Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Like having the same fever dream twice.

Maybe more than that, since I think I have another reprint of this one! Originally from 1969's Brave and the Bold #82, today's scans are from Best of the Brave and the Bold #3, but I also had the black-and-white reprint volume Batman: the Frightened City! "The Sleepwalker from the Sea!" Written by Bob Haney, art by Neal Adams. So I know I've read it more than once, and it still barely makes any sense.

To begin, Batman sees a man following a girl on the Gotham waterfront, when the girl leaps into a pickup car, and the man is shot with a speargun by a man in full scuba gear! The car swings back to get something the diver takes off the man, and while Batman is able to get the driver to swerve into a pole, he's then stopped by a super-strong blond man, then shot in the shoulder by the scuba diver. Falling into the ocean, Bats is saved by the blond man, who he thinks was Aquaman, even if he's not sure later. While getting medical attention and reviewing with Commissioner Gordon, Batman retrieves a golden medallion of a kraken from the murdered man...even though we saw it stolen earlier, how did it get there? I've read these first five pages a dozen times now, did I miss something? Well, it's not important, Bruce has a date!

Actually, two dates: Bruce breaks one with redhead Honor, to go out with model Ailsa: he's pretty sold on her, but may be barking up the wrong tree, since she's only interested in Bruce's investment in the waterfront project. She also has another one of those kraken medallions, then pulls a gun on Bruce when confronted, and judo throws him off a balcony! Bruce manages to save himself, then follows Ailsa to her boss, and lover, "millionaire ship fleet owner" Orm Marius. Orm, Orm...who do we know named Orm, besides no one ever? Oh yeah, the Ocean Master! Ailsa had painted a nice portrait of him, in full costume, which Orm has to take a knife to because she apparently didn't grasp the concept of "secret identity." Bruce confronts Orm and Ailsa, and while Orm knows Bruce can't prove squat, he still sics his zombie-like lackey on him: none other than Aquaman! Aquaman takes Bruce back down to the waterfront, to murder him in a giant piledriver. Or "murder" him: Aquaman wasn't really going to kill him, but when Orm sees them Bruce has to throw them both over the side, so Orm thinks they were killed.

This was an early appearance for Ocean Master, so his origin and grudge against Aquaman are recapped; and this was also set during a pretty good storyline in Aquaman as he searched for the missing Mera. It would almost be a side quest; yeah, it's completely irrelevant. Stopping what he thought was a poacher, Aquaman accidentally kills a marine biologist, then Orm tells his brother he's just as bad as he is, which seems to put Aquaman into a fugue state controlled by Orm. Batman doesn't believe that Aquaman would murder anyone, though, and has Aquaman drugged and brainwashed to straighten him back out! But--what--huh? First, Bats doesn't seem to look into the possible murder either way. He also has the aforementioned Honor play Mera in Aquaman's drug trip-slash-vision. Honor then tells Batman, tell Bruce Wayne she's through with him.

He's a little stung by that. While Aquaman is instantly back to normal after this little play, he demands Orm not be harmed when they stop him; Commissioner Gordon, who had been playing the marine biologist, gives his tactical squad orders to shoot to kill, even though I'm still not sure there was any proof Orm had done anything at this point.

The only person successfully shot, or brought in, in this one turns out to be Ailsa, who declines Batman's offer of getting Bruce Wayne to speak on her behalf: while Orm betrayed her, she was alive with him, but willing to pay for her "foolishness." Batman strikes out again! That the Frightened City reprint I mentioned was all Haney/Adams Brave and the Bold stories, and I think they all read like you were expecting to take a drink of lukewarm coffee and instead get a steaming swig of peyote tea. Seriously, I don't think I can make it through the whole thing in one sitting. The Best of the Brave and the Bold reprint has somewhat more vanilla Viking Prince, Golden Gladiator, and Robin Hood stories; all with nice art and slightly less baffling nonsense.

Slightly less. (Originally from 1956's Brave and the Bold #6, "The Battle of the Kites!" Written by Bob Haney, art by Joe Kubert.)


Dale Bagwell said...

Damn that is trippy! Story makes sense in Bob Haney's world, and we all know how he wrote a good bunch of that run like it was in its own separate universe, so there you go.

But damn that art tho.

SallyP said...

Neal Adams and Joe Ku pert sure draw so purty.