This one starts with Batman sneaking into the home of Filbert Hughes III, a fat cat who’s a big wheel in the Tobacconists’ Club. Batman knows the Club is full of rich men who profit from the criminal acts of others while keeping their own hands clean. Batman scares the hell out of Hughes. Asking him about Gotham’s newest mob boss … Killer Croc. Speaking of Croc, he’s holding a convocation of mobsters at the Reptile House of the Gotham Zoo. Croc says he’s taking over all of Gotham’s mobs and if anyone objects, they’ll get what Batman got. Yeah, Croc thinks Batman is dead after his plunge into the water in Detective 525. Some of the mobsters aren’t too impressed with Croc’s proclamation, since Tony Falco is still alive (although he’s in prison) and he’s the nominal head of the mobs. Croc says he’ll take care of Falco and when the mobsters leave, he tells his henchman (Slick) to keep leaning on the Sloan Circus for protection money, even though that scheme was started by the Squid, Croc’s predecessor. Croc sneaks into the prison, kills a guard for his uniform, and wastes Falco in his cell. The alarm is sounded before Croc can get out, so he has to fight some more guards. When Croc crashes out the roof, he’s shocked to be confronted by Batman, who he thought was dead. They fight and Croc ends up smashing Batman into the wall, bruising his ribs but hurting his pride even more. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce gets patched up and asks Dick (Robin) Grayson if his circus friends the Todds are still willing to help them track down Croc. Dick worries that involving them might be dangerous and Bruce gets pissed off, saying he’s sick of protecting people who are too scared to contribute to the fight. He basically tells Dick to go to hell, which Dick isn’t really all that shocked about, since Bruce has been kind of an asshole lately. Bruce knows his anger is at Killer Croc not Dick, but can’t help feeling boxed in by all the crap that’s going on in his life lately. He calls Vicki Vale to apologize for taking her for granted, but she admits he was right … neither of them is willing to commit 100% to the relationship because they each have higher priorities. Bruce makes a lunch date with her, but he knows no matter how much they talk about it, nothing will really change. At the Sloan Circus, Waldo the clown spots Slick lurking around and sees Joseph and Trina Todd follow him when he leaves. Waldo writes down Slick’s license plate and tells the Todd’s son Jason that he’s looking after him tonight while his parents are playing detective. Downtown, Commissioner Gordon fills Batman in on Killer Croc’s background: real name Waylon Jones, born in Tampa, Florida, suffers from a weird skin disease that makes him look reptilian. Croc was tormented as a kid and ended up in juvie when he fought back. The guards routinely beat the shit out of him. At sixteen, he killed someone who made fun of him and was supposed to get the chair, but it got commuted to twenty years hard labour instead. When he got out, Croc wrestled alligators until he got into crime. Incidentally, the first guard who ever beat him turned up dead with a broken neck not long after Croc left Florida. Gordon says Croc is scum, but he never really had a chance. Gordon says evil isn’t always as simple as it’s made out to be, but Batman’s not really in the mood to hear that. Dick stops by the Sloan Circus and finds out the Todds followed Slick, which they weren’t supposed to do; they were only supposed to watch him while he was at the Circus. Dick takes off and tells Waldo to call him at Wayne Manor if he hears anything. Meanwhile, the Todds have followed Slick to the Zoo and debate whether they should go inside or call for back-up. They decide to go ahead, which turns out to be their last mistake, since Killer Croc is waiting inside for them.
