This one starts very soon after last issue, with Batman wanted for murder. Dick (Robin) Grayson shows up, wondering what the hell’s going on and Batman gives him (and us) a recap of last issue. Basically, there’s an unknown crime boss in Gotham who uses neural implants in a cabal of “wire-head killers” to protect himself from his mob underlings. If any mobster kills him, the wire-heads slaughter the killer and everyone associated with him. When a random guy (Judson Price) was shot during a robbery, a wire-head implant was found in his skull and Batman and Gordon decided they could root out the big boss man. Batman disguised himself as a weirdo named Akeldama and demonstrated that he could kill from a distance and make it look like natural causes. Some mobsters took the bait and tried to use Akeldama to bump off the big boss, but Batman followed them and found out the shadowy crime lord was a guy named Millbrook. When the mobster killed Millbrook, Batman took the blame, hoping to avoid the bloodshed that would follow the wire-heads being activated. Batman figured out Commissioner Gordon’s chauffeur was the mob’s inside man, but says he can’t refute the murder charge until all the wire-heads are found. Robin wants to help, but Batman forces him to return to college. Gordon says the Mayor wants Batman off the streets, but Batman refuses. On patrol that night, he’s attacked by a huge son of a bitch, some kind of circus strongman, obviously sent by the wire-heads. As they’re fighting, the guy keels over and Batman notices a depression on the back of the guy’s skull, meaning he was a wire-head himself. The papers mark Batman as a two-time killer, since another guy died fighting him, but the autopsy shows the strongman had a heart attack and Gordon tries to convince people Batman’s still a good guy. Batman keeps patrolling and gets jumped by more circus folk, this time three acrobats and a Human Dynamo. He pounds them and goes to see Judson Price’s widow to ask if her husband had any dealings with carnival types. She says some carnival folk stayed at their place a few years back and her husband went to the guest cottage to check on some trouble. Batman figures the wire-head devices were being implanted that night and when Judson Price walked in on it, he got an implant too. Batman now knows the identities of all the wire-heads (from Mrs. Price’s records) and decides to just drop out of sight as Batman and remain in his Bruce Wayne identity until the wire-heads are picked up. Unfortunately, the wire-heads have other ideas and attack Bruce Wayne at a club. He manages to change to Batman and fights the last three wire-heads (a magician, a sexy knife-thrower, and a fire-eater). They’re getting the upper hand when Robin shows up to help and the Dynamic Duo pound the wire-heads into submission. Batman gives Robin his costume so he can reappear as Bruce Wayne, then leaves Robin to mop up as he takes off with his date. Robin (dressed as Batman) muddles through an explanation to Gordon, then takes off to wait for Bruce at home. But Bruce is otherwise occupied, flying his date away someplace romantic, so I think Robin’s gonna have a long wait.
- It’s never explained how the wire-heads knew to attack Bruce Wayne when they were looking for Batman. He thought it was some “instinct” they had that led them to him, but wouldn’t that imply they know his secret identity?
- The disco where Bruce is attacked is called the Garden of Allah, which was the name of a famous club in Hollywood years ago.
- It isn’t really addressed, but I’m assuming once the wire-heads were captured, Batman stopped pretending to have killed Millbrook and his name was cleared.
