Friday, February 26, 2010

Detective Comics #398

Detective Comics #398 (On Sale: February 26, 1970) has a cover by Neal Adams.

This issue begins with our cover-story "The Poison Pen Puzzle" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. It begins with Bruce Wayne on a jet headed for Los Angeles where Wayne Enterprises is about to buy into the picture business by purchasing a stake in Seven-Star Pictures. Sitting next to him is writer Maxine Melanie, who creates quite a stir on the plane when her identity is revealed by a couple of flight attendants. Her latest Hollywood tell-all "novel" has just been published and when she asks Bruce if he would like an autograph, he makes it clear how he feels about her type of literature, "I wouldn't be seen dead with your--book!"

But as fate would have it Seven-Star Pictures has just optioned the thing and after landing Bruce makes a big stink in the boardroom of Seven-Star, threatening to call of the merger if Seven-Star makes the movie. One of the board-members rightfully accuses Bruce of being a boorish "censor" for criticizing a book he has not read and when they go to get Bruce their advanced copy, they find it missing. This sends Bruce to a nearest bookstore where Maxine just happens to be signing her work.

Bruce is told that if he wants an autograph from Maxine that he better bring his own pen as "Maxine ran out of hers hours ago..." Just then an old woman asks to be let into the line awaiting autographs as she is "too frail to take this pushing around." As Maxine signs her book, she spasms, screams and collapses. The old woman tries to beat a hasty retreat but drops her book. Bruce tries to return it to her and is flipped onto his back by the old broad. By this time a doctor has shown up and pronounces Maxine dead. Bruce notices that there is a pin-prick in Maxine's finger and that there is a needle sticking out of the pen. When Bruce looks at the dropped book he sees that it is an advanced copy.

Back at Seven-Stars Bruce finds that they know of Maxine's death and that one of their top "properties," Loren Melburn has confessed to the murder. She is half of Hollywood's "perfect couple" with husband Dorian Spence. They were both "speared by Maxine's poison-pen in her novel." They mention to Bruce that there is a third major star mentioned in the book, Ronald Dart, who also had motive to kill Maxine. Another board-member walks in and announces that Dorian Spence has also confessed to the murder of Maxine.

Bruce says he will handle this personally and as Batman visits the Los Angeles police where he tels them to announce that Batman is on the case. Later Batman visits the Spense's where Dorian tries to convince him that he is the real killer. Planning to head over to Rod Drake's place next door Batman is confronted by Drake in the garden, where he says he overheard Spence planning Maxine's death. When Drake comes out of the shadows he is wielding a fireplace poker and is not Drake, but Dorian Spense. But just as quickly he is grabbed by Dorian Spence who pulls the mask off the attacking Spence to reveal Rod Drake.

Drake confesses that he fed Maxine most of the dirt in her "novel" with the promise that he would star in the movie version. Only, she reneged and he decided to kill her for it. Does much of this make any sense at all? Not really.

The back-up is Robin in "Moon-Struck" by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Vinny Colletta. Hudson University is being visited by a moon rock which NASA is giving to Russia and is being accepted by Russian Exchange Professor Zukov. Geeky student Herb Stroud, the campus "profit of doom" who "showers every hour--on the hour" arrives to say that the moon rock may be dangerous. His prediction appears to have been right as the rock flashes green and Herb's skin turns the exact same color. The campus is quarantined and NASA people grab Herb for testing. They can find no radiation issues at all.

Meanwhile Robin is suspecting a hoax and is visiting the showers and finds a strange bar of green soap with an odd scent. Just hen the lights go out and so does Robin, who is attacked trying to keep the soap. When he awakens he smells an odd scent on the hand of the person who awakened him. Reprinted in Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 TPB. Not much to say about this one except the art is horrible and I don't blame Gil Kane.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

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