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|"Night of Seige"|
|First Published:||December 1978|
|Previous Issue:||Batman #305|
|Next Issue:||Batman #307|
"Night of Siege"Edit
The Black Spider, an ex-junkie costumed vigilante out to murder all drug pushers in Gotham, is out to kill big-time narcotics dealer Hannibal Hardwicke. He targets Hardwicke on a night the GCPD and Batman also plan to place the previously 'untouchable' Hardwicke, one of Gotham City's greatest drug lords, under arrest and dismantle his crumbling drug empire. The GCPD operation is set up to seize heroin being secretly shipped into Gotham by Hardwicke on Pier 36 of the Gotham City Marina. On the night of the drug shipment's arrival, three of Hardwicke's henchmen land their motorboat on the pier, eliminate the night security guard in the gatehouse, and then quietly begin to unload the crates of heroin onto the docks. Bert, one of Hardwicke's lieutenants, is picking up a crate of heroin when he looks up to see a shadow of a bat pass over the pier. Bert sounds the alarm, but Batman is already putting into the motion the first stage of the drug bust, swooping from the roof of a nearby warehouse and tackling the first thug to the ground before he can draw his pistol. Bert manages to flee into the night, but the third henchman attempts to start the motorboat and make a getaway with the few crates of heroin he can save. Batman leaps onto the back of motorboat, however, preventing escape. After a brief struggle, the thug brandishes a metal crowbar, but is knocked out by a punch from Batman. Several police officers then appear on the pier with Bert in handcuffs. Batman unloads the remaining crates of heroin onto the docks, but the arriving police Commissioner Gordon refuses to conduct an illegal police search without proper authorization. Batman thus opens the crates himself with the crowbar disarmed from Hardwicke's henchman, revealing fifty pounds of high-grade heroin, each neatly organized into kilogram packets, with a street value in the hundred millions. The police seize and impound the thugs' motorboat, which is revealed to have been a lifeboat for the Golden Girl, a luxury cruise liner owned by Hannibal Hardwicke himself. Batman and several GCPD officers board a police launch set for Hardwicke's ship, which is docked in the Gotham Bay. Batman himself boards the cruise liner to personally arrest Hardwicke, easily knocking out the armed sentry on board, throwing his revolver into the bay and hurling the burly sailor directly through the door leading into Hardwicke's personal cabin. Hardwicke is seated in the lavishly furnished room, at his desk. He is not surprised to find the Dark Knight on board his ship, but loses his smugness when Batman reveals that the drug empire is finished, now that the police have gathered enough evidence through that night's raid against Hardwicke. He recounts to the notorious drug lord how the GCPD has captured his thugs, impounded their boat, and confiscated the entire shipment of heroin. Batman ends the conversation by telling Hannibal that there is not one prestigious lawyer who can save him, and that he will go to prison for his crimes. This, however, is interrupted by the costumed Black Spider, who bursts into the cabin and demanding that Batman move aside since Hardwicke will not even live long enough to stand trial. Batman is shocked that his foe has seemingly returned from the dead after his supposed death two years earlier, but the Black Spider takes advantage of Batman's temporary surprise to produce an automatic rifle and rain a hail of bullets at the terrified Hardwicke, who only manages to survive the barrage by taking cover behind his desk. Desperate, the once smug and unafraid drug lord begs Batman to save him. The Caped Crusader responds by striking the crazed Black Spider with a lamp, which shatters the only light present in the plush cabin and throwing the area into darkness. Enraged, Black Spider fires his rifle uselessly into the darkness, spending over twenty-two bullets on the walls and furniture. By the time that cold sanity has returned, the villain finds the backup light switch, only to find no trace of either Hannibal Hardwicke or Batman. Looking out the cabin window, Black Spider watches helplessly as Batman and the drug dealer flee the scene on the police launch that had bought the Darkknight Detective on board the Golden Girl. Black Spider then swears a solemn vow that Hardwicke will not remain free--or alive--for long.
