The four-part “Who Killed Batman?” storyline concludes here with the Joker making his claim. Unlike the other claimants, Joker hasn’t provided evidence to back up his claim, so Two-Face and the other villains are hearing everything for the first time. That’s right … it’s flashback time! Joker says he was at a fur warehouse where he’d heard some extra cash was stashed in the safe. Before he could get to the loot, some amateur busted in, setting off the alarm. That brought Batman, who wailed on the would-be thief as Joker watched from his hiding place. He supposedly had the perfect weapon to take Batman out then and there, but had forgotten to load it. He watched Batman pound the thief, studying his moves, then left before the cops showed up. He put together a fancy new gun and headed back to the fur warehouse the next night. But he ran into Batman again, which threw him off a bit. Strangely, Batman was even more startled for some reason, giving Joker time to use his dissolving fluid gun to blind Batman. Joker then proceeded to beat the crap out of the Caped Crusader, ending by (accidentally) stabbing him with the Joker toxin ring he wears. So, Batman was dead, Joker removed his mask, then burned his face and fingerprints away. Nobody officially reported the Batman’s death, but the underworld grapevine soon caught wind of it, which led to the various claimants and the present trial. Of course, all the villains think Joker might be bullshitting, so Two-Face asks for proof. Joker says he took photos of Batman’s face before he burned it away, but he wasn’t stupid enough to bring the photos with him in case one of the other villains stole them and made their own claim to be Batman’s killer. Joker says he can return with the proof within the hour, so the trial adjourns. Outside, we see Two-Face tearing off a mask to become … Batman! Yup, it was him all along, which means Joker’s claim is false. So who did he kill in the warehouse? We’re about to find out. Batman tracks Joker back to his hideout and jumps him, which freaks Joker out, obviously. But Joker has another weapon at hand, a circlet that radiates enough heat to distort images, making it impossible to discern where anything really is. Joker wails on Batman, who figures the only way to find out where Joker is, is to hit him where he ain’t; Batman swings wild, punching everywhere until he finally connects. Batman takes Joker to jail where they run into Two-Face, who’s apparently been in solitary for the last two weeks. Joker realizes the whole trial was a set-up and that drives him even crazier than usual. Batman explains to Commissioner Gordon (and us) that the guy Joker killed was named Jerry Randall. He was a quiet bookshop owner, but when Batman checked out his place (after IDing him through missing persons), he found out Randall had a secret life; he liked to dress up as Batman. Not for cosplay, or kinky sex games, but because he modeled himself after the Caped Crusader and tried to recreate every exploit he read about in the papers. He was apparently pretty good at it, but went one caper too far when he accidentally ran into the Joker and got killed. Batman knew only Randall’s killer would have the details of his murder, so he made sure Two-Face was put into solitary, then took his place and convened the “trial”. So, that’s the end of that storyline. In hindsight, Two-Face being Batman is obvious in the way he used logic and esoteric knowledge to refute the claims of Catwoman, Riddler, and Luthor. But on first reading this, I was surprised. Maybe I’m just dense.
- Before the trial starts, when the villains are all mingling together, Poison Ivy sure seems to be the centre of attention.
- If Jerry Randall had been dressing up as Batman and recreating his exploits for some time, I guess we can assume that he successfully recreated many things from preceding issues.
This one starts not long after last issue, with Robin and Batman returning to the Batcave and discussing Penguin’s capture. They engage in some friendly banter (and a little impromptu wrestling match) before Robin gets a call from Wonder Girl saying there’s an important Titans meeting. He hesitates, but Batman tells him to go ahead … he can handle Thorne’s manipulations on his own. Speaking of Penguin, we see him getting tossed into jail and immediately planning a breakout. He boasts to his neighbour in the next cell (Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot) that his laser monocle can cut through the stone wall of the prison. Deadshot grabs the monocle and busts out himself, leaving a pissed off Penguin behind. Deadshot’s first thought on being free is to go after Batman, which seems a bit weird to me. You’d think he’d want to stay away from the guy that caught him before, but I guess he stewed over it all those years. We see Batman confronting Rupert Thorne in his office, telling him to cut the crap and remove the cease-and-desist order he slapped on Batman. Thorne pretends he’s doing the will of the people, but they both know better; Batman tells him he blew his chance to settle things peacefully and he’ll be sorry. Thorne is ready to call out his thugs, but he gets another visit from Hugo Strange’s ghost. Strange says Thorne will be doomed when the ghost visits him a third time, and Thorne is understandably freaked out. The next day, Bruce Wayne meets with Silver St. Cloud to see her new opening. (She arranges conventions for people; this one seems to be for some kind of paper company.) They run into Commissioner Gordon, who tells them about Deadshot busting out of prison. At lunch, Silver subtly interrogates Bruce about his “hobby” of studying crime, and how well he knows Batman. Bruce can tell she suspects him of being Batman, and briefly considers telling her the truth, but quickly decides not to. Later, Batman goes on patrol, looking for Deadshot. But the killer finds him, and we get our first look at Deadshot’s fancy new outfit, complete with wrist guns. They fight back and forth and end up crashing through the skylight at the convention Silver is overseeing. Thanks to Thorne, Batman is persona non grata with the cops, but Silver won’t let the security guard call them. After crashing through the skylight, Batman and Deadshot land on a giant model of a typewriter. They fight on top of it and Deadshot uses the carriage return to almost trap the Dark Knight, but Batman turns the tables and Deadshot ends up inside the typewriter, a few keystrokes away from being pulped; he wisely surrenders. As Batman is leaving, Silver calls to him and he turns to look. She instantly recognizes him as Bruce Wayne. We’ll see what happens with that next issue.
- Batman’s attitude with Robin is almost playful, nothing like the grim bastard he becomes later.
- Batman kids Robin about Wonder Girl and Harlequin and Robin says he learned more than just fighting from Batman, but were Robin and Wonder Girl ever really that serious? I’m not sure about Harlequin either; he may have dated both of them a bit, but I don’t know if he actually banged either of them.
- As far as I can tell, Deadshot hadn’t appeared since his debut, back in Batman #59. That comic came out in 1950, so Englehart was really digging deep for a villain to revive.
- I like that Silver figures out Batman’s identity not because he screwed up, but just because she’s smart and it’s somewhat obvious.
- While at the restaurant, Bruce orders “Chenin Blane” for Silver; I don’t know much about wine, but I’m assuming it’s supposed to be “Chenin Blanc”.
- Thorne has blond hair here, instead of gray, and he looks younger. Marshall Rogers has been doing the art all along, so I’m not sure why the change … maybe Thorne is vain and had some work done to pretty himself up?
- There are lots of DC Easter eggs in this issue: Bruce and Silver dine at Fox Gardens, Deadshot attacks from the top of the Ellsworth Building, and the paper company Silver set up the convention for is Weisinger Office Suppliers. Plus, when they’re fighting on the giant typewriter, the first two keys they hit spell “DC”.
- The giant typewriter Batman and Deadshot fight on kinda looks like an IBM Selectric II, except the “ball” is more exposed and the ribbon set-up looks different.
- There’s a short sequence as Batman and Deadshot are fighting that shows the Joker observing them from a nearby rooftop and laughing his ass off. This sets up the Joker’s appearance next issue, which is the famous “Laughing Fish” story.