Secret Origins Special (1989)

Secret Origins Special

I always forget how much Neil Gaiman threw himself into the DC Universe when he’d write in it. This Secret Origins Special is all about Batman’s villains; a TV investigative journalist has come to Gotham to do a special. Gaiman seems to enjoy writing those scenes–the ones with the behind the scenes, the Batman cameo, the anecdotes about living in Gotham City and the DC Universe in general. He doesn’t do well with the characters though, not the TV reporter and his crew. These framing scenes have art by Mike Hoffman and Kevin Nowlan. They do better at the start than they do the finish. By the finish, they’re getting tired and the detail from the opening isn’t there anymore.

Alan Grant writes the Penguin’s origin story, which isn’t a straight origin. There’s something modern to all of the Secret Origins here. Penguin’s grabbed a childhood nemesis–who just happened to grow up to be a gangster too–and Batman’s trying to find the guy while the Penguin’s torturing him. It’s an okay script, not great, but the Sam Kieth artwork is gorgeous. Kieth does action, he does Batman, he does Penguin, he does gangsters–he does kids. The best part of it is the tenderness Kieth shows when he’s doing the kids. I always forget Kieth really does know what he’s doing.

A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.
A self-reflected Riddler. Art by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner.

Gaiman handles the Riddler’s origin, which ties in a lot to the framing plot. The TV crew goes to interview him. Bernie Mireault on pencils, Matt Wagner on inks. Gaiman’s enthusiastic but misguided. Lots of monologue from the Riddler, but never particularly interesting. The details about the giant objects used in Gotham’s advertising in the past is more interesting than the Riddler teasing the TV crew with the truth. The art’s solid though and gets it over the bumps.

Then there’s the Two-Face story. Mark Verheiden writing it, Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano on the art. Broderick’s pencils are full of energy and light on restraint. It’s a messy story and a fairly cool one, focusing on Grace Dent (Harvey’s wife) and her side of the story. Verheiden doesn’t write the TV crew well and Grace Dent’s a little too slight, but it’s a solid enough story. The art is brutally violent and full of anger. Everyone looks miserable and angry about it.

Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.
Harvey Two-Face and Batman graphically wail on each other. Art by Pat Broderick and Dick Giordano.

The issue would’ve been better with stronger art throughout from Hoffman and Nowlan and either more or less from Gaiman. The TV crew ceases to be characters after the introduction, like one of the stories came in a page or two short and Gaiman was padding it out. But the Penguin story is good, the Riddler story could be a lot worse and is technically strong, the Two-Face story is super-solid mainstream DC eighties stuff. It’s good stuff.

CREDITS

Writer, Neil Gaiman, Alan Grant and Mark Verheiden; pencillers, Mike Hoffman, Bernie Mireault and Pat Broderick; inkers, Kevin Nowlan, Matt Wagner and Dick Giordano; artist, Sam Kieth; colorists, Tom McCraw and Joe Matt; letterers, Todd Klein, Albert DeGuzman, Mireault and Agustin Mas; editor, Mark Waid; publisher, DC Comics.

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The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 22 (April 1984)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #22

Sal Trapani inking Pat Broderick. I don’t even know where to start with the result… somehow the people look better than the superheroes, which isn’t how Broderick pencils usually work. Trapani inks them almost like comic strip characters, Ronnie and Martin in particular. It has to be seen to be understood.

The issue itself is a retelling of Firestorm’s origin, with Gerry and Carla Conway adapting the first issue of the 1978 Firestorm series. The context is Firestorm telling Firehawk his origin after she’s nursed him back to health–though the off-page scenes where she’s in her civilian identity hiding the superhero from her dad would have been a lot more amusing.

Maybe the art is supposed to be retro, because the retelling reads very dated. Six years in comics is a long time and the Conways didn’t update the original dialogue or pacing.

Clearly, no one tried with this one.

B- 

CREDITS

The Secret Origin of Firestorm; writers, Gerry Conway and Carla Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Sal Trapani; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editors, Janice Race and Gerry Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 17 (October 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #17

As many problems as Broderick has been having on the art lately, it’s nothing compared to George Tuska, who does the first half of the issue. Maybe it’s Rodriguez’s who’s lazy because there’s no excuse for Tuska’s part of the issue. Inept is the word for it.

