Thursday, May 26, 2016

B&B (v1) #179 Batman Meets the Legion!

The Brave & The Bold (v1) #179 (October, 1981)
title: "Time Bomb With The Thousand Year Fuse!"
writer: Martin Pasko
penciller: Ernie Colon
inkerMike DeCarlo
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Carl Gafford
editor: Dick Giordano
cover: Ross Andru & Dick Giordano (signed)
reviewer: Russell "Bilingual Boy" Burbage

Mission Monitor Board:  
Batman and Chameleon Boy, Colossal Boy, Cosmic Boy, Duo Damsel, Element Lad, Princess Projectra, Shadow Lass, Shrinking Violet, Sun Boy

Anton Halkor, Universo

In present day Gotham City, Batman is on patrol when an armored car from STAR Labs Metropolis is stopped in front of the Gotham City Museum of Science & Technology. Hired hoods step forward to steal a time capsule that the STAR men are transporting. Batman saves the time capsule, which is scheduled to be buried for 1,000 years at the Gotham World's Fair the next day.
1,000 years in the future, two scientists are talking about the Nandorian Relic, an egg consisting of living anti-matter surrounded by a positive matter shell. Suddenly, the laboratory is attacked by thieves intent on stealing it. The Legion happens to be flying by, so they investigate the alarm. However, they are stopped by the leader of the gang, a man they recognize as Anton Halkor, the renegade cyberneticist. Element Lad recognizes the hypnotic spells he used, as well, as something that had to have been provided by the Legion's enemy, Universo.
Halkor takes the Nandorian Relic and goes back in time 1,000 years to switch it with the STAR Lab time capsule. However, he is seen by Batman, who attempts to stop him. When Halkor returns to the 30th Century, he inadvertently brings Batman back with him.
Halkor reports to Universo that he has switched the Nandorian Relic. He also reluctantly admits that he brought Batman back with him, but quickly ditched him. Universo is annoyed, but they turn their attention to listening in at Legion head-quarters, where Rond Vidar is showing Duo Damsel, Shrinking Violet, and Shadow Lass his modified time bubble. With it, he dispatches each of them into the time stream.
Meanwhile, Batman revives and, finding himself in the 30th Century, breaks into the front door of the Legion head-quarters. The Legionnaires confront him, then end up listening to his story. They deduce that Halkor didn't steal the time capsule: he switched in with the Nandorian Relic. So they decide to send Batman back to his correct era so he can switch it back. However, Chameleon Boy has found that all of their time bubbles have been destroyed, and Princess Projectra verifies that their three friends are missing.
Rond returns to Universo and Halkor to report his success. He is not a traitor, however; the Legion Reservist is under the mechanical mind-control of Halkor.  Halkor contacts the Legion and challenges them to find him before the bomb goes off. Batman thinks Halkor is in some underground dwelling due to the sewer sounds he hears in the background, so they head down into the sewers.
Cosmic Boy leads a group into the sewers, tracking the electro-magnetic field from all of Universo's equipment to find him. Halkor, when confronted, tells them that the three Legionnaires are trapped in time, and if they want to save them they have to let him go. However, Batman and Chameleon Boy show up suddenly and capture him. Then they rush off to stop the anti-matter egg from destroying a 50 mile area of the city.
Universo is at the site of the time capsule opening ceremony, where the egg is scheduled to crack open. The Legion faces him as Batman dives into the time capsule to take care of the Nandorian Relic. With only minutes to spare, he puts an anti-grav disc on it so it will fly off into space and explode harmlessly.

In the meantime Universo has taken control of four Legionnaires, ordering them to fight each other. The three kidnapped Legionnaires return and stop Universo with Batman and Rond's help.

Rond repairs a time bubble in order for Cosmic Boy to escort Batman back to his time-line.

Looking at this cover, you might have been intrigued by the notion of two totally distinct and separate character worlds coming together in one story. Can "super-hero detective" meet "science fiction" in an entertaining, fun story? Of course it can!

It didn't in this this story, but I still believe it IS possible.

Why a writer and editor with no Legion experience (Martin Pasko and Dick Giordano, respectfully) would even attempt to handle this team-up is a mystery. Maybe after all the Legion covers that Dick Giordano had drawn by this time, he figured he was up to the challenge? At this point in its run, The Brave & The Bold was edited by Giordano, but the writers were different every issue. So imagine if this story had been written by, say, Paul Levitz or Cary Bates? Oh, well. The regular artist on B&B was Jim Aparo, but for some reason he skipped this story. Nothing against Ernie Colon, but Jim Aparo artwork would have gone a long way to make this story more palatable....Oh, well again....!

