The night sky of Gotham City is even blacker, now, as a swarm of hundreds of Man-Bats, takes wing. From his office, Kirk Langstrom and his wife Francine look on, and he feels responsible for this recent outbreak. Fortunately, the Gotham City Police Department has lit the Bat-Signal, and Kirk hopes that the Batman will be the one bat that can solve this. Less than an hour ago, on a block between 9th and 10th avenue colloquially known as the 900 block, it all began with a Ms. Harris and her son, who initially felt ill before suddenly transforming into Man-Bats. Their illness and transformation were, apparently, highly contagious.
Now, Batman is forced to contend with hundreds of infected individuals, using a sonic gun to disorient the creatures. He has already deduced that whatever caused it all is an airborne contagion - which activates nearly instantaneously. Though they are not as strong or well trained as those used by Talia al Ghul, there is strength in numbers - and they number in the hundreds.
Collecting a blood sample from one victim, Batman sends it back to Alfred Pennyworth for analysis, but his friend warns that if they are trying to find an antidote, they will need more than a mere sample of blood. What they need is to find the agent who triggered the contagion in the first place.
Alfred, meanwhile, is busy trying to run an anatomical reconstruction program on the a highly decomposed body which Batman believes may have been a victim of Victor Zsasz. Batman has been trying to find and identify all of Zsasz' victims so that the man can be held accountable for every one of them - but for the moment, analysing the blood sample he collected will have to take precedent over the murderer.
Alfred suggests that Batman seek help from his companions in his fight against the Man-Bats, but Batman insists that he will handle the outbreak himself, choosing to omit mention of the fact that he had already contacted Batgirl and Nightwing - and neither had answered. The repercussions of their encounter with the Joker had worn on all of them, irreparably altering their relationship.
Using the initial emergency calls to pinpoint the location, Batman is guided by Alfred to the apartment building where the outbreak took place. In apartment 4D, he discovers a body, and is confused when he sees that this is evidence of an entirely different kind of crime. The man was murdered with one of the Talons' knives, but the wound is soaked with what appears to be a variation of the serum that Talia had sed to make her Man-Bat super-soldiers.
Batman begins to tell Alfred of how he assumes that Victor Zsasz was somehow responsible for delivering the contagion, Zsasz himself attacks, apparently having also been infected by the contagion over the course of the evening. Wrapping a bola around Zsasz, so that his claws can't rip through his human flesh, Batman tackles the murderer, and they crash through a window onto the street.
After recovering from the fall, Batman is surprised to encounter Batwoman, accompanied by the Langstroms. She had found them heading toward the outbreak zone, and so she escorted them to this spot. Kirk explains that all of this is his fault, because it was he who designed the Man-Bat Serum. This surprises Batman, who thought that the stuff had been designed by Talia. Francine explains that their intent had been to help the deaf and blind reproducing the bat's echolocation in humans. Their formula was stolen by someone else. Even so, Kirk accepts responsibility, and asks that Batman give him the sample of serum he collected so that he can make an antidote.
To everyone's surprise, though, Kirk immediately injects himself with the serum, and begins his own transformation. As he changes, he explains that he intends to over-write the genetic modification of the original virus with another contagion that will make it so that the transformations only affect people with a specific DNA pattern - his DNA.
Within a short time, the new contagion spreads, returning everyone who was affected to normal - everyone except Kirk.
Following his having changed back to his human form, Victor Zsasz is captured and taken back to prison, but not before confessing to Batman that the knife and serum were given to him by someone that Batman had not yet heard of - Emperor Penguin.
Emperor Penguin, meanwhile, is busy attempting to collect a favour from Poison Ivy.
"Birth of a Family"Edit
Since the contagion that stemmed from the 900 block was cured, there is a new bat in Gotham City. This is Dr. Kirk Langstrom, who developed the Man-Bat Serum that started it all. Since his transformation, though, his wife Francine has been left alone.
As she wonders if he retains any memories of who he used to be, she remembers it for herself. She had met Kirk as a research assistant, while he was seeking a cure for deafness. His conviction and compassion had impressed her, and she soon fell in love with him, which led to their marriage.
