This one starts with a mysterious guy giving a couple of gold coins to a homeless lady. The guy is all wrapped up in a green coat and hat and a red scarf, which maybe should’ve made her suspicious. Only moments after receiving the coins—which are apparently solid gold—she keels over dead. The weirdo places the coins on her eyes and limps off into the night. At the offices of the Wayne Foundation, Bruce Wayne is talking to Lucius Fox (in his first appearance) about a mysterious billionaire named Gregorian Falstaff. Falstaff is a recluse (Bruce compares him to Howard Hughes) who recently bought the Ambassador Hotel and moved into it. Lucius is worried that Falstaff might be trouble for Wayne Foundation, but Bruce doesn’t seem too worried. He gives Lucius the bum’s rush so he can take care of his “nighttime activities”. Alfred fills him in on the disturbances around Gotham, including the death of the homeless woman with the gold coins on her eyes. At the police station, a guy named Quentin Conroy busts into Commissioner Gordon’s office and says the gold coins that were left on the dead woman were part of a collection that was stolen from him. Batman is already there (to Gordon’s surprise) and asks Conroy for the details. He says his alarms were undisturbed and his safe is intact, but the coins are gone. Batman goes out to start searching and runs into a helpful street guy. He’s a walking talking Irish stereotype (red hair, Irish brogue, booze-hound) named Shamrock (!) who takes Batman to a place where homeless people congregate in the tunnels beneath Gotham. Batman meets some other colorful characters and learns that a couple more homeless people have died after receiving gold coins. When he examines the coins, he finds the residue of a strong contact poison on them. His deductions are disturbed by a scream from down the tunnel and he rushes to the scene in time to find the weirdo with the scarf trying to give coins to another homeless woman. Batman warns her not to touch the poisoned coins and tackles the weirdo, who uses his cane to knock Batman around. The guy’s scarf comes off and his face is twisted, almost deformed. He swings at Batman, who ducks, and ruptures a steam pipe. While Batman is protecting the homeless people from the exploding pipe, his shoulder is injured and the weirdo gets away. The homeless tell Batman the weirdo looks like a guy who’s supposed to have died years ago … a guy named Limehouse Jack Conroy. Batman goes to see Quentin Conroy, who says Limehouse Jack was his father, who ran out on his family to live on the streets. The coins originally belonged to him and Quentin kept them to remember him by, since his father died in the gutter years ago. That night, the weirdo in the scarf goes hunting again and Batman confronts him. Batman’s shoulder is still injured, so he can only use one arm, but it’s enough. He pounds the killer and reveals that he’s actually Quentin Conroy; you thought it was the father, didn’t you? Yeah, me too. But Batman reveals that he suspected Quentin because one of the heels of his shoes was more worn than the other, indicating a limp. Quentin didn’t limp, but the killer did. And sure enough, if you look back at the scene (pictured above) where Batman talks to Quentin in his apartment, one of his heels is worn. It’s pretty subtle though; easy to miss. There’s no explanation of why Quentin was running around killing people, nor how his face got all twisted, but whatever; Batman found the killer.
- I assume the whole “Gregorian Falstaff” thing is setting up a future story.
- When Lucius is talking to Bruce, he mentions “Roxxon stock”, which is a Marvel reference. I assume it was an in-joke by Len Wein, since he’d been working at Marvel not long before this.
- I’m not sure why Quentin would go to the cops about is missing coins; that just put him on Batman’s radar. Unless he had some kind of dual personality and actually thought the coins were stolen because he didn’t know he was the killer.
