For a full year, the four Batman books would be devoted to No Man’s Land. In probably the greatest achievement in the Batman series to date, the year was spent on a number of linked stories, exploring the changed Gotham, and the lives of the villains and heroes who remained.
Detective 730 (March 1999) is the first issue of this book to be part of the saga, and it concludes the opening storyline, No Law and a New Order, by Bob Gale, Alexander Maleev and Wayne Faucher.
Batman is learning the new language of Gotham, and has begun tagging his part of the city. But he no longer holds much sway, and his tags get covered, both by Gordon and the police, who want to show that they are in charge, and also by the Ventriloquist and Scarface, who not only cover his tag, but also kill a person and tag their corpse.
Batman realizes he needs to rebuild his authority, and decides to take down Ventriloquist to do so. He adopts the look of a regular Gothamite, and approaches the Ventriloquist’s men to barter, which has become the economic model in No Man’s Land.
After a couple of trades, building his credibility, he lures Ventriloquist by offering to trade a cache of oil.
It’s a trap, but the Ventriloquist falls for it, and Batman takes him down, in an exceedingly brutal fashion.
Taking the Scarface doll with him, he then “rebuilds” his image, allowing himself to be shot by the Ventriloquist’s men. He was armoured against it, and stands up again after each bullet. By the end of his walk, rumours are spreading that he cannot be killed.
Batman attempts to “free” the people who have been in Ventriloquist’s region, but freedom means nothing now. Gotham has reverted to a feudal dependency. Batman realizes that Ventriloquist’s henchman, Rhino, has been being as good a leader to these people as they could get. So he leaves Rhino in charge, and accepts the tribute from his new subjects.
Alfred questions what he is doing, but Batman has simply learned the language, and become part of No Man’s Land.