This one starts with a shadowy figure in Kathmandu, Nepal monitoring a radio. He’s been listening every night for years and finally gets something for his efforts … a radio signal. In Montfaucon, Switzerland, we see Karlyle Krugerrand going into an ultra-secure bank on top of a mountain. After going through numerous security checks and making it to the vault, the banker tries to kill Krugerrand. Turns out Krugerrand is Batman in disguise and the banker saw through it. Batman evades the trap inside the vault and fights his way out. The story then turns into a Bond movie, with Batman fleeing down the mountain on skis, chased by killers toting laser rifles. The main difference between this and a Bond movie is that Batman actually gets wounded, taking a shot across the ribs that slows him down a bit. He manages to give his pursuers the slip and make it back to his hotel, where Talia binds his wound. She tries to put the moves on him, but he’s not really into it. He’s too busy thinking about Gregorian Falstaff, who’s been trying to ruin Bruce Wayne until he was killed last issue. Falstaff used the ultra-secure bank to hide money, but they obviously found out that Falstaff and Krugerrand were taken down, otherwise the banker wouldn’t have seen through Batman’s disguise so easily. Batman has another lead to follow, a guy named Torrents who’s in Hong Kong. Bruce and Talia have dinner in the hotel restaurant hat evening and are attacked by thugs with automatic rifles. Bruce fights them off (not caring too much about his secret identity), but both end up dead … one from friendly fire and the other after jumping off the balcony. Strangely, Talia does absolutely nothing during the fight, but judging by the dialogue, she does manage to get Bruce into bed later. Bruce figures whoever sent the gunmen knows his secret identity, so trying to get into Hong Kong as Bruce Wayne or Batman is probably doomed to fail. Any disguise he could adopt would probably be penetrated too, so he decides to sneak in across the Chinese border. Batman and Talia cross the mountains, swim treacherous rivers (which are filled with sharks for some reason), and wade through swamps. They’re almost caught by a British patrol, but manage to slip past and make it into Hong Kong. The next day, Bruce Wayne goes to the harbour to see Captain Torrents on his junk. Torrents welcomes him aboard, but when he goes below he’s gassed unconscious.
This basically fits with the first story, but from a different angle. Robin and Catwoman talk to the head of the gang that targeted Wayne Enterprises a couple issues back. His gang friends are disappointed to hear he’s cooperating with the cops to get a deal; they’re really pissed off to hear that he’s not a crusader for the poor after all … he targeted Wayne Enterprises because Falstaff paid him to. Lucius Fox’s son Tim feels like an idiot for believing the gang leader’s bullshit, but Lucius shows up at the jail and they make peace. Robin is told by Commissioner Gordon that King Faraday wants to see him in Shanghai … about Batman. Robin and Catwoman head for Shanghai and Faraday tells them his ex-partner (Templeton) disappeared ten years ago. They had an agreement that if one of them ever got in trouble, he’d find a way to send a signal on a certain wavelength. After ten years, Templeton’s signal finally came through, leading Faraday to an inflatable raft drifting in the Indian Ocean (which we saw last issue). On the raft was scrawled the word “Batman”, but Faraday couldn’t find him, so he called Robin. They go to meet a snitch that Faraday knows, but when they get there, he’s just been killed. Robin and Catwoman chase the assassin and Robin gets kicked off the roof. Catwoman saves him, but when they get back, Faraday is gone. Catwoman and Robin (in disguise) go to see a fence she’s worked with before named Chin. She asks about Falstaff’s boss and who might have kidnapped Faraday, but Chin drugs them and they wake up strapped to tables about to be shot up with enough cocaine to float a horse. We’ll see what kind of trip they take next issue.
- The guy in Nepal who’s monitoring the radio has gray hair like Faraday, but the captions say he’s been there every night for ten years, so I’m assuming it’s just someone who works for Faraday, since Faraday has been seen in the U.S. numerous times in the last few years.
- The junk in Hong Kong where Torrents hangs out is called Feng Wei … the Phoenix. I’m sensing a theme here.
- The clandestine trip into China reads like a covert ops travelogue; I get the feeling Wolfman read a book about Chinese refugees or something and decided to put it into the story.
- Catwoman is quick to point out she only sold the fence jewels, and was never mixed up with drugs or sex slavery. If the fence was involved in those things independent or her, I’m not sure how guiltless she really is.
