This is part three of the “Who Killed Batman?” storyline. This time around, Luthor makes a claim to be Batman’s killer, though he basically categorizes it as collateral damage. We get another extended flashback as Luthor tells his story. Of course, he makes sure to play up the genius of his intricate plan. First, he anonymously donated $1,000,000 to the Police Athletic League on the condition that Superman give an hour-long talk to the P.A.L. about the environment. Naturally Superman agreed, since the environment and the P.A.L. Are two of his favourite causes. Next, Luthor launched a private satellite into orbit, then headed to Gotham to fake a theft of Charlemagne’s crown. Luthor’s plan called for Batman to show up at the museum, stand in a certain place, and face a certain direction at a precise time. After getting into the museum with a bit of subterfuge, Luthor and his men almost blow the door to the exhibit room. That brings Batman to the scene and Luthor’s men maneuver the Caped Crusader into the proper position. At the appointed time, Luthor uses a flare to make Batman look in the proper direction and Batman suddenly loses his shit, freaking out and running out of the museum. Luthor explains that his satellite hit Batman with a Maser beam which wiped his consciousness clean. At the same instant, Superman (who was giving his speech in Metropolis for P.A.L.) had his consciousness grabbed from his body by another of the satellite’s Masers and transferred to Batman’s body. So now Luthor could beat the shit out of Superman and even kill him, since Supes no longer had his own invulnerable body, but Batman’s human form. Luthor and his men tracked down Superman (in Batman’s body) and Luthor pounded the shit out of him, finally finishing him off and sticking the body on a rocket. The rocket took the body to the satellite, where it would orbit in perpetuity so Luthor could enjoy his triumph. His final act (after testifying at the trial) will be to go back to Metropolis and put his own consciousness into Superman’s lifeless invulnerable body. At the trial, Two-Face says Luthor is full of shit and calls Luthor’s main henchman, Sparky Grimes, to testify. Two-Face asks Sparky about an incident a week before when another henchman named Sam seemed like he was kind of whacked out. Sparky confirms that Sam was out of it, asking all kinds of questions about Luthor’s plan, even though Sam should’ve known all the answers already. Sparky told him everything and sent him to get some rest, but later found him tied up in a closet. Sam had been conked out and replaced by someone. Two-Face suggests it was Batman who replaced Sam, thus learning all of Luthor’s plans for himself and Superman. Two-Face says Batman’s freak out and flight from the museum were fake; he actually ran out to meet Superman, who was waiting outside dressed in a Batman costume. So the “Batman” that Luthor pummeled to death and stuck on the satellite was really Superman. Luthor freaks and says Two-Face is a lying sack of shit, but Two-Face calls his next witness—Superman! Before the assembled villains can shit themselves, Two-Face says Supes is there only to testify, so everyone in the room has amnesty from him. Supes tells the court—and Luthor—that he was suspicious all along because of the million-dollar offer for his speech, since he would’ve done it for free. He snooped around and figured out Luthor was behind it, so he sent Batman to infiltrate Luthor’s organization. Once Batman got the info, it was easy to protect themselves from the Maser rays and after Superman took Batman’s place, he had quite the laugh as Luthor beat the shit out of him. He played along long enough to get up to the satellite and destroy it, then headed back to Earth. Superman tells the court Batman was definitely alive after the museum fight, so Luthor’s claim to have killed the Dark Knight is denied. Luthor throws a temper tantrum and accuses Two-Face of being in league with Superman; otherwise, how could he have known all the behind-the-scenes stuff and gotten Superman’s cooperation so easily? Two-Face says he can’t reveal his methods without derailing the trial, but that he will explain everything later, and that he hasn’t done anything to compromise his integrity. Ra’s Al Ghul accepts that, and they prepare to hear from the last claimant. You all know who that is, don’t you? Yup, next issue we get the Joker’s testimony as this storyline wraps up.
- Luthor is dressed in a weird “royal” outfit, like he’s a king or something. When Killer Moth and Cluemaster are making fun of your outfit, you know you’re in trouble.
- When Luthor’s getting ready to pound Superman/Batman, one of his thugs asks if he wants his pain-inducing gloves and Luthor says he wants to pound superman with his bare hands. But he’s obviously wearing the gloves the whole time.
- Superman says he wanted to get sent to the satellite, so he could destroy it. Apparently, it was shielded from radar, but orbit isn’t that big a place when you’re as fast as Superman … couldn’t he have found it on his own? Or used the JLA Satellite to track it down?
