This one starts with Batman rushing to the site of an explosion. The scene of carnage is STAR Labs, where a paramilitary gang are stealing something, using the explosion and a bunch of smoke grenades as cover. Their leader (Thanatos, who wears a skull mask) seems to have been expecting Batman and tells his soldiers to attack. Batman does pretty well, using the smoke to his advantage, but gets knocked out by a concussion grenade. Thanatos and his gang get away and Commissioner Gordon revives Batman. We learn that Thanatos’s group (dubbed the Death’s Head Gang) have hit ten targets in as many weeks. Usually they go after government buildings, banks, and courthouses, but tonight is the firs time they’ve actually stolen something. Batman and Gordon are interrupted by an Italian reporter named Lina Muller, who says the Death’s Heads are anti-capitalists, striking a blow for freedom or some such bullshit. We learn that Lina is Bruce Wayne’s latest paramour, though Batman pretends not to recognize her. Batman takes off and we later see Bruce getting ready for a date with Lina. He tells Alfred that half a dozen Gotham businessmen have recently lost all their money after making stupid business decisions—almost as if they’d lost all their financial acumen. Bruce has found out that each businessman’s fortunes went down the crapper after visiting Gotham Isle, so he’s taking Lina there for their date so he can look around. There’s a Casino Night on the Isle, with the money raised going to charity. Bruce keeps an eye out, but can’t find anything suspicious. Lina talks him into trying the roulette wheel and the pit boss zaps him with a weird ray that turns him into a reckless gambler. Bruce keeps betting until he hits the limit ($1000, which is a pretty small limit, especially for a bunch of millionaires) and has to be dragged away by Lina. The next day, Batman recklessly (are you seeing a pattern?) bursts into Commissioner Gordon’s office through the window. Gordon gives him shit for not checking first to make sure nobody was standing there, but Batman insists that he doesn’t take risks. He then jumps out the window (recklessly again) and almost falls to his death. He realizes something’s wrong with him and tells Gordon that he was at Gotham Isle the night before and caught gambler’s fever. They go to check out the Isle and almost get blasted by thugs with machine guns, but Batman’s reckless streak continues and he charges right past the bullets and busts into the hotel. He gasses the thugs and their leader, who turns out to be Professor Amos Fortune. Fortune used his luck powers on businessmen to make them gamble heavily so he could swoop in and take their assets. He admits the “gambling fever” only lasts a week and he’s carted off to jail. On the way back, Batman and Gordon learn the device the Death’s Head gang stole from STAR Labs was a portable nuke. (Why STAR Labs had something like that in the heart of Gotham is another question.) Batman decides on a plan and has Gordon go on TV to issue a challenge: Batman will meet the Death’s Head Gang alone, without weapons or even his utility belt, on Gotham Isle. The Gang is watching from their hideout and Thanatos decides to accept Batman’s challenge. That night, the Death’s Head Gang shows up on Gotham Isle and Batman starts pounding them, using the giant casino props to help him. Thanatos whines that he broke his word, but Batman says he didn’t bring any weapons, he just made use of what was already there. He unmasks Thanatos and it turns out to be … Lina Muller, whose real name is Sophia Santos, a notorious Italian terrorist. Batman says he suspected her all along because “Lina’s” hair smelled like cordite when she showed up after the bombing at STAR Labs. Gordon wonders how Batman broke his gambling addiction so fast, but Batman says he didn’t … he just stacked the deck in his favour, like any gambler would.
- Lina describes the Death Heads as anti-capitalist, which makes them sound kind of left-wing. But their modus operandi looks more like homegrown right-wing terrorists, in the vein of Posse Comitatus. They remind me a little bit of ULTIMATUM, from Captain America.
- Gotham Isle is the site of the Starscraper, the fully-automated luxury hotel where the JLA fought Dr. Destiny in JLA #154. Apparently, Destiny’s machinations made to hotel unlivable, so the Wayne Foundation took it over and planned to turn it into a spa/gym for handicapped people, but ran short of funds … hence the charity gambling night. I’m surprised it was mentioned again, but since Gerry wrote that JLA tale, I guess he figured he may as well use some of the elements from it.