The issue, however, is something of a return to form for Conway. Terrible art and all, it has great plotting and action. There’s the human stuff with Ronnie and his family problems, which sends him off as Firestorm to mull it over with Martin. Unfortunately, the bad guys have turned one of Firestorm’s love interests into Firehawk, sort of a female version.

There’s a really well-paced fight sequence, something Broderick and Rodriguez should have nailed, but don’t. Conway’s progression of the scene–with Firestorm saving civilians and finally having enough and overreacting to get the job done–it’s wonderful comics writing.

Shame about the art.

B 

CREDITS

On Wings of Fire!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and George Tuska; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 16 (September 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #16

Conway tries for something new to the series–Ronnie and Martin interacting face to face when Martin’s in his Firestorm mode (when Professor Stein is the floating head advising Firestorm, it’s his subconscious, not his conscious)–but he’s also trying a mystery. Ronnie has forgotten something and Martin is trying to talk him into remembering.

It’s an action-packed memory too, with Ronnie having a high school incident, Firestorm flying to Washington, D.C. and then back to New York and so on. There’s lots of activity as Conway tries to keep the reader guessing at what’s going on.

The problem isn’t Conway or the confounding nature of the narrative. The issue features exceptionally weak art from Broderick and Rodriguez. It’s across the board–usually they keep it together for the superhero stuff, not here. Instead, everything is a problem. Broderick and Rodriguez can’t even draw an arm okay.

The art problems blight everything else.

B- 

CREDITS

Black-Out!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez; inker, Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 15 (August 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #15

Conway and Broderick do exceedingly well on the action part of the issue. The first half has Firestorm having to get free from Multiplex and then fight him and Enforcer. It’s a great action scene, both in terms of pacing and art. It really seems like Broderick is going to turn in an excellent issue.

Until the second half of the comic, when Broderick has to draw the civilians and immediately it’s strange body proportions and hair helmets. It’s like he and Rodriguez entirely check out when it’s not superhero stuff and it doesn’t work.

The second half of the issue is also messy because Conway splits it between boring, connected conspiracies–one against Martin and Ronnie and one involving c-level supporting cast member Senator Walter Reilly. Plus, Conway brings back a stale story line he never watered enough.

The strong start only can make up for so much.

B- 

CREDITS

Breakout; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez; inker, Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 14 (July 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #14

Until the silly eighties toys show up at the end–the villain rides around in absurd tank–it’s a decent enough issue. Well, the villain–Enforcer (Conway remembering his old Spider-Man days perhaps)–is lame, but some of it might be the art. Broderick starts the issue strong and then loses his grip by halfway through. This time it’s worse than bad faces, it’s goofy bodies and so on.

But the issue itself isn’t bad, Conway’s initial plot–Ronnie and Martin getting the newly unemployed scientist a job at Ronnie’s burger joint–works. He just keeps adding on to the plot until the issue is bloated. He doesn’t give anything enough time and keeps throwing in hints at future subplots.

The action finish–that tank–is silly and poorly conceived. All this action in a confined space cuts down on action possibilities for Broderick.

It’s a rather problematic issue.

B- 

CREDITS

Enforcer; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 13 (June 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #13

Firestorm is turning into a were-hyena and his plan is to go to Africa to find the cure. Why doesn’t he call the Justice League and have the many scientist super heroes help him? Because Conway wants to do a story about corrupt African nations? Because DC was docks writers pay if they used too many guest stars? Some third option?

Suffice to say, the plot of this issue doesn’t make sense. It removes Firestorm from being the active character in his own comic for quite a few pages–he’s delirious or he’s a hostage or just an enraged jerk. He is turning into a were-hyena after all. Good thing it’s really cute. Broderick and Rodriguez make the transformed Firestorm adorable. It’s weird.

Conway throws in a couple scenes developing the civilian subplots, but it’s not enough. This issue drags an unsuccessful plot out one issue too far.

C+ 

CREDITS

Split!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez; inker, Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterers, Andy Kubert and Adam Kubert; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 12 (May 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #12

Broderick and Rodriguez continue to have problems with Ronnie’s civilian adventures. For whatever reason, they’re fine with Martin and his supporting cast, it’s just the teenagers who have awkward, flat expressions.

