In a crumbling old castle outside Gotham Heights, a weird ceremony took place amidst candlelight and tapestries taken right out of some idyll of knightly glory from the ancient past.
A lovely woman knelt in full armor of a design both modern, yet ancient. The look was ancient, if garish. The form was futuristic and deadly.
She had red hair that cascaded down her bare shoulders over a gleaming chest plate of red. Her gauntlets reached just below her upper arms. Her metallic boots stopped at each thigh. She rose as a sword that glowed with an energy all its own touched each shoulder.
“Arise, Lady Crimson!” said a deep-voiced man who stood before a throne. “Your sire, the noble Crimson Knight — Richard of Lyons — would be right proud. (*) Arise and serve as the good right arm of your own master.”
[(*) Editor’s note: The Earth-One version of the story introducing the Crimson Knight, upon which the Earth-Two version is based, is “Batman’s Armored Rival,” Detective Comics #271 (September, 1959).]
“Gladly do I serve my liege,” she said with devotion in her eyes. “Melissa of Lyons lives only to do your bidding, my Master.”
He chuckled and lifted her to her feet. “Crimelord will do, my dear,” he said. “Crimelord will do.”
Charles Bullock groaned as he saw the papers stacked upon his desk. “I thought I was up to date!” he said to himself. If this keeps up, I’ll have to hang up my Blackwing cape, he thought. A man can’t fight crime and red tape at the same time. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: Charles Bullock became Blackwing in “Go Save the World,” Wonder Woman #297 (November, 1982).]
“Hey, Charlie, how’s the Houseman case coming?” asked a paralegal named Grant Monroe.
“Fine, but I’d appreciate it if you called me Charles from now on,” he said. “My kid cousin goes by Charlie. (*) Plus, I want to try to establish a more mature image around here. Maybe I can get a promotion or something. I know I’m going for employee of the month if I can get through this pile of paper!” He chuckled.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “To Everything There is a Season,” Adventure Comics #464 (July-August, 1979).]
Grant grinned. “No problem. Still, you need to take a chance. Grab the next big shot that comes in for yourself.”
Charles nodded and thought, I’ve confined my crime-fighting career to gangs and petty thugs except for Boa, but maybe what works for my legal career could apply for Blackwing, too. Go for a heavy hitter! This cop killer could be a good choice.
Even as Charles Bullock thought about the Wraith, his alter ego’s family name arose in the Batcave.
“This Wraith is a cold-blooded killer. I’m taking him down,” declared the Huntress.
Alfred Beagle nodded silently. “Odd, you should phrase it in that manner. Your late father applied such a phrase to Tiger Bishop — the mobster who married my… friend, Shirley Holmes.”
The English butler dusted a glass case containing a birdlike costume and mused about his lost love and her sad end. Her child would be about the same age as Miss Helena… perhaps a few years younger, he thought. I wonder if it would be appropriate for me to check on him as a way of paying respect to his poor mother.
He turned to a large computer and typed rapidly. My word! This is fortunate, he thought. Jake Bishop is living here in Gotham. The young man lives in a rather bad neighborhood. Perhaps I could help him. One of the Wayne holding companies could surely employ him in some capacity.
Meanwhile, the Huntress was busy in another part of the cave, looking very different from her normal, dark-haired self. For one thing, blonde hair flowed down her back instead of brunette.
She smiled at her reflection. Purr-fect, as mother used to say, she thought. When I’m ready to use an alter ego like dad’s Barney Collins I.D., then the chemical dye will be ready. It won’t wash out or fade until a second chemical agent is applied.
“However, that other self can wait. It’s time for the Huntress to patrol,” she said as she rubbed a second chemical through her locks, and they faded back to her normal midnight black.
The Cluemaster — the name seemed right for one who fancied himself to be the heir to other notorious thinkers like the Riddler and the Puzzler. He raced out of Gotham Bank and smiled beneath his scarf. Had his spray-painted message on City Hall’s wall been clever enough to fool Red Robin? He hoped so. If so, it was the start of a wonderful duel of wits between two master thinkers. He had made a fine start to a new criminal career.
