This one starts with a cop giving Batman a package at the police station. It’s a book of 1001 Riddles, which tells Batman the Riddler is back to his old tricks. Robin (who’s still helping Batman during his break from university) wonders how they can figure out which riddle in the book is the one Riddler will plan his crimes around. Batman says there’s no point trying to guess; they just have to wait for Riddler to make a move … which doesn’t take long. Riddler steals a truck full of chickens (!) not long after, which hardly helps since there are plenty of riddles about chickens. Batman points out a stamp in the riddle book that says it came from the Gotham State Prison library. Robin heads over to see if he can pick up a clue, while Bruce Wayne heads to the office to do whatever billionaires do during the day. At the office, Bruce asks Lucius Fox what’s been bugging him lately; Lucius has been trying to get some dirt on Bruce’s business rival, Gideon Falstaff and has even set up a meeting with Falstaff, pretending he might want to switch allegiances. But Lucius doesn’t want to drag Bruce into all that, so he just says he’s having trouble with his son and that he feels guilty about screwing things up for Bruce with Selina Kyle. At the State Prison, Robin finds out that Riddler escaped with another inmate named Jake Hammer, except Hammer didn’t make it. He’s in the infirmary, half out of it. Robin interrogates him and Hammer recites the hoary old riddle about “What’s black and white and red all over?” The usual answer is a newspaper (since they’re printed in black and white, and they’re read all over) and we soon see Riddler showing up at a newspaper distribution center with a garbage truck. The truck is full of chickens, which distracts the guys loading newspapers long enough for Riddler to steal the whole pallet full of papers. His garbage truck turns out to be a powerful van in disguise, and he speeds away as the newspaper guys try to blast him. I have to say, they’re very well-armed for a couple of pallet jockeys. Elsewhere, Bruce is waiting for Selina Kyle when she gets home. He apologizes but she’s still pissed off, so he points out the irony of her being mad about him not forgiving her past mistakes as Catwoman, while she won’t forgive his transgression. She sees his point and they start making out. Later, Batman and Robin compare notes and Robin tells him about Hammer’s riddle. He also mentions Riddler’s theft at the newspaper place, which apparently turned out to be a front for illegal gunrunning. The papers Riddler stole were all slated for foreign distribution, and Jake Hammer is in prison for gunrunning; Batman puts all that together and figures out where to find Riddler. Down at the docks, a ship bound for Europe is loading cargo and a man waits on the pier beside her. He’s surprised when Riddler shows up instead of Hammer, but isn’t too particular who he gets his guns from. Batman and Robin interrupt the sale, spilling the guns (which were hidden inside the stacks of newspapers) onto the pier. Riddler takes off and Batman chases him as Robin pounds the gun-buyer. Riddler tries to blast the Dynamic Duo with one of the rifles, but they scatter and find cover. Riddler is so busy trying to shoot them, he doesn’t notice he’s walked right onto a cargo net; Batman wraps him up with no trouble. At a fancy hotel in downtown Gotham, Lucius finally meets Gregorian Falstaff … and he’s not exactly what Lucius was expecting. We’ll see what comes of that next issue.
- Gregorian Falstaff certainly lives up to his name; he looks like Shakespeare’s Falstaff … or maybe King Henry VIII.
- Bruce ends up spending the whole afternoon with Selina … the implication being that they were banging.
- The rifles Riddler steals and tries to sell are M-16s with M-203 grenade launchers attached.
This one starts with Dr. Fate in his mystical tower, trying to scry with his crystal ball. But something is blocking him from reading anything and all he can get is a vague location, so he goes to check it out. In the meantime, Batman is at police headquarters where a police officer named Tyler is receiving a promotion. After the ceremony, a spectral hand appears and writes burning letters on the wall about corruption ruling the Gotham police force. Commissioner Gordon refuses to believe it and Batman takes photos of the writing for later analysis. At the Batcave, he finds out that the handwriting belongs to a dead cop named Sterling, who was killed during a drug bust. It was later revealed that Sterling was dirty, taking payoffs from dealers. Batman heads back to HQ to talk to Gordon, but on the way he runs across a couple of cops who have just committed a burglary. He takes them down and finds out that cops have been committing crimes all over the city. When he asks Gordon about it, Gordon whips out a gun and tries to shoot him. The bullet deflects before it reaches the Darknight and Dr. Fate shows up to spirit him away from the crazed Gordon. Fate and Batman compare notes and Fate says whatever supernatural spirit wrote the warning on the wall is probably controlling the cops now. Batman mentions Sterling and Fate says he’ll try to contact Sterling’s dead soul. Batman figures he should learn more about Sterling’s Earthly life, so he sneaks into police HQ disguised as a cop. He finds Sterling’s file, but is discovered and has to fight his way out. In another dimension, Fate realizes something is trying to block him from accessing Sterling’s spirit. He fights his way past a were-demon and keeps searching. Batman’s investigation has found that the cops knew someone on the force was dirty, but weren’t sure who—until Sterling turned up dead and a witness claimed to have seen him taking payoffs. Batman finds that witness—a punk crook named Whitey Kendall—and makes him spill about who the real crooked cop was. In the other dimension, Fate finds Sterling’s spirit, which doesn’t seem to want his help. Sterling wants the Gotham PD to pay for smearing his good name. Fate quickly realizes a powerful demon has bonded itself to Sterling’s spirit, but there’s nothing Fate can do to sever the bond as long as Sterling wants it to continue—which he does, since it enables him to get revenge. Batman invades the house of a Gotham businessman named Condotti (whose name he got from Whitey Kendall) and finds a ledger detailing the payoffs to the crooked cop on the Gotham force. Batman is discovered (again) and takes off, escaping with a little help from Dr. Fate. At Bruce Wayne’s penthouse, Fate tells Batman he can’t break the link between Sterling and the demon while Sterling craves revenge. Batman says he can clear Sterling’s name if he can get the evidence from a safety-deposit box rented by the real crooked police officer. Fate says he can magically retrieve the evidence. Batman goes to confront the dirty cop—who turns out to be Tyler, the guy who just got promoted—and tells him he has the evidence from Condotti’s ledger and the safety-deposit box. Fate goes back to the other dimension to show Sterling that his name is about to be cleared. The demon’s hold weakens and Fate tries to drive it away for good. On Earth, Tyler is ready to shoot Batman, but his newest promotion certificate suddenly flies off the wall and knocks him out. We see the demon leaving Sterling’s spirit for good and Batman figures they’ve saved more than Sterling’s name … they may have saved his soul as well.
