This one starts with a guy named Jacob Riker watching Batman swing by his window and wishing the Caped Crusader could help him. But Riker figures he’s beyond anyone’s help and we soon see he’s right. Mr. Freeze shows up with some henchmen who look like frozen zombies and Riker says he’ll give in to Freeze’s demands, but Freeze wants to use Riker as an example, so he blasts him with his cold-gun, freezing him solid. At the Wayne Foundation, Bruce Wayne is busy in his office when he gets a surprise visitor … Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. She has some money she wants to invest in Bruce’s business. Naturally he assumes it’s criminal money that she’s trying to launder, but she assures him it’s legit, from an inheritance. He almost says no, but decides to let her invest; he figures if she really has gone straight and he turns her down, it’ll be his fault if she goes back to crime. As she leaves, we see an enigmatic smile on her face. She’s obviously cooking something up. Bruce asks Lucius Fox to check out Selina Kyle and find out where her money comes from. Bruce sees the Bat-Signal and heads to Jacob Riker’s penthouse where Commissioner Gordon shows him Riker’s frozen corpse. It’s obvious Mr. Freeze is behind it and Batman says he’ll do some digging. We see Freeze at his hideout, where a guy named McVee goes in to see him. Freeze has apparently offered McVee the secret of perpetual youth … cryonics. Freeze says he can use cold to slow down McVee’s cellular aging, thus keeping him young. (I assume this is the same deal Freeze offered Riker.) McVee goes for it and Freeze puts him in the cryo-chamber, but the process doesn’t work. McVee’s body survives, but his brain is frozen, basically turning him into a zombie. That explains Freeze’s zombie henchmen; they’re other failed experiments. Turns out Freeze is doing all this for love; his girlfriend Hildy wants eternal youth and beauty, so Freeze promised to figure out a way. He’s perfecting the technique on others before he uses it on Hildy. But we’re privy to Hildy’s thoughts and we find out that she’s just using Freeze to make her perpetually young, then she’s going to get rid of him. We get an interlude at STAR Labs, where a medical team is using radiation to cure someone they got from Wayne Foundation custody. We don’t get to see who it is, but he freaks out and then keels over dead. Batman finds out that Freeze owns an office building downtown and checks it out. He finds extra power lines running to the thirteenth floor. When he sneaks in, Freeze is waiting with his frozen zombie henchmen. The zombies are too tough for Batman to pound, so he uses his agility against them until Freeze shackles Batman’s feet in ice. Freeze stuffs Batman in the cryo-chamber and turns it on. Batman emerges as a frozen zombie. Freeze leaves for a few minutes and Hildy starts talking to frozen Batman, telling him how she hates Freeze and is just using him, and how she wishes Freeze was as hot as Batman. Freeze is just in the next room, so he overhears her easily. While Hildy is nuzzling up to Batman, she discovers something, but before she can tell Freeze, he threatens to blast her. But what Hildy discovers is that Batman was faking being frozen and he saves her from Freeze. The zombie henchmen give Batman trouble again, but he smashes Freeze’s helmet, which somehow disrupts his psionic control of the zombies. Batman tells Freeze he disconnected some of the power cables to the thirteenth floor, so that’s why the cryo-machine didn’t freeze him. Batman used make-up (which Hildy noticed) to fool Freeze into thinking his plan worked. Batman decks Freeze, busting the cord on his cold-gun. Hildy picks up the gun and tries to zap Batman and Freeze, who warns her the gun will backfire without the regulator cord attached. But she doesn’t listen and gets flash-frozen just like Riker did.
- I don’t think Catwoman knows Batman’s secret identity at this point, although that smile at the end may be hinting otherwise. She says to Bruce that they have an “old acquaintanceship”, but I’m pretty sure that’s just as Bruce and Selina. She doesn’t find out his secret for a while yet (though she may have her suspicions).
- I guess we’re supposed to feel a bit sorry for Freeze here. Hildy’s portrayed as an ungrateful asshole, while Freeze was doing everything out of love for her. Although, looking at Hildy, I can guess which head Freeze was thinking with.
