No Man’s Land saw the introduction of Harley Quinn into the Batman universe proper. Detective 737 (Oct. 99) concludes her introductory storyline, by Bronwyn Taggart, Tom Morgan and David Roach. Notice how many No Man’s Land storylines conclude in Detective?
As the Joker proceeds with plans to run in an election in No Man’s Land, Harley Quinn continues to play hard to get. This is part of her “code”on how to win back his affections, after he loved her and then tried to kill her. The whole “tried to kill her” thing is not a major issue to Harley.
Huntress, now aligned with Pettit, after both were ousted by their respective leaders, reports back to him on the Joker’s election plans. Pettit has more or less taken command of the region abutting the Joker.
Josh, the cartoonist who has been making the Joker’s election posters, finally acts on the blatant crush he has on Harley. He simply cannot figure out why she would be more interested in the Joker than in him. She rebuffs him, but not before the Joker sees them together.
The Huntress has her first confrontation with Harley, as she attempts to infiltrate the Joker’s campaign headquarters. I really like the touch that Harley figures out that the Huntress is a schoolteacher, picking up on her use of words, after only a few sentences. It shows that there is a mind in there capable of achieving her degree. And fighting-wise, the Huntress also finds herself outmatched.
Jealous, the Joker kills Josh in an explosion, which brings Harley running (to the Huntress’ relief). The Joker and Harley re-unite. But now that he has her, the Joker no longer wants her. And on and on and on with these two.
Fear of Faith has its final chapter in Detective 731 (April 1999), part of No Man’s Land, by Devin Grayson, with art by Dale Eaglesham and Sean Parsons.
The story centres on a hospice run by Father Chris, who tries to be accepting of everyone – even if this includes the Scarerow, a former member of Black Mask’s gang, and the Huntress. The Scarecrow has manipulated people’s fears, creating a stand-off between Father Chris, the Black Mask gang, the Penguin, who wants to move in to the territory, and the cops.
It’s a great story to show the malevolent manipulations of the Scarecrow, and also puts the Huntress into an interesting light, as she has to try to keep people calm and rational.
Batman observes as the various forces converge, and tensions rise.
The Huntress restrains herself, and even brings a degree of peace and understanding. The Scarecrow’s schemes are exposed, and he exiles himself when Father Chris and his followers offer him forgiveness and acceptance again.
The story concludes with a scene between Batman and the mysterious new Batgirl, as he takes her to one of his many new “caves,” this one in Arkham Asylum.
I am going to spoil the mystery here. The new Batgirl is Huntress. When I first read this issue, I took the scene at the end as an indication that Batgirl and Huntress were two different people. But reading it, knowing they are the same, it makes a lot of sense. Batman is rewarding her for her stability and maturity during this storyline.
Dixon, Nolan and Janson handle chapter 15 of Cataclysm, in Detective 721(May 1998). It’s another of those issues in which the story jumps around all over the place, trying to keep up with all the plots, but Dixon has shown himself particularly adept at these kind of tales.
The story opens as Batman and Nightwing watch a mass grave of burning bodies in the middle of the street. A shocking and powerful start to a story. Quakemaster is inset on the page, the villain who may or may not be behind the destruction.
Robin and Alfred study the tapes of Quakemaster’s broadcast, claiming responsibility and threatening another quake if he is not paid off. Robin’s comments about the Quakemaster’s choice of words made me pause and think, and I am proud to say I finished this page with very firm suspicions about who the Quakemaster really was.
Batman and Nightwing, trying desperately to maintain some sense of order in Gotham, come across the Huntress. In her eyes, this is martial law time, but Batman disagrees.
The Quakemaster makes another broadcast, and this time, with Robin’s words in my mind, I confirmed my suspicions. Read the page closely.
The Quakemaster’s demands are not even practical, Gotham is close to broke. But people take it seriously, believing that Mayor Grange has access to the millions, and despite Jim Gordon’s presence, City Hall gets attacked by thieves.
The story continues in the next issue of Robin.
Dixon, Nolan and Janson are the creative team on Detective 720 (April 1998), chapter 5 of Cataclysm. Gotham has been hit by a massive earthquake, leaving Batman trapped in the cave when Wayne Manor collapses. As with Contagion, this storyline does an excellent job of giving interesting arcs to many of the supporting players, and telling a large, sprawling story while keeping it grounded in smaller, personal events.
The art is top-notch, and the ruined Gotham looks just terrifying.
Helena Bertinelli had the misfortune to be down in the subway when the earthquake hit. She dons her Huntress outfit, hoping to make people follow her to safety.
Instead, she comes across a wanted felon in the subway car, who believes that she is only there for him, and the situation deteriorates rapidly.
She does manage to get most of the people out of the subway car, but when the shooter gets partly buried by another collapse, she leaves him to die in the rubble.
Alfred, also trapped in the cave, is more surprised than he ought to be when Harold bulldozes his way in.
Batman has spent this issue swimming through flooded tunnels and caves, trying to find a way out. It a taught scene, with limited air, but he does make it out.