The story has a slowly transforming Firestorm trying to stop the double Hyena threat. Conway spends more time coming up with witty exposition–and some of it’s quite good–than he does on the characters. Ronnie has a scene at his part-time job, one with his friends, but none have any resonance. It’s especially bad with the girlfriend.

Martin, on the other hand, gets fired and then possibly gets blackmailed. Conway’s building that story slowly, with one exaggerated setup scene but otherwise it’s moving well.

As for Firestorm versus the Hyena? The opening fight has some good visuals but the final one is a little confused. Broderick just doesn’t plot out the action well.

Still, it’s reasonably compelling.

B 

CREDITS

Howl; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Ben Oda; editors, Nicola Cuti and Conway; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 11 (April 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #11

It’s a mess of an issue. Conway makes the Hyena’s return a really complicated story with curses and multiple were-hyenas–including Firestorm turning into one too. But there’s also Professor Stein’s ex-wife, who Conway avoids really defining and just makes her ominous instead. Ronnie’s tired at school, which turns out to be okay with his basketball coach–even though it shouldn’t be–and then there’s some nonsense with his girlfriend changing her hairstyle.

Conway’s doing a whole bunch of stuff and not spending enough time on any of it. He makes Professor Stein’s contributions to the Firestorm scenes even worse. No longer satisfied doing wordy, obvious exposition, Conway uses Stein to tell the reader why things are bad for the characters. It’s beyond lazy.

The issue finishes with the big action scene finale flopping. The Hyena doesn’t work on a large scale and Conway inexplicably stages a fight at the World Trade Center?

C 

CREDITS

Waking Darkness; writer and editor, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 10 (March 1983)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #10

The issue opens with the Hyena hunting a bunny rabbit; Broderick and Rodriguez do a great job on the bunny rabbit, but it looks like there are some problems with the Hyena. So the issue starts right off with some questionable art and then it just gets worse.

Broderick does fine with the action scenes, does fine with all his composition but he and Rodriguez’s detail on the regular folks this issue is terrible. And the Hyena is a problem throughout; it’s too slick to be convincing as a giant were-hyena. Not enough fur detail, I guess.

There’s also way too much detail on teenage Doreen’s sheer nightie. It’s a weird choice; someone should have caught it.

Otherwise, the issue’s fine. Not Conway’s finest hour–the Hyena’s backstory is too convoluted and tied Peter Parker style to Ronnie’s civilian life–but he’s still got some nice character moments and Firestorm action throughout.

B 

CREDITS

Prowl; writer and editor, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 7 (December 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #7

For his debut as writer and editor, Conway turns in the weakest Firestorm script to date. Worse, Broderick and Rodriguez are really off with the art too. There’s a lot with Ronnie and his father being held hostage–the issue’s way too contrived as far as plotting–and Broderick flops on drawing regular people here.

Except Professor Stein. He’s trying to sneak into the building to turn out the lights so they can turn into Firestorm without it being videotaped for the news. His story is actually rather good and Broderick’s art on his panic and determination is ambitious stuff.

The villains are lame too. Québécois terrorists. One guy terrorist totally covered up, one girl terrorist scantily clad. Silly stuff, very silly.

Maybe if Conway split the story across two issues… and better thought out the villains. But he also rushes the scenes between Ronnie and his father.

It’s unfortunate.

B- 

CREDITS

Plastique Is Another Word for Fear!; writer and editor, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 6 (November 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #6

The first two-thirds of this issue is rather good. Conway resolves the cliffhanger–Firestorm versus the Pied Piper–and has time to work the romance between Firestorm and frequent supervillain victim Lorraine Reilly before developing the friendship between Ronnie and Professor Stein. It leads into further character development and then it's Firestorm time again.

Oh, wait, forgot–the Pied Piper grows hooves. Again, it's Conway's formula for the comic but it works. He acknowledges the time between story arcs well; it lets him get away with so much action in an issue. The characters do have passive development between issues.

Only, the big battle scene at the end–Firestorm against a bunch of satyrs–is a mess. The art's good, but Conway reveals the villain's evil scheme in third person exposition. It would have been a lot more effective from Firestorm's point of view, not the omniscient comic writer.

While problematic, it's entertaining superhero adventure.