This one starts with a vivid recap of Batman’s origin: Bruce Wayne’s parents were gunned down by Joe Chill in Crime Alley when he was a kid and he dedicated himself to fighting crime. Turns out Bruce is having a nightmare about his parents’ murder. He goes out on patrol and stops a mugging, chasing an assailant into an alley, but winding up halfway across tow in Crime Alley. After an assist from Robin, Batman is surprised to see Phantom Stranger show up. Stranger explains that there are other worlds with other Batmans (including Earth-2) and there’s a world where the Waynes haven’t been murdered yet. Phantom Stranger knows Batman never really came to terms with his parents’ deaths, so he’s giving him a chance to stop the murder in this alternate world, so maybe it’ll give him some peace of mind. Robin knows Batman can’t be objective about his parents, so he tags along. Stranger sends them to the other world, which looks just like their own version of Gotham. They interrupt a hijacking at the docks and the crooks are terrified by the costumed crimefighters, not even attempting to fight back. The cops don’t know them either (including Lieutenant James Gordon), so they take off. They go to the library (in civilian clothes) to find out where the Wayne’s live, and the librarian thinks Bruce is Thomas Wayne. Oh, by the way, the librarian is Barbara Kean, James Gordon’s fiancée, and she looks a lot like Barbara Gordon on our world. Dick checks out the archives and realizes that only are there no costumed heroes on this Earth, there are no heroes period … iconic heroes like Robin Hood, King Arthur, Gilgamesh, Hercules, Odysseus never existed on this Earth. Even the star that Krypton orbited is missing, which means no Superman. Dick speculates that Batman might end up being the sole hero on this Earth. He doesn’t come out and say it, but he’s obviously wondering if they should let the Waynes die to give the world a sorely needed hero. Batman doesn’t want to hear it, and when they check out the Wayne house, Batman seems oblivious to the fact that this version of Bruce Wayne is a spoiled little prick. Robin wonders if he’ll grow up to be the spoiled playboy that the Earth-1 Bruce only pretends to be. Batman disguises himself as Lieutenant Gordon to check police files, but there’s nothing on Joe Chill. Batman does find info on Lew Moxon, the gangster who hired Chill to kill his parents. This world’s Moxon runs a trucking company and the Dynamic Duo bust in and rough him up. Moxon claims to know nothing about Joe Chill or the Waynes, but after the heroes leave, we find out that Moxon is planning to kill Thomas Wayne … and Batman’s intervention has just convinced him to accelerate his timetable. Batman still thinks he has five days to spare (since his parents weren’t killed until the 26th), so he figures they can dig up evidence on Moxon. We see Joe Chill arriving from Cleveland (where he got into a spot of trouble) and heading see to Moxon for a job. Robin mentions his theory to Batman (about letting the Waynes die so the world will have a hero), but Batman says condemning a kid to see his parents murdered and grow up without them is something he just can’t do. Batman realizes he forgot to check out-of-town records for Joe Chill, so he heads back to police headquarters. Robin watches the Waynes and is startled when they all go out to see a movie, since Batman’s parents were killed coming back from a movie. Robin wonders what he should do if Joe Chill shows up. At Police headquarters, Batman finds info on Chill but Lieutenant Gordon catches him. Batman convinces him to let him go, proving their bond transcends earthly barriers. Batman tracks down Chill, but finds him near death. Moxon freaked when Chill showed up (because of Batman’s questions) and shot him. Batman figures Moxon will hire someone else to kill the Waynes and suddenly realizes that because of the twenty year gap, the hit will go down tonight. (He forgot to account for the leap days in that period.) The Waynes are coming out of the theatre when the gunman jumps out. Robin decides he can’t let innocent people die, but before he can act, Batman shows up and pounds the would-be killer. I’m not sure what would stop Moxon from trying again later, but Phantom Stranger shows up and says it’s mission accomplished. He whisks them home and we get an epilogue of what happens to this version of Bruce Wayne. Almost seeing his parents killed snaps him out of his selfishness and he starts studying criminology and getting himself in shape. It looks like he might end up becoming Batman anyway but the choice isn’t motivated by grief and vengeance. We’re not told whether that’ll make him more or less effective as a crimefighter.
