The Brave and the Bold #105 (January/February 1973)
"Play Now... Die Later!"
Bob Haney-Jim Aparo
Doug: Today we're taking a look at another B&B classic from the Bronze Age team of scribe Bob Haney and artist supreme Jim Aparo. This issue may be a curiosity to some of our readers not counted among those self-labelled as Wonder Woman fans. Does everyone in attendance know that the Amazon princess endured a period from September/October 1968 (Wonder Woman #178) to November/December 1972 (Wonder Woman #203) as simply Diana Prince? In that long-running arc, Diana was depowered and existed as more of an Emma Peel-type of spy/adventurer. Even though her own book transitioned back to the traditional costume and storylines of yore in the same month that today's B&B hit the stands, Haney and Aparo spun a tale of Ms. Prince without the star-spangled bun-huggers, patriotic bustier, golden lasso, etc. Let's check it out.
Doug: We're dropped into a Latin restaurant where Bruce Wayne is finishing his meal. Wayne birddogs a beautiful senorita, accompanied by a duena -- an older single woman serving as her chaperone. The maitre d tells our hero that it is indeed strange that a girl would be out at such a late hour, even with a duena. So, Bruce offers them a ride to anywhere in his limousine. The duena declines rather bruskly and the two women speed away on foot. But by the time Wayne gets outside the two women have been accosted by a couple of muggers. Springing to action, Wayne decks one of the do-badders. Pilar, the now-named duena, collapses. As Wayne turns his attention the muggers run off. And you know what? Alfred ends up chauffeuring the ladies after all.
Doug: But this isn't going to be easy. As the limo speeds toward a hospital, the young lady introduces herself as Conchita Vasquez of the fictional Latin American nation of San Sebastian. And then gunfire erupts ahead of the Rolls. Stopping the car, Alfred lets Bruce Wayne excuse himself. He re-emerges in his fightin' togs and jumps right into the middle of a gang war, with a little boy caught in the crossfire. The Batman manages to disrupt the gunplay with the heaving of a couple of trashcans, and spirits the lad to safety. One of the men has a machine gun. About this time a few police squad cars arrive, one with Commissioner Gordon. Batman gets his hands on a shooter, and Gordon identifies the man as being part of a gang war that's been brought to Gotham City from the streets of San Sebastian. Once at the station, the gunman identifies himself as Raoul Vasquez, Revolutionary. Ah, the plot begins to thicken.
Doug: Back to the hospital, Bruce Wayne tells Conchita Vasquez that her duena Pilar will be all right. Bob Haney begins here what I find to be an incredibly clumsy effort at authentism (I made that word up), which is the inclusion of some Spanish in his dialogue. The trouble is, rather than show a word balloon in Spanish and translated in a narration box (a common tool in comics), he drops in words like "muy", "amigo", "hombre", and "que pasa" -- but with the former or subsequent word being in English. It's just distracting, and detracting in my opinion. And one more thing -- does anyone's Batman other than Haney's use the term "commish"? I am thinking not. But back to the plot:
Doug: As Wayne and Conchita go outside, they are mugged (sheesh!) by some Latino toughs. We find that ol' Raoul must have made bail, because he is among them. He chastises Conchita, his sister, for being alone with Wayne -- Conchita explains that Bruce Wayne is willing to help them. Raoul explains that the Vasquez family is opposed by the Montoyas, who have kidnapped Raoul's and Conchita's father and have brought him to Gotham City as their hostage. For a ransom, they will stop torturing him -- it is the location of a great treasure they desire. Wayne agrees to give them the money for their father's freedom, then leaves with Alfred. Once in the car, Bruce explains that this is all a scam -- a variation on the old Spanish prisoner con. Alfred finds it hard to believe, but Bruce feels the Batman will catch them at it.