B 

CREDITS

The Pandrakos Plot; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Adam Kubert; editors, Carl Gafford and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 5 (October 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #5

Conway appears to have a formula for two-part stories. He opens with some action for Firestorm, then moves into the personal drama of Ronnie and Martin while working the villain subplot. Then Firestorm gets together, so to speak, and encounters the villain just in time for a cliffhanger.

Oddly enough, it works great. This issue has a visiting villain–The Flash’s Pied Piper–and the personal drama for the characters is rather amusing too. Ronnie’s having girlfriend troubles and decides to pursue a girl interested in Firestorm, dragging the Professor into it. Conway doesn’t slow down for their conversation about being a composite personality pursuing romance; instead he has it while they’re flying around. It’s an amusing conversation though.

At the same time, it relates back to their individual character development. Conway’s very concise in the character stuff.

Plus, the Broderick and Rodriguez art is fantastic this issue. It’s much more finished.

B+ 

CREDITS

The Pied Piper’s Pipes of Peril!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Phil Felix; editors, Carl Gafford and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 4 (September 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #4

Conway has got his plotting down again with this issue. He gives Broderick a lot of varied action–it’s an all action issue, but set over a few hours (they just skip the quiet moments)–and Broderick’s ambitious in visualizing the different scenes. There’s the battles in a frozen New York, a fight between Firestorm and the Justice League, a visit to Hollywood and then a stop-off at the JLA satellite.

The art’s especially important since Conway quiets down the narration quite a bit. He’s letting it play out visually so he can keep some plot twists secret until their respective reveals. Rodriguez does a nice job with the inks too. Can’t forget the inks.

Playing Firestorm off the other superheroes also gives Conway a chance to develop that character, who’s somewhat different than his two human alter egos.

The big resolution is fantastic too. It’s great superhero stuff.

A 

CREDITS

The Icy Heart of Killer Frost!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, Pat Broderick and Rodin Rodriguez; inker, Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Carl Gafford and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 3 (August 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #3

Conway lays on the melodrama a little thick this issue with Ronnie getting cut from the team, slapped by his dad (in front of his best friend) and dumped. Why? The same reason every other superhero got dumped at one time or another–significant others just don’t understand a person disappearing in the middle of a crisis. Well, for the last of that list. The other two are just the time constraints.

Except Conway hasn’t shown enough of Ronnie’s regular life to get away with these big events. Maybe if he’d opened the series with them, starting one of his characters down, it would have worked.

But the rest of the comic–again, especially the interplay between Ronnie and the Professor–works great. The villain–Killer Frost–is a little talky, but her ice kingdom version of New York is when Broderick gets creative again.

He’s the other problem–he tries, but doesn’t succeed with melodramatics.

B 

CREDITS

A Cold Time in the Old Town Tonight…; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Carl Gafford and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 2 (July 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #2

This issue of Firestorm is a perfect example of how to do superhero action. Even with Broderick’s questionable handling of the human, male cast–he does a lot better with the female characters–he does great with the superhero action. There are some really ambitious fight compositions at the end and Broderick and Conway open with a fantastic visualization to recap the previous issue.

There are some oddities, of course, given the somewhat strange subject matter–the villain, Black Bison, is a Native American shaman inhabiting a descendant through magic. While Conway tries to be culturally sensitive, he often will go for a bigot character to make a slight joke.

But the balance between character development and the heroics is perfect. The alter egos get just enough time on their own–and Conway’s working hard to develop Ronnie and the Professor’s rapport outside their Firestorm outings.

It’s outstanding superhero comics.

A- 

CREDITS

Rage; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Carl Gafford and Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 1 (June 1982)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #1

Writer Gerry Conway oscillates between serious and sort of bemusing throughout the first issue of the second Firestorm series. He’s got to recap a bunch–the original series, then the backups in The Flash–and he comes up with a few narrative devices to get it done with brevity.

He’s also got to establish his characters for this series, which leads to a lot of brief introductions, but he gets the A plot up and running fairly soon (he’s got a great juxtaposing of early morning routines). The main plot involves a Native American high school teacher getting possessed by an angry shaman and running amok. Oddly enough, one of Firestorm’s alter egos just happens to be in this guy’s class.