- There’s an epilogue at the end with the STAR Labs guys burying the patient who died earlier. After they leave, hands come busting up out of the grave. They’re still being somewhat mysterious about who it is, but one of them mentions the name Mark Desmond; if you don’t know who that is, just wait until next issue.
If you remember, last issue Batman tracked down Xavier Simon, who had a grudge against Bruce Wayne’s father (as well as a few other guys) who he’d served with in the Army. They’d testified against Simon when he raped a woman and he vowed revenge. Simon figured out a way to transfer his mind into the body of a huge white gorilla and killed all his former squad-mates (except Bruce’s father, obviously, since he was already dead). Simon also figured out Batman is Bruce Wayne and knocked him out, wanting to use his body to house his mind instead of the gorilla’s body. And that’s where we come in, with a giant white ape threatening a trussed up Batman. Simon tells Batman he’s going to put his mind into Batman’s body, Bruce Wayne’s mind into Simon Xavier’s withered old body, and then strangle “Xavier” to death. Simon has already changed his will so Bruce Wayne inherits all his money, so he’s basically willing the money to himself, I guess. Batman breaks loose and does the obvious; instead of tackling the gorilla, he starts smashing the machines Simon needs to do the mind-switch. The lab starts on fire, burning up Simon’s real body (with the gorilla’s mind in it), which drives Simon (still in the gorilla body) nuts. He attacks Batman, who tries to flee out the window, but the crazed ape follows and they end up on a nearby rooftop. Batman fights the ape hand to hand (with a little help from a piece of metal pipe) and does pretty well, but eventually the ape’s strength wins out and he’s ready to toss Batman off the roof. Batman notices a glint of light behind them and a security guard shoots the ape, who drops Batman and plunges off the roof to his death. Later, Commissioner Gordon tries to get the whole story from Batman, but the Caped Crusader is tight-lipped about it all. He insists on burying the gorilla next to Xavier Simon’s charred body, but refuses to explain his reasoning to Gordon.
“A Quick Death in China” – Bob Rozakis/Don Heck/Frank Chiaramonte
Last issue Barbara Gordon took a trip to China to track down information about her brother’s death. She ran into a group called the Sino-Supermen, but didn’t learn anything new. Then she and her friend Leslie were gassed and kidnapped by the Sino-Supermen. As the kidnapping makes international news, we see reactions from various people: Barbara’s brother Tony (yeah, turns out he’s not dead after all); Director of the National Security Bureau, Lewis Efrem, who sent Barbara to China (and knows Tony is still alive); Batman and Commissioner Gordon; and Wo Fong, the Sax Rohmer caricature who’s behind everything (and kidnapped Barbara to lure her brother out of hiding because he was a spy who discovered the secret of Wo Fong’s Sino-Supermen). Wo Fong confronts Barbara and Leslie in their cell and reveals to Barbara that her brother is still alive. Fong also accuses Leslie of being Batgirl, since they found Barbara’s costume in their room and Leslie made a show of beating the shit out of a terrorist last issue. They drag Leslie off to interrogate her, conveniently leaving the Batgirl costume on the floor of the cell. Naturally, Barbara puts it on. Barbara’s brother was in Japan, but hopped a boat to China and is approaching Wo Fong’s stronghold. Batgirl busts in on the interrogation and pounds the guards. Wo Fong calls the Sino-Supermen, who attack Batgirl. Leslie tries to help but gets decked, and Batgirl takes on the Sino-Supermen herself … ad does pretty well. Tony shows up wearing one of the Sino-Supermen costumes (which apparently gives him super strength, I think) and stops Wo Fong from escaping. Tony and Wo Fong both pull guns and Tony tells Batgirl (who he knows is Barbara) to get Leslie out of there. She does, but hears two gunshots on her way out. Before she can go back to look for Tony, the whole place blows up and collapses. So, I guess he really is dead this time … unless he’s not.
