This one starts with some guys robbing a museum in Gotham. By their clichéd accents, I can only assume they’re British. Batman makes short work of them, but is confronted by their boss, Gentleman Ghost. Ghost takes a shot at the Caped Crusader with a phantom flintlock, but when Batman grabs a shield from the museum’s collection to protect himself, the bullet turns out to be a magnesium flare that blinds him. Gentleman Ghost and his crew escape before Batman’s sight returns. On the way home, Batman reviews what he knows about Gentleman Ghost: he’s fought Hawkman a few times and claims to be the actual ghost of an 18th Century highwayman named Jim Craddock. Being a man of science, Batman doesn’t believe in ghosts, but he takes the museum robbery personally, since part of the loot included a pair of antique lanterns that once adorned Wayne Manor before it was closed down. At his penthouse, Batman is surprised Alfred isn’t waiting for him, but he brushes his concerns aside and goes to bed. He’s jarred awake a few hours later by a call from Selina Kyle, who made an offer to invest in Wayne Enterprises a couple issues ago. Bruce says he’ll meet her for lunch in a day or so, hoping she’s serious about going straight for once. Bruce is more worried that Alfred didn’t answer the phone, nor is he around when Bruce looks for him. Bruce starts trying to find him, even getting his secretary to call all the hospitals. Bruce has a meeting with Lucius Fox, who tells him he has a board meeting to get ready for and mentions Gregorian Falstaff, a business rival. Bruce takes the meeting but is still preoccupied with Alfred. That night, he heads to Alfred’s favourite pub, Ye Pipe and Hearth, which is apparently something of a hang-out for butlers. He disguises himself as a butler and learns that Alfred was followed out by a distinguished-looking guy the night before. Batman can’t find a trace of Alfred, so he heads home and is surprised to find the butler there … but he’s not alone; Gentleman Ghost and his thugs are robbing the place. Batman assumes Alfred walked in on them during the robbery, so he comes in swinging. He pounds the henchmen, but Gentleman Ghost proves harder to catch. Batman’s rope goes through Ghost’s wrists (or where his wrists should be), a wind through the window almost prevents Batman grabbing the Ghost, and when he does finally snag him … Alfred conks Batman on the head with a lamp. When he comes to, Batman wonders why Alfred would turn on him and why Ghost is stealing antiques from Bruce Wayne. He finally realizes what Ghost is up to and where he must be hiding. At Wayne Manor, we see Alfred serving Gentleman Ghost and we learn what happened. Alfred was bragging in the pub about how nice Wayne Manor was and how it was closed down, and Gentleman Ghost overheard him. He followed Alfred and hypnotized him (which is apparently one of his powers), then started “acquiring” the antiques that Bruce Wayne had lent out. Ghost wanted to bring all the fancy trappings back to the mansion and turn it into a 19th Century manor house so he’d feel at home. Batman comes in and Ghost tries to shoot him, but Batman knocks the gun from his hand. Alfred picks it up and Ghost tells him to kill Batman. Alfred contemplates it, but loyalty wins out and he breaks free of Ghost’s control. Ghost flees and Batman catches him outside escaping with a ghostly horse and carriage (though I assume the horses and carriage are real and just coated with phosphorescent paint). Batman jumps on the carriage and he and Ghost start grappling. The horses break loose as the carriage heads for a cliff. Batman jumps off but Gentleman Ghost’s cloak gets snagged and he goes off the cliff with the carriage, which is smashed to shit at the bottom. Batman climbs down, but finds no remains, only Ghost’s hat. He still refuses to believe in ghosts, but a peal of mocking laughter makes him wonder.
- I’m not sure why Batman refuses to believe in ghosts; he’s seen plenty of supernatural stuff before, especially with the JLA.
- So, I guess Gentleman Ghost’s body is intangible (and invisible), but his clothes are solid, since Batman grabbed him and his cloak got caught in the carriage.
- Gentleman Ghost says he was in the pub when he overheard Alfred (and the flashback shows him sitting there), so how did nobody notice a ghost sitting in a pub? For that matter, the guy who says someone followed Alfred says he was too drunk to remember what the guy looked like, but you’d have to be pretty wasted not to remember a dude with no face.
- Before this, Gentleman Ghost was a Hawkman enemy, but from here on he joins Batman’s Rogues Gallery.