There’s an excellent action sequence in the museum; Penciller Pat Broderick isn’t always successful–usually with depth–but he’s always ambitious; it’s a great looking sequence.

The end’s a little heavy, but otherwise….

B+ 

CREDITS

Day of the Bison; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 304 (December 1981)

The Flash #304

I think Bates must have just learned the word “erg” before writing this issue because he uses it ostentatiously.

He also seemingly anticipates Tron–maybe the previews were already out–and puts Flash inside a really lame video game. The coolest part of the issue is how Bates doesn’t worry about resolution, just telling the best story he can… even if Barry’s involvement with it is contrived. There’s finally what make be taken for character development–Barry hanging out with his neighbors–and it’s lousy.

Not to mention there’s no resolution with his parents from the previous issue, which might have been nice.

Still, it’s not a terrible story and Infantino has room to break out the action. Maybe even too much.

The Firestorm backup is packed with content–there’s a diary flashback device–and decent if abrupt art from Broderick and Rodriguez. The feature should’ve donated them some space.

B- 

CREDITS

One More Blip… and You’re Dead!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, John Costanza. Firestorm, The Heart Is the Hunter!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Pierre Bernard Jr. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 303 (November 1981)

The Flash #303

It’s a good issue for Bates and Infantino. Bates comes up with a lot of set pieces, but doesn’t hurry them. Infantino actually has time to make them visually interesting.

This issue has the big reveal with Barry’s evil dad and it’s only about six issues too late. Maybe five. It would have been better if Bates had gone straight from the car accident to the Golden Glider issue to this resolution. None of the previous foreshadowing delivers because Bates revelation isn’t ingenious, it’s contrived.

Speaking of contrived–why doesn’t Flash call a super friend for help? If Flash is fighting a supernatural power, can’t he just call the Spectre or Dead Man?

Bates’s logic problems culminate with a huge one at the end.

The Firestorm backup has Pat Broderick on pencils and Adrian Gonzales on inks; there’s some great art here. And besides the recap, Conway’s writing is strong.

B 

CREDITS

The Top is Alive and Well in Henry Allen!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, John Costanza. Firestorm, The Hyena Syndrome!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Adrian Gonzales; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Pierre Bernard Jr. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 552 (July 1985)

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It’s an odd done-in-one, with Moench structuring the issue around an article from Julia (Alfred’s daughter). Poor Julia has never been much of a character, just a third vertex in Moench’s Bruce Wayne love triangle. Except when Alfred sort of pimps her out. Those moments are awkward, terrible and amusing.

But she writes an article about a tree getting cut down and Alfred cries when he reads it. Then Batman sets a trap for some out of town assassin and everything ties together in the end–Moench really stretches it.

Broderick tries hard for interesting composition but there’s some bad art. The figure drawing is weak; on the first long shot of Julia walking, it looks like her ankles are hobbled. And Moench’s way too writerly, way too purple. They try and fail.

The Green Arrow backup’s decent. Though Cavalieri doesn’t know what to do with Black Canary.

C- 

CREDITS

A Stump Grows in Gotham; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Workman. Green Arrow, Sanctuary II: Poor Huddled, Masses; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Jerome Moore; inker, Bruce D. Patterson; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, John Costanza. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 551 (June 1985)

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There’s something distressing about the art on the feature. It barely looks like the previous Broderick and Smith issues; maybe Broderick didn’t give Smith much to work with. There’s certainly not a lot in the way of inventive composition (something Moore excels with on the backup).

Moench’s feature story gets better as it goes along. The Calendar Man is a lame enough villain, but Moench makes it worse with the guy talking to himself all the time. Especially at the open, when he’s explaining the previous issue to the reader.

Eventually the story shakes out to Jason and Bruce having a big fight about Jason being a dimwit and Bruce calling him on it. Probably shouldn’t have made him Robin if he was dumb. But whatever.

The Green Arrow backup, with Cavalieri very seriously doing a story about illegal immigrants, is good. With Moore and Patterson’s art, it’s real good.

C 

CREDITS

The First Day of Spring; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Workman. Green Arrow, Sanctuary; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Jerome Moore; inker, Bruce D. Patterson; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Bob Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 550 (May 1985)

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Moench goes a little too high concept for this one, especially since Broderick isn’t really the artist to do a protracted chase sequence.

