This one starts with a guy named Keswick being taken to see someone called the “Doctor”. This mysterious Doctor (who we can’t see clearly but seems to be in a wheelchair) is planning some kind of major crime and Keswick offered to sell details to the cops. The Doctor isn’t happy about Keswick’s treachery and uses some kind of deadly dust to shut him up permanently. Later, Batman goes to the docks where Keswick’s body is being fished out of the water and notes the strange lesions on Keswick’s skin. Commissioner Gordon is distracted and we get a recap of events in recent issues: Hamilton Hill was elected mayor after Arthur Reeves’ campaign imploded, and Hill ran on a platform of reforming the Gotham Police Department, including replacing Gordon. There’s also a mention of how Poison Ivy almost took over the Wayne Foundation and Bruce’s subsequent resignation from that organization. Bruce goes to a party where Vicki Vale is waiting for him. Dick Grayson is there with his new girlfriend, Dala. Vicki thinks Dala is a bit old for Dick but takes her photo anyway, thinking it might be good for the society page. Bruce notices a guy in a wheelchair who Vicki says is Dr. Karl Hellfern, one of those feel-good gurus who tell people how to live healthier lives. Bruce thinks the guy is creepy, almost like he has no soul behind his eyes. Dick and Dala duck out onto the balcony but before they can start making out, some weird glowing ash falls from the sky onto Dick’s hand. He immediately starts coughing and sneezing, and notices a shadow flying over Gotham, spilling the strange ash in its wake. Dick takes Dala home and heads to the Batcave to analyze the ash, thinking it might be some chemical company’s way of dumping waste. Batman shows up at the Batcave in time to see the results … the ash is actually a super-allergen, so Robin might not have long to live. At Police headquarters, Hill demands Gordon’s resignation and says he’ll impeach him if Gordon doesn’t go quietly. After Gordon leaves, Hill gets a mysterious phone call. Gordon meets the Dynamic Duo to let them know Keswick died of a severe allergic reaction. Batman and Robin pull a Daredevil, busting up a bar and pounding some punk to get info on who killed Keswick. The punk points them to some abandoned buildings on an island in Gotham River, where they’re surprised by some martial artists. The attackers use spotlights to blind the duo and Robin’s allergy symptoms are starting to show up already, so he and Batman get pounded. They wake up chained together at the wrist with the chain thrown over a bridge strut; if one of them gets loose, the other will plunge to his death. We see the mastermind behind the allergen dump and I’m sure you already know who it is … yup, it’s Karl Hellfern aka Dr. Death. Luckily you don’t have long to wait to see what happens, since this story continues in this month’s Detective Comics.
- When Bruce shows up at the party, Vicki says she was so bored she was “about to do a Brady”, which I assume is another way of saying “commit suicide”. But the proper expression is “do a Brodie”, after Steve Brodie who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge.
- Dr. Death’s headquarters are said to be on “Relief Island”, which I assume is the Gotham version of the real-life Welfare Island, which is what Roosevelt Island was called until 1973.
This story seems to take place right after Selina left Gotham in Detective 509. Selina (Catwoman) Kyle is on a train and after waking up from a nightmare (where she almost marries Bruce Wayne only to have her Catwoman persona ruin everything) she’s accosted by a couple of guys. After slapping them around a bit, she learns they’re government types who want her to work for them. Passenger trains have been disappearing while going through a tunnel along a certain stretch of track. The trains are longer than the tunnel, but they seem to disappear into thin air (a fact confirmed by video) and reappear later, none the worse for wear. The passengers can’t describe what happened, since their recollections are disjointed and rather hallucinogenic. Nothing is missing from the trains and nothing was added, so it can’t be someone smuggling stuff. The Feds are stumped, so Selina agrees to ride the next train as Catwoman and figure out what’s up. Sure enough, the train goes into the tunnel, but instead of coming out the other side it seems to be traveling through a graveyard. Other strange sights manifest, including ghosts. Catwoman tries to fight the ghosts, but they’re intangible. She hears a mocking voice (a familiar voice) and a noose settles around her neck. Unfortunately, the noose isn’t intangible and it starts strangling her. I’ve got a pretty good idea who’s behind this caper, but we’ll see what happens next issue.