This is a special issue commemorating the 500th appearance of Batman in Detective Comics. It’s also Gerry Conway’s last issue after a long (and pretty good) run on Batman and Detective. We start at an old theater, where the Penguin shows up in answer to an invitation from a mystery person, only to find he wasn’t the only one invited to this private party. There’s a rogues’ gallery of Batman villains already there: Gentleman Ghost, Two-Face, Captain Stingaree, Talia, Mad Hatter, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Clayface II, Riddler, Scarecrow, Black Spider, Catman, Spook, and Cavalier. But what about Batman’s number one nemesis, the Joker? He’s there too, waiting in the shadows, and it turns out he’s the one who called them all there. Joker has heard that Killer Croc plans to kill Batman and he doesn’t want some upstart villain doing what none of them have been able to do for years, so he proposes the villains all gang up and kill Batman themselves to steal Croc’s thunder. Catwoman was invited to this soirée too, but she’s been hiding on a catwalk (of course) and decides to go warn Batman. She’s not the only one who doesn’t like Joker’s plan; Talia tells the Clown Prince of Crime that she could never hurt Batman. When the other villains try to grab her, she uses Captain Stingaree as a shield (which gets him frozen by Mr. Freeze) and takes off. Because Two-Face’s scarred coin lands with the good side up, he just lets her go. Joker tells the remaining villains they’d better find Batman before Talia does and they all agree to his plan (including Two-Face, after another coin flip lands scarred side up). Batman is working out like crazy in the Batcave when Talia shows up to warn him of the villains’ plot, but Catwoman shows up too, thinking Talia is there to kill Batman. They have a brief catfight (yeah, I said it) until Batman pulls them apart to ask what the hell’s going on. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is headed for Wayne Manor when Waldo the clown and Jason Todd flag him down. Waldo gives Dick the license number of the car Jason’s parents are following. Dick tells them to follow him to Wayne Manor, hoping Trina and Joseph haven’t bitten off more than they can chew. At the old theater where the villains met, Commissioner Gordon and the cops find Stingaree frozen solid. Barbara Gordon is tagging along with her father and immediately figures Mr. Freeze must’ve been there. She finds a cigarette on the floor and picks it up, planning to investigate as Batgirl. At Picture News, Vicki Vale is laying out an article when one of her photographers puts the moves on her. He gets an elbow in the gut, but Vicki starts thinking about the fight she had with Bruce last issue. She calls, but when Alfred tells her Bruce is out on “business” (at eleven PM), she figures he must be out with another woman. Dick shows up at Wayne Manor with Jason and Waldo and Alfred tells him that Killer Croc and a cabal of villains are (separately) planning to kill Batman that night. They notice a familiar silhouette outside, but they go to investigate, it’s Batgirl. She’s there to help and tells Dick to get into costume. Dick is surprised, since he and Batman thought they’d thrown Barbara off the trail of their secret identities months ago. But Barbara’s not stupid, so she played along all this time, pretending to be fooled. She shows Robin the cigarette she found, which was smoked in a cigarette holder … like the Penguin always uses. Robin calls Batman to pass on the info, but Batman’s communicator is off, which means he’s getting ready for action. That’s right, he’s about to have a three-way with Talia and Catwoman … by which I mean they’re going to team up and fight some of his enemies. What did you think I meant? Catwoman has racked some of the rogues to an old El train station, leased to “Edward Nigma, the Riddler’s real name. Inside, Riddler, Cavalier, Mad Hatter, and Scarecrow are waiting, but they aren’t getting along too well. Batman and his allies bust in and start kicking ass. Batman takes down the Riddler while Catwoman handles Cavalier. Talia almost gets strangled by Scarecrow (who’s been out of his mind since Detective 503), and Mad Hatter takes off. Batman chases him and Hatter is seemingly run down by a train, but I’m sure he’ll be back. At Wayne Manor, Waldo nods off and Jason starts wandering around. He finds the secret staircase behind the grandfather clock (because someone left the door open) and makes his way down to the Batcave. At first, he doesn’t really know where he is, but when he finds some of Batman’s costumes, he figures it out. Batman, Talia, and Catwoman see an Xed-out Bat-signal and track down the source. Signalman bursts from the spotlight, surprising Batman, while Spook uses his illusions against Talia. Catwoman stalks Mr. Freeze, but is jumped by Black Spider, and has to face him on a patch of ice. Talia tosses Spook into the spotlight and Batman