As it is, there seems to be quite a difference in page layouts. Some pages have what I consider "open" layouts, i.e. six or seven panels, not too crammed, good ratio between words and pictures. But then there are way too many pages that are just laid out badly: too many words for the space provided, illustrations that are not graphically pleasing, or are just too crammed with stuff to make reading them pleasant. Check out the pages I've included here as'll see that most of them are not what I would consider "well paced."

So you probably have figured out that I am not a big fan of this story. It's another one of those "great ideas!" that just....well, it just wasn't done right. I could go through and chat about all the little things that bother me about this story, but instead I'll give you two BIG examples, and that should suffice.

Ironically about a story about time travel, this whole thing seems rushed. We get three pages of Batman stopping an attempted robbery of the time capsule, where surely one page could have sufficed. Then we get five pages of the Legion coming across a similar robbery. Then we get four more pages of Batman fighting against Halkor. That's twelve pages of a 27 page story where the co-stars aren't co-starring!! When they finally do get together we get a lot of explanatory dialogue and exposition, and then only two pages where Batman is actually "teaming-up" with any Legionnaiers! (Chameleon Boy and Shrinking Violet, respectfully.)

Therefore there is no charm, no interaction, no wonderment. The closest we ever get is Batman's initial reaction to seeing 30th Century Metropolis (Gotham City): stunned silence. When the co-stars finally get together, there is no scenes of "Hey, we met when we battled Mordru together---!" or "How in the world did you show up here...?!" No, there is only a "Are you really Batman?" question, then we move on.

Which is a shame. Imagine that the story had started on page 9, with Batman happening to notice Halkor appearing in the museum, and then teaming up with the Legion on page 13, the new page four? The theft of the Nandorian Relic could just be referenced. Then we could have some real interaction between Batman and the Legion. Perhaps they could do some detective work, instead of having Halkor call them up and invite them over....?

And that leads me to my second biggest gripe with this story: I don't understand what the villains were planning. They wanted revenge, Universo on the Legion and Halkor on the Gotham District. So they planned on destroying 50 square miles of the city....? I suppose that works for Halkor, but how would that satisfy Universo? And if the plot was to destroy the city, why in the world is he AT the site of the explosion? Wouldn't he then be killed, too? Once Batman throws a monkey wrench in the plan, they decide to face their foes, but.....why?!? All this time travel back and forth and the story doesn't even make sense.

One last comment: am I the only one that thinks that kidnapping three female Legionnaires is a bit misogynist? There are 20 plus members of the Legion to choose from, and Martin Pasko made all of the kidnapped members "damsels in distress"? A bit chauvinistic, I think. Duo Damsel isn't even a full-time member at this point!

I don't have a copy of the later issue of The Brave & The Bold which printed letters of comment on this issue, but I can imagine that they were probably mostly negative.

Science Police Notes:  
  • This story takes place in-between Legion (v2) #s280~282. Batman makes a cameo appearance in LSH #280, and Cosmic Boy references Lightning Lad's team being on their time travel adventure in this story. 
  • The Nandorian Relic is mistakenly referred to as MANDORIAN on page 4. 
  • Although Princess Projectra appears in this story, she does absolutely nothing. 
  • Anton Halkor realizes that he brought Batman back to the future with him, but then doesn't kill him when he has the chance. 
  • Universo is drawn in the shadows for the first 14 pages (to maintain the mystery of who he is?), but then the "reveal" is only half of his face (see scan above). 
  • Universo's real name is Argus Oranx. However, his son's name is Rond Vidar. 
  • Batman is shown to be cracking the code to break into Legion head-quarters, a skill he absolutely should not have. 
  • Both Ernie Colon and Mike DeCarlo returned to draw The Legion during their Baxter era. 
  • The "narrator" on page 22 clearly states that Cosmic Boy is off taking care of Rond Vidar; however, he is drawn in the scene with his fellow Legionnaires. On the next page, he is replaced by Element Lad. 
This issue has not yet been reprinted.

This was the first (and only) time Batman met the Legion of Super-Heroes in the pages of The Brave & The Bold. 

1 comment:

  1. Pasko also co-wrote the LSH-JLA-JSA crossover in JLA 147-148.

    The "Argus Oranx" seldom came up again, and he was called just Vidar as a Green Lantern in LSH 295, so it may have been a nom du crime