As you can tell from the title, this is one of those murder mysteries that pop up rather frequently in Batman. This one involves the Mystery Analysts of Gotham, a group of amateur detectives who have helped Batman before. After stopping a routine robbery, Batman is contacted by Commissioner Gordon, who tells him the Mystery Analysts need his help in solving a murder … or possibly three murders. Batman goes with him to see the Analysts and hear their stories. First up, Jack Danton, former D.A. Tells the Caped Crusader about finding a dead woman outside his office. Naturally, he called the cops and as the woman was being put in the ambulance, some crazy bastard showed up ranting and raving. He was stopped, but ran away afterwards. When the ambulance got to the morgue, the dead woman wasn’t in the back, even though tons of people (including Danton) swear they saw her loaded in. Crime reporter Art Saddows is next, and his story is eerily similar. He found a dead woman in an elevator at the newspaper office, called the cops, and when the body was being loaded onto the ambulance, all the lights went out in the newspaper building, which threw the crowd outside into confusion. And again, when the ambulance got to the morgue, the dead woman wasn’t inside. Mystery writer Kaye Daye completes the trifecta: she found a dead woman at a movie premiere, an old lady outside had a heart attack just as the body was being loaded in the ambulance 9thus distracting everyone) and at the morgue the ambulance was empty again. Kaye spotted the pattern (as I’m sure you all did) and Batman says he had it pegged after the first story; the crazy guy attacking the cops was obviously the distraction that allowed someone to spirit away the body. They head to the morgue to check things out and find a wire frame in one of the stretchers, which was used to hold the sheet up and simulate a body being underneath. Batman recognizes the wire frame as the type used by magicians. Batman spots someone lurking around and chases him outside. He grabs the guy, but gets a face full of flash powder and the guy takes off. The flash powder seems to confirm the whole “magician” angle, so they all head to the Magic Palace nightclub, the top venue for magicians in Gotham. The club manager, Bennett, says the dead girl matches the description of a woman named June Gold, the assistant to David Hamton, current headliner at the club. Bennett says June was pissed off at Hamton for not letting her advance her career. Backstage, we meet some more suspects: Glenn Falkenstein, a mentalist; Lisa Morrow, a “psychic”; and Mark Monroe, an apprentice to Hamton. Batman asks them about June Gold’s death. Monroe is alibied by Bennett, who saw him sitting in the bar for hours. Monroe says everyone there had reason to kill June, even Hamton himself, since she was supposedly blackmailing him into keeping her as an assistant. Batman notices Kaye has disappeared and goes to look for her, not wanting her amateur sleuthing to scare away the killer. Batman gets conked out and wakes up in a variation of Houdini’s water tank trick. But Batman doesn’t have Houdini’s set up, so the guy who stuck him in the tank—whose face we can’t see—says Batman is as good as dead. Kaye is tied up nearby and the mysterious dude says he’ll be back to kill her (and dispose of Batman’s waterlogged corpse) after he finishes his act. Batman uses sheer muscle o bust out of the tank, then he goes to catch the killer, who turns out to be … Mark Monroe! Monroe says he was tired of being in Hamton’s shadow, so he decided to kill June and frame Hamton. He tries to fight using his magic gimmicks, but Batman kicks his ass. Hamton thanks Batman for finding June’s killer and Batman explains that he recognized Hamton when they tangled at the morgue and knew he must’ve been the one who was moving June’s body around. He put the bodies near the Mystery Analysts knowing they’d involve Batman. He paid people to cause distractions at each “crime scene”. Commissioner Gordon reveals that Monroe’s alibi of sitting in a bar for hours was suspect because he didn’t drink, which I say is a cheat since we were never told that during the story. Obviously, Monroe wanted to be seen at the bar and used some kind of magician’s illusion to make it look like he was there when he was actually killing June. But you can’t fool Batman!
- The Mystery Analysts’ last appearance was in Batman #181; this issue is the final time they appear, as far as I know.
- The clue about the wire frame being the type used by magicians is fine, but it may be a bit of a leap to automatically assume it was someone at the Magic Palace. Aren’t there any other magic shows in Gotham? Or stores that sell magician crap?
- Maybe it’s just me, but I think Mark Monroe kinda looks like Gerry Conway.
- I’m not sure about the whole “the Monroe sitting in the bar was an illusion” thing; what if someone went over to talk to him? Or bumped into him? Or spilled something on him? Seems like a hell of a gamble.