takes down Signalman. Catwoman stays on her feet and defeats her two opponents as well. They find an unmarked map in Signalman’s cloaked with a building circled. Robin and Batgirl get a call to head to the zoo, where the car the Todds were following has been found … along with what’s left of the Todds. Commissioner Gordon gives Robin shit, saying this is all his fault for involving civilians. Robin agrees with him and freaks out, jumping into the Reptile Pit and fighting off the crocodiles so the cops can retrieve the bodies. At the old Gotham Men’s Club, Killer Croc is relaxing in the sauna when Joker comes in to tell Croc about the villains’ plan to eliminate Batman. Croc says he’ll listen, but naturally Joker is planning on betraying him so he can be Gotham’s sole crime boss. In the Batcave, Jason finds some of Robin’s old costumes and puts one on. He hides when Batman and the others return, then slips into the trunk of the Batmobile after hearing them talk about their next destination. The computer has found the marked building on Signalman’s map to be an old brewery on Clark and Main. Of course, Batman, Talia, and Catwoman know it’s a trap, but they head out anyway. Downtown, the members of the Tobacconists’ Club are wondering if Croc will fulfill his promise to kill Batman. They’re interrupted by Robin and Batgirl, who pound the shit out of them and their security men (two of whom are apparently named Walter and Winchell). Robin threatens to toss Robinson off the balcony, so he steers them toward the Men’s Club. They bust that place up, pounding numerous muscled-up bruisers. One of them tells Robin that Croc is at the old brewery on Clark and Main, so they prepare to head over there. At the brewery, Batman, Talia, and Catwoman find Getaway Genius, the Tweedles, and Cat-Man beat to shit. They’re so distracted that they get knocked out when Croc opens a water valve and floods them. Jason is still outside, wondering where everyone went, when he spots trouble … Killer Moth, Clayface, Gentleman Ghost, and Two-Face getting ready to head into the brewery. Clayface uses his malleability powers to look like recently-murdered mob boss Tony Falco and they go inside. Jason figures he better find Batman and warn him, so he uses his acrobatic skills to climb across the rooftops and sneak into the brewery. Inside, Batman, Talia, and Catwoman wake up tied to an old brewing vat that’s set to explode in a few minutes. Joker is there to gloat about Batman’s impending death, but Croc orders his men to cut Batman down so they can finish their fight man-to-man. Joker gets slapped down when he objects, so Batman faces off with Croc. Meanwhile, the other villains use Clayface’s impersonation of Falco to help them get past the mobsters guarding the brewery. Croc gets Batman in a spine-cracking hold, but Batman busts loose, knocking Croc into a henchman. Stray bullets puncture the vat, bathing Talia and Catwoman in super-heated steam. Jason vaults over to the valve and shuts it off. Joker decides to take off, but runs into Robin and Batgirl, who have taken down he other villains. Joker heads back inside and gets decked when Batman ducks a haymaker from Croc. Croc picks up a pipe and prepares to smash Batman while bragging about killing the Todds at the zoo. Jason jumps down and knocks the pipe out of Croc’s hand, giving Batman time to flatten him with one punch (which seems a bit strange, since Croc’s supposed to be so tough). Jason freaks out, pounding Croc’s unconscious body and yelling about his parents being dead. Robin feels like shit since he wanted to break the news to Jason himself. Back at Wayne Manor, Catwoman and Talia leave (together!), arguing over whether Bruce should take Jason in or not. Bruce talks to Dick, who’s already decided it’s his responsibility to adopt Jason, but Bruce says if the Todds deaths are anyone’s fault, they’re his. He takes Jason outside for a long talk and Dick tells Alfred he’d better open up Dick’s old room because there’s probably going to be a new resident at Wayne Manor. So, that’s it for Gerry’s run on the Bat-titles; all in all, a pretty good story to go out on. I like that it fit into the regular continuity, instead of being a “special” story that had to be shoehorned in. It was cool to see all the villains (if only briefly) and I liked how Talia and Catwoman helped Batman. Those two would make a good team, if they could stop bickering. As for Gerry’s run overall, I liked it. I like the political angle (Gotham has always been a very gritty, politically corrupt place) and all the mob stuff fit in well too. (Something Gerry would return to in a few years on the Spider-Man titles.) But Doug Moench is about to start a long run of his own on Batman and Detective, and Gerry’s left him some interesting plot threads to pick up, especially with Jason Todd. We’ll see how Doug handles things in the next issue of Batman. The art was great too, as I’d expect from Don Newton.
