This one starts with Bruce Wayne at a gala for the Société Française. He’s not really a francophile, he just wants to jump the press director, Renée. A guy named Chester Cole is shadowing Bruce for a magazine profile (and it kinda sounds like he wants to be there when Bruce bangs Renée), but Bruce ditches him. Outside, he finds some thugs in the bushes and pounds them, but their detonator goes off anyway and a robotic pterosaur bursts out of the Napoleon statue inside. Batman rides the pterosaur out into Gotham and crashes it. Later Batman talks to Commissioner Gordon and learns there was a big jewel robbery across town the same time as the pterosaur attack. Because of the whole “flying” aspect of the crime, Batman suspects Penguin is involved. And he’s right; we see Penguin gloating about the jewel robbery and the pterosaur attack and planning more crimes. He’s also getting a statue of himself carved (and another statue of Napoleon for some reason). Cole is still trying to write his Bruce Wayne profile, but finding the life of a business tycoon kinda boring. Bruce suddenly takes off for the Gotham City Music Hall (currently screening the Adventures of Machiavelli), but he’s too late to see a huge archaeopteryx smash up the place and take off. Batman goes out looking for more weird crimes and runs into a robbery at a diner. He pounds the crooks, then hears about another giant bird attack (this time by a diatryma) on a ship named after Lord Nelson. He puts all the clues together: the diner robbery occurred at 6:05 PM (or 18:05 on a 24-hour clock) at 1805 Hamilton Street and the Lord Nelson attack happened simultaneously and Horatio Nelson’s lover was Emma Hamilton and he died in 1805 … there are similar clues for Machiavelli and Napoleon. Batman figures all the synchronism is meant to focus attention on the crimes, not distract them. Batman finds a book in the library about “Great Small Men of History” which was last checked out by a Mr. Whitehead. He uses the book to figure out Penguin’s next target (since pen gwyn means “white head” in Welsh). He shows up at the next robbery and pounds Penguin’s thugs, then confronts Penguin himself, who seems to surrender but promptly takes off. Penguin still seems confident even though Batman uncovered his M.O. And Batman is wondering what Penguin’s next move will be.
- As far as I know, real pterosaurs couldn’t actually fly, just glide. This one seems to be flying, but it’s also a robot so maybe the aerodynamics are different.
- The way some of the dialogue (Gordon’s, Penguin’s) is written, it reminds me of the 60s TV show … probably on purpose.
- I wonder if the Gotham City Music Hall has any “Gothettes”?
- How many books did Bats go through at the library before finding the right one?
- I guess Napoleon, Machiavelli, and Nelson were all short, like Penguin is.
- When Batman’s figuring out Penguin’s next target, he asks Alfred about Alaric of the Visigoths; it almost seems like Alfred knew more about it than Bats did … I thought Batman knew everything?
- Bruce stands up Renée, the french hottie. C’est la vie, ma petite choux.
This issue is a good example of Englehart’s work on this title. He brings in politics, all kinds of sub-plots, and depicts Gotham in shades of grey instead of just good guys vs. bad guys. All of which ends up being a staple of Batman under later writers (especially Conway and Moench). And Simonson’s art is great too, natch. This one starts with Alfred keeling over. He’s feverish and when Batman rushes him to the hospital, he finds out a bunch of other people have been admitted with the same symptoms. It’s basically an epidemic, but nobody knows what’s causing it. Batman sees Commissioner Gordon at the hospital, being harangued by the chief of staff, Dr. Bell, who’s also on the city council. Gordon tells Bell off and confides to Batman that Bell has been pressuring the cops to do something. Gordon shows Batman a note from someone calling himself Dr. Phosphorus, claiming responsibility for the “plague”. Batman goes back to the Wayne Foundation to figure out the source of Alfred’s sickness.
He realizes it must’ve been in the water, which explains why so few people have it yet … only night shift workers would’ve been affected so far, but come morning, everyone in the city who drinks the water will be infected. Batman tells Gordon, who promptly keels over, since he drank some of the affected water. Batman figures the water was poisoned at its source and heads out to the reservoir, where he runs into Dr. Phosphorus. Phosphorus lives up to his name, as he seems to be either coated in the stuff or composed of it, and since Phosphorus burns when exposed to air, his touch burns. He and Batman fights and Bats gets kinda burnt. Phosphorus claims he poisoned the water by swimming around in it (which is kinda gross anyway). He also rants about how he’s destroying Gotham because Gotham destroyed him. The fight with Batman ends inconclusively, and Phosphorus takes off. We’ll have to wait until next issue to see what happens there, but the backup story gives us the origin of Dr. Phosphorus. He was a supposedly-dead colleague of Dr. Bell named Sartorius. Sartorius had joined the Tobacconist’s Club, which sounds like Gotham’s version of Tammany Hall. The city council chair, Rupert Thorne, told Sartorius to invest in the city’s new nuclear power plant as a tax-dodge, but protesters got the plant moved out to the ocean, so Sartorius stood to lose everything. In spite of all that, the plant was close to being operational and Sartorius went to check it out, but the reactor cracked and he was irradiated, turning him into Dr. Phosphorus. Now he wants revenge on Gotham and her leaders, but says he”ll spare them if they get rid of Batman. Bell calls Thorne to pass on the message, but we won’t see what happens until next issue.