But his first view of Gotham does not make for a happy ending.
The story continues in the next issue of Robin.
Detective 703 (Nov. 96) is a Final Night crossover, by Dixon, Nolan and Hanna. The sun has been consumed, and as the world slowly freezes, many heroes gather to try to figure out a solution. But not in this issue.
This issue largely follows Robin and the Huntress, as they patrol Gotham together, and discuss what it means to work with Batman, and the problems he has with the Huntress.
Intercut with this is a radio disc jockey giving a very bleak show, insisting that there is no hope and everyone will die. People are actually listening to this, for some reason.
There is also a brief sequence, setting up the next Riddler story, in which another inmate breaks Nigma’s arm, at Nigma’s request.
The disc jockey almost gets killed by a couple of muggers on his way home after the show, but is saved by Batman, who tells him to have faith.
Not bad, but it adds little to Final Night.
The action moves back to Gotham in Detective 701 (Sept. 96), chapter 6 of Legacy, by Dixon, Nolan and Hanna.
Oracle oversees the search for Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia, with Huntress being included, alongside Robin and Nightwing, for the first time.
Batman comes face to face with Bane, and the final plague, and they fight. And fight and fight and fight some more. It is the first time the two have faced each other since Bane broke Bruce Wayne’s back, but it does go on.
Batman wins, but it’s a hollow victory as the water takes Bane’s body away on a raft.
The story continues in the next issue of Robin.
Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Scott Hanna do as good a job as possible in the frantic Detective 696 (April 1996). It’s chapter 8 of Contagion, and the story touches on a lot of characters and threads.
Nightwing brings Robin back to the Batcave after he collapses. He has contracted the Clench, as the plague is now being called, and Alfred tends to the boy as best he can. But throughout the issue, Tim’s condition worsens.
The Huntress watches the angry mob that has set fire to Babylon Towers.
Batman and Commissioner Gordon, still inside the Towers, avoid the dying residents and the fire, carrying the unconcious Poison Ivy as they seek a way out.
Catwoman contacts Oracle, with news of a second survivor of the plague, an Inuit girl. Oracle is barely polite. There is never any warmth between these two.
My favourite panel comes as Gordon, out of danger, re-unites with Montoya and Bullock, as they watch Babylon Towers burn, incapable of doing anything about it.
The story continues in the next issues of both Catwoman, and Batman Chronicles.
Dixon, Lieber and Janson bring the War of the Dragons to a so-so conclusion in Detective 686 (June 1995), picking up from the events in the last issue of Robin.
The Huntress had joined forces with Robin in his chapter. Batman is furious, and sends her away. So much for Huntress. Nightwing pops up in this issue as well, finishing a fight he began in Robin, and then is just abandoned by the story.
Batman fights Lynx and the Ghost Dragons by himself. He wins, but Lynx gets away. Which,you know, maybe she wouldn’t have if Batman hadn’t been such a dick and had let the Huntress help.
Robin winds up the middle of the big fight between King Snake and the Silver Monkey, which takes all three high above the harbour on container being lifted onto a freighter.
All three men wind up falling, though Batman swoops in to catch Robin before he hits the water. King Snake is fished out of the harbour, but the Silver Monkey gets away.
This does an adequate job of fulfilling its goal – to bring King Snake, Lynx and the Ghost Dragons into Batman’s world. But I think they tried to make the story too big. Bringing in Nightwing and Huntress in the Robin chapter, only to drop them both before the end, wastes both of them.
The 8th chapter of Knightfall is contained in Detective 662 (Late June 1993), by Dixon, Nolan and Hanna.
Batman spends his time in this issue fighting, and finally defeating, Firefly. Even still, many areas of Gotham remain on fire.
Desperate for attention, the Riddler hijacks a tv show, on which Simpson Flanders is being interviewed. He holds them hostage with a bomb, as he delivers his riddles.
Robin gets to the station and tackles the Riddler. Bullock is furious with him, insisting that the police had him surrounded, and the bomb could have gone off and killed everyone. Even when Montoya informs them that the bomb was a fake, Bullock remains angry.
The Huntress also appears in this issue, fighting some of the street gangs seeking to take advantage of the chaos.
The story continues in the next issue of Batman.
Dixon, Nolan and Hanna conclude the Huntress story in Detective 653 (Nov. 92).
Batman and the Huntress get away from the police, but the teamwork has not brought them any closer. They each independently learn more about the Krasnys, and their rivalry with another Eastern European micronation. The gangs of the two ethnicities fight it out in Gotham.
A big festival is the stage for the climax of the action. Batman and the Huntress fight well together, but when the ringleader announces he has a bomb, the Huntress takes matters into her own hands.
Batman rescues her, but is furious that she killed the man, rather than let Batman defuse the bomb. The Huntress counters that he might not have succeeded, and they all would have died.
The two go their separate ways, further from being allies than when the story began.
Which was a surprising touch.
The Huntress remains on the fringes of the Batman family for quite a while.