After the introduction of Bane, we have a slight side story as we ease into Knightfall proper.

Batman #484

Written by Doug Moench
Art by Tom Grindberg & Trevor Scott
Colors by Adrienne Roy
Lettering by Richard Starkings
Edited by Scott Peterson & Denny O’Neil

We open on two guys in masks robbing a jewelry store and torching it after they’re done, with one guy accidentally leaving their mask behind. Through narration we learn that the building is owned by Bruce Wayne, and at the time of the fire he was across town as Batman.

Bruce Wayne gets shot down by Vicki Vale.

Bruce arrives on the scene of the fire and runs into Vicki Vale. They speculate as to the cause of the fire – it’s clearly arson, but by who – and Bruce flirts with Vicki, but she turns him down, as she’s dating Horton Spence. Bruce is actually pretty broken up by this, and he starts actively wondering how long he can keep up being Batman. That night, he returns to the jewelry store as Batman, and finds a mask in the ruins of the shop that doesn’t belong.

Meanwhile, at the Simonis family crypt, we learn the source of the mask – Roman Simonis, aka Black Mask. he has a new group of recruits in his False Face Society.

Elsewhere, Robin makes his way to the Batcave, on-foot via Wayne Manor, commenting that he really wishes there was another way in.

Robin gets into the Batcave just in time for Bruce to take a call from Lucius Fox – another building he owns was attacked, putting his insurance at risk for cancellation, and causing tenants to threaten to move out, in turn jeopardizing the funding of the Wayne Foundation.

Further, the GCPD has been stretched thin due to budget cuts – which is also strengthening the mayoral bid for the “Tough on Crime” candidate – Armand Krol (note – Bruce doesn’t seem to view this candidate’s positions as a good thing)

During this conversation, Bruce has been doing a chemical analysis of the mask, and finds high quality latex, but not paint. Tim checks chemical companies for what this is used for and if there are any… interesting clients, and finds it’s normally used in Hollywood for movie masks. Right on cue – the Bat-Signal is up.

Batman, Robin, and Gordon discuss the Arson, and Batman and Gordon suspect Black Mask is involved. The discussion is interrupted by Gordon’s fiancee, Sarah Essen, coming to the roof. Sarah does not trust like and certainly doesn’t trust batman, partly because she thinks Batman views himself as above the law.

Back in the Batmobile, Batman brings Robin up to speed on Roman’s Secret Origin – Roman’s family having ties to Bruce’s and the two even knowing each other as kids, before Roman’s parents were killed in a mysterious fire (probably set by their son). Roman then ran the company into the ground, with the final nail in the coffin being a cosmetic that contained an ingredient that could cause dramatic facial deformities in lower doses, and at higher doses can kill. Bruce bailed the company out, provided a new Board of Directors took over operation of the company. At this loss of Face, Roman snapped, killed the board, and was nearly killed in his clash with Batman, but was saved – though his face was badly burned in the process. He was committed to Arkham until her broke out after Jeremiah Arkham took over in (IIRC) Shadow Of The Bat.

How Black Mask killed members of the board using makeup.
I’m guessing this is why Black Mask didn’t show up in Batman: The Animated Series.

Roman’s girlfriend/moll, Circe, is mentioned here, but what is not mentioned is that the makeup also deformed her as well, ruining her modeling career.

Meanwhile, two of Black Mask’s goons find Circe living in a homeless camp at a subway station, and get her to come back to Roman. Also, a blond guy with a facial scar joins up with Sionis’ gang. Sionis welcomes the guy, has him checked for a wire, and gives him a skull mask, dubbing him “Skull Face”. His first job is to torch a Wayne building – and on the way there the goons mention the guards have been bribed to shut off the alarms.

Once inside, Skullface goes to investigate a sound (Batman’s costume being dropped off), while Robin takes the other two goons on as Skullface… becomes Batman. The Dynamic Duo win handily, and Robin goes to warn Lucius Fox, while Batman will return to Black Mask as Skullface.

Unfortunately, Skullface makes it back just as Roman’s #2 has brought Roman a hostage he wants – Lucius Fox.

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