This one starts not long after the end of last issue. A couple of Boss Thorne’s thugs are tossing a barrel into the harbour, and judging by their conversation, the barrel contains the dead body of Hugo Strange. (I’m sure you remember that Thorne’s men beat Strange to death last issue when he refused to spill Batman’s secret identity.) Batman and Robin show up at the docks and pound Strange’s men, but the cops show up and the Dynamic Duo have to flee. Batman explains to Robin (who just came for a visit, but says he wants to stay and help now) that Thorne controls the City Council, which means he can tell the cops that Batman is no longer welcome in Gotham and the cops have to listen. Batman also mentions that he’s recovered from Strange’s injections and that the injections apparently healed the burns he got fighting Dr. Phosphorus … almost as if Strange actually wanted to help Batman all along. We then move to a deserted theater, where the Penguin shows up looking for Strange, who promised to hold an auction for the secret of Batman’s real identity. But Strange is nowhere to be found (though it seems the Joker may have showed up), so Penguin goes back to his other plans. What could those plans be? Well, there’s a headline in the next day’s paper that might give us a clue; there’s a rare statue called the Malay Penguin being exhibited at the Reed Galleries. Just the thing to tempt Penguin. Batman thinks so too and gives Reed shit. Reed insists his security is state of the art, completely impassable, but Batman isn’t convinced. Bruce goes back to the office to do some work, including figuring out who to send in his place to some Securities Conference in Paris. (He ends up deciding to send “Broome”; nice.) Bruce then goes to visit Silver St. Cloud in hospital and they have some fun. Later, Batman and Robin stake out the Reed Galleries and see Penguin lurking around. They scuffle with him and he gets away, leaving them with a cryptic farewell: “Never pitch rolls at a bank.” At the Tobacconists’ Club (Gotham’s version of Tammany Hall), Dr. Bell is worked up about Strange’s death, saying he doesn’t mind a little corruption but draws the line at murder. Thorne tells him to calm down and has his thugs haul Bell away. But as they’re laving, a giant, ghostly Hugo Strange shows up to torment Thorne … except no one else notices it. Thorne is freaked, but tries to shrug it off. Back outside the Reed Galleries, the alarm goes off and Batman and Robin burst in, only to find it’s a false alarm. Apparently, the theater next door has been rehearsing and the vibrations are setting off the alarms. Batman and Robin check it out and find Gotham’s version of the Rockettes rehearsing a big number. The director says an anonymous benefactor is funding the show. That evening, as Bruce Wayne gives Broome his last-minute instructions before he leaves to catch the plane taking the Securities Exchange members to Paris, a plane drops a bunch of leaflets over Gotham. The notes are wrapped around gold Double-Eagles and are another cryptic message to Batman. Dick thinks he has Penguin’s plan all figured out, but Bruce bursts his bubble pretty fast. They head to the airport and board the plane containing the Securities Exchange members, where they find Penguin about to hijack it. Batman explains that Penguins notes all contained words pertaining to flight, so he figured the theft of the Malay Penguin was a ruse. Penguin was planning on hijacking the “silver bird” … the plane with the Securities Exchange members on board. Penguin reveals he didn’t miss out on the Malay Penguin either; he stole it weeks ago and replaced it with a fake.
- It’s weird that Reed’s Gallery has electric eyes, noise sensors, and pressure-sensitive floors, but he regards cameras as an over-the-top expense … especially considering how ubiquitous they are nowadays.
- Silver seems to be fine and the caption says she was “captured” by Strange last issue, but last time we saw her, it looked like she was about to get slaughtered by one of Strange’s mutates outside the phone booth. I guess the mutate just grabbed her instead of wasting her.
- After Thorne sees Strange’s ghost, there seems to be a shadow on the wall outside the building. At first, I thought it was Batman, but he and Robin were still at the Gallery, so …
- Would rehearsals in a theater next door really cause enough vibrations to set off the Gallery’s alarms? I wonder if the real-life Rockettes ever had that problem at Radio City?
- If the Penguin stole the Malay statue weeks earlier, why did he still have it with him on the plane? Wouldn’t he stash it away someplace?
- It seems like Englehart is confusing Penguin with Joker or Riddler here. Sending cryptic notes that lead straight to the crime isn’t really a Penguin thing, as far as I know.
- I really like Rogers’s art in this one. His panel layouts are cool, and his detail is great.
