Friday, October 23, 2009

Brave and the Bold #87

Brave and the Bold #87 (On Sale: October 23, 1969) has a Batman and Wonder Woman cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

Batman and Wonder Woman star in "The Widow-Maker" written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano. I remember being so very disappointed when this book came out that Neal Adams was not drawing it, particularly because I had read that Wonder Woman was the team guests and had wanted to see Neal's version of her. At the time it didn't even occur to me that the big news here was that Bob Haney's four-year run on Brave and the Bold ended this issue. Haney would be back next issue though, while it would be a year before Adams would return to these pages.

All those sour grapes aside, this is one of my favorite Brave and Bold issues and turning it over to Mike Sekowsky was exactly the right thing to do. With Wonder Woman Sekowsky was mining a new direction for pure action comics, aside from super-hero comics and this fit in well with the powerless Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and the equally powerless Bruce Wayne/Batman. Throw in a European local, and Formula One street-course racing, a homicidal driver, a little revenge and some jet-setter flirting between Bruce and Diana and you have a great story, sans super powers and traditional comic villains.

Diana and I Ching are checking out a fashion shoot taking place in the mechanic area of a European rally when she is spotted by driver Bruce Wayne and Willi Van Dort, the driver of the car Widow-Macher. Bruce butts in when Willi tries to make time with Diana, saving her from Willi's unwanted advances, but Diana doesn't recognize Bruce as he ex-JLA buddy Batman and remembers him only as a millionaire playboy. While watching Willi's qualifying lap they learn that Willi's car is called the Widow-Macher or Widow-Maker because the last seven drivers who seemed on the cusp of beating Willi have all died on the track.

When it is Bruce's turn to qualify his time is three seconds faster than Willi's and Willi and his team take notice. Later while passing a window Diana sees Willi talking to his men in sign language, which Diana can read. However, she does not speak German and does not know what Willi is saying, but as she spells it out I Ching translates the conversation and they learn that Willi has ordered his men to fix Bruce's car so that he will not win tomorrow.

Late that night as Willi's men go to work on Bruce's car they are interrupted by Bruce who begins to go all Batman on their asses until Diana and Ching show up. Bruce holds back in an effort to keep his identity secret from Diana and in the process get whacked in the head with a wrench. Willi's men escape capture and Bruce ends up in the hospital with a concussion. Told by a doctor that he cannot race Diana offers to take his place, but Bruce makes a call to Commissioner Gordon and Batman is (supposedly) soon racing to Europe to take Bruce's place.

The next morning it is Batman who is seated in the Wayne One Special. As he pulls out into a throng of press he is also met by Willi who informs Batman that he is the son of General Van Dort, a crazy lunatic that Batman once stopped. Willi promises to avenge his father's honor. After warning Batman of the Widow-Macher aspect of Willi, Diana uses binoculars to once again eavesdrop on Willi giving instructions to his men to see that Batman does not finish the race.

The rest of the story is one narrow escape from a Willi tactic by Batman followed by one take down of a Willi henchman by Diana and Ching. It's fun stuff excellently done by Sekowsky and Giordano. In the end Willi is killed in a trap meant for Batman and Diana needs Bruce's help to bail her out of jail when she and I Ching inadvertently used the wrong car to chase down Willi's men. This leads to the promise of a dinner date between Bruce and Diana. This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB and Diana Prince :Wonder Woman Vol. 2 TPB.

They fill out one page of space with "A Matter of Life and Death" by Murray Boltinoff and Jack Sparling, a tale regarding the thoughts of a corpse in the back of an ambulance.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff

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