This one starts with the cops surrounding a building in Gotham where the Black Heart, an urban terrorist outfit led by a fanatic named Peter Travers, is holed up. The SWAT team tries to go in the front, but gets mowed down. Before the terrorists can make it out the back, Batman shows up. He takes out some of the terrorists, but Travers shoots him, knocking him through the window. Travers and the remaining three urban guerrillas go right out the front door, blasting more cops to clear the way. The terrorists regroup and Travers says they’ll have to find a new safehouse. One of his cohorts points out that the cops could only have found them if someone betrayed them and Travers knows who it is … his erstwhile girlfriend, Katy. Travers says they’ll need special help to take Katy out. In New York City, Karate Kid (of Legion of Super-Heroes fame) materializes from a time warp outside the building where he lived during his temporary sojourn to the 20th Century (as chronicled in his own series a few years ago). He talks to his old landlady and finds out his neighbour/girlfriend Iris Jacobs has moved to Gotham. Back in Gotham, the Black Heart’s betrayer, Katy, is being held in a concrete bunker by the cops to keep her safe from reprisals. But Travers has hired a villain named Pulsar (also seen in Karate Kid’s series) to waste Katy and Pulsar uses his energy staff to blast through the concrete walls. He knocks Katy through the wall, but Batman catches her before she can splatter. While Batman takes on Pulsar, Katy grabs a shard of glass for a weapon, wrapping it in a handkerchief, and takes off. Pulsar blasts Batman into a wall, but Katy is already gone. She uses the glass shard to knife some guy and steal his car (once a terrorist, always a terrorist), but she’s still weak from Pulsar’s blast, so she goes off the street and crashes into a lamp post. A helpful bystander takes her inside to help her; the bystander’s name? Iris Jacobs. Katy is planning on taking advantage of Iris until she’s no longer useful, then getting rid of her. While Katy’s in the shower, Karate kid shows up and Iris is thrilled to see him. (So thrilled she kisses him.) Karate Kid picked up a cold (no natural immunity to 20th Century germs), so he grabs a handkerchief that Katy dropped earlier. He says he has something important to tell Iris, but is interrupted by the story about Pulsar on TV. Karate Kid fought Pulsar before, so he figures he better go see what he can do. After he leaves, Katy turns off the TV right before a bulletin about her escape comes on. Karate Kid checks out the scene of Pulsar’s bust up and runs into Batman, but they avoid the obligatory hero fight. Batman is called to the scene where Katy stabbed the motorist and finds a torn piece of handkerchief wrapped around the glass shard. Karate Kid sneezes and pulls out the handkerchief he got at Iris’s place, which Batman recognizes as the other part of the cloth he’s holding. Batman and Karate Kid head for Iris’s place, but Travers and Pulsar have followed Katy’s blood trail there too, so everyone ends up busting in at the same time. Batman takes Travers out with a Batarang and Karate Kid goes after Pulsar. Karate kid slaps Pulsar around and throws him out the window, leaving Batman to mop up the Black Heart terrorists. Pulsar comes close to pounding Karate Kid, until kid takes away his power staff. Then Karate Kid starts winning, but Travers has recovered from the Batarang and decides to use Pulsar one more time. He detonates a bomb in Pulsar’s chest, blowing him to hell, then turns to shoot Batman just as the Caped Crusader finishes off the rest of the terrorists. Before Travers can blast Batman, karate kid comes through the window and takes him down. In all the confusion, Iris managed to pin Katy down too. Travers and Katy are hauled off by the cops, sniping at each other the whole way. Iris marvels at how love could turn into hate like that, but she’s about to get a shock of her own. Karate kid tells her the reason he came to see her … to invite her to his wedding to Projectra. Iris freaks and tells him to get lost, which he probably should’ve expected. Karate Kid heads back to the future, leaving Iris heartbroken.
- Pulsar was supposed to have gone straight after the Karate kid series, but he tells the Kid the mob killed his wife and child, so he figured he had nothing left to live for. When Black Heart made him an offer, he took it.