This one starts with an old man walking through Crime Alley about to get jumped by a couple of punks. They accost him, but he reminds them that this is the night Batman always shows up in Crime Alley and they decide to head for safer pastures. Batman does show up and meets his old friend Leslie Tompkins (who looks nothing like Morena Baccarin). She asks why he always returns to Crime Alley on this particular date, but he doesn’t tell her the truth … that it’s the anniversary of Bruce Wayne’s parents getting killed. I have to say, Leslie must be stupid if she hasn’t made that connection yet; maybe she has and she’s just letting Batman think she’s fooled. I know in Post-Crisis continuity she knows his secret, but it’s presented here as if she doesn’t. For that matter, how hard would it be for anyone to put that together? Or even to arrange an ambush, since they know where Batman will be on this particular night. Anyway, Leslie tells Batman she’s stayed in Crime Alley to try and help the poor people who live there, but she feels like there’s something working against her, some deeper evil. Batman spots a fancy car that doesn’t belong and slips into the back seat. The occupants are a couple of hired thugs from Toledo and one of them pulls a gun. Batman pounds him, then scares some info out of the other guy. They, and about a hundred other thugs, have been hired by a mob boss named Maxie Zeus to watch a housing complex called the Skirley Apartments (or “Scurvy City” as the residents call it). A dude named John Logan snitched on Maxie Zeus and he’s hiding in the Skirley, but the place has 900 units, so it’s impossible to search thoroughly. Zeus hired all the thugs to wait outside, guaranteeing Logan would be flushed out of the building so they can get a shot at him. Batman’s font of information pulls a gun of his own and gets tossed through the car’s windshield. Batman figures out Zeus must have some way of emptying the building and Leslie says she’ll help him warn the residents. A couple of fake cops try to stop them, but Batman notices their side-arms aren’t standard-issue and pounds them. He and Leslie go in, but when they try to warn people to leave the building, nobody will listen because they’re terrified of strangers. Batman hears a scream and interrupts a drunk about to beat his wife, but the wife stops Batman from hurting him. When he goes back into the hall, he sees a junkie beating on Leslie and starts pounding the shit out of him. Leslie stops him by reminding him of the Wayne murders that took place there so many years ago. She says, “When we have the wisdom to use mercy and compassion instead of force, we human creatures will finally be on the path to perfection”. John Logan comes along and says he’ll look after Leslie. Batman tries to figure out Zeus’s plan and realizes he must be going to use the ducts to pump gas into the building. Batman heads up to the roof and finds more goons about to pump poison gas into the vent system, assuming it’ll either kill Logan or drive him into the streets to be shot down. They just had to wait for it to start raining so the gas wouldn’t spread too far outside the building. Batman pounds them and the last guy threatens him with the container of gas, but Batman catches it and decks the guy. Maxie Zeus is pissed off that Batman ruined his revenge scheme, but he’s freaked when he gets a note promising Batman will be coming after him soon. In hospital, Leslie is recovering and Logan says he’ll fill in with her humanitarian efforts until she’s back on her feet.
Human Target – “The Lights … Camera … Murder Contract” – Len Wein/Howard Chaykin/Dick Giordano
This one starts with Christopher Chance (aka the Human Target) being hired by a famous stuntman named Brad Nayle. Nayle wants Chance to take his place because he’s sure someone’s trying to kill him by sabotaging his stunts. Chance takes the contract and, after some intense study, becomes Nayle. He reports to the studio where they’re making some kind of crappy throwback musical about football players. The studio head Jessica Kincaid, gives “Nayle” shit, saying he’s caused enough delays and if there are any more, he’s fired. Chance also meets a rival stuntman named Pinky, who’s bitter that Nayle supplanted him as top stunt performer on the picture. As Chance is taking part in a goofy dance number, someone tosses a live grenade at him instead of a football. He snags it in his helmet and tosses the grenade into an artificial waterfall, where it detonates harmlessly. Chance sees Pinky skulking away, but before he can follow, Jessica catches him and says he’d better stick around or be fired. She reminds him he’s already had three accidents on set and says any more and it’ll be his ass. Chance soon finds himself in another goofy number, this time set in a giant shooting gallery. Someone takes a real shot at him, but he avoids it and uses the backdrop to spring up to the rafters where he finds Pinky with a rifle. Chance chases him, evading a swinging sandbag, and the backswing knocks Pinky off the catwalk, almost killing him. Chance calls an ambulance, but Jessica shows up and tries to fire him. He reveals he’s not really Brad Nayle and accuses Jessica of being the one who hired Pinky to kill Nayle. He figured it had to be her, since nobody else knew how many “accidents” there’d been. She admits she’d forged a bunch of checks in Nayle’s name and had to get rid of him before the auditors showed up, so she told Pinky he could have Nayle’s job if he eliminated him.