A small-time thug runs across the rooftops, Batman in close pursuit, and Moench flashes back to all the things in his life to bring the thug to this point. It’s a little contrived, but it’s definitely ambitious. So when Moench actually brings damnation into the picture–the guy, it turns out, has robbed a church and attacked a nun–it’s just too much.

It doesn’t help Broderick eventually gives up and is practically drawing this story comical. There are a couple Batman cowl shots I was surprised Smith didn’t fix, but maybe he’d given up too.

Then the Green Arrow resolution is odd. Moore doesn’t write too much (or enough). It’s a decent enough action story, with lots of mood from Janson but not good detail.

D 

CREDITS

The Spider’s Ninth Leg!; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Workman. Green Arrow, Night Olympics, Part Two; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Klaus Janson; letterer, Todd Klein. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 549 (April 1985)

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It’s a nice issue overall.

The feature has Moench, Broderick and Smith doing a Harvey Bullock issue. Moench plays it mostly for laughs, then goes deeper–showing the “real” Bullock–and then giving him a difficult conflict to resolve.

And manages to get in a big fight scene for him and Batman (teaming up against thugs, not against each other). Moench does well with the regular life stuff in Gotham City. It’s a relief not to have to get through his odd Bruce stuff.

But the real kicker is the Green Arrow backup from “guest” writer Alan Moore. I put “guest” in quotation marks because it doesn’t resemble the Cavalieri stories. Actually, the discussion of regular life calls back to the feature.

It’s just Ollie and Dinah out on patrol, with great art from Klaus Janson, and some setup of the story arc’s villain. Moore comes up with excellent stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Doctor Harvey and Mr. Bullock; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, Night Olympics, Part One; writer, Alan Moore; artist, Klaus Janson; letterer, Todd Klein. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 548 (March 1985)

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So Moench finds an interesting way to move past all the Jason Todd adoption stuff. He forgets about it. Oh, he mentions it a bunch, especially in the opening scene with Jason eating a snack in the kitchen with Bruce and Alfred. But the character relationships are all different now. There’s banter, there’s teasing Batman about his love life. Maybe Moench decided things had to change with Pat Broderick coming on as the penciller.

And Broderick does a fun job. His figures are sometimes off, but he’s got lots of enthusiasm, lots of energy. His expressions are fantastic too. He and Moench are playing it all a little tongue in cheek, which doesn’t work for Vicki and Julia (or Alfred talking about his daughter as an easy catch for Bruce), but it’s definitely amusing.

As for the Green Arrow backup… Cavalieri gets in a couple good twists. Nice art too.

B 

CREDITS

Beasts A-Prowl; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda. Green Arrow, Clash Reunion III: Vengeance is Mine!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Jerome Moore; inker, Bruce D. Patterson; colorist, Jeanine Casey; letterer, Ben Lappan. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Detective Comics 547 (February 1985)

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Moench partially redeems his amnesia storyline this issue with the suggestion it’s not going to go on for too long. He also does some decent work teaming up Robin and Nocturna, which he doesn’t play out as well as he could–is it really any odder to have a woman and her ward fighting crime than Batman and his ward?

Eventually it goes bad, with Moench falling back on Jason’s cruelty (the kid really hasn’t got any depth), but for a few pages it works out all right.

Plus, the art from Pat Broderick and Klaus Janson is good. They keep the story moving and put in a lot of mood. Moench has a lot of scenes; each supporting cast member gets some attention. He’s rushing but it’s fine.

Then the Green Arrow involves a Vietnam vet strong-arming Vietnamese businesses in the states. Goofy dialogue, but good mainstream art.

C+ 

CREDITS

Cast of Characters, Sequence of Events; writer, Doug Moench; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Klaus Janson; colorist, Adrienne Roy. Green Arrow, Clash Reunion II: Most Likely to Die!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Jerome Moore; inker, Bruce D. Patterson; colorist, Jeanine Casey. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 100 (October 1990)

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Not much of a hundredth issue celebration for Swamp Thing apparently. Unless you count Wheeler going back and retconning a lot of Moore and Veitch’s details about the Parliament of Trees and the new Earth Elemental storyline. And the time travel storyline. Lots of retconning.

But Broderick can draw trees, so at least the trip to the Parliament looks all right.