Last issue, Firestorm (who’s been partially turned into a hyena after fighting Hyena) got mixed up with two other Hyenas: the original (Summer Day, sister of Ronnie Raymond’s girlfriend Doreen), and Dr. Jivan Shi, who was supposed to be treating Summer but ended up being affected by her were-hyena curse. The two Hyenas were fighting on top of the World Trade Center and firestorm tried to stop them, but accidentally knocked Hyena-Summer off the roof. Stein exhorts Ronnie to save her and Firestorm flies down and transmutes the street below into water. Hyena-Summer lands safely, but Firestorm is forced to save a motorist from drowning, which gives Summer the chance to slip away. Being Hyena makes it hard for Summer to think rationally, but she gets her shit together long enough to remember she was supposed to be helping Firestorm, not fighting him. She knows she’s the one who infected Dr. Shi and wants to fix her mistake. The crowd reacts negatively to Firestorm’s hyena-look and he gets pissed off and flies away. Being hyenified seems to be taking its toll on Firestorm too, making him angrier than usual, but he calms down after splitting into Ronnie and Professor Stein. Ronnie goes to look around the hospital where Shi works and runs into the administrator, Barry Gleason, who’s a total prick. Ronnie can’t get a line on Shi’s home address, but runs into Doreen and a couple of his friends. The next day, Stein goes to Concordance Research and gets his formal dismissal orders. Harry Carew tries to cheer him up, inviting him over to hag out at his place. Harry admits he stole Stein’s erased tapes and reconstructed them, but had a change of heart after they became friends. Stein gets worried, since he talked about the accident that made him and Ronnie into Firestorm on that tape, but Harry says he didn’t even listen to it all. Harry says he’ll give Stein the tape, but when he plays it to prove his sincerity, it turns out someone has taken Stein’s tape and substituted music for it. In what could be a very telling segue, we see Stein’s ex-wife Clarissa reporting to someone (who calls her “Operative 9”) that Stein is close to his breaking point. Stein goes to the restaurant where Ronnie works to tell him about the tape and how someone has stolen it. Ronnie’s understandably upset, but before he can get too worked up, Hyena shows up, freaking out the crowds. Ronnie realizes it’s Summer and she must recognize him and wants him to follow her. Ronnie and Stein become Firestorm and are worried when their own hyena mutation has progressed even further than last time. Firestorm chases Summer-Hyena, but the mutation is making Ronnie more aggressive and violent, to Stein’s dismay. Summer-Hyena jumps on Firestorm’s back as he flies by and says she knows how hard it is to fight back the violent tendencies. Firestorm calms down and Summer tells him she needs his help with Dr. Shi. Firestorm agrees and Summer says Shi is at Gleason’s place, looking for revenge because Gleason treated him like a second-class citizen. When they get there, Shi is about to kill Gleason, but Firestorm phases through the wall to stop him. They start fighting, both giving in to their primal instincts. Ronnie is actually enjoying the violence, beating the shit out of Shi, until Stein reminds him he’s a human being not an animal. While Firestorm tries to get his shit together, Shi jumps him and starts slicing him up with raw animal fury. Summer-Hyena shows up to stop Shi and he gets pissed off because she’s siding with his enemy. He attacks her and she freaks, letting her animal side take over. The two Hyenas fight like feral beasts, trying their best to kill each other. Firestorm ends the fight by conjuring up a gas bomb with his molecular powers, knocking both Hyenas out. Ronnie wonders if all humans are really just animals under the veneer of civilization. Firestorm takes the Hyenas to the hospital, where they’re restrained while the doctors (including Gleason) look for a cure. Gleason points out that Firestorm needs a cure too, but Firestorm says he’ll manage on his own. Unfortunately, when he tries to split back into Ronnie and Stein, it doesn’t work … he’s stuck as Firestorm. We’ll see if he gets unstuck next issue.
- After Shi-Hyena gives a long-winded speech right before attempting to kill Gleason, Firestorm says, “Who writes your dialogue, Smilin’ Stan?”