Saturday, August 21, 2010

Batman: The Brave And The Bold #18 (August, 2010)

Reprinting the eight page lead/prelude story originally published a month earlier in DC Comics Mega Sampler 2010, "All In The Mind" picked up a few weeks later. Batman was explaining to Doctor Fate his recent feelings of feverish restlessness, disorientation, and a strange sense of compulsion. The Caped Crusader had weathered this unease for too long before seeking help, as he had been tied up with a case. "The Penny Plunderer had broken out of prison. Who know what evil he... well... probably something to do with pennies, I guess."

Dr. Fate cast a spell to see what ailed Batman, and was confronted with the pockmarked face of Ma'alefa'ak. "Fool! You force me to reveal myself? So be it." Ma'alefa'ak launched a psychic assault against the "foolish sorcerer," chiding "Your powers are weak... your gods a product of fiction and insanity." Ma'alefa'ak had taken control of Batman's mind, declaring himself "last of the true Martians," as well as his intent to continue his mission through this "shell." The Dark Knight Detective's mind fought, but was dying from the infection of the Martian's consciousness. "Once again I will command! I will conquer Earth! I will resurrect my people! I will build an empire!"

Batman's struggle and suggestion to use Fate's helm gave the Doctor the chance to recite the necessary incantation and land the helmet upon the Caped Crusader's head. Both Batman and Ma'alefa'ak entered a mental plane within the Helm of Fate to battle for the Bat-Brain. "Clever, human. But to no avail... I am Martian. My will is dominant... My psychic power is unmatched! Feel the rage of Mars, Batman! Feel the power of my mind as I crush your persona into nothingness!!" However, Fate's power had continued to work against Ma'alefa'ak, rendering his mental control moot, and allowing Batman to directly assault the Martian's psychic self. The more thuggish B:TBTB Batman relished inflicting "sympathy" pain for a page (recalling a bit from Marshall Law, although Pat Mills probably stole it from someplace himself.)

Later, Batman's liberated mind felt almost empty after weeks of Ma'alefa'ak crowding it. Dr. Fate explained that the feeling would pass, and showed the Caped Crusader the Orb of Fate within which Ma'alefa'ak's mental essence now resided. Ma'alefa'ak had been given a representation of Mars, barren save for himself, until such time as he let go of his psychopathic rage. "If he does not, he will remain alone. A ghost tormented by the memories of his dead world. I fear he may remain imprisoned for a very long time..."

I suspect writer Landry Q. Walker believed readers of the Sampler would skip the reprint portion, so he offered a lengthy text flashback to a tale that had ended only two pages prior in this edition. While not as meaty as General Ma'alefa'ak's introduction in "Life On Mars," it was good to see more of the character. His Ma'alefa'ak remains unique by virtue of combining attributes of several other Vile Menagerie members. Ma'alefa'ak's specific fixation on a resurrected Mars shows a twisted idealistic type as yet unseen in mainstream continuity, although it echos the Master Gardener and the Hyperclan's efforts. However, his pompous speechifying and dictatorial desires are also an awful lot like another familiar general, one Dru-Zod.

Another curiosity is that Ma'alefa'ak's costume is inconsistent, not only when compared to his debut, but even from panel to panel. Red straps turn blue then back again, and the same hold true for trunks of sometimes brown, sometimes blue. I could live with brown or blue boots, but then he'll turn up barefooted and totally throw me off. Worst of all, in the first tale, Ma'alefa'ak has human legs down until the cloven hooves, while in the second, his legs are like a kangaroo in need of a pedicure. Both stories were drawn by Eric Jones with colors by Heroic Age, so the blame is spread broadly amongst parties who should know better. Aside from the nitpicking though, the book looks very nice, and I remain enamored with the character design work.


Landry Q Walker said...

Oh man! I totally forgot about that bit in Marshall Law! Haven't read any of that in... I can almost say "decades" and that's scary.

Anyway, glad you didn't hate our take. I would have preferred a full issue to explore J'onn with... maybe some other time I'll get another opportunity.

Diabolu Frank said...

Nah-- I think everything worked out well. J'Onn is J'Onn is J'Onn, but his villains are so rarely elaborated upon, I much prefer what you got to write. I'm big on maintaining a creator's intentions when continuing to use their characters, but since I hate Ostrander & Mandrake's Malefic, I'd rather see yours followed up on.