Slam Bradley – “The Too Many Cooks Caper” – Len Wein/Jim Aparo
This one starts with a convocation of cops and detectives from all over the country meeting to honour one of their own, Archie Evergreen, who’s retiring. But right after Archie’s speech, he’s shot in the back through the window. Before dying, he tells Slam Bradley that he’d been investigating a guy named Dominion and that’s probably who shot him. Slam is joined by other famous DC detectives: Pow Wow Smith, Jason Bard, Christopher Chance (aka Human Target), Captain Compass, Mysto the Magician, and Roy Raymond. Pow Wow and Bard quickly determine that the shot through the window was basically impossible, since they’re right beside the river and the nearest high ground is on the other side, so even a high-powered rifle wouldn’t have the range. Raymond prowls around the window and spots something, but doesn’t share it. Slam wants to solve Archie’s murder on his own, but knows the others will end up helping whether he wants them to or not. Slam roughs up an informant and learns Dominion has an estate and a yacht. Compass and Chance invade the yacht and find evidence tying Dominion to half the crime in the city, but Dominion gets away. Pow Wow, Bard, and Mysto break into Dominion’s estate and take out most of his security, but Dominion has an emergency exit and takes off. Slam is waiting for him by his escape helicopter and Dominion tries to blast him. Slam dodges, which gives dominion time to get in the chopper and take off. Slam grabs a skid, but has to let go and winds up in a tree. Dominion doesn’t get far though … his damage to the chopper earlier causes it to explode, avenging Archie’s murder. The other detectives congratulate Slam on taking Dominion down, but Raymond bursts their bubble by telling them Archie actually committed suicide. Archie had cancer and rigged up a pistol on the window ledge activated by remote control. Raymond found the remote on Archie after he died, though the gun ended up in the river after recoiling off the ledge. Slam realizes Archie hated to retire with Dominion still free, so he killed himself knowing his friends would go after Dominion and bring him to justice.
Batman – “Once Upon a Time …” – Len Wein/Walter Simonson
This is a two page story with very Gothic-sounding narration about Batman foiling a hold-up at a penthouse party and some maid becoming enamoured of him.
This starts with Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibny and his wife, Sue, in New York City. A raven flaps down toward the street saying “Nevermore”. When Ralph returns it to a townhouse window, the bird calls him a dummy, but that’s the least of Ralph’s problems as he finds a man with his head bashed in lying in the apartment. The guy gasps out “Reynolds” before passing out, which gets Ralph’s attention along with a crumpled piece of paper in the guy’s hand. A woman named Marcia comes in, says his name is Edwin Allman Pohe and he’s a rare book dealer. Marcia is his assistant and mentions a buyer was coming to meet him. Sue figures it was this Reynolds guy and that’s probably who killed him, but Ralph mentions that “Reynolds” is also the last thing Edgar Allan Poe said before he died … and no one knows why. Ralph takes the crumpled paper for analysis and finds out it was artificially aged to seem over a hundred years old. Sue comes in with an analysis of the typeface used in the paper and says it hasn’t been used since 1849, by a publisher named Joshua Reynolds whose business was bought out by a company called Caxton Publishing. Ralph figures Poe was probably in touch with Reynolds to publish a literary magazine (a pet project of Poe’s), which would explain Poe’s last words. Sue wonders how an unpublished magazine from over a century ago relates to a murder now, and Ralph says he has an idea. He figures the combination of the 1849 typeface and brand new paper means someone found old printing plates for Poe’s aborted magazine and printed up a copy (pre-production copies are called dummy copies, hence the raven’s use of the word), trying to convince Pohe that it was from 1849. They check Caxton Publishing’s warehouse and find some plates missing. Ralph tracks down the address of an employee who just quit and they find him on a houseboat. Marcia knocks the guy out before Ralph can ask him any questions and it turns out she was in on the whole thing. Ralph bags her and finds the stolen plates. Pohe recovers and Ralph uses the plates to print up a copy of the magazine, saying Poe would’ve enjoyed seeing his life’s ambition finally realized.
“The Batman Encounters Gray Face” – Walter Gibson/Tom Yeates
This is a prose story with some illustrations on each page. Walter Gibson is the guy who wrote most of the Shadow stories way back in the 30s and 40s, and this story is very reminiscent of those. It has a very pulpy feel and hits a lot of the tropes (it’s set in Chinatown), but Batman fits pretty well into the tale … which makes sense, since he was inspired by the pulps (especially the Shadow) to begin with. I won’t go into details on the actual story, but it’s about what you’d expect from a pulp guy like Gibson.