Now to leave a second riddle. Maybe he could fool Red Robin completely. But he would never find out. As Cluemaster crossed the street, he met Vengeance.
Rapid blows smashed him down and left him senseless before he could open his mouth to make some witty reply or leave a baffling riddle.
Vengeance stood over him and raised a scythe. “Vengeance has claimed another felon,” he intoned.
Then two high-heeled boots slammed the scythe spinning out of his gloved hand.
“Not this time!” said a defiant Huntress as she blocked his path from the stunned Cluemaster.
“The Huntress!” said Barney Barrows. “You and I fight for the same things. Stand back and let me end this rogue’s life!”
She spun and kicked him with a rapid move that pushed him back slightly. “When you killed, you crossed a line that separates me and Batman from your crusade. We don’t kill,” she vowed.
He frowned. “You are the Batman’s whelp. I would not harm you unless I had no choice. Now, allow me to finish this punk,” he said as he reached beneath his black cape.
She flipped through the air and landed on his shoulders. Her strong legs spun him across the air as she flipped backward again. He landed very hard.
She is so fast, and she is too strong! But I must be faster and stronger, and Dr. Strand said I could do so, he thought desperately and arose at once.
Three swift punches reeled him back as the Huntress fought on. “He’s bigger, or so it appears — faster, too!” she gasped as he struck four smashing blows with his heavy fists.
She staggered and hurled a bat-shaped projectile at Vengeance. But he deflected it with a staff that extended from his sleeve. He spun it around and whipped it out to lash at her from the right.
The Huntress moved to catch the staff and did so, but his rush of power enabled him to rip it from her hand and shove it into her stomach twice until his final blow dropped her to her knees.
Vengeance kicked her flat and said, “I leave you wiser from this night’s battle. Defy me further, and I shall count you as one more felon to fall before my anger!”
He stepped over her prone body and dispatched the would-be Cluemaster.
Charles Bullock took action as he swung through the Gotham City night. Blackwing’s glider cape enabled him to arc off his swing, release his rope, and soar across the city.
“Look — Blackwing!” cried one passerby. He smiled as locals recognized him as their hero.
Odd, that woman — dirty, ragged, but familiar. She looks like a missing client of the firm’s — Cyndi Summers, the heiress! he mused as his night-vision lens focused upon the pretty but apparently confused and dirty woman. That sure looks like her. She was last seen in her own limo.
Blackwing dropped down to follow her from above. She never looked up, so it was easy. She went deeper into the slums and stopped before a grate in the street. She then pried it back and dropped down to the sewers below.
Weird! I’d better get down there. This is stranger than I guessed, thought Charles Bullock. He landed, folded up his cape, and dropped down into the murky sewers.
With so much renovation-altered subway routes, these tunnels could lead anywhere, he thought. So much has been abandoned.
Cyndi Summers is rich, he thought. Why would she wander off after withdrawing her assets, yet dress in rags and live beneath the city? That explains why no one could trace her… or the other missing women. Could they all be under Gotham’s streets?
Blackwing switched to infrared and ran silently down the tunnels to where they opened up to reveal a crowd of ragged women and men surrounding a ghoulish figure. They appeared to revere him as he led them in a Hitler-like spewing of propaganda.
“Together, we Underdwellers shall form an army to take back this city and all we have been deprived of by those who walk above!” he cried. “So swears your leader. So promises your master!”
As the dim light flashed around, and cheers echoed from the odd assembly, one name was chanted over and over in the echoes of the tunnels.
“Earthworm! Earthworm!” they cried as their yellow-skinned leader relished every cheer.
Blackwing frowned. This is bad. I’d better take him down first.
But before he could do anything, he was set upon by a group of ragged men. “Ya didn’t think Earthworm would leave his home unguarded, did ya?” cried one as they attacked Blackwing.
The masked hero fought well, but the sheer weight of numbers worked against him. He fell beneath the gang as the cheers grew dimmer in his ears, and all grew black.