This story is a typical Bob Haney romp, disregarding continuity and logic pretty much wholesale. It’s an Earth-2 tale, set during World War II. Batman hears someone yelling in German and sees a shadowy figure exiting an apartment. The guy pops Batman in the face and takes off, but Batman goes to check the apartment. He finds a guy knifed to death and stuff scattered all over. When he hears sirens, Batman collects some particles on the scene and leaves. He listens in while Commissioner Gordon and the cops investigate, then talks to the housekeeper later. She says the dead guy was a Professor who only kept scientific papers in the safe and hated the seashore. Batman analyzes the sand he found and traces it to a certain spot on Gotham’s shore where he finds a hidden raft with Nazi markings. He knows the killer was a Nazi spy and must’ve stolen some kind of scientific documents from the Professor. Since the Professor’s specialty was particle physics (specifically uranium ores), Batman is worried. As Bruce Wayne, he talks to an industrialist friend who says a diplomat from South America named Besserman has been trying to get hold of some uranium lately—legally, of course. Batman takes a photo of Besserman and heads to Washington, D.C. Where he talks to Military Intelligence. They tell him Besserman is actually a Nazi named von Stauffen. Batman is introduced to the Unknown Soldier, who’s been on von Stauffen’s trail for a while. The Soldier tells Batman the Professor was working on a top secret bomb—obviously the A-bomb—and defected to the States, bringing his research with him. Von Stauffen was sent after him and if he recovers the research and gets hold of the uranium, the Nazis could perfect the bomb before the Americans. Since everything is so secret, they can’t launch a full-scale investigation, so it’s up to Batman and the Unknown Soldier. A couple days later, they track von Stauffen (in his Besserman disguise) to the Lincoln Memorial where he’s meeting with Bruce’s industrialist friend. The industrialist gets suspicious and pulls a gun on Besserman, who knifes him. Unknown Soldier (disguised as a tourist) jumps Besserman but gets pounded. Then Batman jumps in, but a bunch of thugs pop up and start blasting. The Soldier wastes them, but Besserman gets away. Since he’s posing as a diplomat, they can’t touch him when he’s hiding in the embassy, so they wait for him to leave. They see someone being taken out in an ambulance and follow, but it turns out to be filled with gunmen and Batman realizes it’s a ruse. They head for the airport and learn a South American just took off for New Mexico. They follow and find out Besserman has hired a pilot to fly him around. Unknown Soldier takes the pilot’s place, as Besserman takes photos of Los Alamos. The Soldier gets ready to capture Besserman, but his disguise slips and Besserman recognizes him, conking him out with his pistol. The plane crashes and Batman goes after Besserman but almost goes off a cliff in his jeep. They tap the embassy phones and learn Besserman is going to pick up the information at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier … there’s some irony for you. They stake the lace out during a wreath-laying ceremony and see Besserman lay a wreath then take a flower from another wreath. Unknown Soldier sheds his “minor bureaucrat” disguise and goes big … he disguises himself as FDR! He asks Besserman for the flower he took from the Tomb and Besserman can hardly refuse the President in front of a crowd of people. He gives up the flower and takes off and the Soldier realizes (by some “sixth sense”) that he sabotaged the Tomb. Soldier leaps forward (which freaks everyone out, since he’s still disguised as FDR) and tosses a bomb away just before it blows up. What happens next? Nothing! That’s the end of the story; von Stauffen missed getting the bomb info but holed up in the embassy again. The caption says the story will be continued in some future issue of Unknown Soldier, but since I’m not reviewing that series, we won’t see what happens. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Soldier beats von Stauffen, maybe even kills him. If anyone’s read that issue of Unknown Soldier and knows what happened, let me know in the comments.
- I’m assuming this story takes place on Earth-2, since Batman’s missing the yellow oval on his chest. Plus, a caption says it’s set “on a world not our own”. But I always thought Unknown Soldier was an Earth-1 character; am I wrong? Maybe there were Unknown Soldiers (and Haunted Tanks, and Sgt. Rocks, and Mlle. Maries) on both Earths during the war? I have no idea.
- Wouldn’t Los Alamos have been a no-fly zone while they were working on the A-bomb? You’d think any planes would be shot down on sight.
This continues the “Quest” storyline, where Morgan and Tara keep searching for Deimos and their missing sun. They’re currently trekking across a burning desert, nearly dehydrated, when they see a city ahead. Tara recalls a legend about a city called Timgad, ruled ages ago by sorcerers who trafficked with demons and kept goblins and ogres as servants. It seems to be empty and they’re desperate, so they head inside and find water, but are attacked by weird cat-like beasts. Morgan assumes they’re the descendants of the goblins Tara mentioned. They fight valiantly, but the goblins seem innumerable and Morgan falls through a trap door into the catacombs. He finds a glowing box and picks it up to light his way as he looks for a way back up to Tara. He finds a small skeleton inside a pentagram with a gem around its neck. Further on, he runs into some kind of C’thulhu-esque monster that his sword can’t harm. He runs back to the pentagram, realizing the slithering horror can’t touch him when he’s inside it. He sees the box he’s holding has some runes on it that match the gem around the skeleton’s throat, so he opens the box and finds another piece of gemstone inside. He puts the gems together and they emit a burst of energy that wastes the monster. Morgan finds a staircase and gets back up top, where Tara is still slaughtering goblins. He uses the glowing gem to scare the remaining goblins away and tells Tara the magical gem should help them when they face Deimos.
- There’s a parallel story that runs along the bottom panel of each page, showing how a sorcerer named Ogir Falconeye came to city ages ago to acquire an object of power. Ogir blasted his way in and found the glowing box, but fell through the pit rap into the catacombs. There, he was stalked by the slithering beast and dropped the box before he could even open it. He fled and the creature followed, so he drew the pentagram to protect himself, but ended up not being able to leave it and starving to death. So that explains the skeleton, the pentagram, and the glowing box.
- This story is very reminiscent of Conan, even more than most Warlord tales; the city in the middle of the desert, the slithering horror in the catacombs, and the ambush by the atavistic goblins are all straight out of R. E. Howard.