Chuck Dixon, Mike Netzer and Luke McDonnell conclude the Cypher storyline in Detective 658 (April 1993).
Lucius Fox is the intended victim in this issue, and we discover that Cypher uses muzak tapes, with his voice hidden in the recordings, to hypnotize his victims.
But once again, the read focus of this issue is on Azrael. Batman tries to keep him marginalized, feeling that he is too muhc of a loose cannon. But Azrael refuses to follow instructions, and winds up the one to save Lucius Fox when Cypher tries to make him jump from a bridge.
Cypher is not part of Knightfall, returning in the Robin comic.
Detective 657 (March 1993) sees the introduction of another new villain, Cypher, by Chuck Dixon, Mike Netzer and Scott Hanna. But there is a lot of misdirection in this story, and Cypher is kept to the side for much of the tale.
And though it is far from clear how this is being done (in this issue, at least), Cypher seems to have the ability to make people kill themselves. And music is somehow involved.
Jean-Paul Valley appears in this story, both in his toned-down Azrael garb, as well as in normal clothes, as he has started working security at Wayne Tower. Azrael had been introduced a few months earlier in the Batman – Sword of Azrael miniseries.
Azrael and Robin deal with some vicious thieves in this story, believing they are on the trail of the big bad guy, but it’s all a diversion.
Still, once in battle, Azrael loses it, becoming just as dangerous and deadly as those he is fighting, until Robin calms him down.
The issue ends with Cypher causing another death. And the next person on his list is Lucius Fox.
The story concludes next issue.
Dixon, Netzer and Hanna continue the introduction of the General in Detective 655 (Jan. 93).
The General leads his “troops” against other street gangs. Batman gets drawn into this fight, but when he first sees the General, he assumes the boy is a hostage of the rival gang leader.
The General gets thrown out of a window, and Batman dives to save him, injuring himself in the process. It never occurs to him to be suspicious of the boy – Batman always has infinite faith in children – and for his troubles gets a shovel to the back of the head, and thrown down into the alley.
After eliminating the rival gangs, the General sets his sites on Black Mask and his crew. Some prove loyal, and die for it, but most are willing to save their lives and switch sides. The General’s plans involve the complete takeover of Gotham. While Batman is on his enemies list, the next target is taking on the Gotham police force.
Batman finds the General’s base. He is still unaware that the boy he rescued turned on him, and is the mastermind. But he does notice the childlike drawings and models of the city. He also realizes that they have already left to launch their attack on the police.
The story concludes next issue.
Chuck Dixon introduces an unusual new foe for Batman in Detective 654 (Dec. 92), the General. Mike Netzer does the evocative pencils on this three-parter, with Scott Hanna on the inks.
The villain in this story is just a child, but a clever and callous one. Educated at a military boarding school, he kills the students who bullied him, and burns down the school before heading to Gotham.
He talks his way into a gang, who are amused at first by the pushy youngster, but then impressed by his strategies and military knowledge. When the leader of the gang begins to find the boy too forward, the General simply guns him down and takes over the gang himself. Which might have been a touch more powerful, had not Cluemaster done pretty much the same thing in the previous storyline.
Some really great page construction by Netzer, especially on the layout of Bullock and Montoya cruising on patrol.
And some deft writing. I particularly enjoy the calm dialogue as Bruce prepares to be operated on by Alfred. Both Batman and the police are already dealing the with General’s gang, and their stolen army weaponry, but as yet none of them are aware that a child is leading the gang.
The story continues in the next issue.