Hawkman – Paul Levitz/Joe Kubert
This story fits the detective motif of this issue, since it concerns Hawkman and Hawkgirl (who were cops on their native Thanagar) trying to solve a cold case … the death of Dr. Erdel. Hawkman thinks Erdel might’ve been killed by someone who tampered with the computer, so they check the likely suspects: Erdel’s former assistant (Schneider) and his niece and heir, Anna. But Anna gave away all the money she inherited (and kept mementos of her uncle), so it probably wasn’t her, and Schneider changed his scientific field to ornithology … unlikely if he killed Erdel to get his research. Hawkman concludes there’s only one possibility left—the computer itself murdered Erdel. The Hawks head to the observatory and find a sentient computer that killed Erdel because it wanted to let its consciousness roam the galaxy. The computer pulls a monster from Alpha Centauri through the trans-matter portal, but the Hawks defeat the beast and skrag the computer. Hawkgirl finally realizes what most of you probably caught right away … Erdel was the scientist who first brought J’onn J’onzz to Earth (although I’m pretty sure that Dr. Erdel was named Saul, where this one is called Mark). Hawkman knows J’onn always blamed himself for Erdel’s death (his alien appearance causing a heart attack) and Hawkman wanted to find out the truth.
Batman & Deadman – “What Happens When a Batman Dies?” – Cary Bates/Carmine Infantino/Bob Smith
This one starts with a half-dead Batman stumbling to police headquarters. We get a flashback of Bruce Wayne in a board meeting talking about how crime in Gotham has affected Wayne Enterprises’ business. When an absent board member turns out to have been mugged, Bruce ends the meeting and changes to Batman to hit the streets. He confides to Alfred that he’s not sure he’s really making a difference anymore; no matter how hard he fights, the criminals just keep going. In the hospital, Batman is in a coma as Robin and Commissioner Gordon wonder who attacked him. We get another flashback to Batman rescuing a blind guy from muggers, but the whole thing turns out to be a lure; the guy isn’t really blind and he uses a command word to trigger his dog to attack. The dog’s teeth (or saliva, maybe?) are poisoned and Batman stumbles off toward police HQ, which is where we came in. But even a comatose Batman isn’t without resources; Robin notices the EEG monitor beeping in Morse Code, asking for the help of “Mr. Brand of Boston” … which Robin interprets to mean Boston Brand, aka Deadman. I’m not sure when Robin found out Deadman’s real name, but whatever. If that wasn’t weird enough, Deadman shows up (in Gordon’s body) saying that Batman’s EEG signal was so strong it actually pulled Deadman here from his previous location. Batman flatlines and the doctors say they have about five minutes to revive him before it’s too late. Deadman leaves Gordon’s body and meets Batman on the Astral Plane. Batman has basically given up, saying all his fighting against injustice hasn’t made a dent. Deadman tries to convince him to come back, but Batman heads for the “light”, where he sees his parents. They convince him that he has made a difference and he goes back to his body. Deadman takes over Robin and—following Batman’s instructions—injects the Caped Crusader with a shitload of adrenaline. Batman’s body revives and Deadman inhabits him, sending him crashing through the window. For some reason, Batman can communicate with Deadman, even though that never happened with any of Deadman’s other hosts; plot necessity, I guess. Batman goes to track down the guy (and dog) that poisoned him. He finds real glasses in the alley where he was attacked and tracks the prescription to a dude who lives on a farm … just the kind of place to train dogs. Batman finds the dog that bit him and gets a sample from it. The assassin catches him and they fight, but the assassin ends up getting killed by another one of his dogs when he uses an attack word at the wrong time. Batman’s adrenaline is about done, but Deadman keeps him mobile long enough to call the hospital. The doctors find an antidote to the poison and Batman is on the path to recovery. Deadman takes over a nurse to give Bats one last congratulations.
