Friday, April 27, 2007

B&B 2-in-1 Round 13: Golem vs. Deadman

Batman's in the biggest lead of this fight yet at 7-5 over the Thing, which sets the stage for... Round 13!

In the orange corner... it's the Thing and the Golem written by Roy Thomas and Bill Mantlo and drawn by Bob Brown and Jack Abel, Marvel Two-in-One #11, The Thing Goes South!

In the black corner... we've got Batman and Deadman, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Neal Adams, Brave and the Bold #79, The Track of the Hook.

Comfortably seated? Alright, let's begin. DING DING DING!

The Stars
Ben Grimm's on a vacation to Florida with his lovely blind girlfriend Alicia, so of course hilarity ensues... and Alicia doesn't get it. That serves the Thing for serving up so much slapstick. For example, when they're about to miss their train, Ben does the only sensible thing...
And then he pays for the damages with Reed Richards' credit card. And SPIDER-MAN's a menace to society? The lesson: You WILL hold that train/bus/plane for the Thing. It's not all good for ol' Ben though (or Unca Benjy as he's taken to calling himself - I blame YOU Wundarr!!). He spends the rest of the issue dragging Alicia into a warzone by the arm until he realizes that yeah, she could easily get hurt by a flying car. That, and editor-cum-writer Roy Thomas is ignoring the previous story's character development, turning Ben back into an emo rockpile that mopes about being a monster. I guess it doesn't help that all the passengers on the train find new seats after he boards. +3 points

This month's Brave & Bold showcases a pretty callous Batman who doesn't give a fig about a murder when it doesn't seem to connect to his big, headline-grabbing case against the "Syndicate". It takes Deadman bringing up the Waynes' murders to coax him to action. This issue also sees the Caped Crusader pull a Sean Penn when the cameras start flashing:
Of course, he's never been this intense in a Brave & the Bold yet, and he gets to knock a few heads, and solve a mystery using the powers of... ENGLISH LIT!!! That's right. His power is knowing his Coleridge. +4 bat-points

The Guests
Before appearing in Nick Fury's Howling Commandos Monster Force, the Golem had a handful of appearances in the 1970s, including this one. Basically, he's a mystical Jewish creation now possessed by Professor Abraham Adamson's spirit and linked to his nephew and niece, a couple of crazy Scooby-Doo kids. The Golem's just come off fighting some demons and is now an inert statue... until the villain of the piece (see below) takes control of the Golem's clay and makes him destroy downtown St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia). How do we know Adamson's spirit is in there?
That's a baseball move, isn't it? After hitting a homerun with the Thing, he follows up by knocking Ben into a phone booth which goes a-tumbling. But while he can't speak, he can make the Hebrew word for "Truth" appear on his forehead, which instantaneously gives Ben a full explanation of what's going on. I wish they could've done that at the start of the issue so I didn't have to suffer through a couple of pages of flashback and exposition. And when the Golem flashes his secret word at the demons, they go away. Yay! And then it's back to being a statue. Glamorous. +6 points

I loves me some Deadman, especially while he's still on the quest to find his killer. And because it looks like Hook might be behind Batman's "little murder", he takes the Dark Knight over, discovers his secret identity, and makes a tape explaining the whole deal to play on his sympathies. It works too. Boston Brand's a down-to-earth kind of ghost, which makes him highly sympathetic, and he's got a knack for jumping into and possessing the right people to do some good. Of course if jumped into the villains, there might not be so much carnage, but there ya go. +7 points

The Villains
Carrying over from Golem's previous appearances, the big bad demon of the piece is Kabbala, "the overlord of demon-ruin", whatever that means. I'm a little perplexed by his name, since the Jewish Kabbalah probably shouldn't be connected to satanism. But ignoring that, Kabbala's plan is to take control of the Golem and wreak havoc. I can't discern much more to it than that. Why it's so important to him when he can easily flood part of the city will have to remain an unknown. When it doesn't work out, he gives Ben a light sunburn and then goes WHOOSH. I'm gonna go ahead and call him lame, ok? +2 points

The Batman/Deadman story feature a bunch of human villains, all part of the same "Syndicate", and they all DIE!!! Go read the story if you've got it because I'm about to spoil the mysteries...

No really, do it...

