Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Team-Up: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #100 (March 1972)

Happy Batman Day!

Yes, today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Dark Knight's debut in Detective Comics #27.  To honor this landmark in comics publishing, I couldn't think of a better topic for today's post than one of the Blonde Bombshell's team-ups with Batman in the pages of The Brave and the Bold.  And, thinking one big anniversary deserves another, what better issue to cover than The Brave and the Bold #100 starring Batman and Robin, as well as the Hard Travelin' heroes, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Black Canary?

"The Warrior in a Wheel-Chair" is written by Zany Bob Haney with art by the legendary Jim Aparo and a cover by the equally legendary Nick Cardy.  The Brave and the Bold #100 is cover dated March 1972 but hit the streets in December of '71.

The issue begins with an unseen sniper spying potential targets on the steps of Gotham City Hall.  When Batman comes down the steps, though, the sniper zeroes-in and fires, cutting down the Dark Knight Detective.  Commissioner Jim Gordon rides in the ambulance with Batman, cursing the drug dealers he believes responsible for this attempt on Batman's life.

The hospital's chief-of-staff tells Gordon the bullet penetrated Batman's chest and stopped perilously close to his heart.  There is only one surgeon who might be able to save the Caped Crusader, according to the chief-of-staff; unfortunately, Dr. Hellstrom is in Zurich and can't arrive in Gotham for three days.  That means Batman has to stay safely on the sidelines for three days while the biggest drug shipment in history is set to go down.

Batman stubbornly tries to rise out of the wheelchair but his body betrays him.  Alfred pleads with him to stay in the chair while Batman agonizes over his newfound uselessness in the war on crime.

While sulking, Batman observes a spider catching a fly in its web and has a sudden epiphany.  "The bat must turn into a spider," he says, and tells his faithful butler to summon Robin.

Later that night, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern arrive in Gotham City wondering if Batman's condition is as serious as it sounded when he beckoned them.  And naturally, it doesn't take long for the Emerald Archer and the Ringslinger to start shouting at each other about drugs and other societal problems.

Unseen by the trio of Justice Leaguers, Robin makes contact with his boss, using code names for both of them.

Huh... Robin can't understand what value Black Canary brings to Batman's scheme?  Is this naiveté of youth?  Ignorant sexism?  Or just another Bob Haney-ism that we roll our eyes at and press on with this wacky adventure?  Let's go!

Commissioner Gordon contacts Batman and tells him he can't combat the drug trade by himself while recuperating from his gunshot.  Batman tells him not to worry, that he's brought in his ward and three members of the Justice League of America to help his operation.  Then, inexplicably, Gordon complains that this war on drugs is police business.  Is he objecting to more costumed crime fighters lending a hand in an unofficial capacity?  He knows he's talking to Batman, right?  Haney!!!  Anyway, Batman asks for Gordon's trust and a little bit more time to put his plan into motion, then he hangs up and fights back the pain of his life-threatening injury.

Across the world in Switzerland, Mr. Belknap, the head of the international drug cartel is nervous about the security of his drug shipments to Gotham, so he sets up a test run.  Back in Gotham, we learn that Batman has a coded set of delivery routes and dates.  If he cracked the code, he ought to be able to anticipate the location of every one of Belknap's shipments.

Shortly after midnight on Wednesday, the Bat-Spider sends the Ace-Archer into action.  Green Arrow slips into the Gotham City Post Office and observes the drug traffickers disguising drugs into mail packages.

Green Arrow sends a shaft through the chest of one of the drug runners, killing him; the other punk gets away.  Green Arrow checks the packages full of drugs but discovers that it's only fine sugar.  After reporting in to Batman, the Dark Knight realizes that Belknap sent in a test shipment.  Now they are aware of each other and the operations will get even more dangerous.

Batman gets word that another shipment is coming in through the docks.  Green Lantern watches the ship come into port and unload a foreign car.  He suspects the drugs might be hidden in the car, but when he goes to investigate, hidden gunmen from the ship and the docks open fire.  Green Lantern uses the power of his ring to protect himself and thwart the shooters.  Then he uses the ring to deconstruct the car, only to find no drugs hidden inside.  Once again, Belknap has foiled Batman's plan by sending a false shipment.

Of course it's the woman who nearly ruins Batman's carefully constructed scheme!  And of course Robin thinks Black Canary's an idiot, though he is able to recognize her legs from across the street in the rain.

Wait, Black Canary had to get out of the rain because it was ruining her hair?  She wears a wig!!!

Batman wallows in despair that he couldn't catch Belknap's drug deliveries.  Three chances, three misses, and now the Dark Knight has run out of time.  He collapses under the strain and needs to be prepared for surgery.

Back in Switzerland, Belknap learns that Batman will be operated on by Dr. Hellstrom from the same country.  That night, "Hellstrom" oversees the loading of some equipment onto the plane sending him across the ocean.  In Gotham, Robin and Commissioner Gordon watch as Batman is wheeled into the operating room.  Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern fume over their inability to stop the drug shipments and head to the hospital to be close to Batman during his surgery.

In the operating room, Dr. Hellstrom points out his elaborate machine that will keep Batman's condition stable during the procedure.  The Dark Knight begins to feel the effects of anesthesia which causes him to hallucinate images of a giant spider web and Belknap at the center.  The vision of Belknap transforms into the vision of a surgeon and Batman feels himself ensnared by webs.

The Caped Crusader snaps out of his sleep and begins to resist the doctors about to cut him open.  He struggles while they try to increase his anesthesia.  In desperation, he signals Robin in the waiting room.

Before Belknap can slice Batman's throat, Green Arrow fires an arrow that knocks the scalpel out of the drug kingpin's hand.  The heroes take down Belknap.  Gordon gets word to Switzerland where they discover that the real Dr. Hellstrom was captured by Belknap's goons.  It will take six hours for him to fly to Gotham, and Batman doesn't have that much time.  So Green Arrow uses his green power ring to collect the surgeon and bring him to Gotham in a much speedier time.

When the real Hellstrom begins to operate on Batman, he realizes that his specialized machine isn't working correctly.  Upon inspection, the heroes realize that the machine is filled with Belknap's drug shipment.

After the operation, the heroes gather around Batman and explain how Belknap planned to usurp Dr. Hellstrom, kill Batman during the surgery, and then take his machine out of the hospital to flood the city with his product.  They wonder how Batman figured out Belknap had taken the doctor's place, and the Dark Knight tells them he felt needle marks on the doctor's wrist and remembered that Belknap was a junkie.  Hmm... that seems like information we should have had earlier.

What to say about this issue?  It's fun and hilarious in all the usual Bob Haney ways.  The story is too complicated by half for its own good.  Why all this ridiculous spider imagery and emphasis on Batman spinning complex webs like a spider?  This doesn't amount to anything profound and the metaphor doesn't even hold up.  The characters are exaggerated and slightly wonky, and sexist in Robin's case, but that's just natural fun.

In any event, the true star of this book isn't Batman or Black Canary or Robin... it's Jim Aparo!

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