This one starts with Gentleman Ghost and a couple of henchmen stealing industrial diamonds from a factory. Naturally, Batman shows up to pound them and does pretty well until Gentleman Ghost uses a hoist hook to snag Batman’s cape, holding him helpless above the floor. Ghost and his thugs take off, but Batman manages to snag the satchel full of diamonds with his Batarang and invites Ghost to try and retrieve it. Ghost isn’t stupid enough to approach Batman (who has almost freed himself from the hook), but vows he’ll get the diamonds sooner or later. By the time Batman does get free, Ghost is long gone. Batman heads back to the Batcave—not the new one under the Wayne Foundation Building, but the original one under Wayne Manor. Alfred is already there, preparing Wayne Manor for a special event that’s coming up. We get an interlude with a couple of cops transporting a criminal to give evidence. They stop when they find a body in the street, which turns out to be a dummy that spews gas in their faces. A couple of thugs show up to grab the talkative prisoner, saying that the boss is pissed off at him for planning to squeal. Since the gas left the dead cops’ faces with morbid grins, we can guess who this mysterious boss is, can’t we? We see Gentleman Ghost and his men at his hideout and he’s still determined to steal some industrial diamonds from the same factory. He knows Batman will be expecting him, so he plans to set a trap for the Caped Crusader. At Wayne Manor, Bruce gives Alfred a beeper that’s set to go off if anyone breaks into the factory again. Bruce wants Alfred to carry the beeper since he’s hosting a charity costume ball at Wayne Manor, and it might seem suspicious if Bruce Wayne started beeping in the middle of a waltz. At the ball, Bruce manages to smooth things over between Selina Kyle (who’s his date) and Lucius Fox, then makes a fast exit when Alfred signals him that the beeper has gone off. Batman heads to the factory where Ghost’s men are waiting to jump him. He pounds them and goes after Ghost, but is surprised to find his foe is intangible, like a true ghost. That distracts him long enough for Ghost to clonk him on the head. Batman wakes up suspended over a pool of acid. I don’t know why Ghost didn’t just kill him when he was unconscious, but he says he can’t resist a touch of melodrama. Ghost says he has a party to rob at a familiar mansion and takes off. As soon as he’s gone, Batman swings clear of the acid and busts out of his manacles. Naturally, the party Ghost invades is the costume ball at Wayne Manor, but instead of just one, three Gentleman Ghosts show up. Bruce Wayne makes an appearance too, saying the cops are on the way. When one of the Ghosts tries to shoot Wayne, the lights go out and Wayne disappears. Batman swings through the window—congratulating himself on the fastest costume change ever—and starts pounding the Ghosts. Two of them turn out to be the real Ghost’s henchmen in identical costumes. Batman goes after Gentleman Ghost and catches up with him outside. But Ghost turns out to be intangible again and Batman almost plunges over a cliff. When he climbs back up he finds a hologram projector, which explains Ghost’s “intangibility”, but the real Ghost shows up just long enough to taunt him, then fades away. Will he be back? We’ll have to wait and see.
- The costume ball has the theme of “historical figures”; Bruce is dressed as Henry VIII and Selina as Catherine of Aragon. Lucius is Abe Lincoln.
- Bruce mentions that the ball is not just for charity, but also to “reopen” Wayne Manor, so I think we’ll be seeing more stories set there in the near future.
- Selina was mad at Lucius for digging into her background, even though Bruce is the one who asked him to. They bond over their mutual wonder at Bruce’s disappearing act.
- We never did find out why Gentleman Ghost was so hot to steal industrial diamonds.