This one starts with Firestorm flying home from the Arctic after defeating Killer Frost last issue. He still feels bad about freezing Killer Frost and leaving her trapped at the base, but we learn he used his powers to thaw the scientists Killer Frost had iced up. On the way home, Firestorm stops to help some seals that are being massacred by hunters. At first, Professor Stein gives Ronnie hell, but after Firestorm transmutes the sealers’ clubs into plastic fish, Stein praises Ronnie. In Manhattan, some thugs are robbing a travel agency so they can run a fake ticket scam. They’re led by a guy named Shine, whose father is head of the East Coast mob. Outside, they’re attacked by someone called Hyena, who looks like … well, a giant Hyena. Except this Hyena can talk and says it hates predators just like real hyenas do. It slices up all the mob guys and grabs the loot, but Shine gets away. Hyena doesn’t seem to care, as Shine will have to explain to his mob boss father what happened to the loot. The cops show up and try to thank Hyena for the help (they don’t even blink at the fact a giant talking hyena pounded a bunch of crooks—talk about jaded), but Hyena goes nuts and slices up the cops before taking off, laughing like a … well, you know. Firestorm gets back home and splits into his component identities, leaving Stein to wonder how the hell he got back from the Arctic. Ronnie goes home and has a big fight with his father and afterwards both feel crappy about it. We learn that Ronnie’s father has some kind of secret that’s kept him on the move for fifteen years. Of course, all Ronnie wants is his father’s approval. At school the next day, Ronnie gets a B+ on his chemistry test (which is a pretty big deal for him), but Cliff Carmichael acts like a dick and makes Ronnie feel like crap. Ronnie almost pounds him, but just walks away. He runs into Doreen, who introduces him to her sister, Summer; that’s right, her name is Summer Day. Summer is there to apply for an assistant teacher’s position, but when Ronnie asks about her college experience, she gets all snotty and Doreen says Summer is “a very private person.” Hmmm, another mystery. Elsewhere, Professor Stein is meeting a detective named McGarrin, who he hires to follow him around so he can figure out what’s up with his weird blackouts. McGarrin takes the case and says he’ll start in a few days, but as soon as Stein leaves McGarrin takes an express elevator to the lobby so he can start shadowing Stein right away. Unfortunately, there’s a fire at a warehouse across from the school and Ronnie sees some crooks robbing the place, so he changes to Firestorm. McGarrin is left to wonder why the elevator Stein was on is suddenly empty. Firestorm nabs the crooks and says they can tell the cops what they were doing. Nearby, Shine is freaking out since this robbery was meant as a diversion for the real caper across town, but now he’s worried what his men might tell the police. But Firestorm has other problems, as Hyena shows up and says he’s gonna get sliced and diced for calling the cops. Obviously Hyena has some kind of hatred for police, but why? We’ll have to wait until next issue to find out.
- After the sealers’ clubs are changed to plastic, the seals attack them. I’m no zoologist, but I don’t think seals are that bloodthirsty, especially where humans are concerned.
- Even though Hyena’s attack on the mob guys and the cops looked pretty intense, it’s implied in the captions that nobody was actually killed.
- Stein’s blackouts and finding himself in different places would be understandably upsetting, but Ronnie addresses him by name when they split. Does that mean Stein knows who Ronnie is? Either way, he should wonder why Ronnie’s always around right after he has a blackout.
- So, I guess all the times Ronnie has pulled Professor Stein away from wherever he was, there were no witnesses? Stein never happened to be interacting with anyone right at those moments? Talk about lucky.
This one seems like a filler issue, killing time as Morgan, Machiste, and Mariah continue on the road to Shamballah. It’s a fast read too, because Grell uses a lot of full-page and half-page illustration throughout the book. That being said, the art is amazing, as usual. If you remember, last issue Morgan defeated Stryker the renegade CIA agent who came looking for him, but Morgan got a few crossbow bolts in him during the fight. Now he lies feverish, clinging to life, as Machiste and Mariah worry. In Morgan’s mind (or maybe in his soul) he descends into a cave and meets a beautiful woman. At first, he thinks she’s Tara, but she turns out to be someone else, though just as eager for Morgan to embrace her. She reveals that she’s someone he’s known intimately for most of his life … she’s Death! He pulls away and she laments the way everyone shuns her. She says he can find peace and a place in the Hall of Heroes if he’ll just give in. He refuses and tries to stab her, but she blasts him and sends him to fight demons in a nightmarish abyss. She then sends him to a torture chamber and offers to free him if he will join her willingly. But he still refuses, admitting his love for Tara is what makes him cling to life. Death lets him go grudgingly, but says sooner or later he’ll beg for her embrace … for in the end, all men are hers (and all women too, I suppose). Morgan returns to the land of the living, startling Machiste and Mariah when he wakes up and asks for something to eat. As usual, the art is amazing, and Death is … kinda hot.