- There’s a back-up story called “With This Ring, Find Me Dead” (by Rozakis/Newton/Hunt). A dead woman is found with a ring that’s inscribed “t My Darling Wife, Love, The Batman”. Batman doesn’t know her, so he tracks the ring to a small town in Maine. He goes (in disguise) to a jeweler’s shop and asks about the ring. The jeweler recognizes it as belonging to a local woman and figures the disguised Batman killed her to get the ring. He calls some thugs and Batman pounds them, but the supposedly dead woman and her husband walk in. She still has her ring and the jeweler can’t tell the difference between hers and the one Batman found. Back home, some asshole walks into Bruce Wayne’s penthouse, right past all the security, and shows Bruce pictures of himself kicking ass at the jeweler’s shop. The dude says he knows Bruce is Batman and admits killing the woman, saying Batman can’t do anything about it without his secret being exposed. The story is continued next issue.
This one starts with Batman getting the shit kicked out of him by a big, bald goofball. Batman is surprised by his opponent’s speed and ends up getting choked. He reflects that he doesn’t even know the big bruiser’s name. On that note, we get an extended flashback of the brute’s origin. Have I mentioned how much I hate it when writers do that? A few weeks back, this big mass of muscle was just a tubby little nerd, tormented at school. A dude named Ivan Angst (who looks like Sherlock Holmes’s uncle) comes along and tells the guy he wants to be his friend. Later, we see Batman busting up a meeting of Mercenaries Inc., a group that hires itself out indiscriminately as long as the money’s good. Coincidentally, Ivan Angst runs Mercenaries Inc., but he escapes as Batman is pounding his soldiers. At home, Alfred gives Batman shit, saying he’s been spending too much time on the Mercenaries case. Alfred discovers Bruce has a fever and calls a doctor, who says he’s a wreck and has to take it easy for a while. Amazingly, Bruce agrees. Elsewhere, we see Angst and his mad scientist (Dr. Moon) turning nerd boy into a killing machine. Dr. Moon implants plastic shields in all his vulnerable spots, pumps him up on steroids, and severs his nerves so he can’t feel pain. Unfortunately, the procedure seems to have turned the guy kinda stupid. Angst doesn’t care too much about the guy’s intellect; he figures if the procedure works, they can create an army of super-soldiers and sell them to every government in the world. Angst puts an ad in the paper challenging Batman to meet him at a building site that night. Angst figures fighting Batman will be the ultimate test for his new soldier, who Dr. Moon refers to as Gork (apparently a term for patients who are basically brain-dead but ambulatory). Bruce decides to accept the challenge—so much for taking the doctor’s advice—and heads for the site. That brings us back to where we started, with Gork choking Batman. The Darknight manages to break free, but all his fighting skill is useless against Gork, who just keeps coming. Batman is getting tired and makes one last effort to knock Gork over, but gets slammed for his trouble. Before Gork can finish Batman, he keels over. Apparently Batman did more damage than he thought, but Gork’s severed nerves kept him from feeling it. Angst is pissed off because his experiment didn’t work and tells Gork he’s useless. That pisses Gork off, since Angst pretended to be his friend, and he starts choking Angst. Batman tries to pull him off, but Gork kills Angst and collapses on top of him, dead. Well, that wraps everything up rather neatly, doesn’t it?
