Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Brave and the Bold #152 (July, 1979)

Playboy tycoon Bruce Wayne was nearly killed while piloting a personal jet because the airport tower equipment failed to detect another plane heading toward him. Other such digital abnormalities plagued the region, including "computerized" jail cells opening up, traffic jams, and unregulated electricity ruining an experiment of Ray Palmer's at Ivy University. As the Dark Knight Detective was delayed rounding up escaped criminals, Palmer managed to drive to the Gotham City offices of Amalgamated Technics and happen to bump into Batman as both arrived to question the responsible party. Both men were assured that the glitch was being taken care of by Howard Trask, "computer designer extraordinaire."

Bruce Wayne soon learned that all Wayne Enterprises bank accounts had not only been emptied, but their five million dollar deficit had been reported to the authorities. Similarly, Ray Palmer was arrested in Ivy Town based on evidence that he had transferred the physics department's funds to Switzerland. Unable to pursue the matter from a jail cell, the world's smallest hero would have to sneak out to clear his name. Aware of their mutual concerns, the Atom headed to the Batcave, and joined the Caped Crusader in another visit to Amalgamated Technics. The Atom somehow managed to determine their computers were not corrupted by jogging on a circuit board while the device made "beep-de-beep" sounds.

Meanwhile, Batman discovered that there was no record of Trask's existence prior to five years earlier. Trask took off his shirt to reveal a tattoo of an anvil that was only visible under an ultra-violet pen light Trask happened to carry with him, signifying that he was part of "America's top secret federal investigation unit?!!" To confirm that Trask was legit as a co-investigator on this case, Batman checked him out with the JLA's official government liaison.

The Caped Crusader and the Tiny Titan followed the money from a closed South American account to a bank in Zurich that refused to cooperate with Bruce Wayne. Further, a helicopter with an electromagnet on a cable caught Wayne's car and dropped it off a cliff. The Mighty Mite somehow altered his density to push Wayne from behind so that he could survive a fall into the waters below. I'll admit that Ray's the physicist, but I don't think his field works like that.

The Atom picked the lock at the bank, and Batman found the pair's lost gold (?!?) They were then attacked by a gang of men in lederhosen and Tracht hats, whom they trounced before returning to the United States. Once there, Batman visited Trask at work, who clubbed the Dark Knight Detective with a wrench and dropped him on a conveyor belt spanning maybe a dozen feet that led to a shredder. Trask then left without seeing Batman die to return to his apartment. There, the Atom had found a computer reel hidden behind a fake electrical outlet, but dove into a trash can when Trask returned. Trask happened to dump the trash into the incinerator, from which the Tiny Titan barely escapes alive. The Mighty Mite then pursued Trask outside the building to a car where the thief tried to play the tape, learning that it was instead a recording of the national anthem. The Atom recognized the beeps from the Amalgamated Technics computer at the Swiss bank, which led him to switch the reels and capture Trask. Then, the Atom went back to Trask's lab to save Batman, inches from being shredded. Batman learned that Trask had blackmailed the JLA liaison into vouching for him, while Ray decided to eat a plate of Swiss cheese like a mouse.

Bob Haney and Jim Aparo were responsible for "Death Has A Golden Grab!" I often enjoy Haney for his lunatic cavalier plotting that makes Grant Morrison look like Ron Howard. Here, he just heaps stupidity on top of inanity in a series of nonsensical, ill-informed events that does disservice to everyone involved. I won't even touch the magical omnipotent reel-to-reel computer technology, since nobody in pop culture knew how those things worked in 1979. I'll even give Wayne and Palmer specifically (exclusively?) being implicated in the heist. Still, nothing "technical" in this book is remotely plausible, from the banking to the laws of Newton to the basic plot machinations. Why do the heroes take Amalgamated Technics at their word initially, and how nuts is it for costumed Batman and plainclothes Ray Palmer to show up together in the first place? Lederhosen?!?! Of course Trask is the culprit, because there's no alternative introduced! Once Ray found the computer reel, why didn't he just kick Trask's ass? How did Batman survive all that time on the conveyor belt? Why is Batman such an incompetent wuss? Did anybody understand that stuff about the computer noises? Why does the Atom act like a mouse, and who is impressed by a hero nearly killed via trash chute on accident?

Even Aparo is off his game, with loose art and a complete lack of understanding of how to render Atom adventures. He just keeps drawing the Atom as a full figure taking up minimal space in panels. Instead of a dynamic hero in an over-sized world, he's a glorified color stick figure battling household appliances. A debacle, I tell you!

The Bronze Age

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