This is the beginning of a four-part story about Batman being dead and different villains trying to take credit for killing him. We start out with the news that Batman is dead, but nobody is able to agree on where or how it happened. So Batman’s Rogues Gallery convene to hear testimony from villains claiming to be Batman’s killer. Everything is done just like a trial, with Ra’s Al Ghul as judge, Two Face as prosecutor, and a jury made up of Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Spook, Scarecrow, Signalman, and Mr. Freeze. Numerous other costumed villains (Captain Stingaree, Killer Moth, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum) are in attendance, plus a bunch of run-of-the-mill crooks. The first claimant for the title of Batman’s killer is Catwoman. Two Face points out the unlikelihood of that, considering she was hot for Batman and she has a well-known stricture against killing. But she insists she’s responsible for Batman’s death and proceeds to tell her story in flashback. She claims she’d gone legit (or pretended to, at least) as a fashion designer named Madame Claudine. She was hosting a sexy party when a bunch of thugs busted in to rob all the rich guests. Batman showed up and pounded them, except for one guy who fled to “Claudine’s” office. She followed and knocked him out, but when Batman came in to grab the last crook, he recognized Catwoman. She insisted she’d gone straight, and when Batman examined the unconscious thug, all he would say was “Two Face” over and over. At the trial, Two Face gives Catwoman shit, thinking she’s trying to sett him up for something, but she swears she’s telling the story just as it happened. Ra’s sides with her, so she goes back to her tale. Batman let her go, saying he hoped she really had reformed, but she hadn’t (naturally), so she decided to skip town to stay clear of Batman. She went to her country hideout to pack, but Batman followed her and said he knew she was still crooked. He’d noticed vibrissae—whiskers from a jaguar—on the unconscious crook and knew Catwoman had drugged him. The repeated words “Two Face” referred to Catwoman herself, since the robbers worked for her and the thug had been seeking a safe place to hide. Batman pounded Catwoman’s henchmen and nabbed her, but got conked out by another thug. Catwoman then took off in her car, but was confronted on a bridge by the Batmobile. They crashed and both hit the water. Catwoman , her jaguar, and her loot ended up floating on top of the jaguar’s cage, while Batman went into the river. He surfaced again and grabbed the cage, but it started sinking. Not wanting to give up her loot or her pet, Catwoman kicked Batman into the water and he drowned.
In the court room, Two Face says she’s full of shit and he can prove it. He wheels out a big tank of water and the jaguar cage which he says is built of Brazilian pepper tree wood, which has a density one-and-a-half times that of water. He throws the cage in the water tank and it sinks like a stone, proving Catwoman’s story was horseshit. She freaks out and threatens Two Face, but the evidence is clear and the jury decrees she did not kill Batman. Next issue, the Riddler states his case.
- John Calnan is kind of a forgotten Batman artist, but his work here is pretty good; he draws a nice Catwoman, that’s for sure.
- According to Batman (in Catwoman’s flashback) the repetition of one word over and over is called cataphasia—a pretty good clue to “Madame Claudine’s” true identity.
- How did Two Face know what props to have on hand to disprove Catwoman’s story? He’d have had to know the story ahead of time.
- I won’t give anything away yet, but the clues to what’s going to happen in the climax of this four-parter are already present.
Despite the cover, this isn’t a continuation of Batman #291. This story continues pretty much directly from last issue, when Bruce Wayne went to the Graytowers Clinic for some medical help, only to find it was being run by Professor Hugo Strange. Strange knocked Batman out and discovered his secret identity. Now we see Strange has gone a step farther, and plans to actually become Batman. According to his second in command, Magda, he has Batman’s voice down perfectly. Strange already managed to take over Bruce’s penthouse apartment in the Wayne Foundation building and plans to loot his bank accounts and drive his companies into the ground. Strange’s thugs dump Alfred in a cell at the Graytowers Clinic, where he finds a drugged Bruce Wayne. At the Wayne Foundation, Strange is also pretending to be Bruce Wayne, but he’s smart enough to know he can’t pull off that charade with anyone who knows Bruce, so he goes into seclusion and starts selling Bruce’s assets. But Silver St. Cloud shows up and Strange dumps her ass. She knows right away it wasn’t really Bruce, so she heads out to Graytowers to snoop. Magda tells her to get lost, then warns Strange that Silver is onto him. He tells Magda to take care of her. Silver calls Dick Grayson at college and tells him what’s up. He pretends to blow her off, but quickly changes to Robin and heads for Gotham. Meanwhile, Silver is attacked by Strange’s mutated thugs while she’s still in the phone booth. At the clinic, Bruce is starting to develop a tolerance to the drugs they’re giving him, but he’s still too weak to escape. Strange is still gutting Bruce’s holdings, but he wants even more. He arranges an auction of Batman’s secret identity and collects “earnest money” from three potential bidders (Joker, Penguin, and Boss Rupert Thorne); he says the auction will take place the next night and the opening bid will be $1,000,000. But as he’s leaving, Boss Thorne decides to skip the whole auction thing and grabs Strange off the street, tranquilizing his mutant thugs. Robin finds Bruce and Alfred at Graytowers and busts in to rescue them. Magda heads upstairs to inject Bruce with Strange’s mutating formula, but Alfred fights her and she accidentally injects herself. Before she can fully transform, Robin knocks her out. At Thorne’s HQ, his thugs are pounding Strange, trying to get him to give up the secret of Batman’s identity. But Strange refuses to tell Thorne anything, saying a secret like that has to be earned. He says the secret belongs to Batman, and Batman (and by extension, Strange himself) is too good for the likes of people like Thorne. Strange dies and Thorne can’t understand why he’d go to his grave to protect the secret of his enemy. Some people just don’t get it. This whole thing with Thorne and Strange has major repercussions later, but next issue features the Penguin.