Done? I'll just have to trust you, I guess. Batman's on the trail of "The King" who will turn out to be newspaper mogul "Kubla" Kaine. Styling himself on Colerdige's famous poem more than the Mongol leader, his home was called Xanadu and it sat on a "sacred river". The King is also a somewhat ecclectic man, since Xanadu looks like an aztec pyramid, and when discovered, he turns out to be a trained samurai wielding a deadly katana. Dies by a stray bullet meant for Batman. He's got a couple of henchmen who don't really wind up dead so much as start out dead, like "Whitey" and "the Paymaster". The killer for hire in the story doesn't turn out to be the Hook, who killed Deadman. No he's Max Chill, the previously unknown brother of Joe Chill, the man responsible for the murder of Batman's parents.
His hook is a fake to confound witnesses and police alike, and he dies when a number of slot machines fall on him. Yes, a one-armed bandit joke. This is totally Haney, by the way, creating a "relevant" character like this and killing him off in the same issue. So you didn't know Joe Chill had a brother? Turns out it doesn't matter, cuz we won't see him again. +6 bat-points

Odds vs. Ends
From Marvel Two-in-One:
-This looks like a transition issue, with former editor Roy Thomas plotting it out, and new writer Boisterous Bill Mantlo only scripting it (only adding words after the pages have already been drawn). And it looks like Mantlo doesn't think much of Roy's work. Check out the meta textual commentary by the Thing:
It's not just Ben saying the story makes no sense, it's Mantlo himself:
Fortuitous indeed. Hey boys, can't we all be friends here? +3 points
-The ending lets us believe that the Golem is gonna get his own series set in St. Petersberg. I guess the letters didn't come inundating in. Maybe a personality or the ability to talk might have helped? -1 point
-This is a story that relies entirely too much on detailed special reports coming through radios and televisions within 5 feet of the Thing. Were television stores still doing that thing where they put tvs right up to the window in the 70s? -1 point
-The next issue blurb promises "the most unexpected team-up of all!!! The Thing and - WHO?" Since this will turn out to be Iron Man, I'll just have to assume they didn't know who the heck it was gonna be yet. -1 point

From Brave and the Bold:
-The Brave and the Bold is all grown up, all of a sudden. If anyone asks what's the big deal with Neal Adams, just show them this issue next to the previous one. Same ridiculous and convoluted Haney script (one presumes), but Neal Adams makes it three-dimensional, dynamic and what shouldn't work, works. The first page is a totally silent sequence where the "Hook" murders a man. I don't think we would have seen that kind of thing before. +3 bat-points
-There are little touches here that could be attributed to Adams, or if from Haney, would have been obvious and hokey when done by another artist. For example, I only noticed this panel on a later pass; it occurs as Max Chill gives up his evidence:
I don't if I'm supposed to be seeing our heroes hit the jackpot, or Max's raw deal as a lemon, but I love it. +2 bat-points
-My favorite panel is this, however:
Batman ferrying dead souls across a sacred river? BRILLIANT. Don't forget to pay the ferryman, Deadman! +3 bat-points

Farewells and Scoring
The Thing's Unfriendly Farewell isn't exactly venomous or anything, but it's far from warm. After all, the Golem has reverted to being a statue, so it's really kind of pathetic.
It seems to Ben that there's "a momentary flicker of understanding in the stone-being's eyes", and he feels less alone. Wow. Poetry. But he may be reading a little too much into it. Hey Ben, you want to be less alone? Go and find the blind girlfriend you left near some wreckage somewhere. +2 points

Meanwhile, Deadman shows us how you can have a Friendly Farewell without being able to truly interact with your co-star.
He possesses Batman and leaves him a message using a bat-sharpy. Adios, guys! +3 bat-points

Final tally has Deadman bulldozing the Golem 28 to 13, with a rather important assist from new regular artist Neal Adams. So what's the Thing to do? 8 to 5 for Batman and losing ground fast... Time to bring in your own gun. Watch for it, kids: Bill Mantlo. He is coming.

1 comment:

Porridge Face said...

I actually have read and really enjoyed both these issues.

The Deadman one from Brave and the Bold was one I at very first was a little intimidated by, since I had in fact been reading the series because of it's zaniness, and while some of it's still there, the darkness was a bit of a shocker at first, but once I finished lamenting what I was sure to be the loss of my precious whirly-bat, I realized something, this comic was actually good, good writing, good art, and just enough campiness to make it last.

As for the Thing one, I admit it's not the best comic, but, well, I dunno, I like the Golem. He's one of those characters who you just are going through a list of characters one day, all with names like "Mondo Man" and "Swine Girl" and then you come across something clean and simple like Golem, and suddenly you want something with him in it, even if the character is simple, and the issue he's in isn't great, for some reason, I really like him. Too bad they didn't actually start that series, coulda been good, in the right hands.