Wednesday, February 21, 2018

MB27: The Brave and the Bold #165

The Brave and The Bold #165 (Aug 1980)
cover: Jim Aparo (signed)
title: "Prescription For Tragedy!"
writer: Martin Pasko
penciller: Don Newton
inker: Dan Adkins
letterer: Ben Oda
colorist: Adrienne Roy
editor: Paul Levitz 

One night in Gotham City, Batman swings down on a Farm Fresh Dairy delivery truck. As soon as he shows himself, the driver tries to knock him off the roof. In this effort, they knock Batman into a wall, which tears up his shoulder. Finally, Batman blows out one of the tires and the truck stops. Batman is then able to take out the two men in the front seat. He tells them (and us) that he thinks they are carrying a cache of illegal drugs from South America. He caught on to them because they didn't have license plates on both the front and rear of their vehicle. Just as Batman is about to be shot by a third gunman, who was hiding in the rear of the truck, Man-Bat flies in and fouls his aim. As Batman then takes the third gunman down with a batarang, Man-Bat flies off. Batman looks and sees that three vials of a drug called Serotonal are missing.
We follow Man-Bat as he flies to "an even seedier part of Gotham City" and meets up with his wife, Francine, at the East Side People's Clinic. They have brought their daughter Rebecca there, although they have no hope for a cure for what's ailing her. Having changed back into Kirk Langstrom, he tells Francine to be strong, because he can't be strong enough for both of them. He tells her that he stole the Serotonal in order to help Rebecca.
At Bruce Wayne's penthouse apartment Dr. Dundee treats Bruce's shoulder wound. He tells us that he was Bruce's parents' oldest friend, so doesn't condone Bruce's activities as Batman. Bruce puts his uniform back on and goes back out.
Back at the clinic, we learn that Rebecca suffers from acute hearing, which doesn't allow her to fall asleep. They blame themselves for taking the bat-gland extract and somehow causing Rebecca's altered physiology. Dr. Lucerne, head of the clinic, arrives and is surprised that Kirk has Serotonal.

In Commissioner Gordon's office he and Batman review the drugs. They discuss the missing Serotonal, which is a tranquilizer developed to treat insomnia but which has been banned by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) as useless and for having dangerous side effects. Commissioner Gordon tells Batman that this shipment of Serotonal is potentially contaminated, and could be toxic. Batman says he must find Man-Bat to warn him. He heads to Kirk's former employer, Jason Bard, to try to find him.
Back at the clinic, Kirk confronts Dr. Lucerne, who appears to think that Kirk must be either Man-Bat or Batman. Kirk reminds Dr. Lucerne that they agreed to a "no questions asked" relationship, so the doctor agrees to give Rebecca a dose of the Serotonal. Suddenly, Batman flings himself into the room and destroys the vials of drugs. However, because of his shoulder wound, Batman isn't able to stop the doctor from escaping.
Kirk is furious as what he sees as Batman's interference. Batman, instead of explaining what is going to Kirk and Francine, punches Kirk and swings out the window to the waiting Batmobile to chase after Dr. Lucerne. Man-Bat catches up to Batman and pulls him out of his car, causing the Batmobile to crash. Given no choice, Batman explains to Man-Bat what is going on and asks for help.
Later, at Dr. Lucerne's mansion, the doctor is telling the drug syndicate that he wants out of their relationship. They are about to kill him when Batman bursts through a window. Man-Bat is above the house on the roof, flapping his wings to fill the room with soot from the chimney/fireplace.

Batman knocks out the three drug dealers as the doctor tries to escape again. Batman finds that he lost his batarang in the earlier fight at the clinic, so he grabs the doctor's medical plaque off the wall and throws that at the doctor instead. Man-Bat, meanwhile, flies away.

A few nights later, Batman and Commissioner Gordon discuss how less than half of the Serotonal had been contaminated, which upsets the eavesdropping Man-Bat. He flies away in a huff.

This is my least favorite Man-Bat story, for several reasons. First of all, in a 17-page story that is supposed to be a team-up between Batman and Man-Bat, Man-Bat appears on a whopping six pages. In fact, every page that has something to do with Man-Bat or with Kirk Langstrom is reprinted above. Not much of a team-up, is it?

Secondly, and more importantly, Man-Bat is not the hero of his own story. Although he is literally out of the spotlight he has no strong presence in the background, either. He doesn't even catch the bad guy at the end! He is not an antagonist, but the equivalent of a "damsel" that needs to be rescued by Batman. Although this is similar to the original Man-Bat who was driven mad by the need of an antidote to his bat-gland serum, this is totally out of character for the "super-hero" Man-Bat. Clearly, Martin Pasko preferred to play up the "doomed" werewolf/Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde part of the character, rather than the brave scientist slash adventurer.

And lastly, I don't understand the problem! Rebecca has acute hearing disorder, which isn't allowing her to fall asleep. But....anesthetics, sleeping drugs, induced coma....nothing can successfully put her to sleep!?! That sounds totally bogus.

So I think the worst part of this story is that there is no ending to it. Rebecca remains uncured. As her condition is left unresolved, with no particular conclusion in sight, there really was no need to tell this story at all.

The art is by the very talented Don Newton, who was Man-Bat's last official artist. He does a fine job on Batman, but really has nothing to work with in regards to Man-Bat. 

Man-Bat Trivia Notes:  
  • This is Man-Bat's second and last appearance in The Brave and The Bold. He first appeared in B&B #119. 
This story has been reprinted in Tales of the Batman: Don Newton 

Man-Bat was created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

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