We’re shifting Bat-books this issue to Detective Comics, and the introduction of another new villain.

Detective Comics #654

Written by Chuck Dixon
Penciled by Michael Netzer
Inked by Scott Hanna
Colors by Adrienne Roy
Lettering by John Costanza
Edited by Scott Peterson and Denny O’Neil

We open with Batman fighting a very ‘80s-ass looking street gang, while some really great narration describes Batman from an opponent who seeks to destroy him – one who is not Bane.

The General describes Batman.

His name is Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, and was sent to military school by his parents, where he was bullied – until he locked his classmates in their dorm and torched the building.

Armstrong torches his school, presumably killing a slew of his classmates.
There’s no getting around this – this kid gets a very high body count by the end of this story.
The General revels in his bloodshed.

From there, Armstrong went to Gotham and earns the respect of a local gang, by organizing the theft  of weapons and equipment from a National Guard armory – and in the process of the robbery they kill the leader of the gang in order to take control of that gang. Did I mention this kid looks like he’s 10 – because he’s 10? Oh, and to cap this off, he kills the guards at the armory.

At GCPD, Commissioner Gordon and Batman confer on the robbery, with their only lead being the gang member who was left at the scene.

Meanwhile, Armstrong has thought of that – he’s had the gang change locations and is also having them change their colors for military uniforms – through what I think is a fundamental understanding of the purpose of colors. It’s not just out of a sense of shared identity, but through a way to project that identity openly in a manner that also allows for a degree of self expression – and in a way that is coded to allow members to pass among people who aren’t part of that culture.

As part of this, they are changing the name of their gang, based on a Shakespeare quote Armstrong dropped, to The War Dogs – and Armstrong gets his nickname, “The General”.

In any case, in the wake of the robbery Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock are checking on the 8th Avenue OGs – the dead gang member was the now-former leader of a gang called the Bengal Raiders, and they sometimes did jobs for the OGs. Bullock’s theory is that if the OGs were responsible, they might let something slip. Batman has the same idea, and is following on the rooftops.

The three arrive just in time for The War Dogs to roll up in their stolen HMMWVs, wielding automatic weapons, as they gun down the OGs. Armstrong has changed his look as well, having gotten his haircut in a fade with a General’s stars shaved out of the sides.

Batman takes down two of the War Dogs, while the gang rolls through, totaling Montoya and Bullock’s vehicle in the process. As they leave, Armstrong reflects on seeing Batman in action in the process, impressed by his skill.

In the aftermath, Montoya sees a trail of blood trailing around a corner, implying that Batman caught a bullet. This is confirmed in the Batcave as Alfred tends to Batman. Apparently the War Dogs are using armor-piercing bullets (which are erroneously described as “Teflon-coated”). Bruce tells Alfred that Tim is staying off of this one, at least until he gets a handle on what’s going on.

Elsewhere, the OGs have arranged a meet with the War Dogs – the OGs have also had a change in management under similar circumstances to how the Raiders became the War Dogs. Armstrong is now known as The General and he gives his offer – the OGs join the war dogs, but keep their colors as a unit insignia. He lays out his plan – unite the gangs, crush the mobs and police, and The Bat.

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