This one starts with Batman catching a couple of punks inside City Hall in the middle of the night. They attack, one with a knife and the other with a nunchaku, and Batman pounds both of them. A third thief is on the roof, letting a kite fly off into the night, and when Batman confronts him, he’s smart enough to give up without getting his ass beat. The kite flies through Gotham, going around corners and moving against the wind. It finally comes to rest on another rooftop across town, where it’s eagerly grabbed by the dreaded … Kite Man! No, seriously, that’s who the villain is for this story. Anyway, the kite contains blueprints that the thieves stole from City Hall, though we don’t learn where the blueprints are for just yet. The next day, Lucius Fox is walking around Gotham when he notices someone following him. It’s the same guy who’s been trailing him for he past couple of issues and Lucius has had enough, so he hides and jumps the guy. That turns out to be a mistake, as the guy easily flips Lucius over his shoulder. He then apologizes and helps him up, introducing himself as Karlyle Krugerrand and saying he works for Bruce Wayne’s business rival, Gregorian Falstaff. Kruggerand says Falstaff has an offer for Lucius and Lucius figures this might be an opportunity to dig up some dirt on Falstaff, so he agrees to meet the tycoon soon. At Wayne Enterprises, Lucius is about to tell Bruce about the meeting, but gets sidetracked when he learns a company called Trans-Atlantic Airways—owned by Gregorian Falstaff—is relocating out of Gotham and taking a bunch of jobs with it. The move is a fait accompli, so the meeting is just for Gotham’s bigwigs to bitch about it (and one of them mentions Trans-Atlantic’s payroll is arriving tomorrow, which we writers refer to as “foreshadowing”). Lucius realizes the vitriol toward Falstaff could spill over on Bruce if he tells him about the meeting he set up, so he decides to keep his mouth shut. Speaking of Trans-Atlantic Airways, a bunch of kites are hovering over their downtown headquarters and they suddenly explode with fireworks. People on the street stop and stare, and the building’s security staff comes outside to rubberneck as well. While everyone is distracted, some guys dressed as utility men slip into the building and make their way into a maintenance corridor. The security guards come back inside, assuming the fireworks were some kind of publicity stunt. Elsewhere, Bruce meets Selina (Catwoman) Kyle for lunch and she gives him shit for having Lucius dig into her past, ending her tirade by throwing a drink on Bruce. He tries to apologize, but she takes off. That night, Alfred briefs Batman about the stolen blueprints and the kite fireworks at Trans-Atlantic. The kite motif and the obvious distraction tactics clue Batman in to what’s happening and who’s behind it. He heads for Trans-Atlantic headquarters, knowing the payroll is coming in tonight by helicopter, but gets delayed by a jewelry store robbery. That seems like a distraction too, as the thieves are really sloppy and amateurish. Batman pounds them and heads for Trans-Atlantic again, hoping he’s not too late. At TAA headquarters, the helicopter with the payroll lands on the roof. A bunch of kites float overhead, spewing nerve gas that knocks out (or maybe kills?—I’m not sure) the guards. The wind blows the gas away (which was all part of the plan) and Kite Man and two thugs emerge from the A/C duct where they’ve been hiding all day to grab the payroll. They pull a bunch of stuff from their toolboxes and quickly assemble a glider. The henchmen worry that the glider will be too light to support all of them, but Kite Man has that covered—he gasses them and takes off with all the money. As Kite Man hang-glides over Gotham, he’s met by Batman, who has his own glider (Bat-shaped, of course). They tangle and Lite Man tries to shoot the Caped Crusader, who retaliates by tossing a smoke bomb. Kite Man can’t see a damn thing and Batman smashes into him, destroying both their gliders. Kite Man nearly shits a brick, but Batman came prepared for aerial trouble and pops a parachute he has hidden on his back. He lands Kite Man among a gaggle of cops and they take the would-be thief away.
- It would’ve made more sense for Kite Man’s men to photograph the blueprints (like CJ in GTA San Andreas) instead of stealing them; it would’ve made it much harder to figure out the master plan.
