When we last saw Batman, he’d been looking for someone who was leaving clues around Gotham to expose Batman’s secret identity. He tracked the clues to a penthouse in downtown Gotham and was greeted by a bright light and a mysterious figure. The figure turns out to be local Millionaire Baxter Baines (in a weird-looking dude in a purple cape) and warns Batman that if he steps out of the circle of light he’s standing in, he’ll die. Batman knows he’s full of crap and grabs him, but before he can figure out why Baines seems intent on exposing his identity, they’re interrupted by some thugs. They also traced the clues to Baines and want him to cough up Batman’s secret. The Caped Crusader and Baines kick the crap out of the goons, but Batman lets them go so he can interrogate Baines. Baines shows him a bucket list that has a bunch of stuff he’s already done (climb a mountain, make a million bucks in one day on the Stock Market), plus one unfinished task … learn Batman’s secret identity. Batman finds the machine Baines used to “skywrite” his clues in phosphorescent smoke and tries to figure out if Baines actually knows his secret. He points out that all the clues Baines has used so far could apply to Baines himself, and suggests Baines might subconsciously identify with him. Baines says it’s not subconscious and that he’d make a good replacement if anything happened to Batman. Bats finds another machine, with a power cable leading back to the light beam in which he found himself immersed upon entering the penthouse. Baines tries to unmask him, suggesting to Batman he doesn’t really know who he is. Batman slaps him around a bit, then throws him in the pol to cool off. Batman examines the machine and realizes the beam of light used a photoactinic effect to imbue him with some kind of energy. Baines could use special lenses to see the energy and discover Batman’s secret. The other clues were just a ruse to get Batman to the penthouse so Baines could expose him to the beam. Batman uses Baines’s skywriter to throw up a fifth clue, namely that Batman’s alter ego has the initials “B.B.” Of course, Baines is the only person in town who fits that clue as well as all the rest, but Batman says this is his chance to realize his ambition of being the Batman. Baines is afraid one of Batman’s enemies will kill him, but Bats doesn’t seem to care and takes off. A half hour later, an armoured car with a bunch of guards shows up and whisks Baines out of town. Batman is satisfied that Baines won’t be able to track him for a while, giving him time to deal with the dangling plot thread from last issue. Batman borrows Baines’s photoactinic machine and goggles, so when the Carib assassins come prowling through Gotham that night, he douses them with the energy and follows the glow as they retreat to an island offshore. Their glow wears off by the time they get there (Batman’s own glow has already worn off), but he knows this is the same island he’s been searching for, where the cultists took Aldrich after disappearing last issue. He infiltrates and finds the high priestess ready to sacrifice Aldrich. She’d held off because she told her followers she would sacrifice Aldrich and Batman together, but they’re getting restless, so she decides to pull a switcheroo. She knocks out one of her followers and tells the others to dress him up as Batman. The real Batman finds the room where the ritual is being prepared and pulls a trick of his own. At the ritual, the priestess kills the guy she dressed as Batman, but before she can kill Aldrich, Batman rises from the dead and attacks. Everyone goes nuts and tries to take off, starting the place on fire. Batman pounds some thugs, but when the high priestess asks him to save her, he tells her to head for the water with the other rats. He takes off in the Bat-Copter with Aldrich, leaving the island to burn. Later he explains to Commissioner Gordon that he took Aldrich to the Bat-Copter as soon as he found him, but he went back because showing himself after he’d been “killed” made the cultists lose faith in the priestess, which meant they’d no longer be a threat. Batman gets a radiogram from Baines, saying his desire be the Batman has worn off and he’s now hanging out in Capri.
- Batman is usually a stickler about not killing, so his behaviour here seems cavalier at best. He allows the cultist dressed like him to be sacrificed, then leaves the rest of the cult on the burning island. We do see footage of cultists being rescued later, but some of them must have died, or come very close.
- Apparently the cult was smuggling refugees into the country, then using the high priestess to turn them into mindless killers for hire … or something.
- I’m not sure if Baines actually knew Batman’s secret or not.
