This one starts with Batman noticing a boat sneaking through the fog, turning its lights off briefly, then sneaking back out again. He concludes they must’ve made a drop off and goes to check it out. A trail leads to a dilapidated mansion where Batman finds a secret door behind the staircase. He goes down into some tunnels and interrupts a ritual sacrifice by some weirdos in purple robes with big red “X”’s on them. He pounds the two cultists (who he refers to as “Carib machete assassins”, though I’m not sure what led him to that conclusion) and checks on the sacrificial victim. He’s alive, but in some kind of drugged trance. Batman leaves him and heads deeper into the caves, where he finds more drugged up people, this time Carib natives. He hears a scream and finds a woman tied up. She says she’s a reporter, but as he’s rescuing her Batman gets conked from behind. He dives into a pit and wriggles under some rocks as the bad guys spray bullets at him. They assume he’s dead (I guess they’ve never read a Batman comic) and leave, taking the woman and all the drugged victims with them. Later, Batman tells Commissioner Gordon what happened and provides a sketch of the guy he saw about to be sacrificed. Gordon tells Batman that someone put a big ad on a billboard earlier threatening to reveal Batman’s identity after providing a series of clues. The first clues were that Batman is a well-known millionaire, but Batman blows it off, saying he’d have to be a millionaire to do what he does and that most millionaires are well-known. He spends the next few nights trying to get information about the killer cult, but his sources aren’t very helpful. In fact, a lot of them seem reluctant to be anywhere near him, especially after another clue to his identity is revealed: he’s a top amateur athlete. Batman figures his usual informants are going into hiding in case the identity reveal turns out to be genuine; the crooks are afraid of going down with Batman if he’s outed. Another bunch of clues is revealed (Batman is a bachelor who speaks several languages and a scientific genius), but Batman tries to ignore it again. Gordon finally gets a break on the identity of the sacrifice victim; it’s a photographer named Aldrich whose maid reported him missing. Gordon says some reporters already got wind of the story, so Batman rushes over to Aldrich’s place and finds the same female reporter from the caves rummaging through the drawers. She found some photos of a tropical island with some blonde woman and a bunch of dogs on the beach. Batman realizes the reporter was in cahoots with the cultists and whips off her clothes (there’s that Bruce Wayne training coming into play) to reveal a purple dress with a red “X”. More cultists try to jump him and he pounds them, but the woman gets away with the photos. Batman finds Aldrich’s log which mentions a supposedly-haunted Caribbean island populated by feral dogs and a mysterious woman who walks through the mists along the shore. He’s pondering what to do when another “Batman identity” clue flashes above the city, this one claiming that Batman lives in a penthouse in downtown Gotham. He decides it’s time to figure out who’s behind the whole “identity reveal” thing and observes the plane that left the sky message. He recognizes it as belonging to a friend of Bruce Wayne’s and heads over to the guy’s apartment. When he enters, he’s confronted by a glowing figure who says he’s been waiting for him.
- I’ve noticed David reed likes to slip esoteric references into his stories and this one’s no exception. Between the “Carib native” stuff, the sandalia de caucho, and the indecipherable underworld slang, Reed seems like he’s showing off a bit.
- Batman mentions that the cultists are a cross between Haitian voodoo, African Obeah, and Cariban Indian witchcraft. I thought Obeah was a Jamaican religion, and I’m not quite sure what “Cariban” refers to unless it’s the original Carib natives of the Caribbean islands, but I thought they were pretty much extinct.
This one seems like kind of a filler issue, with Machiste and Mariah trying to figure out what makes Travis Morgan tick. They’re in Bakwele and Mariah is studying the place and writing down some of her observations. When she wonders where Morgan is, the sounds of a nearby tavern brawl answer her question. She and Machiste go inside and see Morgan beating the shit out of half the tavern’s patrons. They wonder why Morgan seems to enjoy the hard-living, hard-fighting lifestyle so much and Mariah reflects on why she let him talk her into coming to Skartaris in the first place. Machiste suggests there might be another reason—like maybe she’s hot for Morgan—but she evades that question and asks why Machiste has left his kingdom to bum around with Morgan. Machiste says he’s not a great king and his people are probably better off ruling themselves. He then goes into a story about when he and Morgan had first escaped slavery and were trying to raise an army to free other slaves. Machiste says they met some kid who wanted to join them and was really gung ho to be a soldier and start killing people. Morgan told him to go home and live his life a bit before becoming a soldier, since the soldier’s life would change him and he’d regret not taking time for himself earlier. The kid was leaving when he got attacked by a T-Rex and organ jumped in to save him. Morgan wounded the T-Rex with his AutoMag and the kid sliced the dinosaur’s leg when it turned on Morgan. He and Machiste finished it off and Morgan decided the kid might have what it takes to be a fighter after all. But instead of letting him join the army, he sent the kid home to spread the message of peace and freedom for everyone. Machiste says Morgan is a man with a dream, even if he’s gotten a bit sidetracked lately. Mariah finds that image hard to reconcile with the version of Morgan that’s currently kicking the shit out of a tavern full of people, but she remembers an incident that happened not long after she and Morgan came to Skartaris. He showed her a unicorn and they were admiring it when hunters killed it. Morgan freaked out, killed the hunters, and cried over the dead unicorn. She wonders how anyone can contain so many contradictions—I guess she’s not a Walt Whitman fan. Morgan finishes his shit-kicking and joins them and they tell him what they were talking about. He says not to bother trying to figure him out, since even he can’t do it. He reflects on why he enjoys the adventurous (and dangerous) life he’s found in Skartaris, but can’t come to a conclusion. So … he drinks!
- I think this issue is the first hint that Mariah has a romantic interest in Morgan, but it won’t be the last.