Okay, this one is very … Haney-esque. There’s not much logic to the plot, crazy shit happens throughout, and all the tense moments are resolved very conveniently. We start out with Batman and some other guy getting ready to parachute out of a plane over an island called Trond-Hag, somewhere in the North Atlantic. But as they jump, one of the plane’s crew cuts their static lines, sending them plummeting toward the ocean. Batman’s friend turns out to be Mr. Miracle, and he uses his anti-gravity discs to rescue them. But the island’s magnetic field screws up the discs, so they end up in the water anyway. They’re there looking for some old friend of Batman’s named Steve Lang, an explorer who disappeared while on a trip to Trond-Hag (which is a location notorious for plane crashes and missing explorers). Batman recruited Miracle to help because Miracle is the best (or second-best) escape artist around, and the volcanic island is supposed to be honeycombed with a labyrinth of tunnels. They head in and Miracle lives up to his name by blasting some lava with his gloves. They find a machine inside the volcano’s cone and realize the island’s rep—and dangers—are man-made. Miracle can’t use his helmet circuitry to map the caverns because there’s some kind of jamming device active, so he seeds some locator crystals so they won’t get lost. They find Lang’s pick axe and Miracle saves Batman from a booby trap. They keep exploring and wonder if they’ve been going in circles, but Miracle says they haven’t come across any of the locator crystals. But another dude shows up (Cosimo the Magnificent) and says he’s been picking up the crystals. So I guess they were going in circles. They get away before Cosimo can waste them and Miracle tells Batman Cosimo is the greatest escape artist in Europe and once lost a big prize to Miracle. They set off another booby trap and Miracle saves them again, this time by wrapping them in his cape. They almost get shot by Cosimo, but Batman saves them this time. Unfortunately, they can’t catch the slippery bastard. For some reason, the jamming device is turned off and Miracle detects Steve Lang, but when they find him, he’s been zombified. He just keeps saying the word “Kraken” over and over. Cosimo shows up again, capturing the heroes after conking Miracle out and stripping him naked so he can’t use any of the fancy devices in his costume. Miracle freaks out, then calms down and they overhear Cosimo getting directions out of the maze from his boss, Kraken. Miracle appears outside the net and points a gun at Cosimo, telling him to release Batman. When he does, it turns out Miracle was actually in the net all along—he just used his earlier freak out as cover so he could hypnotize Cosimo … or something. Cosimo gets away again, but Batman and Miracle know the way out so they follow. But Cosimo gets blown up by Kraken, so the heroes decide to follow the zombified Steve Lang, hoping he knows a way out. He leads them to a huge treasure trove inside a central cavern (including the original Mona Lisa) and they find out Kraken is actually a huge computer. They figure the computer has been directing crimes across the globe and hoarding the treasure here, using its technology to make the island too dangerous to approach. When Lang showed up and stumbled onto the computer, it captured him to use as bait to attract Batman. Bats figures the computer’s memory is full of info on the crime network, but it’ll blow up if they try to access it. He thinks there must be a fail-safe somewhere, so they can override the booby traps. Elsewhere (according to the captions, in Corsica) some shadowy guy watches on a screen and triggers the self-destruct. Before the place blows up, Batman recites a nursery rhyme and he, Miracle, and Lang run like hell. Miracle uses his cape for one more escape, filling it with helium (from some capsules he apparently had on him) and they float out just before the whole place blows up. Later, the shadowy guy finds out he’s been hacked … Batman’s bullshit nursery rhyme was something the CIA had picked up while monitoring radio traffic around Trond-Hag, so he figured it might be the key to sending the Kraken computer’s info to some satellite. At least, that’s the explanation as closely as I can understand it. Whatever the hell happened, the Kraken’s crime network will be dismantled. We’ll be back next issue, after my brain has a chance to recover from the twists of logic in this story.
- If Cosimo was the best escape artist in Europe, wouldn’t Batman have heard of him?
- Cosimo has a real “Batroc the Leaper” vibe going on; he’s even French.
- Batman spots Cosimo while flipping a coin to see what direction to go. Would Batman—the master of logic—really flip a coin to determine their course?
- Apparently, Miracle hypnotized Batman while he was hypnotizing Cosimo.
- Why would the computer (or the guy behind it) use Lang as bait for Batman? Wouldn’t it (or he) want to keep him as far away as possible?
- Batman should’ve known there was a person behind everything. Computers need programmers … and why would a computer hoard stolen loot?
- We don’t learn who the mysterious guy is and I don’t know if it’s ever followed up on.