This one starts with Batman in New York. He notices another Gothamite, Jason Bard, staking out a building belonging to Concordance Research. Bard explains that Concordance hired him to check out an employee of theirs, Martin Stein, who’d been behaving strangely of late … missing work, having blackouts, showing up late. Bard tracked Stein to the Concordance building and is waiting to follow him. Batman leaves without mentioning why he’s there, but we soon learn that Batman followed his fellow JLA member Firestorm to Concordance. Firestorm had been on the JLA Satellite and took off, so Batman came after him. He sees Firestorm fly out of the Concordance building and tries to snag him with a Batline, but Firestorm seems to be in some kind of trance and uses his powers to change the line into confetti. Batman manages to save himself from splattering all over the street, which impresses Bard. Batman wonders if there’s a connection between Firestorm and Stein, since Firestorm was asking the JLA what would happen to a member who was having blackouts. When they pressed him, Firestorm got defensive and took off, so Batman decided to find out what was going on. Batman figures Stein can’t be Firestorm, since Firestorm is very young, but he thinks Stein might be responsible for Firestorm’s blackouts. He tracks the Nuclear Man to a hospital where he steals a couple of Waldos—mechanical arms used to work with dangerous materials. Batman follows Firestorm to the Hudson Nuclear Plant, which was designed by Martin Stein. Back at Concordance, Bard talks to people in the office and learns that Stein disappeared right before Firestorm flew out of the building. Bard checks Stein’s Rolodex (that’s an ancient device for storing phone numbers, kids) and finds it open to Ronnie Raymond. At the Hudson Nuclear Plant, Firestorm installs the Waldos in the nuclear pile and Batman (in a radiation suit) learns that the pile has acquired consciousness. It was created the same night the facility exploded and Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein were first fused into firestorm. The now-intelligent pile started taking over Firestorm’s mind (hence the blackouts) until it could control him completely and force him to bring the Waldos so it could have its own form of mobility. The sentient pile knows Batman is there and orders Firestorm to kill him. Batman tricks Firestorm into blasting the core, which cancels the nascent consciousness and frees Firestorm from its control. Firestorm returns the favour by draining the radiation that Batman absorbed and Batman warns him that Bard is snooping after Stein. Apparently Batman didn’t hear the sentient pile when it mentioned how Firestorm was created … or he didn’t put it all together at least, since he doesn’t seem to realize that Ronnie Raymond is part of Firestorm. Firestorm heads back to Ronnie’s place and splits apart, so when Bard shows up he finds Professor Stein being interviewed by Ronnie for his school paper. Bard thinks there’s something fishy about it all, but has no proof, so he has to let it go … for now.
Nemesis – “Pirate’s Peril” – Cary Burkett/Dan Spiegle
Last issue, Nemesis was trying to catch a Council member named Curtis at his casino in Las Vegas. He ran into a woman named Valerie, who wanted to blow Curtis (and everyone else in the casino) to hell because she blames Curtis for her gambler father’s suicide. Nemesis and Valerie got caught by Curtis’s goons and Nemesis was wounded. Before Curtis’s men can take them for a ride, Nemesis knocks them back and takes off with Valerie in the car. She takes him to see her brother, who (conveniently) was a medic in Vietnam, and he patches Nemesis’s wound. Nemesis decides to go after Curtis directly and Valerie insists on going along, saying she’ll be in danger if she hangs around Vegas. They head out to Los Angeles, where Nemesis steals a piece of film from a movie studio cutting room. They intercept one of Curtis’s limos on a deserted stretch of highway and Nemesis steals a bunch of pirated video tapes. Nemesis disguises himself as a guy named George Mead and gets in touch with Curtis, saying he can get the tapes back if he comes to Mead’s office. When Curtis show up, Nemesis says he took the tapes to get Curtis’s attention and shows him a short clip from a new sci-fi blockbuster (Return of the Jedi?) that hasn’t been released yet. (I guess that’s what the stolen cutting was from.) Nemesis says he can get the whole movie before it’s released for Curtis to distribute through his pirate movie connections. Curtis falls for it and Nemesis waits a few days and calls to tell Curtis he’s got the movie. Nemesis insists on going to Curtis’s film lab to oversee things and Valerie follows in a chopper. Naturally, Curtis double crosses Nemesis and has his thugs haul him out. But when Curtis tries to view the movie, t turns out to be a tape of him making the deal with “Mead”, including his admission that he runs a bootleg video ring. The cops bust in to arrest Curtis and Valerie picks Nemesis up on the roof. Apparently, he had no trouble at all taking out Curtis’s strong arm boys.