Although it was not promoted as such, Batman 400 (Oct. 86) really was the grand finale to the adventures of the Batman of Earth-1, a double sized special issue, written by Doug Moench, with a vast artistic line-up: John Byrne, Steve Lightle, Bruce Patterson, George Perez, Paris Cullins, Larrry Mahlstedt, Arthur Adams, Terry Austin, Thomas Sutton, Ricardo Villagran, Steve Leialoha, Joe Kubert, Ken Steacy, Rick Leonardi, Karl Kesel and Brian Bolland. As one might guess, each artist only does a few pages of this story.
The tale bears a close resemblance, in its opening, to the later story Knightfall, as both Arkham Asylum an the main prison in Gotham City get blasted open, freeing the inmates.
They find their costumes all conveniently hanging on trees, and this allows for a number of villains to make small appearances, not joining in on the major story. So this sequences marks the final appearances of, for example, Dr. Double X and Mirage, whose outfits can be spotted.
While some villains join with the Joker is following the grand plan of their benefactor to take out Batman, others, such as Croc, want no part of this, and simply take their freedom.
Then there are a number of scenes that see Batman’s various friends and allies captured by the villains – Harvey Bullock, Commissioner Gordon, Vicki Vale all get attacked, and poor Julia Pennyworth has to suffer her second shower scene attack, this time by the Scarecrow.
Ra’s Al Ghul is the mastermind, and openly declares himself such to Batman. Once again his goal is to recruit the hero, and even offers to help eliminate all the villains that he has just freed. It’s really a much better Ra’s Al Ghul plot than any since his original big storyline.
While Batman and Robin try to take the various villains down, they are clearly out numbered, and have little choice but to play along wit the larger game. They take out Black Spider and Cat-Man, but have to allow the Riddler, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy to go free, as long as they are holding the hostages. Catwoman, no longer Batman’s partner, gets involved, and decides to follow the departing villains.
The Joker leads his crew, which includes the Penguin, Cavalier, Killer Moth, Deadshot and Mad Hatter, in taking over the headquarters of the police, to Commissioner Gordon’s dismay.
Poison Ivy is holding Harvey Bullock, and having a grand time of her own, toying with him. Catwoman does track her down, but fails to stop her.
Kubert’s pages deserve mention, even though they do not really advance the story much. But they look sooo good.
Talia joins forces with Batman and Robin to help scupper her father’s plans. Batman has so much on his plate that he has little time for the Joker or his games. Even still, the Joker is one of the few villains in the story who really gets much of a chance to show his stuff. most get overwhelmed by the crowd scenes.
In the end, of course, it comes down to a battle between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul, who has taken a dip in a Lazarus Pit without dying first, to super-charge himself. Bolland’s art makes the most of this scene, although it plays out in the standard fashion, with Talia betraying her father, who appears to die at the end.
But it’s really the final sequence that makes this story, as Batman brings all his friends and allies – Robin, Catwoman, Alfred, Julia Pennyworth, Vicki Vale, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock, to the Batcave. The reason given is the tenth anniversary of Batman being Batman, but the stalactite that falls and pierces the cake is a stark reminder that Bruce Wayne is not Batman for the fun of it.
A great “last” issue.