- I’m assuming Dr. Fate crossed over from Earth-2 for this adventure, though it’s never mentioned. Also no mention of why events on Earth-1 would affect Fate’s crystal ball on Earth-2, but maybe spirits aren’t bound by what Earth they lived on when they were alive.
- It’s not really clear what caused the certificate to fly off the wall and knock Tyler out; it may have been Sterling’s spirit, or some more ambiguous form of divine justice. I’m assuming it’s left vague on purpose.
Last issue, Travis Morgan went through a portal opened by the Eye of Truth after wishing he could live his life over from the beginning. The Eye took that literally and sent him back to the Stone Age, where he was immediately attacked by a sabre-tooth cat. In the present, Deimos returns to his fortress and begins to observe Morgan’s fate through his crystal ball. Caveman Morgan doesn’t last long, as he’s torn apart by the sabre-tooth cat right away. But he’s reborn later as Gaius Thetalos, an inventor and politician in Atlantis. Morgan enjoys his new life, exploring a land that he’d always thought of as a myth. But some unexplained dread keeps gnawing at the back of his mind, and when earthquakes begin to shake Atlantis, he finally realizes what’s been bothering him: Atlantis will be destroyed by volcanic forces from underground. He tries to warn the populace, but most of them don’t believe him. The King does, and readies a vast fleet to search the four corners of the world for new lands to colonize. Morgan decides to stay behind for Atlantis’s destruction, knowing he’ll probably be reincarnated again anyway. And he is, multiple times down the centuries: as a Nubian gladiator-slave in Roman times; as Lancelot-du-Lac in the days of Arthur; as D’Artagnan, and Jim Bowie, and Crazy Horse, and an unnamed doughboy in the Great War. All Morgan’s incarnations have one thing in common: he has always had the spirit of a warrior, and a thirst for adventure (which explains a lot about his latest incarnation). Eventually, he gets back to his “true” self, Travis Morgan, Colonel in the USAF. He’s sent on the same secret mission that landed him in Skartaris the first time around, except this time he knows what’s coming and can back out if he wants. He thinks about all the mistakes he made in Skartaris, but also wonders what will happened to Tara and Machiste and everyone else he met if he doesn’t go back. He decides to follow his destiny and repeats his actions from the first time around, popping out of the Eye of Truth back in the temple, seemingly only moments or so after he left. He’s surprised to see Ashir the thief is being shot at by Chakal, who Morgan had left for dead. Deimos gave Chakal a fancy gun arm and Morgan tries to destroy it with his Automag, but the arm is stronger than it looks. Chakal prepares to finish Morgan and Ashir, but it turns out Morgan’s shot did some damage after all and the gun arm explodes, killing Chakal for good this time. Before he dies, Chakal mentions Deimos was the one who gave him the gun-arm, so Morgan knows Deimos isn’t dead. Morgan can’t remember all his reincarnations, but they seem to have left him with a new resolve … to look forward instead of back. We’ll see where that takes him next issue.
- We learn that when Deimos resurrected himself by draining the life-force from the thief, he incorporated pieces of the thief, and of Tara’s dog, into his new body. So now he’s something of a patchwork quilt of different body parts.
- The scene of Morgan trying to warn the Atlanteans of their impending doom reminds me of Jor-El trying to warn the Kryptonians of their planet’s coming destruction.
- I’m assuming some of the people the King sent out before Atlantis was destroyed found their way into Skartaris. We know the Atlanteans were in Skartaris in the past (since we’ve seen their computers and other remnants of their civilization), so it makes sense this is where they came from.
- It’s interesting that Morgan’s many reincarnations were all men; there have been plenty of women in history who had warrior spirits and knew how to kick ass. But maybe that explains why Morgan is something of a male chauvinist and has an outdated attitude toward women.