A battered Huntress made her way across Gotham City after she awoke in the streets following her battle with Vengeance. She was angry with herself for being defeated, and even as she swung through dizzying spaces above the city streets, she formed a plan.
This Vengeance thinks he’s on the side of the angels, but there is more to him than just that whole bitter vigilante thing you read about these days, she mused. He did not suddenly start to get his act together midway through the fight. It was more like he summoned some skill that he lacked when we started. The look of concentration in his eyes was that keen.
Helena, you’ll be hitting the files tonight. Perhaps this nut isn’t as fresh a threat as he seems. He struck me as being an older man, although that’s pure instinct and not solid detective reasoning. I can imagine what Dick would say — facts, always facts!
She never reached the cave, since she spotted a furtive figure dashing through the shadows below.
That purple and red costume, along with a bat-like shadow! It must be the Wraith! The last cop he attacked lived long enough to give us the name he used and a description,” she said to herself as she released the rope and dropped out of the sky toward the costumed identity of Jake Bishop Junior.
The Huntress landed agilely on top of him and brought both palms together against his ears. She also reached for her crossbow. “I’m stopping him fast,” she vowed.
She frowned as the Wraith slammed his elbow into her nose and sliced across her chin with a dagger. She barely had time to dodge his assault.
“You!” he cried madly. “I’ve been eager to get my hands on you — super-cop herself!”
The Huntress slapped his dagger out of his hand and head-butted him. As he moved back, she kicked him below the belt.
The Wraith gasped and tossed a sphere toward her. The Huntress batted it aside, only to have it open and secrete a goo across her glove. She quickly found that she could not remove the ball from her hand.
“That kinda slows down your moves, huh?” he grinned beneath his mask. He tackled her, and her aches from the earlier Vengeance battle began to take a toll on her.
“You’re sick. I won’t let you slaughter another policeman!” she said as they wrestled.
“I will! I will! You can’t stop me. No one can!” he screamed. “The whole system cost me my folks, and I’m demanding blood in payment! Yours will be a nice start!”
He’s psycho, all right, she mused as she rolled backward and brought both legs back down on him.
The Wraith then tossed another item — a razor-sharp glaive. The Huntress whirled her cape and ensnared it even as it tore through the fabric.
“Krull fan, I see!” she joked and punched him in the mouth.
The Wraith kneed her in the stomach and said, “I learned from Crusher Crock!” He choked Huntress with both hands until she slipped down out of his grasp and rammed her bolt into his leg.
Screaming, he fired a chemical sphere at her chest. It began to erode her costume.
“Next time you’re mine, Bat-babe!” cried the Wraith, who then vanished into a tenement.
Helena gasped. Her costume was dissolving. “Got to get back. Fight another night!” she vowed and swung off.
Alfred Beagle frowned as he knocked on the door of the last known address of Jake Bishop. This neighborhood is decidedly unseemly, he mused.
Jake answered the door. His long hair was messy, and his face unshaven. “Yeah? What do you want?” he demanded gruffly.
“I’m looking for Jacob Bishop,” he said. “My name is Beagle, Alfred Beagle. I knew your late mother.”
Jake’s eyes flared. “You look too soft to be a cop.”
“Indeed! I am a gentleman’s gentleman. My employer is Richard Grayson,” he replied.
“Yeah, Gotham’s answer to Dick Clark. What do you want? How’d you know Ma?” he said as he stepped back.
“If I may enter, I’ll tell you about our friendship,” said Alfred.
Jake nodded, and Alfred entered the darkened apartment. Little did either man know the secrets of the other as they talked about the late Shirley Holmes Bishop.
After an hour’s talk, Alfred rose to leave. “I could help you locate employment,” said Alfred.
“I keep busy with a hobby, but I’m good with tools and machines,” said Jake.
Alfred nodded. “I can see that. That schematic seems to be rather lethal in intent!”
Jake snatched a blueprint out of his guest’s hand. “It’s for a role-playing game,” he muttered.
“Ah! I enjoy the theater myself,” said Alfred. “I’ll call you if I am able to secure you a position.”