- I like how Len Wein brings in realistic stuff like the business problems with Falstaff and the company relocating; it makes the comic feel more grounded. Gerry Conway and Doug Moench will continue that trend during their runs.
- Batman and Kite Man were pretty close to the ground when he deployed his parachute, and the chute was carrying a double load … must be some kind of special parachute or they’d both have splattered.
- At the end, we see some kid running past flying a kite, just to round off the story’s kite theme. But first of all, the kite is flying pretty low, and second, who the hell flies a kite in the middle of the night?
You might want to hold on to something, because this is another typical Haney wild ride. It starts with Batman walking through the crappiest part of Gotham, trying to find an informer who has info on some gem theft. He’s jumped by three thugs and beats the shit out of them, then finds it was all a test to see if he was the genuine article. Who’d be goofy enough to pull a stupid stunt like that? Sapphire Stagg, who else? She dumps some money on the unconscious hoods and tells Batman she’s worried about her boyfriend, Rex (Metamorpho) Mason. He got tired of her bullshit and left, but now she’s worried something might’ve happened to him and wants Batman to track him down and make sure he’s okay. Batman is reluctant, but Sapphire says she’ll give a million bucks to whatever charity Batman wants, so he decides to help. Personally, I think it was Sapphire’s hot pants that convinced him, not the money. Batman makes the first of a series of improbable deductive leaps and decides Metamorpho probably went to Europe. He notices someone following him and grabs the guy, who turns out to be a private detective named Cathcart who’s working for Sapphire’s father, Simon Stagg. Stagg wanted to know what Sapphire was up to and Cathcart decided to shadow Batman after she met with him. Cathcart say she needs the money and begs Batman to let him follow him, but Batman tells him no way. Cathcart is apparently a pretty good P.I., because he does manage to keep up with Bats … at least for a while. Unknown to either of them, Batman is also being stalked by an assassin know as Achilles, though we’re not sure why he targeted the Darknight. Batman checks out newsreel footage of Grand Prix races in Europe and finds a crash where the driver was supposedly incinerated, but the footage shows a cloud of vapour with a face escaping from the wreck. Batman decides that must have been Metamorpho and heads for Monaco. He traces Metamorpho to Marseilles, where a guy tells him Rex (or “Red” as he was calling himself) made a deal with some Turkish thugs and took off to go to Istanbul (not Constantinople!) He gives Batman half a wheel of Camembert, Red’s favourite cheese, to pass on to him. Batman wonders why Rex would be working for Turkish gangsters and while he’s cogitating, Achilles shoots him in the ass with a poisoned dart. Luckily, Batman was carrying the cheese over his ass cheek and it stops the dart. Batman dumps the now-poisoned cheese and grabs a bystander, who turns out to be Cathcart. Batman accuses him of working with Achilles, who he knows is the would-be assassin because he’s “the only international assassin who uses darts”; really? Whatever. Bats realizes Cathcart isn’t the killing type and tells him to stop following him. Batman goes to Istanbul and manages to track down a guy who saw Metamorpho. He says Metamorpho saved his son and he wanted to reward him, so he followed him and overheard him making a deal to drive a truck to a place called Kaldoz, in a remote mountain range. He gives Batman a very Aladdiny-looking lamp to pass on to Metamorpho. Batman catches Cathcart following him again and Cathcart whips out a gun and takes a shot at Achilles, who was waiting to ambush Batman. Turns out Batman knew Achilles was there and was waiting for him to make a move, but Cathcart fucked it up. Batman tells Cathcart to fuck off and heads for the mountains. He gets to Kaldoz in a borrowed helicopter and the chopper is attacked by a renegade condor. Before Batman can crash, the chopper is grabbed from below by a giant metal hand … looks like he’s finally found Metamorpho. Batman tells Rex about Sapphire hiring him, but Rex says he’s tired of her—and her father’s—bullshit. Batman asks about the truck Rex was hired to drive across the border and Rex says it’s legit, but Batman wonders why someone would hire him to drive a truck across a border, then turn around and drive it back again. Rex says they’ll check the truck carefully and if it’s carrying anything illegal, they’ll pound the guys who hired him. They notice a bunch of wagons loaded with gold and Rex’s employer says the gold is an offering to a monster that lives in the mountain. Rex wants to see it and heads over that way, eve though the place is off-limits. He realizes the “monster” is some kind of robot and he smashes it. He goes inside a crater on the mountain and finds the truck he brought over the border stripped down to nothing. Rex and Batman pound everyone and Batman captures Achilles, who tried to kill him again. Batman explains the whole convoluted mess: the Khan was extorting gold from his citizens by making them afraid of the “monster”; he was going to cast new truck parts out of solid gold, paint it to look like the regular truck, and have Rex drive it over the border where the gold could be sold. He hired Achilles to kill Batman so he wouldn’t interfere with Metamorpho’s “innocent” delivery job. Rex realizes he’d have been in deep shit if he was caught smuggling the gold and wonders what he’s going to do now for work. Batman suggests he become a detective … he’d probably fit in well with Bard and Langstrom.
