This is a continuation of the Penguin story from last issue where he was committing crimes based on the “short men of history”. The first thing we see is a bunch of guys robbing a building. They take out the guards with perfect precision and when Batman shows up, they take him out too. Of course, it’s not the real Batman, and this wasn’t a real robbery; it’s just a dress rehearsal that Penguin’s putting his men through for the real robbery. He expects Batman to have solved his “short men in history” clues, so he’s trying to prepare his men for the inevitable showdown. We see the sculptor from last issue (who kinda looks like Gene Shalit) working on the Penguin statue he’s been carving. We jump to the Tennis Club where Bruce Wayne is going a few rounds with his “friend” Renée while journalist Chester Cole looks on. Chester’s trying to write an article—A Day in the Life of a Business Tycoon—but so far all Bruce has done is laze around, play tennis, and flirt with women. Hey Chester, I got news for ya—that IS the life of a business tycoon. Bruce blows him off again, but leaves behind a doodle on the table of a company logo. Chester figures Bruce might be staging a takeover of the company (Royce Chemicals), so he figures he may as well check it out. That night, Penguin and his gang hit Royce Chemicals and gas the guards. But Batman shows up and starts pounding them. Unfortunately, Chester Cole blunders onto the scene and Batman gets accidentally taken down. He wakes up in an empty chemical tank with Cole. Penguin gloats ad says he wants to be in the “Great Small Men of History” Hall of Fame and he’ll earn his way in by killing Batman. He leaves and a couple of robotic teratornis birds attack. From what I can tell, they’re basically huge, extinct turkey vultures. Batman disables the birds then salvages the wings and a power pack so he can make like Hawkman and fly him and Cole to safety. He goes after Penguin, having figured out his final target. Bats kicks the crap out of Penguin and all his men and finds a bunch of stolen bonds in an old desk—which was Penguin’s target all along. Later Cole tells Bruce Wayne how he used Bruce’s “RC” doodle and ran into Batman, but Bruce says the doodle was for his girlfriend, Renée Cantrell. We get a last shot of Penguin in jail with a new cellmate—the sculpture of himself.
- Bruce says the doodle was referring to Renée, but the way he drew it resembled the Royce Chemical logo.
- Penguin’s last clue (about Attila the Hun) had three possible locations, but Batman picked the least likely one because Penguin told him he’d never guess right.
- I guess historical records could refer to the heights of certain people, but did some writer really refer to Alaric or Attila’s heights in their chronicles? (And I’ve read that Napoleon wasn’t really all that short.)
This continues the story from last issue where Dr. Phosphorus poisoned Gotham’s water supply. This one starts out with Batman running down a thief in an alley. Before the cops show up, a process server hands Bats a grand jury subpoena. He goes to the hospital to see Commissioner Gordon, who’s still recovering from the poison water he drank last issue. He’s being waited on by Alfred, another poisoning victim. Gordon doesn’t know anything about the subpoena, but figures Thorne is behind it. Thorne’s been crooked for years, and tried to get Gordon to reign Batman in before. Now that Gordon’s in hospital, he figures Thorne might be making a move against Batman. Dr. Bell—another city councilman—comes in and tells Batman he’s the one who called for the subpoena. Bell says lone wolf vigilantes have no place in Gotham and they’re going to shut Batman down. Across town, a Little Richard concert is interrupted by Dr. Phosphorus, who says he’s released poisonous phosphorus into the arena and sealed it off so everyone inside will die. Of course, everyone freaks and tries to stampede out. Meanwhile, Bats heads back to the junior Batcave under the Wayne Foundation. When his geiger counter goes off, he realizes the burns he got fighting Doc Phosphorus last issue are radioactive. He gets a call on the red phone from Chief O’Hara, who tells him about the arena. He also says the city council pushed through a motion that cuts off any official police support for Batman. Bats asks the Chief about sources of radiation in Gotham. Bats goes out to the offshore nuclear plant which we saw last issue when Phosphorus was recounting his origin to Bell. The rig is full of thugs, but instead of pounding them, Batman just turns around and leaves. He tries something a bit more subtle, throwing a party as Bruce Wayne on his yacht several days later. Of course, he invites all the big players in Gotham, including Rupert Thorne and Dr. Bell. Bruce also meets a new lady, Silver St. Cloud, who we’ll be seeing plenty more of in upcoming issues. Bruce slips away, changes to Batman and swims to the offshore nuclear plant. He finds Phosphorus and they fight. Bats is wearing an anti-radiation costume, which negates Phosphorus’s burning touch. He tries to trick Batman, but melts through a beam he’s holding onto and plunges down into the reactor. Bats swims back to his yacht and appears as Bruce Wayne just as police boats go by heading for the nuclear plant. The plant is glowing—I guess it caught fire when Phosphorus hit the reactor?—so Bruce has the yacht moved away. He runs into Silver again and kinda makes a move, but she’s notices his hair is wet. Better watch out, Bruce … this one’s not as empty-headed as your usual paramours.
- I’m not sure if Phosphorus was telling the truth when he said the people in the arena had only three minutes to live, or if he just said that to start a panic. If it’s the former, I guess Little Richard is dead in Earth-1 continuity.
- The arena where Little Richard was performing is called Sprang Arena … a nice touch.
- The red phone and Chief O’Hara are from the Batman TV show; I’m not sure if they’d been used in the Batman comics before, but probably.
- Again, I like the political angle to these Englehart stories. I think Gotham is best when it’s depicted as riddled with corruption … though some later writers go overboard and make it a complete cesspool.