“The Eternity Book” – Len Wein/Michael Golden/Dick Giordano
It’s kind of weird to see Demon (aka Jason Blood) appearing in a Batman comic, but I guess his last appearance was in Batman Family, so maybe this is a continuation of that. I’ve never been a big Demon fan (though I haven’t read the Matt Wagner stuff, which is supposed to be good), so this story didn’t do much for me. Golden’s atmospheric art works well for the character, though. We start out looking at an old brownstone on Canal Street in New York—uh, I mean Gotham—where there’s a store called Beckermann’s Rare Books. It actually looks a lot like Dr. Strange’s Sanctum, so maybe it should be on Bleecker instead of Canal. Anyway, Aldo Beckermann is puttering around in his shop when some weirdo in a cloak and hood shows up asking for something called the Eternity Book. Beckermann pretends ignorance, but the guy blasts him and takes the book from a cabinet. A half-dead Beckermann says some mystical words, one of which is “Etrigan”; we all know what that means, don’t we? Elsewhere in Gotham, we see Jason Blood hanging out with his posse (seriously, these guys have a real Doc Savage vibe going on), which includes some East Indian dude named Randu Singh, a rough and ready type named Harry, and Blood’s girlfriend, Glenda Mark. Blood and Randu (who’s blind) are sparring when the lights go out (there’s a huge, gothic storm outside) and Beckermann’s invocation kicks in. Blood transforms into Etrigan the Demon and takes off. Strangely, his first words are in rhyme, but that doesn’t continue through the rest of the story. I think the rhyming speech was something that came later, in Moore’s Swamp Thing. Glenda freaks out about Blood’s transformation (which is strange, since he was the Demon not that long ago in Brave & the Bold … but maybe that was just Bob Haney ignoring continuity. Randu tells Harry and Glenda that the Eternity Book contains Merlin’s magical lore and we get a recap of Etrigan’s origin (summoned by Merlin in the last days of Camelot, then unable to return to Hell he lived centuries in different guises). Etrigan finds Beckermann, who tells him the Eternity Book has been stolen, then dies. Etrigan promises to get the Book back and tracks the thief, who turns out to be some kind of undead monster. Etrigan uses demon-fire, which makes him drop the Book, rendering him vulnerable. Etrigan fries him, but before he can grab the Book, another asshole shows up and snatches it. This guy’s name is Baron Tyme and he reminds me of Marvel’s Son of Satan.
“Bat-Mite’s New York Adventure” – Bob Rozakis/Michael Golden/Bob Smith
This one’s kinda goofy (naturally, it has Bat-Mite) and very meta; seriously, I wonder if Grant Morrison read this one as a kid? We start with Al Milgrom in his office working on a Firestorm strip. His typewriter goes nuts and types out “We want Bat-Mite!” and the people down in the street start chanting the same thing. Then Bat-Mite himself pops in, saying he wants his own feature in Batman Family. (Obviously this was written before Batman Family and Firestorm were canceled.) Milgrom tries to ignore Bat-Mite, saying he has a lot of work to do. Bat-Mite tries to help (by making Firestorm look like him in the art pages) then zaps Jack C. Harris in from changing his daughter’s diaper to approve it. When Harris hates Bat-Mite’s changes, he’s zapped back home. Milgrom says they’d need a creative team to do a new feature, so Bat-Mite brings in Bob Rozakis (off the LIRR train), Mike Golden (who was walking his dog), Bob Smith, Milt Snappin (who was playing bridge), Anthony Tollin (who was filing his Shadow pulps … he’s a pretty well-known pulp fan), and Todd Klein. Good thing none of them were banging their wives right at that moment. They all promise to work on a Bat-Mite story, so Bat-Mite takes off, leaving them to it. I assume the result is the story we just read … hence, the meta part.
