This issue is actually two issues, before our destination of #1000, and it does not fail to impress in every fashion! Nothing about this issue is lack-luster. from the covers, to the action, to where the story goes. This was an amazing issue cover to cover.
Cover To Cover
Let’s start with the covers. The “A” cover, with Etrigan and Batman fighting, is colorful and vibrant, yet detail rich as the two battle it out. Every scratch and explosion tells of the fight. While this doesn’t actually happen in this issue, it’s close enough to give you an idea of what is to come in the pages ahead.
The “B” cover could not be more Batman-esque if it wanted too. Batman stands upon a gargoyle, as he usually does, with a hand resting on each of the serpent like heads. His cape bellows behind him, and all this is lit by the beautiful, but simple, orange stained glass window behind him which gives the whole scene a great backwash of color. Another poster quality cover.
Let the Man-Handling Begin
We jump right into the action with this issue. Batman is at the lair of Dr. Hugo Strange (not Victor) and he is none too happy. Batman is convinced Dr. Strange is behind all the monstrosities that have been attacking his former mentors. Hugo basically answers back with “I wish!”
It is in this interrogation that Batman gets a relayed call from Jason Blood. Jason tries to tell Batman of the problem he is facing but cannot get the words out before being cut off. Being a former mentor, Batman realizes he has to go – NOW! I absolutely love when Dr. Strange tries to stop him from leaving. Batman simply backhands him, leaving Strange a crumpled heap on the floor as off Batman walks.
Before taking off for Jason Blood’s location, Batman tells Alfred to send the “HB suit”. We get a bit of a monologue about Batman’s history with Blood before being teased by with the look of the new suit, but we will come back to that later.
Next, we burst into the ongoing battle. A giant, green, something is using Etrigan as a chew toy, knawing on his shoulder. Swooping in from above comes – Holy Hell! Now THAT is a batsuit! Batman arrives decked out in the Hellbat! The suit looks like a cross between the suit Azreal made in the Knightfall series and something the Mountain would wear from Game of Thrones!
Hellbat and the green demon go at it with everything they have. The art that depicts the fight is engaging, and you have to love Batman’s retort to the demon who is trying to play with his mind – “What makes you think I’m Afraid of Hell?!”
Hellbat gets the upper hand until he tries to help Etrigan. That give the green demon the opportunity it needs to jump the Bat and smash away part of his helmet. Hellbat is in serious trouble until he calls upon his suit. We have all heard of devastating punches, but this one is literally called the Devastator punch!
The thing I love about this super punch is the artwork of not only the punch itself, but the way the artist works in a microchip that has the symbols of Superman and Wonder Woman on it. One would like to think that such a chip with those brands means Kal and Diana helped build the suit, but this is Batman we are talking about. This is most likely a suit designed to TAKE ON the other two-thirds of the Trinity.
Follow the Tech
The demon is vanquished, Etrigan is saved and turns back into Jason Blood, and Batman steps out of his Hellbat suit. Jason then tells Batman that the creature was a manifestation of the fear Batman had created over the years. Batman finds a prototype grappling gun from his early days and knows where he needs to be next.
Silas Stone, Cyborg’s father is Batman’s next destination. Batman expects trouble, but Silas is sitting in his chair working on an analog radio. Something about that radio doesn’t sit right with Batman, but he can’t place it.
After some banter, Dr. Stone asks Batman what he is afraid of and this is where the mind game begins. Dr. Stone shoots Batman in the chest with his grapple gun, to no effect. This is the weird part. As Batman talks to Silas, Dr. Stone breaks apart into chunks and gas, disappearing all together.
Who Let the Little Guy In??
Batman hears a voice, turns and there is….Baby Bats?? A boy or small man sits in Bruce’s command chair in front of the Bat-computer in a Bat-suit about eight sizes too big. What the Hell!?!
I am not sure quite what is happening, nor who the little Bat is, but with one last issue before #1000, things are looking very – interesting!