As we saw above, Batman and Robin are hanging by handcuffs from a bridge strut; if one of them escapes, the other falls to his death. Dr. Hellfern (aka Dr, Death) explains to Batman that he’s sprayed his super-allergen over Gotham, infecting everyone with its deadly disease. If the city doesn’t pay a billion dollars in 24 hours, everybody will die. Dr. Death leaves Batman and Robin to their fate. Robin has already passed out from the allergen and Batman can’t free himself without Robin plunging to his death. At Vicki Vale’s photo lab, she examines some pictures of Bruce Wayne which confirm her theory that he’s Batman (something she’s been working on for a while now). Vicki notices that the photo she took of Dala (Dick Grayson’s new girlfriend) came out all blurry. Before Vicki can ponder the implications, she starts coughing. Downtown, new mayor Hamilton Hill comes to police headquarters to talk to Dr. Death about his billion dollar ransom demand. Unfortunately, Hill is no diplomat and basically tells Dr. Death to go to hell. Batman manages to spring his handcuffs and grab Robin before he falls. He tosses Robin into the river and jumps in to pull him up before he drowns. By daybreak, about two million Gothamites are showing symptoms of the allergen, although nobody has died yet. A few people (including Batman) have a natural immunity. Gordon tells Batman Dr. Death’s island hideout had no clues and Batman realizes he overlooked the obvious … Hellfern’s house. He heads over there and finds Dr. Death getting ready to skip town since the mayor rejected his blackmail demand. Dr. Death blasts Batman with a concentrated dose of allergen, overcoming his natural immunity, and heads for his helicopter. Batman’s already feeling like shit from the disease, but notices the allergen tank under the chopper. Batman figures it must’ve been used to spray the allergen over Gotham the other night and knows the tank has to be pressurized. His Batarang ruptures the tank, blowing the helicopter half to hell and releasing the allergen. Batman decks Dr. Death after figuring out where he keeps his antidote. The antidote is quickly duplicated and sprayed over Gotham, saving everyone’s lives. When Robin wakes up, Batman tells him Dr. Death got hives from an allergic reaction to the antidote.
Batgirl – “Riders in the Night” – Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella
This one starts with a motorcycle gang called the Demon Riders terrorizing the city just for the hell of it. Batgirl interrupts their fun and ends up chasing the leader. He gets away by zooming through some pedestrians, a stunt Batgirl refuses to duplicate. A couple days later, Barbara Gordon does a TV interview where she talks about what scumbags the Demon Riders are and how all citizens should band together to rid the city of garbage like that. The Demon Riders see the interview (seems funny they’d be tuned in to “Women’s World Today, but whatever) and decide to teach Barbara a lesson. They go to her place and trash it and when Barbara gets back and sees the destruction, she’s devastated. Seriously? What the hell did she think would happen after she talked shit about a bunch of bikers on national TV? As she’s sitting in the remains of her apartment, the Demon Riders show up again, this time to take out their frustrations on her.