Kirk eventually developed the Langstrom Atavistic Gene Recall Serum, which intended to use the DNA of microchiropteran bats to allow for the regrowth or repair of the tympanic membrane and auditory nerves - going so far as to improve hearing by imbuing humans with the capacity for echolocation. When he had presented his formula, he had admitted that the formula had minor side-effects - a lie, unless one were to consider full transformation into man-bats minor.
Francine had hoped that Kirk would eventually have refined the formula to resolve those side-effects, had it not been stolen. Now, she is left on her own, without the benefit of Kirk's brilliant mind, to come up with the solution that will bring him back.
As she works, she considers that though bats are largely solitary, they do have a predilection for family. With that, she realizes how she can bring Kirk back - she will take the formula herself.
Nearly a year ago, Bane and his men had planned to bring Gotham City to its knees with a nuclear device, but at the city limits, they were attacked by the Talons of the Court of Owls. They warned that they had planned a Night of the Owls, and would not tolerate distractions. Despite their regenerative abilities, Bane took pleasure in tearing their limbs from their bodies, and doing his best to make sure they were dead. Initially, he had thought they were sent by the Batman, but after facing a humiliating defeat at the vigilante's hands, he learned otherwise.
After he was thrown from a cliff, into the sea from Harmon Island, Bane was discovered by Sebastian Clark, who explained to him that the Court of Owls had been his true enemy, and that they shared that enemy.
Gathering his cohorts together, Bane decided that they would first destroy the Court of Owls - then the Batman.
On the night of the Man-Bat virus' outbreak, Mr. Combustible and his men were under orders from Emperor Penguin to commit a series of break-ins. Unfortunately, one of his men - Rizzo - removed his gas-mask, requiring that he be killed to prevent his transformation, and putting their team down by a man.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mosaic, Hypnotic, and the Imperceptible Man had all taken their crews to different districts of the city for their own robberies. More than eighty-five million dollars were collected in just under 35 minutes, making Emperor Penguin an even richer man.
Despite his working for Emperor Penguin, Mister Combustible reports back to the Penguin in Blackgate Penitentiary, as the only one of his lieutenants who remained loyal, after Ogilvy's hostile takeover. Eager to get his empire back, the Penguin tasks Mr. Combustible with threatening the judge at his sentencing hearing, to ensure his freedom.
"Through a Blue Lens"Edit
After Hector Melendez was a first responder to the 900 block contagion, he was transformed into a Man-Bat, and found himself in a fight with the Batman.
Now, Melendez is in the hospital, and his friends on the force have snuck in a six-pack of beer to celebrate his survival. Officers Pope, Wallace, and Gilroy are all excited by the fact that Hector actually took on the Batman, with Wallace particularly excited by the prospect of a monstrous Man-Bat tearing the vigilante to pieces.
Unlike the others, though, Nancy Strode thinks the Batman is a good thing for the city. As Strode is relatively new to the force, she has not got along well with the other officers, since they feel that the Batman is doing their job, and putting them at risk. They blame him for the influx of madmen in Gotham - madmen like the Joker, who killed several of their fellow officers at the 8th precinct when he came back from hiding. Strode reminds them that they would be far worse off if the Batman had not been there to stop the Joker.
The others' enthusiasm is deflated by Strode's opposition, and they decide to take their drinking elsewhere. Sighing, Nancy feels upset with herself for alienating the others, and decides to take her leave of Hector, but he stops her. He explains that he remembers everything about his transformation into a monster. The Man-Bat contagion had made him want to kill and destroy. If the Batman hadn't stopped him, he would easily have killed an innocent woman. For that, he will always be grateful.
Hector confides that he would be glad to partner with Nancy, who has gone without a partner thanks to the other officers' antagonism. She warns him against it, lest the other officers treat him badly because of it. He responds that they can both trust the Batman to watch their backs, if their own coworkers won't.
- James Gordon
- Francine Langstrom
- Ms. Harris
- Mr. Rodriguez
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Victor Zsasz
- Emperor Penguin
- Poison Ivy
"Birth of a Family"Edit
- Man-Bat Serum
- Bane (Flashback and Main Story)
- Brute (First Appearance)
- Professor (First Appearance)
- Wolf-Spider (First Appearance)
- Malicia (First Appearance)
- The Talons (In Flashback Only)
- Mr. Combustible
- Rizzo (Only appearance; dies)
- Mr. Mosaic
- Imperceptible Man
- Emperor Penguin
- The Penguin
- Judge Swenson