|"Spirit of the Bat"|
|First Published:||July 1994|
|Previous Issue:||Batman #508|
|Next Issue:||Batman #510|
"Spirit of the Bat"Edit
Bruce Wayne has physically recovered from the night that Bane broke his back. His skills are not returned to their regular level though, and he is not yet ready to become Batman again or even wear the symbol. He must train himself again to challenge Jean-Paul Valley for the mantle, and the only instructor who can do it properly is Lady Shiva. She agrees under the condition that he learns to perform the leopard blow, an instantaneous killing maneuver. After weeks of training, he regains his competence but is still not as good as he used to be. When Bruce refuses to perform the leopard blow for his teacher, she instead decides on a new challenge for him to prove his worth.
Shiva wears a Tengu mask representing the spirit of the Bat, and she slays a great Sensei in his house of learning while wearing it. The Sensei is a great master without arms, and before their battle he explains that his seven disciples will attempt to avenge him, each of them great masters in their own right. This is exactly what she wanted.
At their next meeting, Shiva instructs Bruce to wear the Mask of Tengu and arrive at an address in Chinatown. He is immediately assaulted by one of the disciples, believing him to be the man who killed the armless master. Bruce defeats the man, but it takes a great deal of effort and every measure of his skill... this is the weakest of the seven he must fight before his training will be completed. Shiva murders the man when he refuses to after he has left. Bruce also fights the second disciple, and this man is more skilled, but the fight ends faster now that he is more used to physical combat. That night, he stands atop the highest tower in Gotham City and remembers his first night as Batman, when he leaped off into the abyss without fear... but he finds himself still unable to make the leap again, and goes back for further training.
Meanwhile Jean-Paul Valley is having struggles of his own... he is haunted by visions of Saint Dumas and his father, each calling him a failure for his inability to adhere to either the ideals of Azrael or Batman. Robin watches him from afar and records his strange movements, unaware of the hallucinations. Jean-Paul eventually rids himself of the specters, and tracks down some gun-runners to a warehouse. These criminals formerly worked for his old nemesis Carleton LeHah, the man who killed his father. Batman shoots them up and sets the place on fire with his flamethrower, then flies screaming off into the night determined to take his vengeance on LeHah. Robin runs after him to prevent him from doing anything exceptionally crazy.