B&B 2-in-1 Round 6: Phantom Stranger vs. Mystery Menace

Batman leads 3 to 2, but the Thing is closing in. The Spider-Women arc seems to be working for Ben, so maybe Bat-scribe Bob Haney needs to step it up... and I think he has. Let's see!

In the black corner... it's Batman and the Phantom Stranger, written by Bob Haney and drawn by Jim Aparo, Brave and the Bold #98, Mansion of the Misbegotten!

In the orange corner... we have the Thing and a Mystery Menace (but Spider-Woman is still around), written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Ron Wilson and Sam Grainger, Marvel Two-in-One #31, My Sweetheart--My Killer!


The Stars

Things we don't know about Batman: There's this guy called Roger who considers the Bat his best and oldest friend, even though we've never heard of him, so much so that his son Enoch is Batman's godson! Wait, Enoch?! What kind of Omen-type name is that?!
The opening chapter of the story has Batman hugging children and making promises to keep his dying friend's family safe, and if you find that atypical, you don't know Haney! Speaking of friends we've never heard of, Batman has some nerve complaining Roger's funeral is attended by people he doesn't know. Anyway, how does he protect the family? By fighting them because they're WITCHES! Well maybe he can save the boy Enoch, so he "technically" kidnaps him and locks him up in a psych ward with occult artifacts! Way to look the other way, psych ward guy! You know me, the crazier the better, and add some explosive Jim Aparo punches, the Bat's score can only go up. +7 Bat-points

Ben cranks it up a notch as well, and his loved one in danger is actually someone we know! Alicia Masters has been taken by Hydra, and Ben will stop at nothing to get her back. He'll rip their hydrofoils apart while swimming against the current! He'll EAT THEIR BASE!
He'll even CRY!!!
There's not stopping him, but he's a sensitive sort! +8 points

The Guests
The Phantom Stranger has a strange role in this piece, because he spends much of it in other forms. To protect himself from the witches, he puts an energy cloak on so readers can think he's Roger's ghost or something. Later, he disguises himself as Lucifer(!) to trick to coven. And while he's making potions and advising Batman on occult matters, I'm sort of tickled that he's sometimes relegated to holding a flashlight.
No task too small... +4 Bat-points

Ben is essentially teamed up with two Spider-Women. One is Jessica Drew who finally breaks Hydra's mind control. The other, well...
...the other is Alicia herself, turned into a monster right out of the far more recent Spider-Island storyline, using her creepy spider-legs to snicker-snack Jess and build Thing-resistant webs. When it's not one guest-star acting the villain, it's another... +4 points

The Villains
There's this coven of witches, see, and its masters are Roger's widow Clorindra and Batman's godson Enoch. Major creeps, all of them. And handy with a chimney.
There's also the matter of torturing Batman with a pitchfork in his sleep. How will we readers ever sleep again?
And it doesn't stop there. There's an old lady in the coven who uses Batman's autograph for VOODOO! I mean, wasn't this thing CODE-APPROVED!?! +8 Bat-points

First, there's the British tentacle of Hydra (so... SPECTRE?), which uses hydra-foils to get around. Get it? HYDRA-foils!
And turn the Thing's girlfriend (of all people) into Spider-Woman 2.0. Then, there's Chauncy and Trevor, the bombers/thieves/treasure hunters whose plot runs parallel to the rest. Turns out Chauncy is really Dutch Nazi S.S. agent Heinrich Buerer who, during WWII, stole a chest from the British Treasury and hid it somewhere even he can't find without the fragments of a map he hid all over London... Well, whatever his name is, he may have complicated his life just a touch with such a convoluted plan. +5 points

Odds vs. Ends
From Brave and the Bold:
-Battle Shovel Moment!
You know the fascination I hold for battle shovels! +1 Bat-point
-Harsh double death!
When Clorindra sees Roger's ghost for real (or is it?), she and her demonic son fall to their deaths from the lobby balcony. I know he had the devil inside him, but killing a child in a comic book still takes some balls! +1 Bat-point

From Marvel Two-in-One:
-Ron Wilson, that is NOT how physics work:
That looks like something busted OUT of the truck, not INTO it. -1 point
-Once Ben and Alicia are in the truck, things get very strange indeed. We never see who's driving, if anyone, but that truck is a runaway!
It seems to keep going and going and going while the two monsters fight inside! Maybe it's just an illusion caused by the terrible pacing (cutting to a slow scene with the side-villains in between seconds of action), but I prefer to think of it as an insane sequence that lasts and lasts. +1 point

Farewells and Scoring
Friendly farewell: Not only does the Phantom Stranger look forward to fighting alongside Batman on the next "occult battleground", but the Bat has a touching farewell with Enoch's goodie twin brother, Roger Jr., to whom he pledges eternal love and protection. In fact, Roger Jr. becomes the next Robin--what? No he doesn't? He's never heard from again? Ah well. +2 Bat-points
Unfriendly farewell: Trapped in an ongoing story, Ben doesn't actually get any goodbyes, but if we treat the last panel as such, his relationship has seen better days. +1 point
That makes 23 to 18 for the Phantom Stranger over the Spider-Women, and it really comes down to the villains. Chauncy really isn't doing it, not against a crazy coven of Satanic witches! Batman pulls ahead a little bit; it's 4 to 2 after 6 rounds. Time to call in some reinforcements, Ben.


SallyP said...

Oh my goodness! Aparo artwork? The Phantom Stranger? I've died and gone to heaven. Seriously, I love the way the Phantom Stranger can rock that turtleneck and medallion.

Plus Aparo is a God.

Sorry Ben, I like you and all...but...Aparo!

Anonymous said...

The best part about this is, Enoch's godfather is Batman. Not Bruce Wayne, but Batman. I'm pretty sure that officially makes Enoch the unchallenged monarch of the playground.

I would have loved to have been in church the day of Enoch's baptism, with his relatives all there in their Sunday best, plus Batman.

That leaves Batman in charge of Enoch's religious guidance, which I assume mostly consists of devising plans to defeat every supernatural being recognized by the Catholic Church.


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