In the last issue of Batman, we saw a series of spree killings unfold in Gotham, with a plot inspired by Larry Cohen’s film God Told Me To, and with a cliffhanger where Vicki Vale was being menaced by a skull-hooded man with a sledgehammer.

Batman #456

Cover of Batman #456

Written by Alan Grant
Pencils by Norm Breyfogle
Inks by Steve Mitchell
Colors by Adrienne Roy
Letters by Todd Klein
Edited by Denny O’Neil.

We open not on the cliffhanger from the last issue, and more on a skull-hooded goon in a Santa costume with nunchucks attacking shoppers. Batman quickly trusses the guy up with a grappling hook and leaves him dangling from a sign. As he talks to the police, he learns about Vicki’s lead and goes to investigate himself.

Batman leaps into the Batmobile in pursuit.
I kinda like this Batmobile design.

Returning to Vicki, she evades the sledgehammer, as Mr. Marcuse’s men spot this from inside the building. Marcuse calls the guy off – his name is Yazz – and has his goons put Vicki into his limo. Marcuse had to be present for the attack on the homeless camp to “make sure it worked”, and he’s going to take her to a “man in a mask.” However, the car is being followed by another “man in a mask” – the Batman – who tails them with the Batmobile.

In the Batcave, Tim is investigating the killings, and it isn’t just fitting the MO of any of Batman’s rogue’s gallery. Alfred stops by, asking if Tim wants to help him wrap presents for Christmas. Tim would like a break, but feels he can’t afford one. Alfred responds with some mild snark – presumably of the variety he normally targets Bruce with.

Alfred snarks at Robin.
I like to think “Getting snarked at by Alfred about your lack of work-life balance” as a sign you’re part of the Bat-Family now.

Batman continues his pursuit, as his narration shifts perspective to the PoV of the mastermind, one who relishes the terror inflicted on the city by these rampages. Marcuse arrives at Gotham Chemical, and as they bring her inside, Vicki breaks free and runs for an office door to find a window out – only to be stopped cold by what she finds.

Outside, Batman goes over the back fence, and in the Batcave, Tim dreams of the ghost of Jason Todd lecturing him over his haste, before he wakes up and has a sudden moment of realization as to who the responsible mastermind is. He tries to raise Batman in the Batmobile, but he’s not in the car. So, Tim calls Commissioner Gordon and asks him to put up the signal. Going from the panels, I suspect this call prompts Gordon to put the pieces together as well.

Tim Drake informs Commissioner Gordon of who is responsible.
There are two Batman villains who merit the John Wick “Oh”. One is the Joker. the other is this comic’s villain.
Scarecrow celebrates having Batman at his mercy.

Batman makes his way through various goons and traps, while Tim desperately tries to get Batman help – but Gordon just doesn’t have the manpower to spare. And, half-buried under debris and snow from the last trap that he was got by, he looks up to see the face of his foe – Scarecrow!

I’ll admit, the narration shifted perspective to a new character, the dialog was enough for me to suspect it was Scarecrow. Otherwise, I was split between either suspecting Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, or a collaboration between the two.

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