“The League of Crime” – Bob Rozakis/Juan Ortiz/Dave Hunt
This story is basically told in flashback—a device I hate, in case I haven’t mentioned it before—and concerns a criminal cartel that Robin has been dealing with lately. They’ve got their fingers in a lot of pies, but Robin still doesn’t know who’s behind it all. The flashbacks deal with their mysterious leader watching tapes of the newest recruit, Raven (not the cool, sexy Raven from New Teen Titans; this is a flying villain who Robin fought briefly last issue) being given a test to see if he’s worthy of joining the criminal enterprise. Raven was told to steal helium from a balloon that’s making a trans-continental trip; the cartel will gauge his performance and also use the evidence of his crime to keep him in line later. Raven attacked the balloon and started siphoning the helium out of it, but Robin showed up on his whirly-bat and jumped Raven. They tussled a bit and Robin managed to save the balloonists with the whirly-bat. Robin and Raven had a fight in mid-air and Robin fell, but he had a parachute in his uniform, so he avoided going splat. So Raven failed his “audition”, but was kept on because he’s still training, plus his hatred of Robin is thought to be good motivation. The leader moves on to check out another new recruit, Card Queen. She’s certainly easier on the eyes than Raven, even with her ridiculously tiny waist. (She’s actually someone a lot of fans might recognize, but I’m not going to say who because that hasn’t been revealed yet.) Anyway, Card Queen pretended to be a superhero, catching bad guys committing crimes. But she always pocketed some of the loot and let one crook get away, so he’d be blamed for the missing money. Robin figured out her scheme and exposed her, but she gassed him and took off before he could capture her. Card Queen apparently went into hiding after the debacle; even the criminals don’t know where she is. The leader freaks out and says the reason Robin has been kicking their asses lately is because they’re too disorganized. He orders them to find Robin and bring his corpse into their headquarters. While he’s ranting, we finally get to see his true identity, and it’s … MAZE! In case you’re wondering, MAZE is the organization that Robin and Batgirl fought a couple times in Batman Family. So, I guess they’re back.
This one starts with a meeting at the Wayne Foundation. Bruce congratulates the board members on a new satellite called Globe-Span, that’s just been launched. It’s some kind of communications network, covering all of Earth. But Bruce is interrupted by a terrorist on a monitor who says Globe-Span has been hijacked by a group called the Children of Light. They’ve installed a laser on one of the satellites and threaten to start wiping out cities unless their leader is released within twelve hours. Bruce slips away to change to Batman and heads for police headquarters where the Bat-Signal is blazing. But it’s a trap; the Children of Light are waiting and they actually give him a pretty good fight. Surprised by their resourcefulness, he lets them get away. Gordon tells Batman the White House won’t release the terrorist leader, no matter what. Batman figures the laser must’ve been installed while the satellite was still on the ground, which means there’s an inside man at STAR Labs. He heads over to nose around and stumbles (literally) over Supergirl, who’s unconscious on the floor. Supergirl tells Batman that at New Athens College, one of her classmates (Josh Kimble) is an intern at STAR Labs and every time she was near him, she felt weakened, as if her superpowers were disappearing. She followed him to STAR Labs and discovered him sabotaging the satellite. But she weakened again and somebody conked her out. Batman realizes Kimble must’ve been the inside man at STAR and fills her in on the hijacked satellite and the terrorists’ demands. They head into space, Batman in a STAR Labs spaceship propelled by Supergirl. As they approach the satellite with the laser on it, Supergirl feels weak again, so she can’t get any closer. She realizes the satellite is surrounded by a red sun radiation field, which cancels her powers. Batman flies the spaceship in, but gets blasted by the laser. He almost freezes in airless space, but Supergirl uses her heat vision (from a distance) to keep him warm enough to throw her a bat-line. She wraps him in her cape and zips down to Earth before he freezes or suffocates. They decide the satellite is too well-defended to hit, so they follow up on the only other lead they have: Josh Kimble. Batman speculates that Supergirl’s weakness around Kimble is due to him absorbing red sun radiation while working on the satellite. At Kimble’s house, the place has been hurriedly vacated, but they find a secret compartment with a note inside. The note has a weird sigil on it and says “Light is under the sun.” Batman deduces it refers to a club downtown called Le Soleil, so they go to check it out. The basement is lead-lined, so Supergirl can’t see anything. Batman tells her to wait and heads inside, where the Children of Light are waiting. He has another tough fight with them and Supergirl busts in, having heard the ruckus with her super-hearing. She gets zapped by a red sun ray and we find out the mastermind (and I use the term loosely) behind the whole scheme: Dr. Light. Batman suspected it (of course) because Light once used the “red sun radiation” trick against Superman. Light says he doesn’t care about the Children of Light and their political bullshit; he just needed them to set up the laser on the satellite so he could use it to blackmail the U.S. Government for one billion dollars. While Light is yammering, Supergirl recovers and Batman tosses a smoke bomb and shuts off the red sun shield around the satellite. Light tries to fire the laser with a remote, but Supergirl outflies the signal and smashes the satellite. Batman kicks the shit out of Light and the remaining terrorists and he and Supergirl congratulate each other on a job well done. I’m pretty sure they probably banged off-panel, but maybe that’s just me reading too much into it.
