than this guy.

Thus concludes the Calculator Saga.  Come back tomorrow when I jump forward nearly one-hundred issues of Detective Comics for the next part of "Pretty Bird" with Black Canary and Green Arrow.


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    Or you can Follow By Email; there is a tab for that toward the bottom of the right-hand column above the contact form.

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