Can the Thing's hold a lead, now at 3-1 against the Batman, even without Mantlo at the helm?
In the black corner... it's Batman and the Bat-Squad (who?), written by Bob Haney and drawn by Nick Cardy, Brave and the Bold #92, Night Wears a Scarlet Shroud!
In the orange corner... we have the Thing and Iron Fist, written by Marv Wolfman (uh-oh!) and drawn by Ron Wilson and Sam Grainger, Marvel Two-in-One #25, A Tale of Two Countries!
Ready or not... DING DING DING!
Haney's Bruce Wayne is always getting his hands into everything, so here he's visiting a film set in London, seeing as he's invested in a movie about the Scarlet Strangler, a Jack the Ripper wannabe from the turn of the century, directed by acclaimed genius Basil Coventry. Fog descends on the gaslit streets, and the next thing you know, history repeats itself. Good thing Batman always has a good cover story, like studying British police methods, so he can show up in the nick of time. His investigations and several close calls with the Strangler eventually make him fall through a floor and get his leg pinned under an unexploded Nazi bomb... and the fall has reactivated it and will blow in 10 minutes! Though the guest stars try to disarm it, Batman bravely send them away before it's too late.
Huge explosion. Batman's dead. Well, not quite. Feeling a bit of wetness, he uses a stick to puncture the earthen wall keeping the river at bay. Water crashes in, Batman wriggles out of his trap, and survives to get some explanations. +6 bat-points
Ben Grimm's not having as good a day. His story starts at a football game, and while I understand Alicia Masters wouldn't see the game anyway, those still have to be the worst possible seats.
He and Iron Fist get kidnapped and brought to a fictional country in Asia where the Fist keeps doing marginally better than him with what seems like willpower alone. And Ben's not doing that much better against human opponents. He gets thrown out of a jet and survives, but he otherwise doesn't seem to be much stronger than, say, Captain America. And about as light.
Did Wolfman even know who he was writing for? +2 points
Who are the Bat-Squad? Just three people on the film set with an amazing array of skills between them who help the Batman out that one time. You've got Margo Cantrell, beautiful script girl and stand-in with a black belt in karate. You've got Mick Murdock, former pickpocket/demolitions expert with a cockney accent and a way with the guitar. And you've got Major Dabney, retired Scotland Yard detective and crime consultant, who spots a crucial clue because he knows blind beetles who live in wine cellars each evolved differently.
Find the cellar, you'll find the Strangler. Oh, and he's got an unerring sense of when a WWII-era bomb will blow once it starts ticking. They make a good team, and the Bat couldn't have done it without them. Mick even sacrifices his guitar, so they're real heroes. The end of the issue asks readers to write in if they'd like to see more of the Bat-Squad. They were never heard from again. (Sounds like a task for Grant Morrison.) +7 bat-points
Like I was saying, Iron Fist steals the Thing's thunder at every opportunity. He's the one who manages to escape first and free Ben. Dude can drop from a plane and just "twist his body" to insure a soft landing.
And of course he punches as well as Ben does. He does have a rude tendency to call Ben "Thing" in every sentence, which sounds very condescending, but to be fair, Ben calls him Fancy-Fist and Greenie, and mocks his yellow slippers.+5 points
The Scarlet Strangler is actually the son of the long-dead serial killer from 1906, who went mad and was put in an asylum. But now he's escaped and he's reenacting his father's crimes on his son's set (got all that? the current Strangler is director Basil Coventry's father). He's deranged, and he's really strong, but for me, he's all about the way Nick Cardy draws his gloves:
He gets shot by Dabney and the river claims him, but that just makes Coventry the Younger go crazy and try to choke Batman. Thankfully, there's a big Nazi bomb in the room and Bats uses it to make him realize we're well past 1906. Phew! +5 bat-points
The Thing and Iron Fist were at some point invited by Prince Dragon to come and help train his troops so they could invade the country situated UNDER their own (access via volcano mouth). They refused, so they get kidnapped and the troops sent after them. They start out strong, grabbing Ben with hooked chains during a football game FROM THE GOODYEAR BLIMP.
After that though, it's like a video game. The good guys beat the Manchurian goons (WHY would Chinese analogs be using high tech Amerind weapons like the ja-dagna though?), then move on to the palace level. A palace, by the way, that only serves to show how preposterous this country is:
They pass the ring of volcanoes and moat of lava, and then fight slightly tougher goons, like the Brute with Knives, and the Blind Swordsman. When they get to Prince Dragon, he tells them all he wants is to get their kidnapped queen back from the evil General Chonga, which if they would have said so before, the heroes would have come willingly, yada-yada-yada. The good guys jump into a volcano, easily beat Chonga, and Queen Sen, though Prince Dragon's lover, marries the old, wizened king as per prearranged marital business. Boo-hoo. +5 points
Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Haney has all sorts of strange occurrences point to the idea that 1906 and the present (1970, in this case) have merged. Some are shown to be coincidences, but some are not. Would we have found out in Bat-Squad #1 had, like, a single reader written in? -1 bat-point
-Actually, that's not true. B&B #94's letters page reveals "overwhelming" support for the team, garnering more letters "than any other event in B&B". So what went wrong?! +0 bat-points
From Marvel Two-in-One:
-The Jack Kirby cover makes a much better meal of the Thing doing a high wire act. Kirby power! +2 points
Farewells and Scoring
Friendly farewell: What was Batman's opinion about working with the Squad again?
Overwhelmingly positive as well! +3 bat-points
Unfriendly farewell: Well, Iron Fist and the Thing don't really say goodbye, but then they perhaps weren't friendly enough to think of it. The farewell shot deserves points off tor the schmaltzy heart in the background.
1) It should really be broken, 2) no one cares if Prince Dragon is heartbroken. +1 point
That's the second win in a row for Batman with the Bat-Squad scoring 20, and Iron Fist only garnering 15. Told Ben to watch out for the comeback king! The score stands at 3-2 for Ben as we take a couple weeks off to get a couple What Ifs in (entirely due to my schedule over the next couple weekends).