- I’ve said before I don’t like stories where the action is already underway and they do a flashback to catch us up, but this is an extreme example; the first page shows Alfred keeling over, then we get a three-panel flashback showing Batman coming in “moments earlier” … and seeing Alfred keel over! I almost wonder if Englehart meant it as a joke?
- Batman rushes Alfred to the hospital and changes to Bruce Wayne on the way, which seems a bit dangerous to do in a speeding car. And wouldn’t people at the hospital wonder why Bruce Wayne is driving the Batmobile?
- As I mentioned earlier, Englehart is good at laying out sub-plots and backstory, and we see the start of that here with Phosphorus, Dr. Hill, and Gordon’s contentious relationship with Gotham’s politicians. All of that will be expanded on later, by Englehart and subsequent writers.
- Boss Thorne ends up being a thorn (see what I did there?) in Batman’s side for a long time.
- What Phosphorus refers to as “electioneering” looks a lot like beating the shit out of protesters to me.
Okay, this one’s a bit strange, so bear with me. First, it’s a relic of the Cold War, so It seems anachronistic today; it’s also a Bob Haney story, so anything and everything can happen. Case in point, we start out with Green Lantern defecting to some nameless Eastern Bloc country. Well, first he tries to sneak in but he’s exposed and knocked out (because being knocked out is what GL does best). When he revives he says he’s defecting and wants to give them all kinds of aeronautical secret data. The head commie, Vakla, thinks GL’s full of crap, so they throw him in a cell, but word quickly spreads about his defection and Batman’s sent over to bring him back … or kill him; I’m assuming they knew they were being eavesdropped on and that was for the benefit of the listeners. Batman gets captured by soldiers and taken to where GL is being held. He punches GL and they play their roles to the hilt. Vakla says GL’s info was out of date and to test him, they’re going to use their top secret interrogation technique (called the Demolishment) on Batman while GL watches. They use drugs, sensory deprivation, and sensory overload on Batman, but he manages to hold it together.
But Vakla says that was just the warm up and the real Demolishment is still to come. Batman freaks out and starts crying, begging them to stop. Vakla gives him a gun and tells him to shoot GL, which he does, but the gun only had blanks in it. Turns out the bad guy was lying (what a shock!) and the crap he just put Batman through WAS the Demolishment. Batman’s still a mess, so GL confesses that the whole thing was a ruse to get both of them into the country and escape with the details of the Demolishment, But Batman wasn’t supposed to break under the torture, so GL’s confessing to spare him any further harm. Vakla thinks it over and GL finds his ring in the office and activates it. He and Bats take off, but get shot down. They try to sneak over the border in disguise, but are found out. Luckily, Batman was faking his trauma and tosses Vakla off the bridge so he and GL can make it across the border, with the secrets of the Demolishment locked in Batman’s head. Makes perfect sense to me!
- Vakla says he was aware of GL’s bitterness and dissatisfaction with his civilian job … does that mean they know he’s Hal Jordan?
- I’m not sure where this story is supposed to take place; at first, I thought Berlin, but when Batman shows up he’s out in the middle of nowhere in sheep-herding country, so maybe it’s farther east … maybe even in Russia herself, or one of the SSRs.
- There’s a listening post in a florist’s van outside what looks to be the
Capitol Building. Aside from the fact that spies in a florist’s van is a total cliché, wouldn’t any van parked right outside the Capitol be suspicious? Can you even drive right up to the building like that?
- When Batman’s undergoing sensory dep, he repeats the name “Joe Chill” over and over. GL figures he’s using it as a mantra to keep his mind intact, but would GL know about Joe Chill? Batman’s not exactly the sharing type at the best of times, so would he really talk to his fellow JLAers about his parents’ murder? Maybe when he revealed his secret ID, Lantern did some research of his own and found the old story about Chill killing the Waynes?
- When GL and Batman are fleeing, GL says he’s too groggy to conjure anything but a hot-air balloon with his ring. But wouldn’t that take more will power than just flying? And when the balloon is attacked by a jet fighter, it holds up to the first attack and then GL has enough will power to change it into a rocket and blow the fighter out of the sky!