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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Batman Family 19 - Batman and the white bat, Batgirl and the Sino Supermen, Robin and the Raven, Man-Bat and She-Bat, and Huntress and the arsonist

Beautiful Mike Kaluta cover on Batman Family 19 (Aug/Sept 78).

O'Neil, Golden and Russell open the issue with a story that take Batman high into the mountains, with a supernatural bent. 

Bruce Wayne is accompanying an ambassador, his assistant and his security men on a trip into the mountains when the bus they are travelling in gets ambushed, and the driver gets shot.

Bruce switches to Batman and goes to investigate. He finds a hostile mountain family, and the matriarch admits to having her son shoot at the bus, but denies blowing up the bridge that stranded them. She tells Batman about a legendary white bat in the mountains, a deadly creature capable of draining all the blood from its victims.

The security men get killed off, with bat-like marks on their necks, but Batman does not believe this is due to the white bat. And there clearly is a human behind all of this, who traps Batman in an icy pit, intending him to die from being impaled by huge icicles. Of course, Batman escapes from this.

The driver turns out to be the killer, with a device that kills with two prongs, making it look like bat bites. He tries to flee in a helicopter, stranding the rest to die in the snow. But it's the driver who winds up becoming the victim of the real white bat.

Rozakis, Ortiz and Colletta introduce the Sino Supermen, artificially endowed heroes resembling the Justice League, created by China, in the Batgirl story in this issue. The Sino Supermen would appear in a few stories during this time, and the concept has currently returned in the New Super Man series.

Batgirl tries to stop a break in and robbery by ones with powers and costumes patterned on Superman and Green Lantern, but both wind up exploding before she can capture them. Government agents show up, and inform her that the information the men were trying to steal is top secret, and not for her eyes. They debrief her, and in exchange explain how the Chinese have been working to develop their own super heroes, with mixed results.

Batgirl tracks down the base of the scientist behind the creation of the Sino Supermen, and winds up having to battle another Green Lantern, a Flash and a Wonder Woman. Once again they all explode, but the scientist gets away before the feds arrive.

The story ends as Batgirl overhears the agent she has been working with mention Tony Gordon, one of his agents. This piques Batgirl's curiosity, as she wonders if he is talking about her long lost brother. He is.

Rozakis and Ortiz are joined by Bruce Patterson on the Robin story in this issue.

The story begins as Dick Grayson works on a story for the Hudson University newspaper about a mysterious dam collapse. He notes, in one of the photos taken just before the dam burst, a strange device poking out of a car window. Later he runs into his ex, Lori Elton, and her new boyfriend David Corby, and gets into a spat with the guy. As Dick does not want to show off his fighting skills, he winds up trounced by the jock.

Immediately afterwards he runs into Duela Dent. She explains that she is leaving Hudson U for a while, though refuses to say why. Nonetheless, she gives Dick a cryptic warning to stay away from Corby. Duela had last been seen a couple of months earlier in the Flash Super Spectacular, and returns a few months down the road in Robin's series, after it moves to Detective Comics.

Dick learns about a new machine, a stress tester, which resembles the device he noted in the picture of the dam break, and realizes that is what is being used to shatter the walls at a recent bank robbery.

He finally gets into action as Robin the next time the villains try to use the machine, but winds up defeated by a new enemy, the Raven. As the story ends, he discovers the guy who told him about the stress tester has gone missing, and also gets an emergency call from Batgirl, asking him to come to Washington. The phone explodes in his hands, and Dick has no idea which of his many problems to deal with first.

The story continues in the next issue.

Rozakis, Bulanadi and Tanghal bring back She-Bat in the Man-Bat story in the issue. It was Francine Langstrom who has been changing into a bat to fight crime at night, now that Kirk has forsworn his Man-Bat identity. But unlike Kirk, Francine is not completely in control of her animal self, nor does she ever remember undergoing the change.

Kirk wakes to find Francine gone. He changes to Man-Bat and goes searching for her, finding her in battle with Snafu, and about to be killed by him and the panicked crowds at the arena where he is attacking. Kirk saves his wife, and later explains to her that she has been changing into She-Bat again.

Man-Bat heads back out to confront Snafu. Since the villain's powers completely mess up Man-Bat's sonar, he is forced to rely on his normal vision to defeat him, even though this also renders him vulnerable to Snafu's distorting effects. Bulanadi does a good job with Snafu, but I still long for the way Marshall Rogers drew the character's powers.  As the story ends, Kirk decides that he cannot give up being Man-Bat.

Levitz, Staton and Layton close out the issue with the Huntress story, as she continues on the trail of the arsonist burning down old buildings in Gotham.

And, as Helena Wayne, she deals with insults and sexism at the law office where she is a partner. She does, however agree with one of her nastier colleagues that they should aid a councilman who wants to devote resources into rebuilding the parts of Gotham being attacked by the arsonist.

Of course, if one has read enough comics, it's clear that the civic minded councillor is really the one behind the fires, to boost his career and siphon off money from the funding being given for the rebuilding. Huntress does figure this out, and confronts the man, but gets taken down by his goons.

The story continues in the next issue.

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