Batgirl – “A Date With Batgirl” – Bob Rozakis/Bob Oksner/Vince Colletta
This one starts with Batgirl at the Lincoln Memorial, confronting a group called the SAE (Society for the Advancement of Everybody), some kind of flaky terrorist outfit with ambiguous motives. She distracts them long enough for soldiers to advance, then helps the soldiers pound the terrorists. Unfortunately, the leader gets away and none f his underlings will say where he went … although one guy does make a cryptic remark about it being “16 to 1” that Batgirl will find him. Afterwards, one of the soldiers (Sgt. Rod Stromer, who met Batgirl before in an issue of Batman Family) asks her out on a date. She says yes and they make plans to meet later that night. Rod is sincere, but a bit of a goof … he even brings her a corsage (though that might’ve just been an excuse to cop a feel). They go to a restaurant, where Rod learns dating a superhero ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, as they’re constantly interrupted by autograph hounds and well-wishers. Batgirl isn’t the most scintillating date anyway, as she’s distracted trying to figure out what the terrorist meant by “16 to 1”. Rod takes her to a dance on the Army base, where his fellow soldiers figure he hired a fake Batgirl to mess with them … until one of them puts the moves on her and she tosses him around like a sack of shit. Rod thinks she’s mad at him for all the shit that keeps happening, but she’s still thinking about the terrorists words. An off-hand remark by Rod clues her in and she figures out that “16 to 1” referred to the terrorists moving their target from the Lincoln Memorial (since Lincoln was the 16th President) to the Washington Monument (since Washington was the 1st). They head over to the Monument, but are warned off by the terrorist leader. Rod pretends to obey, but brings his car around and rams straight into the door to the Monument. He and Batgirl pound the terrorists and catch the leader. Rod’s car is totaled, but Batgirl says she doesn’t mind walking home with him. I hope they at least gave each other handjobs for all the trouble.
Demon – “Return to Castle Branek” – Len Wein/Steve Ditko
this one continues where the last Demon story left off, with Demon confronted by Baron Tyme, who stole the Eternity Book and now has enough power to control the Demon. Tyme gives Demon (and us) his origin: he was a minor sorcerer who summoned a shadow-spawn; he pledged fealty in exchange for souls; he tried to use Francine Langstrom (aka She-Bat) to supply the souls but Francine’s husband Kirk (aka Man-Bat) fought Tyme and blew up his lab, which opened a portal to another dimension. Tyme was trapped halfway between dimensions and only Merlin can free him, so he stole the Eternity Book to force Demon to lead him to Merlin’s tomb. The Book makes Tyme more powerful than the Demon, so he has no choice to take Tyme to Merlin’s final resting place (Castle Branek), but is already plotting revenge against the sorcerer. We see Jason Blood (Demon’s human alter ego)’s supporting cast, Glenda, Harry, and Randu, still freaking out about Blood transforming into the Demon last issue and taking off. Randu is blind but has second sight and says he can foresee that the Demon might never change back to Jason Blood. In Europe, the townspeople near Castle Branek are freaking out because of the weird weather suddenly surrounding the Castle; they think it’s a portent of trouble. Of course, they’re right, as Tyme and Demon show up at the Castle and Demon leads Tyme to Merlin’s tomb. But Demon paces out a “path of power” which imbues him with enough energy to match Tyme. They fight and it’s a stalemate until Tyme uses a spell to change Demon back to Jason Blood, which leaves him powerless. Tyme finds Merlin’s tomb and opens it despite Blood’s protests, but both of them are startled to find the tomb is empty. Ditko’s art suits the Demon pretty well—the sorcerous duel is straight out of Doc Strange—but he sure likes to re-use faces; Tyme looks a lot like Shade the Changing Man, and Glenda looks like Liz Allan with bigger knockers.
