Denny O’Neil and Murphy Anderson helm the Superman/Batman tale in World’s Finest 256 (April/May 1979), which has no real villain, just a sad victim.
A scientist and his daughter, working on a machine to travel between dimensions, accidentally open a doorway to the Phantom Zone. A Kryptonian werewolf emerges, killing the scientist, and winds up in a fight with Batman. Superman gets alerted when the Phantom Zone projector operates on its own, almost releasing General Zod.
Comparing notes with Batman, Superman realizes that the escapee is Lar-On, an unwilling werewolf, sent into the Phantom Zone by Jor-El until a cure could be found for his condition.
Though not by any means an evil man, Lar suffers from his violent alter ego, with all the powers of a Kryptonian, and Superman and Batman are frantic to find him.
It’s quite a change of pace from the last few issues, and despite having no real bad guy, is an enjoyable read.
O’Neil is also the scribe for the Green Arrow story in this issue, joined by Dick Dillin and Frank Chiaramonte.
Green Arrow is on the trail of the men who bought the Arrowcar. They paid a lot for it, and Arrow is sure there is someone big behind them. He turns out to be right, as he sneaks into the estate of Tobias Whale. He runs into Black Lightning there, and the two have a brief scuffle, as Green Arrow assumes he is one of Whale’s people.
They quickly realize they are on the same side. Tobias Whale was Black Lightning’s main enemy during the run of his own comic. Green Arrow leaves Lightning to take down Whales himself, as he requests.
This is Black Lightning’s first appearance since the cancellation of his own comic in the DC Implosion, and launches his own series here.
Black Canary gets a solo story by Conway, Delbo and Colletta, although it’s narrated by Green Arrow. The story deals with her control over her sonic cry.
In the early 70s the cry was often unpredictable in its effects, particularly in the pages of Justice League. Here, and in Green Lantern, she often relied on her martial arts, using the cry as a last resort. This story has her working to perfect it, and still having problems.
It is, however, the last time she would be shown to be struggling with control of her power, so it’s safe to say that her encounter with the criminal carny solidified her control.
This is also that last issue to contain separate Green Arrow and Black Canary stories. From now on, she would usually be a supporting character for Green Arrow, although she would get some solos, in issues where he takes the back seat.
Hawkman (and Hawkgirl) begin a series by Steve Englehart and Anderson that follows the events of their three issue run in Showcase, which ended a few months earlier. Superman guest stars as the Halls reflect on becoming exiles from Thanagar, which is now under the control of their old enemy, Hyathis.
They get a warning beacon from their ship, and find it invaded by Harpies, under the control of Fal Tal, who they had faced waaaay back in an early issue of the their own book, in the 60s.
Fal Tal and her harpies prove to be fairly easy to beat. Less than a page, really. Not the most impressive story to launch the series, but Anderson’s art looks nice.
Bridwell, Newton and Schaffenberger delve into the deaths of Billy Batson’s parents in this story, as a man comes to the offices of WHIZ announcing that he is responsible. Years earlier he met a myserious being, the Gamester, who wagered him for the lives of the Batsons. He won the bets, and the Batsons died. Now the Gamester has returned, intending to play for the man’s own life.
Billy is very suspicious of the entire story, and rightly so. As Captain Marvel, he picks up on clues that the man is really from the future, and so his “bets” are no such thing, as he knows what will happen.
Captain Marvel then wagers against the Gamester, who makes outrageous bets, which Captain Marvel makes come true. In the end the Gamester has no choice but to admit his fraud.
So the Batsons really did die in an innocent car accident after all.
Tagged: Batman, Billy Batson, Black Canary, Black Lightning, Captain Marvel, Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin, Don Newton, E Nelson Bridwell, Fal Tal, Frank Chiaramonte, General Zod, Gerry Conway, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, Hawkman, Jose Delbo, Kurt Schaffenberger, Murphy Anderson, Steve Englehart, Superman, Tobias Whale, Vince Colletta, WHIZ