Batman, meanwhile, takes Hannibal Hardwicke to Commissioner Gordon's office at the Gotham City Police Headquarters, where the police commissioner is meeting with the new district attorney, Mr. Gelman. The three discuss what they should do with Hardwicke, since the mayor of Gotham City himself has requested that Hardwicke may not remain at police headquarters or even at the local penitentiary as long as the determined Black Spider is on the loose and out to murder him, even if it means fighting through the entire police force. Gordon understands the mayor's reasons, since Black Spider knows that Hardwicke is the 'top man' for Gotham's drug trade and will go to insane lengths to see him dead. Mr. Gelman asks Batman to fill him in on the Black Spider's first caper, which Batman recounts to the district attorney. He tells Gelman about the Black Spider's one man war on drug trade and how his fearlessness and determination had doomed the previous head of Gotham's drug trade, "Doc" Sugarman. The Dark Knight also recounts how the maddened vigilante had met his supposed end when a bomb he planned to use on a drug dealer detonated prematurely, seemingly killing him. No body had been located, so the police had assumed that the Spider had been blown to unrecognizable atoms in the explosion. Gelman fully comprehends the situation, and agrees completely with the mayor's demands, to Batman's disappointment. However, the district attorney suggests an alternate solution: He will place Hannibal Hardwicke in Batman's custody and hope that the drug lord will survive long enough under Batman's protection until the next day, when Gelman can arrange for Hardwicke to be transferred to the state prison. Thus, Batman has no choice but to prepare to leave the police station with Hardwicke under protection. The Black Spider, as it turns out, has deduced the situation and is ready on the rooftop of a nearby building to snipe Hardwicke as Batman leads him out of police headquarters.
Eighteen minutes later, the Spider is rewarded for his patience when the Caped Crusader and two helmeted policemen lead Hardwicke outside, towards a waiting squad car. Black Spider aims his high-powered rifle at the men, catching Hannibal directly in his sights. The villain then fires squarely into Hardwicke's heart, before firing again to ensure the death of his intended target. The police officers return fire with their handguns from the street, but the attention soon turns to Hardwicke, who is apparently dead, and being carried by Batman. The Black Spider is at first jubilant over the death of his sworn enemy, only to have his satisfaction turn to horror and then fury as the villain spies through his rifle scope that there is no blood on Hardwicke's body. In reality, Hardwicke and one of the escorting policemen had switched places, with the decoy 'Hardwicke' with a bulletproof vest under Hardwicke's clothes, which protected the officer from harm. As the Black Spider rages over his failure to murder Hardwicke, Commissioner Gordon and one of his officers see Batman and the real Hardwicke (still in a police officer's uniform) out a back alley and into an unmarked van. He tasks Gordon with keeping the Batmobile safe at Police Headquarters while he and Hardwicke escape in the unmarked van. Since utmost secrecy is essantial to success, Batman refuses to disclose to even Commissioner Gordon where he will be taking Hardwicke. On the way to their intended destination, Batman takes every possible precaution to shake any tail, using only back roads and old streets known only to him. The unmarked van dodges in and out of dirty alleys, through slums, and finally reaches the most unlikely place Batman can think of to hide Hardwicke: The Wayne Foundation tower--one of the best-known buildings in Gotham City. Batman tells Hardwicke that they will be using the Wayne Foundation as a hideout, since the Black Spider can never think of looking for them there. He also quells any suspicion on Hardwicke's part by explaining that Bruce Wayne, a known friend of Batman, is away from Gotham at the moment. The two are received by the Wayne butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Batman tips Alfred off to the scheme by addressing him as "Mr. Pennyworth". Alfred plays along and appears surprised, then after being filled in on the situation, takes Hardwicke to a guest room and makes him comfortable with a cup of tea. The butler then returns to the Wayne Foundation's main office, and Batman removes his mask once Hardwicke is out of sight. Bruce goes into another room, followed closely by Alfred, and passes the long hours that follow involving himself in a chemical analysis. Wayne congratulates Alfred on how quickly the composed manservant picked up on the situation, then the two go through the Wayne Foundation, checking the alarm systems. Bruce is sure that the alarms and state-of-the art security systems are secure, but warns Alfred that unless he has misjudged the Black Spider very badly, they can only settle down as the Black Spider lays siege. Some time later, Bruce peers out of an open window in the Wayne Foundation and finds the Black Spider bypassing the only weak point in the building's defenses: An outdoor artificial tree running parallel to the tower that serves as an elevator shaft. There are no alarms on the shaft, so Wayne had already deduced that the Spider would strike there.