- I like Mike Golden’s art in this one. I especially like how he depicted June’s body on three successive pages as the Mystery Analysts were telling their stories; the body is in the same position each time, but the background details are different.
Fasten your seat belts, this one’s another of Bob Haney’s continuity-benders. We start with Batman and Commissioner Gordon enjoying a leisurely stroll down the street. A car comes by and somebody tries to shoot Gordon, but Batman pushes him out of the way. The car takes off and Gordon dismisses the assassination attempt as the price of being a cop. A couple days later, Gordon’s giving a speech when a dude with a sniper rifle tries to take him out. Batman stops the guy again and, while they’re fighting, rips a mask off the guy’s face and is kinda freaked out at what’s underneath (though we don’t get to see what it is). Gordon was grazed by the bullet and Batman takes him to the hospital, where he mentions the assassin’s face was “inhuman” under the mask. Gordon still isn’t too worried, and says he won’t go into hiding. At the police station, Batman spots the killer across the street and goes after him, but gets his batline cut. Before he can plunge to his death, Hawkman shows up out of nowhere and saves him. Hawkman tells Bats the killer is an interstellar bounty hunter named Vorgan, who only goes after the worst criminals and won’t harm innocent people (which is why he hasn’t wasted Batman). Hawkman says he ran into Vorgan in space and knew he was after someone on Earth, but couldn’t do anything because interfering with one of Vorgan’s bounties is an interstellar crime, punishable by death. Batman says there must be a mistake, since Gordon is honest and no interplanetary traveler, but Hawkman insists Vorgan doesn’t make mistakes. So Batman confronts Gordon, who tells him a story about when he was a rookie cop. He needed evidence against a mob lawyer named Delacorte, but couldn’t get anything the usual way. So he broke into Delacorte’s estate to steal some evidence. He was surprised by a bright light and shot someone who was coming toward him. It turned out to be an alien, who he buried. He never told anyone about it until now, but somehow Vorgan must’ve figured it out and come to kill him. Batman says Gordon has made up for his mistake with all the good he’s done over the years, but Gordon thinks he should let the bounty hunter have him. Vorgan is lurking outside, but Hawkman drives him off. When Batman thanks him, Hawkman says they can’t interfere again, but Batman convinces him to help. They hide Gordon at the cemetery and scour the city for Vorgan. Meanwhile, someone else is looking all over the city for the alien bounty hunter as well, and gets a tip on him. Gordon leaves the safety of the mausoleum and goes to meet his fate. It’s not long in coming, as Vorgan picks up his trail and follows him into a warehouse. But Vorgan is being followed too, by Delacorte. Yup, he’s still around, a big fancy lawyer now, but still crooked. He mentions he had a deal with the alien that Gordon killed (though he doesn’t know who shot him) and Vorgan says the alien was a friend of his. Delacorte tries to make a deal with Vorgan, but when the bounty hunter refuses, Delacorte shoots him. Gordon jumps Delacorte, while Batman and Hawkman pound Delacorte’s men outside. When they enter the warehouse, Delacorte is dead, supposedly killed accidentally by his own gun, but if I was Batman I’d have to wonder about that. Vorgan is ready to blow Gordon away, but Batman and Hawkman say he’ll have to kill them first. Hawkman says Vorgan’s rules about non-interference are wrong and Vorgan is impressed, since Thanagarians are usually pretty gung-ho for law and order. So Vorgan decides to call off the bounty on Gordon and takes off.
- I have no idea how interfering with Vorgan could be a galaxy-wide crime; how would you get every star system to agree with it? And who enforces it, if Vorgan gets taken down?
- When Gordon is telling the story of shooting the alien, it sounds like it happened right before World War II, which would be almost 40 years ago when this was published. I guess Haney was thinking in “real time”.
- I’m surprised Batman was so understanding about Gordon bending the law and killing the alien; Bats is usually pretty harsh when it comes to killers, not to mention crooked cops.
- I’m not sure about Vorgan’s sudden mind change at the last minute. It seems like a guy who’s that single-minded in pursuit of those he considers criminals wouldn’t just walk away because of a few fancy words from Hawkman and Batman.
- I’m not sure who put the bounty on Gordon in the first place. Maybe Vorgan took it upon himself, since the alien Gordon shot was a friend of his.