This one starts with a couple of gunmen robbing a fancy party in New York City. Batman shows up to pound them—I guess it’s his month to deal with party-crashers—and things go back to normal as Batman changes to Bruce Wayne. He runs into another special guest at the party … Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman, as if you didn’t know) and she asks why Bruce is at a party for a UN Ambassador. Bruce says he’s trying to build an auto plant in the Ambassador’s country (France), so he wanted to schmooze the guy a bit. Bruce goes off to meet the Ambassador and Diana notices a costumed weirdo with a gun heading toward the house. She changes to Wonder Woman and confronts him, but he shoots her with some glass spheres filled with a strange gas. The gas burns her eyes and throat and makes her go a little nuts … she thinks she sees the love of her life, Steve Trevor, dying in front of her all over again. Bruce hears her scream and goes to check it out, leaving the Ambassador alone for the costumed weirdo. Wonder Woman recovers quickly from her mind-fuck, and she and Bruce soon realize they’ve been suckered. They run back to check on the Ambassador, but it’s too late—the gas has left him a raving maniac. Bruce says he’ll analyze the capsules and Wonder Woman finds a note warning that anyone who attends to conference in Paris (to finalize the auto plant deal) will suffer the same fate. The note is signed by “Déja Vu” which Wonder Woman translates as Flashback. Naturally, she and Bruce immediately decide to head for the City of Light. A week later in Paris, Bruce attends meetings while Wonder Woman breaks into a chemical plant. The hallucinogenic gas from Flashback’s capsules traced to this particular plant, so Wonder Woman thinks she might find some evidence there. She gets more than she bargained for, as Flashback is inside and tries to blast her. She evades his shots but almost falls into a vat of chemicals. By the time she uses her agility to twist clear, Flashback is gone, but leaves her with a final taunt about how he’ll finish things tonight. When she tells Bruce what Flashback said, he realizes the crazy villain must be planning on attacking the final meeting of the conference. He and Wonder Woman stake out the meeting, unaware that Flashback is watching them. He blasts them with his whacko gas and Batman relives the murder of his parents. That makes him go nuts and he punches Wonder Woman and tries to strangle her. They fall off the roof and to snap Batman out of it, Wonder Woman lets them fall, assuming Batman’s natural heroic instincts will supersede his craziness. Luckily for her, she’s right and Batman saves both of them by landing on an awning. They head into the conference, were Flashback is wreaking havoc with his gas. Wonder Woman uses her lasso to disperse the gas and blind Flashback long enough for Batman to deck him. It turns out that Flashback’s father died working in an American canning plant, so he decided to hate all American businesses. Makes perfect sense to me. Batman wonders if his hatred of criminals for what happened to his parents is comparable to Flashback’s obsession; Wonder Woman assures him that his obsession leads him to save lives, not take them.
- The chemical plant Wonder Woman breaks into has a sign outside that says “Dubois et Fil”; I assume it’s supposed to be “Fils” for Dubois and Son.
- Considering the hype on the cover about how dangerous this issue’s villain is, Flashback is kind of a dud.
This one starts with Travis Morgan stumbled on a scene of slaughter. A contingent of Therans were massacred, apparently by ambush as they had no time to fight back. Morgan wonders who could be responsible and while he’s musing, he gets jumped by a pissed-off Theran woman who tries to ventilate him with a dagger. He calms her down—with a punch in the mouth—and she says she attacked him because his shield bears the same device as those who slaughtered her people. Morgan’s shield bears the image of an eagle, worn by all the gladiators he helped free. They were supposed to be an army of rebellion against slavery, representing freedom and justice, but without Morgan’s leadership it seems they’ve turned into a band of ruthless cutthroats. Morgan decides to track them down and follows their trail to a mountain hideout. Morgan’s ex-soldiers are surprised—and somewhat happy—to see him, but their leader turns out to be Ghedron. Who the hell is Ghedron, you ask? He’s the guy that was supposed to throw Machiste’s cursed axe into the volcano back in issue #, but decided to keep it instead. Morgan warns him the axe is cursed, but Ghedron demonstrates that (unlike Machiste) he actually let go of the axe … because he enjoys its evil influence and chooses to pick it up again. Morgan suggests they settle their differences like true gladiators, so they square off in the caldera of a burgeoning volcano. They fight and Ghedron cheats by wearing armour under his clothes, which allows him to get the better of Morgan. But Morgan does pretty much the same thing to Ghedron as he did to Machiste, chopping off the hand holding the cursed axe. The difference is that this time the axe falls into the lava, which exorcises the demon inside the weapon and kills Ghedron in a burst of hellfire. The other ex-gladiators hail Morgan as their new leader, but he tells them it’s time for them to grow up and make decisions for themselves, since that’s what freedom is all about. Despite the rather generic cover, the inside art is amazing, as usual.
When we last saw Machiste and Mariah, they’d gone through a magic portal to the ancient past of Skartaris where they met a strange wizard called Mongo Ironhand. He seemed to think his magic has summoned them, even though he was trying to summon a three-headed dog. Unfortunately, the three-headed dog actually showed up moments later, and it doesn’t look happy. Machiste tries to fight it and almost gets killed, but Mongo turns the dog into a three-headed rabbit, which seems to impress Mariah. She’s less impressed when Mongo tries “forty’ leven” times to send them back to the present and fails. He says there’s a much better wizard across the forest, a guy named Wralf the Wretched, who might be able to help them … but he’ll demand a stiff price. Machiste and Mariah are desperate, so they head off to see Wralf … riding diatrymas, since horses haven’t evolved enough to be ridden yet. This is obviously meant as comedy relief; we’ll see what goofy shit happens in the next issue.