Robin – “Terminus” – Bob Rozakis/Kurt Schaffenberger/Dave Hunt
Last issue we found out MAZE were the ones behind the recent crime spree in New Carthage. Now we see a bunch of MAZE thugs, plus their two costumed operatives, Raven and Card Queen, gathered together as the head f MAZE tells them he wants Robin dead. Just as he’s about to make an example of an underling he blames for MAZE’s earlier failures, Robin himself comes busting in with a bunch of cops and starts kicking ass. The leader tries to flee with Raven, but they’re dragged back by … Card Queen! Yup, she’s helping the good guys. She captures the leader as Robin and the cops pound the MAZE thugs; in the confusion, Raven slips away. Card Queen turns out to be Duela Dent (aka Harlequin, a sometime member of the Teen Titans) and she left clues so Robin could find the secret MAZE base. She was recruited by MAZE because they assumed Two-Face’s daughter would be a crook, but they had no way of knowing she was a good guy. She mentions Raven’s escape, but Robin says he knows who Raven is. Later at Hudson university, Dick Grayson confronts his ex Lori and her new boyfriend Dave. Dick starts goading Dave, mentioning the capture of MAZE and a bunch of other stuff that happened back in Batman Family, ending with the implication that Dave is Raven. Dave gets pissed off and starts swinging, but Dick evades all his blows and wears him down, finally decking him. I know Dick is athletic, but it’s still a bit suspicious for him to pound a guy who’s bigger than him without even being touched. Lori realizes how stupid she’s been and looks like she wants to reconcile, but Dick just blows her off. The other students congratulate him and he walks off … happy? Sad? Mad? I’m not even sure. Maybe all three.
Batman – “Gotham’s Great Kangaroo Race” – Denny O’Neil/Dick Dillin/Frank McLaughlin
This one actually isn’t as goofy as it sounds, though it has its moments. It starts with Bruce Wayne organizing a kangaroo race in Gotham and putting up $125,000 in prize money. He also ignores a woman who asks him for money for a Children’s Hospital, leading onlookers to think he has more money than brains … or compassion. Later, he tells Alfred about an arms dealer named Swagman Ginty who’s preparing to buy $125,000 worth of weapons. Bruce knows where Swagman is, but wants the guy who’s selling the guns too. The next day, Swagman (under a fake name) wins the kangaroo race and collects his money. Bruce tells Alfred he knew Swagman would enter the race (and win) because he had experience working with kangaroos in Australia (did he have experience racing them?) and needed exactly $125,000 for the arms deal. So Bruce hid a tracker in the money (would a prize like that really be paid in cash? Would that even be legal? The IRS would have to be notified, wouldn’t they?) and tracks Swagman to the meet. Batman pounds all the arms dealers, including the seller, a supposedly honest importer named Harrison Juke. Commissioner Gordon says there’s a $100,000 reward for finding the stolen guns and Batman surprises him by accepting it. He says he knows how to double it (though we’re not told how) and soon a donation of $200,000 is made to the Children’s Hospital by an anonymous Samaritan.
This one starts with Batman calling the Teen Titans—Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and Speedy—into action. He explains that he tracked a car thief named Fast Eddie Blaine to a chop shop and after pounding the thieves, found out Eddie was part of a gang of thieves straight out of Oliver Twist called the Runaways. Eddie swore his boss would get him out of jail within a couple of days. Since the gang is made up of teenagers, Batman needs the Titans to infiltrate it for him and find out who’s running the show. Wally (Kid Flash) and Donna (Wonder Girl) decide to go undercover, since their abilities aren’t dependent on their costumes; Robin and Speedy are the back-up, who’ll be listening to everything that happens. That night, Wally and Donna mug an old lady—who kinda looks like Peter Parker’s Aunt May—and take off with her purse. (Don’t worry, they didn’t actually roust an old woman; it was an undercover cop in disguise.) They’re quickly accosted by a bunch of Runaways, whose spokesman Tiger Turk, says they can’t poach on Runaways turf. I guess Tiger is the Artful Dodger in this little tableau. Wally and Donna ask if they can join up and Tiger says they might have a shot … if they have what it takes. If you’re thinking that was a little too easy, you’re not the only one; Robin is worried too. Tiger takes them to the Runaways’ hideout, where the boss talks to them over a loudspeaker. He commands Tiger to shoot them, which freaks out Robin and Speedy. Donna’s ready to blow their cover by using her powers, but Wally tells her to stay cool. Tiger shoots them, but the gun is loaded with blanks; he was just testing to see if they had guts. The boss tells Tiger to give them the crash course on thievery and he runs them through some pickpocketing and car cracking drills. He decides they’re ready and takes them out for some real action. Robin’s ready to move, but Batman says the loot won’t be stashed at the hideout and reminds Robin they want the guy in charge. At Gotham Central Station, Donna steals a guy’s wallet and he sees her, but she passes it off to Wally who was hiding