Yeah, this one’s a reprint (of Detective #408) about Batman fighting Dr. Tzin-Tzin. I don’t bother reviewing reprints, so I’ll just comment on the new material, which is a short framing sequence to bracket the reprinted tale. Commissioner Gordon brings Batman to Arkham Asylum to see Rupert Thorne, former political boss of Gotham. Thorne is now in a straitjacket, rambling about how Hugo Strange told him he had to turn himself in and atone for his crimes. Batman assumes that means Strange is still alive, but Thorne corrects him, saying that he had Strange killed and it was Strange’s ghost that forced him to turn himself in. Gordon thinks Thorne is nuts, but Batman isn’t sure; he saw someone (or something) resembling Strange, who left him the vapor analyzer he used to defeat Joker. Batman thinks back and we move into the reprinted story. At the end, Batman and Gordon leave and we see a Bowery bum getting jumped by some weirdo in a trenchcoat. But this weirdo doesn’t flash the guy, he melts him. What’s that about? We’ll see next issue, but I’ll give you a hint … it involves Clayface, but not necessarily the ones we’re familiar with.
This one starts with a couple of respectable businessmen being blown to hell. Commissioner Gordon is investigating and so is Batman. Bats figures out the two dead guys had borrowed money to prop up their failing businesses and were late on the payments. He knows the loan shark they borrowed from must’ve wasted them. Batman goes around town beating the shit out of people to get info on the mysterious loan shark, but all he can come up with is a name: Mr. Longreen. Meanwhile, Dinah Lance (who’s now a fashion designer apparently) has some designs in a fashion show with a guy named Antonio. But an uninvited guest shows up and blows Antonio to shit after pushing Dinah out of the way. Dinah changes to Black Canary and goes after the bomber, but he buries her under some mannequins and heads for the roof. She follows, but can’t catch him before he slides down a giant zipper (!). Batman shows up and tries to grab him, but he gets away in a van, laughing his ass off. Batman and Canary find out Antonio was short on cash and Batman realizes who they’re dealing with … the Joker. Bats decides to set a trap for Joker and enlists Alfred to help. He puts the word out that Bruce Wayne pissed away Alfred’s pension and Alfred is desperate to borrow money. Joker falls for it and gets in touch, saying he’ll send a car. Bats thinks he can hear some weird echo in the background when Joker’s on the phone, but he can’t identify it. Batman and Black Canary follow the car, but Joker switches Alfred with a dummy and spirits him away to his hideout—an abandoned funeral home. Joker tells Alfred if he can’t come up with the interest on the loan, he’ll be killed. Alfred says he overheard a stock tip from one of Bruce Wayne’s friends and he’s going to make a pile of money off it. If that doesn’t work, he’ll skim the money from Wayne’s accounts, which impresses the hell out of Joker. They toast the loan with some champagne and Alfred is sent home blindfolded. Alfred tells them he was in a funeral home, but can’t remember the weird echoing laughter that Batman thought he heard on the phone. They check Alfred to make sure Joker didn’t plant an explosive on him, but he’s clean. A week passes and Joker demands the first interest payment of $50,000. Batman gives Alfred the money to stall for time and Alfred takes it to the drop-off point, a manhole. Black Canary stakes the place out and sees a funeral procession come down the street. She realizes Joker is in the hearse and blasts it with her sonic scream. She pounds Joker’s henchmen, but Joker conks her out with a board he just happened to have handy. Joker threatens to kill Canary if Batman doesn’t lay off, and also extorts Alfred for another ten G’s. Batman pushes Alfred to remember details of the funeral home, but Alfred can only remember that the laughter he heard seemed far off. He mentions the toast he drank with Joker and Batman realizes the champagne must’ve contained a chemical explosive that Joker could set off at whatever time he wants. Alfred mentions that Joker drank the champagne too, and that gives Batman an idea. As the deadline for Alfred’s interest payment arrives, Alfred busts into Joker’s hideout and grabs him. Joker’s henchmen are afraid that if Alfred blows up they’ll die too so they take off, but Black Canary wakes up and blasts them. Joker grabs Alfred’s face, but it’s a mask; Batman was masquerading as Alfred, which means there’s no danger of him exploding. Joker freaks out when the real Alfred walks in, but Batman forces him to give Alfred a blood transfusion, knowing that Joker’s blood must contain an antidote to the champagne he was drinking. Batman explains that Alfred’s recollection of far-off laughter made him think the funeral parlor must be close to a Laffy Burger franchise, which apparently has a gigantic laughing clown on the roof of every restaurant. I’m not sure if that’s a play on McDonald’s, but I know I’d find it incredibly annoying if it existed in the real world. So, Alfred is safe from blowing up, but now he’s making inane puns like the Joker always does. Small price to pay, I guess.
- I’m not sure why Batman was sneaking around to investigate the crimes at first; Gordon was obviously glad of his help.
- Alfred seems rather taken with Black Canary.
- Apparently, Joker has a thing for Dinah Lance, that’s why he pushed her out of the way of the bomb blast that killed Antonio. In what story was that established, cause it sounds pretty wild.