This one starts with Tara, Machiste, and Mariah heading back to Shamballah. Mariah figures Tara hates Morgan for killing their son and taking off, but Machiste says Tara may be pissed off, but she doesn’t hate her husband. We see Morgan, who has joined up with a mercenary band, sparring with his fellow freebooters. He kicks the shit out of his opponent, despite some help from a dude named Chakal. Chakal hates Morgan for taking his place as second-in-command of the mercenaries, but the leader (Balfoosh) tells them to quit squabbling. They’ve been hired to track down a thief named Ashir and he needs everyone cooperating to catch the slippery brigand. They follow Ashir’s trail up a steep mountain pass and find the way blocked by a rockslide … which turns out to be a trap, naturally. Morgan, Balfoosh, and Chakal avoid the avalanche, but the rest of the mercenaries are swept off the mountain. Their attacker turns out to be a huge snow giant. Balfoosh is pulverized immediately and Chakal chops one of the giant’s fingers off, getting slapped right off the cliff for his efforts. Morgan shoves his sword right through the giant’s head and decides to go after Ashir on his own, since everyone else is dead. Farther along the trail, Morgan is knocked off his horse by a trap and Ashir jumps him. Morgan tosses him over the cliff’s edge, but helps him back up, since he can’t claim the reward if Ashir is dead. Ashir shows his gratitude by trying to deck Morgan, and is impressed by Morgan’s hard head. They cross swords and Morgan disarms the wily thief. Ashir tells Morgan the Prince put the price on his head because he “stole” a woman from him. Ironically, the woman took off once Ashir’s money ran out. Ashir asks why Morgan came after him alone and Morgan says it was for the same reason Ashir steals … money. Ashir says that’s not it; they both do what they do for the adventure, the excitement, not for the rewards. Ashir says men like them live life to the fullest and have no regrets. Morgan—while thinking of Tara—says he has few regrets, but they’re big ones. He decides to let Ashir go, but Chakal shows up holding a bow and arrow on them, and says he’s taking Ashir in—after he kills Morgan. Morgan whips out his Automag and blows Chakal away. Ashir is impressed and asks if Morgan wants to accompany him; seems there’s a jewel called the Eye of Truth hidden in a temple not far to the south. We see someone with evil eyes and a claw-like hand watching Morgan and Ashir in a crystal ball. I wonder who that could be …
- Ashir says he’s the second-best thief in Skartaris, the best being Harrando. But we saw Harrando getting immolated outside Castle Deimos, so I guess that makes Ashir number one.
- This issue really leans on the Conan tropes; Morgan joining a mercenary band and dealing with jealousy in the ranks was used in several Conan stories. And the whole thing about accompanying a thief to steal a fabulous gem from a tower sounds a lot like Tower of the Elephant.
- Amazing art, as usual.