- When Strange is liquidating Bruce’s stocks, he mentions companies called NBM (obviously an IBM stand-in) and Roxxon, a nice tip of the hat to Marvel.
- I like how Englehart writes Batman; he’s not invincible, he’s not perfect, and sometimes he needs help.
- I like how Silver isn’t an idiot either; she can tell when something’s wrong (and later, her perspicacity will really shine).
- I also like Englehart’s portrayal of Strange; he respects Batman so much (putting him on a par with himself), that he almost considers letting him live. By the end of the story, he considers himself and Batman to be “above” people like Thorne. His decision not to tell Thorne Batman’s secret makes sense if you look at it in that light.
This one continues straight from last ish, with Bruce Wayne getting thrown out of his office by Jason Morgan and Ruby Ryder. We get a quick recap of what happened: time capsule found between Bruce and Ruby’s property, two weird androids jump out calling themselves Jason Morgan and one smashes the other, the winning android steals a will and turns out to be Ruby’s lover, they get the android declared human and the will says he owns the land on which Bruce’s building is located. Oh, and the Metal Men were involved, and Tin got killed. Got all that? Bruce decides to bust into his old building to see if he can find some incriminating evidence against Ruby or Morgan. But Morgan’s waiting for him and Batman almost falls to his death, barely being saved by the Metal Men. But the Metal Men defied a court order, so Ruby has them arrested. Batman sneaks inside in the confusion, but gets caught by a boa constrictor (!) and tossed out the window. This time, he’s saved by Green Arrow, who’s in town looking for Doc Magnus to test some new arrow designs. We see the Metal Men being released from jail, then come back to Batman and Green Arrow scouring the penthouse for clues but coming up empty. Batman’s pretty down, so Green Arrow decides to take a shot at Ruby Ryder himself, by trying to charm her as a wealthy stud. He pretends to be an excavator (named Archer, naturally) and tells her there could be a fortune in artifacts under where the time capsule was buried if she’s willing to finance a dig. But Ollie’s surprised when the diggers actually DO find a cave with a laboratory and a big-ass machine in it. Ruby’s very “grateful”, which makes Morgan jealous as hell, so he comes back at night and turns the machine on. It starts rampaging out of control, but Batman and the Metal Men are there to fight it. Green Arrow shows up too, and they all fight the machine, but it seems to have a way to counter everything they throw at it.
Ruby starts yelling for help from the penthouse (though I’m not sure why, since the machine wasn’t anywhere near her) and Batman rescues her. The machine starts blasting Ruby’s skyscraper and she freaks out. Green Arrow blasts it with a TNT arrow (maybe shoulda tried that before, GA) and one of the giant letters on the building falls and almost crushes Ruby, but Morgan sacrifices himself to save her, saying he really loved her. Turns out old Thaddeus Morgan built the machine way back in the Civil War to help the South win, but he died before he could activate it. He was certified insane at the time, making his will invalid, so Bruce gets his building back. And Thaddeus’s notes had some high-tech bullshit that let Doc Magnus fix Tin’s responsometer, so he’s alive again. So , everything turns out okay in the end … except for the dead people, and millions of dollars of damages to the neighbourhood. We also see Ruby Ryder crying over Jason Morgan’s death, just to assure us that feminists have feelings too.
- Ruby’s choice of fashions this issue are … weird, to say the least.
- Before Green Arrow shows up to help fight the machine, we see him coming out of the Wayne building and he says he “left Ruby in her penthouse”; is the implication that Ollie banged her? Probably just my filthy mind … but who knows?
- When Batman rescues Ruby, she says “Just save me and I’ll be your slave for life”, once again showing that men in the 70s thought most feminists really wanted to be “saved” by some stud.