Doug: Batman arrives at a special meeting at City Hall, where he meets Francisco Montoya. Montoya spins the opposite tale that Batman had heard from the Vasquez family. Commissioner Gordon and the mayor, distressed by the violence in the streets, agree to ally with Montoya. Batman begins to set a plan into motion, but with some assistance. As we turn the page, cue the entrance of Diana Prince, nee Wonder Woman. Diana has applied to an agency in the Las Pampas neighborhood as a duena. Of course, it just so happens that Conchita Vasquez is in need of a duena, but those jobs generally go to "old hags" and not beautiful young adventurers. And of course again, she gets the job -- hey, these were done-in-ones after all! She radios Batman to update him, and later that night Bruce Wayne pays a visit to Conchita and Diana. He brings the ransom money, and even later that night Diana again contacts him to discuss the drop.
Doug: Near a seaside warehouse (would you expect anything less?), Conchita and Diana meet El Moro. The money is exchanged, and as el Moro begins to hand over a paper that allegedly holds the location of Senor Vasquez, gunmen appear. El Moro runs and is pursued -- money and paper in hand. Realizing that this may not be playing out as Batman had assumed, Diana goes into Emma Peel-mode and wipes out a couple of thugs. However, she's pistol-whipped and goes down. Batman begins to run along the rooftops above el Moro and his pursuers, but before he can act el Moro is gunned down. Batman descends and saves the body from toppling over the wharf. As he picks up the letter, Raoul Vasquez levels a gun at the back of his head and orders him to hand over the paper. Had the Dark Knight miscalculated how this would play out?
Doug: Batman calls Vasquez's bluff, only angering him and drawing a chops-bashing. As the Caped Crusader crumbles the police arrive. Shots are fired at Vasquez, but he avoids them and flees. On his feet, Batman is shocked to see that Vasquez left all of the ransom money but took the paper! Yep -- egg's on your face, Bruce! Batman sprints away, frantically calling Wonder Woman over the radio; there's no answer, however, as Diana lays unconscious on the pier. Batman hustles to the address he'd seen on the paper, to find a warehouse with a large billboard atop it. On the billboard is a smoking ad, with a man blowing smoke rings. But as Batman spies a manacle affixed to the wall, he's struck on the head from behind and knocked out. He awakens to find that he is now held prisoner by the same manacle. Cut to Diana Prince, who is about to be crushed by a speeding truck. All of a sudden, Diana's Amazon Guardian Angel comes out of nowhere to snatch her away from certain death. You read that correctly.
Doug: As morning breaks, Diana is back in Las Pampas. Suddenly she spies the billboard smoking like crazy. Assuming that something is going on (because you would if you were in a Bob Haney book, wouldn't you?), she goes upstairs to the warehouse. Batman is certainly glad to see her. As Diana frees Batman, the door opens and in falls Raoul Vasquez. Wounded by the GCPD, he staggered to the address on the paper. Once in a talking frame of mind, Vasquez convinces Batman that it is indeed Montoya who is the bad guy. Heading outside, the three find themselves near the Festival of the Fishermen -- a blessing for fishermen before their ships set sail. Batman quickly deduces that the floats at the festival may contain the treasure -- especially as they see Montoya boarding one of the vessels. Diana scurries across a rope to one of the boats as Vasquez and Batman trail. Once in the hold, they find boxes marked "tortillas" actually contain plane parts! Vasquez puts it together right away -- Montoya is sailing back to San Sebastian with a couple of war planes in his pocket to tip the revolution. With this one shipment, Montoya will set himself up as dictator of San Sebastian!
Doug: Back on deck, our heroes put away the toughs. Batman makes his way to one of the cabins back below, where he finds Senor Vasquez and Conchita, both in the presence of Montoya -- who levels a gun at Vasquez's head. But it's an open window that proves the undoing, as Diana suddenly slithers through and kicks the gun away. Good guys win!
Doug: Of the four Bob Haney/Jim Aparo stories I've reviewed so far, I find this one to be the most enjoyable. To those of you who heap praises on Haney's plots -- I'm beginning to develop a small appreciation myself for his "ah, what the heck..." attitude toward plot holes, and downright zaniness. Aparo is solid as ever -- he has a slick style akin to Dick Giordano when Giordano is penciller. It's not quite Adamsian, but close. However, I'm thinking at this time Aparo with Giordano inking over him would have been an improvement. Don't get me wrong -- Aparo's great on his own. But I think the art would have had a bit more polish to it with another hand in the kitchen. But overall, this was a fun 20-minute diversion.