- Gordon mentions that the guards around the Bat-Signal were “overpowered” so the Children of Light could lay their trap. If they’re heartless terrorists, why didn’t they just kill the cops?
- For those of you who perpetually wonder why Earth-shattering crises like this are always handled by lone heroes, Batman makes a point of saying the rest of the JLA are away on a mission in space.
- The way Supergirl talks, it seems like she and Batman haven’t really worked together before. But he does know her secret identity for some reason.
- I’m not sure who knocked Supergirl out at STAR Labs; if it was a guard, why did he just leave her there?
- If you’re wondering why Supergirl didn’t blast the satellite with heat vision, she tried, but the heat beams were deflected somehow before they hit the satellite.
- When Batman goes inside to check STAR Labs and tells Supergirl to stay back, she’s a bit miffed. He probably wanted to protect her from the red sun radiation, but she rightly points out that he wouldn’t have told superman to hang back where it was safe.
- Supergirl outflew the signal that Light sent to the satellite; assuming the signal was some form of light on the electro-magnetic spectrum, that means Supergirl flew faster than the speed of light. I think she’s done that before, but I don’t know if she’s ever done it so close to Earth before … or what the consequences would be.
Travis Morgan and Tara are still trying to track down Deimos after he kidnapped their son, Joshua. They stumble across a T-rex and almost get eaten, but the dinosaur retreats when they run out into a cleared area. It looks like something gouged a path through the forest and whatever it was, it made the T-rex nervous. Morgan and Tara son find out what it was; a giant blood-red moon hovers over them. Before they can process that, they’re attacked by aliens on high=tech flying sleds. They fight back, and do pretty well, but one of the sleds explodes, knocking them out. They’re taken into the moon, which turns out to be a giant spaceship disguised as a moon. They meet their captor, Bornaa, who says they’re aliens from a star system called Alces Shirasi that went supernova some time ago. The moon spaceship became kind of an ark, with the aliens wandering space, looking for somewhere to settle. Bornaa says their race is all but extinct; generations of mating with transmutated humans has led to the present group of aliens, who want to experiment on Morgan and Tara so the next generation can mate with unaltered humans and propagate across the universe … or something. It really doesn’t make much sense. Anyway, Morgan freaks out and attacks, but gets zapped and shackled. The aliens blast Morgan with a machine that alters his DNA and he ends up with a bull’s head. Bornaa takes away for a little rape-time and Morgan feels himself turning into an animal, so he busts loose and starts kicking ass. Bornaa puts the moves on Tara, but she takes his gun and wastes him. She stops Morgan from killing the technician who can restore him to normalcy and Morgan’s condition is reversed. While they’re escaping, a guard takes a shot at them that hits the reactor core. Morgan and Tara watch from the ground as the moon blows up and they feel slightly sad for the aliens who were the last of their kind … but they get over it pretty quick and are ready to resume looking for Joshua.
- When Morgan is changed back to normal after having the bull’s head, he mentions that if he’d fully transformed to a bull he might’ve ended up doing ads for malt liquor. I assume that’s a Schlitz reference, as they used to have a bull for a mascot on their malt liquor.