Kelley Jones handles some of the other pages, with Swamp Thing in Antarctica searching for Eden. The Jones pages are fantastic, even if he doesn’t have as interesting scenery to render.

Most of the issue’s exposition and there’s a lot of it (because it’s retconning exposition). It makes the issue drag to say the least. None of Wheeler’s new details are any good; they’re all set-up for some future storyline. And they raise the question of whether he’s corrupting the previous writers’ intentions.

The comic fails to resonate.

CREDITS

Tales of Eden; writer, Doug Wheeler; pencillers, Kelley Jones Pat Broderick; inkers, Jones and Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 99 (September 1990)

16069

Wheeler writes an interesting scene between Alec and Constantine. Alec finally loses control with him and lifts him up, presumably to do him harm. It’s a bit of a shock, since Alec’s always restrained in his anger towards him. Sadly, Broderick’s art ruins the scene.

Strangely, Broderick handles the other plant guy just fine. Wheeler splits the issue between Alec trying to get Tefé’s body back and an escaped plant demon from Hell. Okay, it’s not really a demon but I don’t think Wheeler’s ever provided the right noun.

And on the plant demon and his followers–except the flashback, which both Wheeler and Broderick fumble–Broderick does okay. So there’s clearly something about Swamp Thing he just can’t visualize.

The usual art problems aside, the issue’s not bad. Wheeler can’t write Abby’s scene, but the inability’s no surprise and it passes quickly.

It’s still a child in jeopardy story.

CREDITS

Leaves in a Tempest; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 97 (July 1990)

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Besides Pog, about the only thing Broderick draws well this issue is Etrigan.

Wheeler goes overboard into Hell’s politics as it accommodates new alien inhabitants–it’s really boring stuff and Broderick’s art is just too silly for it. Hell’s not horrifying, it looks like a toy commercial. It’s incredible Broderick couldn’t make bugs scary… scary bugs should be a requirement for Swamp Thing artists.

Alec puts together a crew to help him search for Tefé, but it’s unclear why he picks Abin Sur after learning Sur directed her to Hell in the first place.

While Wheeler ably ties the issue into one of Veitch’s unresolved subplots, he loses major points when he ends on Alec wailing “No!” off-panel. It’s even goofier not to see it.

The comic maintains its momentum–it’s a child in danger story after all–but Wheeler’s trying too hard again; his writing still lacks personality.

CREDITS

Scattered Houses; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 96 (June 1990)

16066

Interesting… Wheeler is able to sell the impossible here. He does another of his callbacks to Moore’s run–specifically the adorable alien, Pog–and makes it work.

Even more interesting is how it comes after an issue of questionable plotting in regards to Swamp Thing mythology.

Wheeler does a lot with the afterlife, with Arcane becoming a demon. He covers it–the last time Arcane was shown, his tormenters told him it’d go on forever–by saying the tormentors lie. They’re in Hell, after all.

It’s unsuccessful mostly because of the annoying “bug speak” Wheeler uses for one of the boss demons. It gets in the way of reading the issue.

But then Tefé disappears into the Green, following Alec, which prompts Alec’s trip into the afterlife.

Those parts of the issue work really well. Better than they should. So well I didn’t even notice if Broderick’s art is lacking.

CREDITS

Hell to Pay; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Swamp Thing 95 (May 1990)

16065

Wheeler tries so hard and it just doesn’t go quite right. Some of the problems are with the art. Broderick gets more ambitious in his composition with conversations, but he can’t visualize the stranger parts of the story.

The issue involves Chester and Liz picketing a toxic waste plant, Alec and Abby’s parenting troubles, little Swamp Babies, Alec versus the toxic waste plant… and some other things. Wheeler never takes a moment to breath; the issue’s only calm sections are when he’s using the exposition to talk about pollution.

He does manage to get some decent moments out of the issue, but not enough of them. He loses track of Liz and Chester–though he does write dialogue for Liz dialogue for the first time–and the Swamp Babies thing is never clear.

He’s trying with Abby but not quite succeeding.

For Wheeler and Broderick, though, the issue’s not bad.

CREDITS

Toxic Wonderland; writer, Doug Wheeler; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Alfredo Alcala; colorist, Tatjana Wood; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

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