Credits: Doug Moench (writer), Jim Aparo (penciler), Tom Mandrake (inker), Richard Starkings (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)
Summary: Robin escapes the sewers and recuperates at the Batcave. He tries to convince Batman to allow him and Azrael to help, but Batman refuses. Meanwhile, the Joker teams with Cornelius Stirk to kidnap Commissioner Gordon. Stirk soon disobeys Joker’s orders and tries to kill Gordon, who’s narrowly rescued by Batman. Scarecrow locates Joker and chastises him for working with an amateur. He suggests a bigger target, Mayor Krol.
- The Joker brags to Scarecrow that he’s invulnerable to fear gas for the first time. He’ll continue to do this in all of his appearances with Scarecrow until he finally decides to use it against the Joker.
- Before Joker and Scarecrow invade his bedroom, the mayor threatens to call in the National Guard to stop the Arkham escapees. Gordon’s convinced this will destroy his career.
- Cornelius Stirk is a serial killer with some form of hypnotic powers. He first appeared in Detective Comics #592.
- At this point in continuity, the poor area of Gotham is called “The Hub.” Not to be confused with a cable channel devoted to 1980s nostalgia and selling Hasbro toys, of course.
Total N00B: A woman named Dr. Shondra Kinsolving calls Bruce Wayne, upset that he’s ignoring “my treatment.” What exactly her treatment is, or what’s supposed to be wrong with Bruce, is never explained in the story. Commissioner Gordon’s wife, Sara, also makes vague references to something called “the headhunter incident,” which is apparently the story that established why Sara hates Batman. Footnotes would be nice.
Review: I’m guessing that Cornelius Stirk is a poor man’s Scarecrow…who’s also a serial killer. Not surprisingly, he was created in the late ‘80s. (Why didn’t they just throw “child molester” in there, too?) Doug Moench doesn’t seem to think too much of the character, since the whole point of this story is to point out that he’s a weak replacement for Scarecrow. If Joker and Cornelius Stirk actually did something interesting before the Scarecrow made his presence known, I wouldn’t mind this so much, but instead Stirk just chews scenery for a few pages until he’s knocked out by Batman. In Moench’s defense, Cornelius Stirk is an established Arkham inmate, and the premise of this storyline is seeing what the inmates do once they’re free, so using Stirk isn’t a total waste of time. He should’ve been addressed in some manner, I just wish he didn’t come across as such a dull stereotype of a “dark” villain from the grim ‘n gritty ‘80s.
The subplots this issue include more scenes of Robin and Alfred worrying about Batman, more scenes of Bane psychoanalyzing Batman from a distance, more scenes of the mayor screaming at Gordon (see a pattern?), and what’s apparently the continuation of a romantic subplot with Shondra Kinsolving. The scene with Shondra could’ve helped with the monotony, but unfortunately Moench doesn’t bother to actually explain who she even is, and her sudden realization that she might have feelings for Bruce is ridiculously awkward. The only saving grace for this issue is the return of Jim Aparo, whose work is made a little darker with Tom Mandrake’s inks.