As the Black Spider scales the artificial tree using large magnets attached to the gloves and boots of his costume, Batman swings out of the window on his silken batrope, intending to attack the Spider while the madman is exposed and defenseless, with both of his hands on the magnets. Unfortunately, Black Spider outwits Batman by dodging his punches and fighting on balance, relying on the magnets attached to his feet. He punches Batman in the back, and the Dark Knight plummets to his seeming death from the shaft. Climbing from the artificial tree into the same open window Batman had been watching him through, gloating that he had been able to track Batman to the Wayne Foundation tower using a homing beacon planted on the hero's cape during their earlier encounter aboard the Golden Girl. While the villain is sorry that Batman's life had been wasted, he maintains that the Caped Crusader should not have gotten in his way. Upon entering the inner area of the Wayne Foundation, the Black Spider activates his spider's sting, a wrist pistol mounted on top of his glove, which he intends to use to murder Hannibal Hardwicke. However, his easy entry has caused Spider to lower his defenses, and he trips the Wayne Foundation's security system. This sets off a laser which is directed into the self-styled vigilante, injuring him. Although wounded, the grim Black Spider fights the pain and races on doggedly, driven by his mission to eliminate Hardwicke once and for all. He finally bypasses the security system and reaches the door to Hardwicke's guest room, where he is guarded by Alfred Pennyworth. As he raises his wrist pistol and prepares to force the door, a battered Batman staggers into his way to block the would-be assassin. Batman reveals that the branches of the artificial tree outside had broken his fall, saving his life despite his shredded costume and minor injuries. Batman then repeats his determination not to let Black Spider murder Hannibal Hardwicke since the drug lord is still a person, who deserves a trial and justice, not assassination. He then questions the Spider on how the villain could have survived their previous encounter. Black Spider responds that he had been gravely injured by the explosion in their last encounter, but managed to crawl into a nearby alley. Here, the man had hidden himself in among several garbage cans while Commissioner Gordon and his officers searched for a corpse. After the police had retreated, the Spider had managed to, with extreme effort, stagger to a nearby free clinic run by an old friend. After months of close operations, the weakened Black Spider managed to recover, driven only further by his experience, to retrain his body for his war on the drug trade. He then recounts to Batman how he swore his next target would be for the man who had tricked and used him, supplying him with gadgets and weapons, before trying to kill him with a bomb that was set to detonate five minutes early--Hardwicke. Driven to a blind rage by the thought of his deadly mission again, Black Spider fires at Batman twice, but the bullets miss and the Dark Knight tackles him, throwing him into a nearby set of potted shrubs. Batman then attempts to wrestle the berserk Spider down and subdue him, but the villain tears free and fights back tenaciously, dazing the hero with his punches. Abandoning Batman in the shrubs, Black Spider then rushes towards Hardwicke's guest room again, only to be tackled again from behind by a recovering Caped Crusader. The two fall off balance and crash directly through the guest room window. The Spider recovers first, but is unable to sit up from the floor, instead crumpling back and mysteriously choking. The bold Black Spider is felled something in the air, and sinks unconscious to the floor.
Batman reveals that he had released sleeping gas into the room, which failed to affect him due to his nose filters. At that moment, Hannibal Hardwicke, escorted by Alfred, arrives to gape at the fallen Black Spider. After checking the Spider's pulse, Batman orders that the air conditioning system filter the gas out of the room. Alfred also reports that during the excitement, had admitted to being the Black Spider's original financier, hoping to eliminate competition through the vigilante, who turned upon his "creator" in the end after Hardwicke tried to have the Spider eliminated by tampering with one of his bombs, having no more use for the vigilante. Looking over the senseless Black Spider, Batman confides to Alfred and Hardwicke that he believes the villain had known, in his heart, that his backing was crooked and that he would be eliminated when he no longer had any use for his financier, yet chose to ignore it until it was too late. Hate had made Black Spider blind, and that blindness had cost him his soul.
"The Mystery Murderer Of Mrs. Batman!"Edit
Jeff Richter admits that the rest of his evidence revealing that Bruce Wayne is Batman is "buried" elsewhere to stop Batman interfering with his operations. Bruce switches to his Batman uniform to try to stop his antagonist, but a freezing gas in Richter's suit immobilizes Batman and Alfred, and Richter escapes. Batman later checks out Richter's fingerprints, only to learn that each finger bears the print of a different wanted criminal. But Richter's speaking voice betrays him as a professional actor, and a search of Gotham media pinpoints him and reveals his identity. Batman shadows Richter and learns that he assumes a different disguise every night to visit various slum areas. Much later, he realizes that Richter is killing slum dwellers with a plague he spreads from a sprayer in his cane, hoping to start a panic and extort money from the city. Batman confronts Richter and accidentally damages his cane, so that Richter looses the plague on himself and dies. Afterward, Batman tells Alfred that Richter's evidence of his double identity was buried in the grave of "Jane Doe." But her true identity will remain unknown.
"Night of Siege"Edit
- James Gordon
- "Doc" Sugarman (In flashback only)
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Black Spider
- Hannibal Hardwicke (First Appearance)
- District Attorney Gelman (First Appearance)
- Sergeant Finley (Only appearance)