Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Klaus Janson bring the Prodigal storyline almost to a close in Detective 681 (Jan. 95).
A number of mobsters have been killed, and when Batman and Robin interview one of the survivors, Dick believes the man’s description indicates that Azrael has returned, while Tim thinks it might be somebody else.
Mackenzie Bock joins the police force, expanding the line-up, and adding a black cop to the roster. Bullock, Montoya, and Kitch are all on the scene for his introduction, while the friction between Sarah Essen and Jim Gordon is affecting the department.
Dick pursues the trail of Jean-Paul, but finds him in a homeless shelter. He is seriously disturbed,but clearly not a threat. Returning to the cave, he finds Bruce there, prepared to retake the role of Batman.
It’s Robin who winds up facing the killer. A new enemy, called Steeljacket. Their battle takes place in the issue of Robin which follows this, and concludes the Prodigal storyline.
KnightsEnd has its 9th, and penultimate, chapter in Detective 677 (Aug. 94), by Dixon, Nolan and Hanna.
The story picks up after the explosion of the Batmobile, and Batman’s apparent death. We, and Tim Drake, see that he survived, but Nightwing doesn’t wait around, and immediately attacks Jean-Paul.
From the bridge into the river, and then onto a old-fashioned paddleboat, serving as a casino, Dick Grayson and Jean-Paul Valley’s fight takes up almost the entire issue.
The casino does make a good background for the fight, but it’s disappointing, if inevitable, that Jean-Paul gets the best of Nightwing, and leaves him bloodied and exhausted.
Jean-Paul returns to the cave, and heads up into the Manor, allowing for a perfect duplication of the confrontation scene between Bane and Batman, now with Batman is Bane’s place, and Jean-Paul being challenged.
The story concludes in the next issue of Batman.
Detective 676 (July 1994) has the third chapter of KnightsEnd, the storyline that sees Bruce Wayne regain the mantle of the Batman, by Dixon, Nolan and Hanna.
Nightwing and Robin break into the cave, but find no sign of Jean-Paul. Instead, they come across Harold, whom Dick has never met before, and almost attacks. Harold leads them to his secret work space, and also shows them the subway rocket.
Bruce, meanwhile, tries to challenge himself as he did on his first night as Batman, on the roof of Wayne Tower, but now finds himself wanting.
But for the bulk of the issue, Bruce has no time to challenge himself, as a horde of ninjas do that for him. Lady Shiva watches as Bruce defeats killer after killer, including one really impressive fight in the middle of a busy highway. Although she is responsible for their attacks, it’s just her way of fulfilling Bruce’s request that she test him. Never ask Lady Shiva for help!
Jean-Paul continues to be tormented by visions of St Dumas, but this time he has an audience for his madness, as Tim and Dick watch him on a monitor from Harold’s cave.
The story continues in Legends of the Dark Knight.
Dixon, Nolan and Hanna bring the Joker’s movie to its grand finale in Detective 673 (April 1994), another chapter in Knightquest: The Crusade.
The Joker pits Batman against a roomful of hoods. He got the hoods into the room by giving them guns, but loaded them with blanks. He wants footage of Batman fighting, but wants to save the death scene for himself.
As he watches the fight, the Joker realizes that the man in the new costume is not the same Batman he has known and fought for so long.
And while it’s fun to see him finally get so pissed off by the two critics that he shoots them, to me, the story goes wrong as the Joker goes on with the film. Somehow, having figured out it was not the same man, I wanted, needed, a bigger reaction from him. Like maybe giving up on the film entirely.
I can’t fault the great musical setting for the big finale, but it just becomes another fight scene.
Jean-Paul does, perhaps, almost kill the Joker. Certainly Kitch felt it necessary to put a rifle to his head. Once again the story ends with the police stopping him from killing a bad guy, and Harvey and Montoya feeling that this is not the Batman they know.
The next two issue pit Batman against two gun nuts, Gunhawk and Gunbunny (did I need to mention they were gun nuts?) The stories really add nothing. Jean-Paul continues to feel tormented, and act overly violent, and the cops continue to get suspicious.
The Joker’s movie storyline continues in Detective 672 (March 1994), as Dixon, Nolan and Hanna continue with Knightquest: The Crusade.
Once again, Batman does not behave as the Joker expects, when he sees the falling Robin dummy, and the Joker’s planned shot goes awry.
And I have to say, I think I like the Joker’s poster for this storyline better than the storyline itself, which frankly goes on longer than the story merits.
Jean-Paul is not nearly as much fun to watch in the traps, which he has nothing but irritation for.
This issue has the Joker decoying the police to one location, while luring Batman to his real film shoot. Bullock, Montoya and Kitch have small roles in the issue, following the false trail, but it’s all sort of filler.
The story concludes next issue.
Detective 671 (Feb. 94) manages to have both an accurate and a deceptive cover. This Knightquest: The Crusade story does indeed feature Batman saving that woman from a number of monsters. But it is the start of the Joker storyline, and there is no hint of that.
Dixon, Nolan and Hanna rectify that on the splash page, leaving no doubt as to who the villain of this story is.
He gets a Hollywood producer to finance his picture, which just sets up traps for Batman, which the Joker films.
But the Joker is playing on the mentality and reactions of the Batman he knew, and is surprised, and disappointed, by Batman’s behaviour.
The Joker submits his rushes to two critics, clearly based on Ebert and Roper, who give entertainingly pompous criticism. They, as well as the producers and the crew, are all being held in cages by the Joker and his men.
Feeling the movie needs a bigger emotional impact from the hero, the Joker pulls out his ace.
The story continues in the next issue.
Detective 670 (Jan. 94) is labelled as being part of Knightquest: The Search. But that storyline follows Bruce Wayne as he pursues Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving, which is not what the story in this issue, by Check Dixon, Barry Kitson and Scott Hanna, is about at all. I think the reason behind the label is that this story does not follow on from the last issue, the set-up for the Joker’s movie. That picks up again next issue. This one might be termed a one-issue Knightquest – Renee Montoya special.
Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya are called to the scene when a body frozen deep inside a block of ice is found in the river. They bring it to the station to thaw it out,in hopes of determining the identity of the victim.
Renee is watching over the body, and notices that it seems to be encased in armour. Of course, all she has to do is step out and get distracted for a moment, and of course the body has vanished from the ice by the time she gets back.
The lights go out in the station, which draws Batman’s interest, and Renee comes face to face with Batman for the first time since seeing him put into the ambulance.
She has already figured out that the frozen body is really Mr. Freeze, alive and well. Still a minor Batman villain at this point, the story neatly makes his identity a surprise.
Batman takes him down, but Renee winds up pulling her gun in order to prevent him from killing the man. And Jean-Paul does a very poor job pretending to know who Mr. Freeze is, when he clearly had no idea.
Renee is left convinced that this is not the Batman she knew.