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Review: Brave and the Bold #131

DC Comics December 1976

A ruthless Catwoman takes on Wonder Woman and Batman while trying to sell off the blueprints to a high-tech cryptographic machine to the renegade terrorist state of Sudaria.

Synopsis of "Take Seven Steps to... Wipe-Out!"

Batman is shadowing an Ambassador from the illegal drug-exporting state of Sudaria when he witnesses the car the Ambassador is driving suddenly veering wildly out of control and ramming into a wall. Inside the car, Batman discovers the Ambassador's dead body when unexpectedly a very large jaguar leaps from the vehicle and attacks him. Wonder Woman comes charging in and using her golden Lasso of Truth, quickly ties up the large feline. Then a second cat, a large black panther, flashes from out of the car carrying a leather pouch in its mouth and flees into the night over rooftops.

How was Wonder Woman able to appear so perfectly on time to save Batman's life? It turns out Diana Prince is working for the United Nations as a "Crisis Bureau Trouble Shooter" and she had been trailing the Ambassador, suspecting him of smuggling drugs in and out of the country using his diplomatic immunity to avoid searches at airports. Batman then tells her he had a scheduled meeting with the now dead Ambassador in which evidence of espionage "far more dangerous than drugs" was going to be given to The Batman to help ease Sudaria's way toward being a "peaceful, law-abiding U.N. member."

Batman tells Wonder Woman "both big cats were waiting in ambush in the car's rear seat! A beautiful, deadly double-play by my old foe - - Catwoman!" The pair now exit the crime scene to go see "Uncle Sam," a ruffled looking man wearing a green eye-visor in a building where a "Top-Secret Nerve-Center" houses an advanced super cryptographic machine. "Uncle Sam" reveals that a clever thief (Catwoman) has photographed the blueprint of the cutting-edge cryptographic machine and she has been selling off the blueprint duplicate in seven sections, forcing the buyer to purchase each separate piece in order to get all of the design in whole.

What follows is a mad dash by Batman and Wonder Woman to prevent the separate pieces of the blueprint being smuggled out of the country, but they get foiled each time. When the final piece is all that's left to stop, Catwoman herself has been appointed the new Ambassador from Sudaria. "Catwoman renounced her U.S. Citizenship to accept the post" says the American U.N. representative, something which severely complicates the plan of action by the two heroes to stop Catwoman's scheme. When Catwoman is blocked from simply using the diplomatic pouch trick to get the last piece onto a plane, she switches tactics and apparently dies, with Wonder Woman and Batman inspecting her corpse that's been placed into a rose-stuffed coffin to be shipped to Sudaria, and the U.N. flags moved to half-mast in her honor.

Wonder Woman: "I was ordered to fly my invisible robot plane ahead of the jet taking her body to Sudaria, as an honorary escort!"

Batman: "What mind-blowing irony!"

As the plane is preparing to take Kyle's corpse away by plane to Sudaria, Batman realizes this is likely a corpse-in-a-coffin trick to get the last piece of the blueprint out of the USA. Batman proceeds to intervene, even though he's been warned that "A dead bodies sacred! It would cause an international incident!" to which Batman responded "If it leaves here, that coffin could cause a 'Cat-tastrophe' for the U.S.!"

Review of "Take Seven Steps to... Wipe-Out!"

Haney's scripts for DC's Brave and the Bold during the 1970s often centered on Batman as a kind of hero-superspy-adventurer-genius, and those attributes would be coupled with whomever was that month's team-up character. With only 17 pages, the plot for Take Seven Steps to... Wipe-Out! moves very quickly through the establishment of the crisis, the characters, and then multiple examples of a lethal Catwoman outfoxing Wonder Woman and Batman until the last couple of pages reaches a climatic confrontation.

Haney's dialogue and spy-story plot mechanics are a somewhat earthier version of Batman, tinged with 1970's TV action drama stylings that has a sometimes ironic, even cynical tone. Such would have have been out of place in the earlier Batman era and doesn't show up much in the Denny O'Neil and Len Wein Batman, but there are hints of this in the Archie Goodwin version, all from the same mid-1970's Batman titles Batman and Detective Comics.

The rapidity of Haney's story in Brave and the Bold #131 makes up somewhat for logical errors within the tale, such as Wonder Woman introducing her assignment as something Diana Prince has been given to do by the U.N., but later in the tale it is explicitly Wonder Woman who is being given the orders, something which means the U.N. knows that Diana Prince and Wonder Woman are one in the same. Another example of this same sort of convenient story shortcut to keep the story moving is Catwoman "renouncing her American Citizenship" which would seem to imply the United States is issuing passports to Batman villains based upon their theatrical character identities, or perhaps, like the U.N. knowing that Diana Prince and Wonder Woman are the same person, the U.S. State Department knows that Selina Kyle and Catwoman are the same person, but doesn't bother to share that info with the Department of Justice just down the street in Washington DC.

A surprisingly murderous Catwoman is in Take Seven Steps to... Wipe-Out! She kills the first Ambassador of Sudaria with her large trained jungle cats who she seems able to control by whistling, just like how a shepherd controls a trained border collie with whistles. The next Ambassador to Sudaria (who is actually a decoy) is killed by a Catwoman bomb blast during the next attempt to move a piece of the cryptographic blueprint, which ups Catwoman's body count to two.

While Bob Haney has written other Brave and the Bold tales in which Batman is driven to a dangerous state of rage by the murdering habits of other Batman villains (for example The Joker), when it comes to Catwoman's homicides in Take Seven Steps to... Wipe-Out!, Batman is entirely unmoved, instead he and Wonder Woman just keep moving onward to their next step in Batman's plan to stop Catwoman.

Jim Aparo's art is effective and his storytelling skills, along with his depictions of the story elements, whether it is Batman and Wonder Woman's figures or just the debris of the tale: planes, cars, buildings and Aparo's off-kilter, loose version of the nine-panel grid page, is mostly well done with some of the figure work being quite first rate.

A few things don't visually make sense, though, such as a gigantic jaguar attacking Wonder Woman and she says " bracelets are good fang foilers" and she uses her indestructible Amazonian bracelets to block the teeth of the towering, enormous cat, however Aparo depicts the cat's massive left paw scraping Wonder Woman's right shoulder, but this leaves no wound whatsoever in the following panels.

For that matter, earlier in the tale the giant spotted jaguar Wonder Woman lassoed with her golden lariat suddenly becomes physically smaller such that Wonder Woman can keep the now smaller cat captured within a wired trash can, using it as a cage.

Another visual gripe is that part of the story tells us that a hidden capsule is concealed within Wonder Woman's invisible plane, but because the object is the same color as jet fuel, it goes undetected. However, Aparo draws Wonder Woman's plane from several angles without ever showing us the jet fuel in the wing tanks.

"That incredibly clever Catwoman!" says Batman at the end, marveling at how his feline nemesis had almost beaten both he and Wonder Woman in her mad international scheme, but no mention is made of the dead bodies and how he and Wonder Woman, both bitten and clawed by the two jaguars, have remained completely unscratched.

Written by Bob Haney with art by Jim Aparo

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Original Page August 20, 2023 | Updated August 24, 2023