This one starts with Batman dropping by police headquarters (after leaving a sack of toys at the Children’s Home) to answer a call from Commissioner Gordon. A mob accountant had gathered some files to turn over to the cops, but the mob boss (Spurs Sanders) found the files and now one of his men is returning them. Batman checks out the possible route and realizes the thug is disguised as a street Santa. Batman goes after him and we see Earth-2’s Helena (Huntress) Wayne arriving in Gotham through a JLA transport tube. (I assume she went from Earth-2 to the Satellite, then down to Gotham.) Huntress is having trouble on Earth-2 being all alone at Christmas, so she’s decided to come to Earth-1 to spend the holidays with her “Uncle Bruce”. (Of course, Earth-2’s Batman was Huntress’s father, but he’s been dead for a while … hence her aversion to spending Christmas alone.) Batman has caught the mob henchman with the financial records, but he’s startled to see his own father (Thomas Wayne) mentioned as having given Sanders the money to start his criminal career. Batman is so flustered that the mob guy almost shoots him, but Huntress shows up and kicks the guy’s ass. At home, Bruce explains to Helena that his father may have bankrolled a mobster and Helena urges him to investigate instead of letting it eat away at him. Helena hopes her Earth’s history won’t repeat with this version of Batman ending up dead like her father. They go to see Thomas Wayne’s old accountant (Amos Randolph) who’s in a wheelchair and seemingly at death’s door from some nervous disease. (He also has a nervous habit of tapping his fingers; remember that, as it’ll be important later.) Randolph’s records show Thomas Wayne making mysterious payments that match the dates he supposedly gave Sanders money. Bruce isn’t happy, but Helena suggests they check out Sanders himself. As Batman and Huntress they break into Sanders’ place and confront him. He plays a recording of Thomas Wayne agreeing to give Sanders money for his criminal enterprises. (There’s also a strange tapping sound in the background of the tape … I wonder what that could be?) Sanders asks Batman for the records he took off Sanders’ thug or he’ll release the Thomas Wayne tape, but Batman says no deal. Batman is devastated about his dad being a mob enabler and goes to the cemetery where he decides to quit being Batman. Huntress is freaked out, remembering how her father gave up his costume after her mother’s death. She watches the fake Santa henchman who stole Sanders’ records, reasoning Sanders might consider him a loose end. Sure enough, the guy is out shopping with his kid and another of Sanders’ thugs tries to run him over. Huntress saves him and Bruce (who was nearby) realizes the mobster’s son would’ve been devastated if his father was killed, just as Bruce was when his parents were murdered. Bruce realizes Batman exists to do more than just fight crime; he also keeps people from suffering the same loss he did. He starts going over all the clues and remembers the tapping noise on the tape. He recalls that Randolph always had a habit of tapping his fingers, even back when Bruce was a kid. He goes to confront Randolph as Batman, telling him he knows Randolph disguised himself as Thomas Wayne and used Wayne money to bankroll Sanders in order to enrich himself. Randolph wonders if Batman will take him to prison, but Batman says his disease has confined him to a worse hell than prison ever could. Meanwhile, Helena lets Sanders know that his tape is useless, since it’s not really Thomas Wayne’s voice on the tape. She drops the mob financial records off at Commissioner’s Gordon’s place and hangs out with Batman for Christmas.
Last issue, the assassin known as Greyfox lured Nemesis to an airfield by forcing his helicopter mechanic (Barney) to call him. Barney had no choice, since Greyfox threatened his daughter, but Barney decides he can’t just stand there and watch Nemesis get shot. Even though he’s tied up, Barney manages to deflect Greyfox’s aim enough that he misses Nemesis. Nemesis heard Barney yell from atop the hangar, but before he can try to rescue him he has to take out some of Greyfox’s goons. Nemesis slips inside the hangar and sends a plane out as a distraction. Greyfox blasts he fuel line, blowing the plane to shit, which allows Nemesis to sneak up the control tower. He swings down on top of the hangar and takes out the two gunmen holding Barney, but Greyfox isn’t there. Barney says Greyfox went to check the wrecked plane, but Greyfox appears in a helicopter with Barney’s daughter in his clutches. The girl pulls away and falls out of the chopper. Nemesis swings out to catch her, but that leaves him open and Greyfox shoots him. Nemesis falls to the ground unconscious, but Barney’s daughter is okay. Greyfox decides to eliminate the witnesses with a grenade, but Barney grabs a fallen guard’s rifle and starts shooting. He hits Greyfox’s hand, causing him to drop the grenade which blows the helicopter to hell. Nemesis wakes up and Barney says he wasn’t trying to kill Greyfox, but Nemesis assures him Greyfox brought his demise upon himself by his violent actions.