- There’s a back-up story (by Len Wein/Murphy Anderson) about Hawkman. Three longhair classical music types rob a jewelry store and when Hawkman shows up to stop them, they use a small horn to blast him with music that carries him skyward. He hooks a flagpole and stops his momentum, but the crooks get away. We see them reporting back to Pied Piper—who else would equip his men with a horn that controls people?—and we learn Piper was channeling his own horn’s power through his henchman’s smaller horn. Hawkman’s feathered friends tell him when the crooks are on the move again and he tracks them down and pounds them, thanks to the hypersonic transceiver in his helmet that blocks the music from the crook’s horn. Hawkman uses the transceiver to track down Pied Piper, but Piper’s horn is much stronger and he blows the metal wings right off Hawkman’s back. Hawkman manages to toss his mace at a large horn hanging outside a music store and the horn falls and traps Pied Piper.
Stories like this are why Bob Haney is sometimes referred to as “Zany” Bob Haney. We start with Bruce Wayne entering his office to see his secretary having an apple shot off her head with an arrow. Naturally, it turns out to be Green Arrow, who dropped by for a favour. Before Green Arrow enters the scene, there’s a weird-shaped shadow on the floor; remember that, as it becomes significant later. Arrow has found an old book that mentions an ancient arrow enchanted by Merlin to be under complete control of the archer. Of course, Green Arrow wants it, so he gets a ride to France with Batman, who has business in Germany. Batman tries to read the ancient text, but it disappears, so he circles back to find Green Arrow. He finds Arrow’s name scratched out of the hotel register and goes to the nearby castle where the magic arrow is supposedly located. Batman finds a doorway and goes through, ending up in 1415 just before the Battle of Agincourt, where the magic arrow was supposedly used. He stumbles into some French soldiers under the command of a weirdo named Gargoyle. Gargoyle was not only mentioned in the book Green Arrow found, he’s also appeared a couple of times in the present day, fighting the Teen Titans. Gargoyle knocks Batman out and ties him to a horse. Meanwhile, Green Arrow (after walking through the same magic castle door that Batman did) has hooked up with the English. He’s traveling with the archers (of course) and Merlin appears to give him the magic arrow. Green Arrow is thrilled, but when the English and French armies meet at Agincourt, he decides to use the magic arrow against Gargoyle. Batman figures out that it’s all a trick to get Gargoyle what he wants, so he busts loose and tries to stop Green Arrow, but he’s too late. Green Arrow shoots Gargoyle, who turns to stone. Batman grabs the magic arrow and he and Green Arrow flee back to the castle door. They return to their own time (the door’s magic only works one way, so they don’t have to worry about being followed) and Batman explains that Gargoyle has been manipulating Green Arrow all along. He made him find the book and seek the magic arrow so Gargoyle would be freed … hence the weird, gargoyle-shaped shadow on the first page. Batman figures the magic arrow can send Gargoyle back to his own time, so they track him through a mine-field to an old Nazi bunker. Batman gets jumped by Gargoyle and Green Arrow pretends to still be under Gargoyle’s influence to lull him into a false sense of security … then he shoots him with the magic arrow, sending Gargoyle back to his own time. Like I said, zany!
- Green Arrow puts the moves on Bruce’s secretary; I’ll bet he doesn’t mention that to Dinah later.
- In the hotel register, Oliver mentioned the castle as his reason for visiting; that’s pretty crappy security.
- It’s weird to see two “down-to-earth” characters like Batman and Green Arrow involved in a time travel/magic story.
- The King Henry depicted in this story seems to be Shakespeare’s version, full of courage and rousing speeches.
- I’m no expert on France, but are there still WW II Nazi bunkers sitting around? I’m sure there aren’t any mine-fields still in existence.
- Batman mentions that the magic door in the castle is one-way, but doesn’t that mean anyone could just go through and wind up in the 15th Century? What stops ordinary people from getting lost in time?
- There’s a Human Target back-up story (by Wein/Giordano) about the conductor of the New York Philharmonic being targeted by someone who wants him dead. Christopher Chance impersonates him and dodges a couple of murder attempts before confronting the would-be killer at a performance. It turns out to be some religious nut who’s pissed off that the maestro was conducting a piece called “Symphony for the Devil”. Chance uses a cello and bow to disarm the guy and the audience thinks the maestro was the one who did all the acrobatics and caught the killer.