For a while here, I became a regular reader of BRAVE AND THE BOLD–and I’m not entirely sure just quite why. B&B still felt “off” to my sensibilities–writer Bob Haney’s take on most of the title’s guest-stars didn’t jibe with what I knew of them in their appearances elsewhere. He also had an odd take on Batman, which was essentially to treat him like a television cop, so nobody was ever particularly taken aback by his dark raiment even when he’d walk down the street in broad daylight. It may have been the artwork of Jim Aparo, but I don’t think so, not on its own. No, really, I have no concrete reason why this became the case, apart from the fact that I was beginning to have more spending money, and so I could afford to pick up more comics.
This is one of the several issues from this time period where, before I pulled it out to write this piece, I remembered the broadest of broad strokes about it, but none of the details. I find that’s often the case with me and Haney’s work. I believe this was also my first up-close encounter with Mister Miracle, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around him and what he was. I got that he was a performer, but not how that made him a super hero as well. And this issue didn’t do much to illuminate me.
The story opens with Batman and Mister Miracle having been flown out to a small volcanic island in search of an old friend of Batman’s, geologist Steve Lang, who disappeared while exploring it. Why this should necessitate the aid of the World’s Greatest Escape Artist is hand-waved away (a bit more effort is spent trying to reconcile this story with recent events in the revived NEW GODS series, in a trio of balloons clearly not lettered by Aparo.) Anyway, it’s a good thing that Mister Miracle came along, as he saves Batman’s life three times in just a few pages, the Caped Klutz.
As they home in on their prey, Batman and Mister Miracle are confronted by Cosimo, a famous European escape artist whom Miracle had bested in competition in the past, and who now desires revenge on Scott Free. He’s been sabotaging the pair’s efforts, and now moves directly to destroy them. Batman and Mister Miracle run away from Cosimo after Miracle trips him up, a sad showing from the Masked Manhunter.
Batman’s even more ineffective later on, as he and Miracle make their way through the maze of tunnels, and Cosimo opens fire on them. Miracle dashes out to make himself a human target, allowing batman to close on the enemy. But Cosimo slips through Batman’s grasp and gets away. Batman and Miracle do find Steve Lang in a drugged-out state, muttering about Kraken–but before they can do anything, they’re both ensnared in a net. It’s Cosimo again! And this time, he strips Mister Miracle of his gimmick-laden costume. (Strangely, he doesn’t seem to bother with Batman’s utility belt–but then, Batman doesn’t bother to try to use it either, the dope!)
Fortunately for the trio, Mister Miracle is able to use hypnosis in a patently absurd fashion to trick Cosimo into thinking that he’s escaped the net and then making him let Batman and himself out. Discovering the trick, Cosimo flees directly into another booby trap laid by Kraken. Exploring further, the trio discovers a hidden treasure trove as well as Kraken itself–a huge super-computer that secretly runs a worldwide crime syndicate. Because, of course it does.
As the head human agent of Kraken sets the base to be destroyed around batman and Mister Miracle, the Gotham Sentinel begins reciting a nursery rhyme, which is actually “A mysterious code that the CIA learned via radio eavesdropping.” Reciting it transfers the Kraken files not to the Kraken back-up but rather to the CIA’s computers. And batman, Miracle and Steve escape by creating a makeshift balloon out of Mister Miracle’s cape and flying out on the hot air created when the volcano blows. And so, the story, such as it is, ends. I can’t imagine Haney pitching this plot to an editor–and yet, every issue, he wrote stories that were just as nonsensical and just as approved. So what do I know?