in a garbage bin. But the mark notices Wally climbing out of the bin and figures it out, chasing him. Speedy trips the guy up and when he insists Donna be arrested even though she has no wallet on her, Robin convinces the cops to let her go by making a call to Commissioner Gordon. Donna and Wally meet Tiger and give him the wallet. Robin and Speedy prepare to follow Tiger when he takes the wallet to the big boss, but Tiger starts following Donna and Wally. He obviously still doesn’t trust them fully, but Batman figures out a way to convince him … he attacks Wally and Donna. He lets them get the better of him, which convinces Tiger they’re cool, but Robin and Speedy lose Tiger in the maze of alleys. Batman does a voice-print analysis on the boss’s voice and it turns out to be Commissioner Gordon; obviously he’s using recordings of the Commissioner to piece together dialogue when he communicates with the Runaways. I’d call him paranoid, but it turns out someone was listening in, so I guess he’s just prudent. Batman learns Fast Eddie has busted out of jail after swearing revenge on his boss, who was supposed to spring him. Robin jumps Tiger and drags him back to the Batcave—blindfolded, of course—then Wally tells the Runaways he followed Tiger to the boss’s hideout and heard a gunshot, then Tiger never came out. Over the loudspeaker, the boss says Wally is full of shit, but he and Donna raise enough questions among the other Runaways that the boss promises to come out of hiding. Later that night, Robin and Speedy notice Batman lurking outside the hideout bt think nothing of it. Inside, the boss shows up, but conceals himself behind a curtain. He shows video of Robin and Speedy grabbing Tiger and the Runaways realize Wally and Donna are plants. The Titans start using their powers to kick ass, but when Wally goes behind the curtain, he’s surprised to see Batman there. He’s even more surprised when Batman conks him on the head and takes off. Robin and Speedy are waiting outside and have seen through the phony Batman’s disguise, so he heads back in, confusing Donna. The fake Batman jumps down a concealed escape tunnel, where Eddie is waiting to kill him for leaving him in jail. The real Batman shows up and stops Eddie from killing his boss, but the bullet grazes the boss and knocks him out. The boss turns out to be Max Cash, a slumlord who built most of the houses in the Runaways’ neighbourhood.
- Donna wears a t-shirt that says, “Hands Off, I’m Mine!”
- Batman says most of the Runaways were given probation and seems to think they’ll reform, but I’m not so sure.
This one starts with Morgan, Tara, Machiste, and Mariah (with a bunch of barbarians, courtesy of the latter two) finally approaching Deimos’s castle. The castle is located near the Terminator, the rim of the polar opening that leads from Skartaris back to Earth. Morgan and Tara have been tracking Deimos since he kidnapped their son Joshua a few issues ago. Deimos knows they’re coming and is preparing a special welcome for them, Morgan especially. Ashiya, Deimos’s witch servant has grown attached to Joshua and is afraid of what Deimos has planned for him, since he keeps bragging about using Joshua as a weapon against Morgan. Deimos gives Ashiya shit, then shows her a high-tech machine he found, left over from the ruins of old Atlantis. When combined with Deimos’s sorcery, it can do things neither magic nor science can accomplish alone. Deimos takes a sample from Joshua and puts it in the machine, creating an instant clone of the infant. Deimos tells Ashiya that the clone is insurance; in case his plans fail, he can give Morgan the Joshua clone and hold on to the real heir to Skartaris, with no one the wiser. He tells Ashiya to take the clone and prepares to use Joshua against his father, Morgan. First, he sends an earthquake and some demons to wipe out all Morgan’s forces except him, Tara, Machiste, and Mariah. Morgan knows there’s a reason for that and suspects a trap. At the castle, he goes first across the drawbridge, which breaks under his weight. He just gets inside before being impaled by the portcullis, and is forced to go ahead alone. Inside the castle, more demons attack and Morgan starts slicing them up. Deimos dumps some flaming oil, which kills the demons instead of Morgan. Deimos says that was the idea, as he didn’t want the demons to rob him of the pleasure of killing Morgan. Morgan reaches Deimos’s throne room and runs him through, but the sword has no effect. Deimos says that since Morgan already killed him once he’s basically invulnerable now, unkillable by normal means. He mentions the Mask of Life is what revived him and thanks Morgan for retrieving it; Morgan realizes Ashiya must be one of Deimos’s minions. Deimos confides that sunlight does cause his body to rot, and he’s forced to take potions to stave off the effects. He says Morgan’s death will be enough to sustain him, no matter how many potions he has to consume. He then challenges Morgan to fight his champion and Morgan is ready. Deimos reveals Joshua, held in restraints, and turns on another Atlantean machine. Deimos uses magical fire to hold Morgan back as he turns on the machine. Before Morgan’s eyes, Joshua ages into an adult, and Deimos says Morgan can either kill his own son … or let his son kill him. We’ll see which one he chooses next issue.