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|"But Here's the Kicker"|
|First Published:||December 12, 2012|
|Previous Issue:||Batman #14|
|Next Issue:||Batman #16|
"But Here's the Kicker"Edit
Batman has trained himself to understand the language of eyes. Every subtle movement, every dilation or contraction of the pupil means something. Tonight, as he looks into the Joker's eyes, he sees nothing but hatred. It's difficult for Batman to assure himself that this is just a man, and that this man does not know who he and his loved ones really are under their masks. There, at on the bridge overlooking the Gotham City Reservoir, Joker announces over a radio that he does know their identities, and that in less than three days, they will all be dead by Batman's hand. Joker's attention is caught by the voice of Harvey Bullock, who has brought the GCPD to bring the madman in. But the Joker calls back to Bullock, wondering where the lieutenant was when he made his initial attack on Gotham City Police Headquarters. Knowing that the Joker's interest is dangerous, Batman urges him to leave the police alone, at which point the Joker calls his men on his cellphone and has them fire rockets at the assembled police cars.
Angrily, Batman breaks free of his restraints and attacks, demanding to know where Alfred Pennyworth is. His face in need of realignment due to Batman's punch, Joker claims that Alfred is busy preparing a special dinner for he and the Batman family, before realizing that the punch Batman landed on him with his bare fist also infected him with Joker Venom. This realization stops Batman in his tracks, and the Joker takes the opportunity to kick his opponent off of the bridge and into the Gotham River.
Bruce wakes in his bed in Wayne Manor to see his son Damian, Barbara Gordon and his three adoptive sons - Dick, Jason and Tim - waiting for him. They explain that the Joker was caught by Jason, and that Alfred was found alive and well at a storage unit in the Narrows. When Bruce looks up to see him, he sees that Alfred has been replaced by the Joker, who produces an axe with which he attacks them all.
Bruce wakes from his nightmare in the Batcave, with his costumed family waiting for him. Sternly, Nightwing states that they need to talk about the Joker's claims that he knows their identities. Batman is insistent that he does not know, and is merely manipulating them and playing them against each other. They have trouble believing him, given that he neglected to tell them about the attack against Alfred, which certainly seems to indicate that Joker knows who Bruce Wayne is, at least. Not to mention the hints that Joker dropped to some past event that clued him in.
Reluctantly, Bruce tells of how his second encounter with the Joker occurred. He had been trying to use a blimp to gas the city. Their ensuing fight knocked the Joker into the bay, but Batman's priority had to be the blimp, which he dragged out into the water before it could infect anyone. When he returned to look for the Joker, he was gone. The failure to catch him made Batman angrier than he could have expected, and he returned to the Batcave through an indirect entrance which has since been closed off. Later, Bruce attempted to revisit the case, and found a single playing card next to the Batboat. The card had nothing unusual about it. He always assumed it was just one of the Joker's mind-games.
Despite this apparent breach of security, Bruce insists that there was no possible way for the Joker to get into the cave. Doing so would have required travelling nearly five miles underwater at fifty miles an hour. The sensors would have picked him up - there would have been evidence. Apart from that card, though, there was nothing. Though Bruce is confident of these facts, his companions are still displeased that they weren't told of the card until now.
Though they all want to help Bruce fight the Joker, he wants to protect them, to have them hide in the cave - whose security they doubt. In the meantime, Bruce has a lead to follow. Joker used a cellular signal to contact his allies at the reservoir. Naturally, the phone it was attached to is untraceable, but the camera across the street from the store it was bought at identifies a man named Dylan McDyre.
Batman crashes into McDyre's home during a dinner with his family, and announces that they need to talk. Fearfully, McDyre explains that Joker had actually been holding the families of the entire Arkham Asylum guard staff hostage in order to maintain the appearance of normalcy at the asylum while he made changes. For weeks, Joker has been operating from within the asylum, renovating. All of his efforts for Batman's sake; for whatever mad thing he has planned.
As Batman walks up the steps to the front door of the asylum, he tries again to remember that Joker is just a man; that if he stares hard enough into those cold eyes, the Joker will become more human. What makes him very uncomfortable, though, is how when he looks into the Joker's eyes now, the narrow pupils dilate, denoting love.
"Red Light, Green Light"Edit
The Riddler is growing tired of his guard's failure to answer any of his riddles, having spent much of his free time stuck in Arkham Asylum coming up with them. It is clear, however, that Chuck - the guard - is preoccupied by something. Apparently, someone threatened the lives of his family. At that moment, a group of other guards hobbles past, trying to carry a live horse on their backs down the hallway. Even with Chuck's help, they drop the horse, and it pins another guard to the ground under its weight, breaking his legs.
Annoyed, the Joker appears. Claiming that the horse has been ruined by their clumsiness, he shoots it in the head. After ordering the guards to go back outside and get another horse, he shoots the pinned guard dead as well.
Looking up, Joker spots the Riddler in his cell, and challenges him to come out and join him. Warily, he suggests that Joker grab a keycard from the dead guard and open the door from him, but Joker considers that method unsporting. He knows that Riddler has one of the finest minds for riddles, and as such, must have come up with a dozen ways to get out of his cell on the first day of his incarceration. Surly, Riddler refuses, so Joker gives him the deadly incentive of releasing a gas capsule into his cell.
As the cell fills with gas, Joker explains how the Riddler's efforts always challenged Batman to be at his best. In that way, his role was like that of Batman's master-at-arms, sharpening the sword of his wit. It is time, he says, to re-enter his bat-king's service.
With so little time left before the toxin begins to work, the doors to Riddler's cell spring open, and he coldly announces that there were actually forty-six ways out - though only four that would have got him out in time. In this case, he rewired the door through a hole he carved weeks ago.
Gleefully, Joker welcomes Riddler into his operation, showing him the plans he drew up on the back of Jeremiah Arkham's doctoral diploma. Though Riddler thought he could guess what Joker had in mind, what he sees in those plans is beyond even his comprehension. Joker assures him that he doesn't need to understand it, but that it will be worth being along for the ride.
"But Here's the Kicker"Edit
- Batman (Flashback and Main Story)
- The Joker (Flashback and Main Story)
- Harvey Bullock
- Red Hood
- Red Robin
- Alfred Pennyworth (On a screen)
- Dylan McDyre
- Joker Card