The Charlatan’s story continues to unfold in Detective 779 (April 2003), by Brubaker, Castillo and Von Grawbadger.
The Riddler heads to Arkham, and has a frantic conversation with Johnathan Crane about the Charlatan. The Scarecrow does not seem afraid at all – but then, that’s who he is, right?
And, in a complete cut away from the story, Lucius Fox leaves the hospital. He has been in a coma. You didn’t know that? Maybe because Lucius has not appeared in Detective Comics for over a year, and his period in hospital was never even referred to. But at least you now, too late to send flowers.
Batman learns that the Penguin consulted Mark Merlin before his attack, and goes to see him. Mark Merlin had been a detective with a supernatural bent in the pages of House of Secrets in the early 60s. His final appearance saw him lose his body to the extra-dimensional Prince Ra-Man, as explained in a DC Comics Presents in the 80s. This marks Mark’s first appearance as himself since that.
Mark tells Batman that the Penguin wanted protection from a ghost, of Paul Sloan, a famous actor, who disappeared eight years earlier.
Bruce Wayne arranges to attend the theatre with Jim Gordon and Barbara, and Barbara casually gets Sloan’s wife to talk about her husband, and his dangerous way of getting too much into his roles, and his strange behaviour, shortly before vanishing.
And during the performance, Bruce spots something Phantom of the opera-like, changes clothes, and winds up confronting the scarred Charlatan. Sloan manages to get away, but Batman knows who he is now.
Paul Sloan is clearly a re-working of Paul Sloane, the actor who got scarred while playing Two-Face, and wound up committing crimes in that persona. Sloane had most recently appeared in this book, shortly after Crisis (shortly after this blog took over form the previous one).
Gagne and Gagne pit Superman against Spore. Say no more!