Red Robin: The Dark Knight Returns, Chapter 3: Gotham Needs a Batman

by Ben Sloane

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In the Red Racer, Red Robin and Batwing raced to the penthouse suites of Gotham City’s Twin Towers.

“Who’s this Paul Sloane guy?” Batwing asked above the roar of the jet-powered engines.

“For a brief time, Sloane operated as the second Two-Face,” Red Robin replied.

“The second one? I don’t remember you ever talking about him.”

“It was so long ago,” Red Robin said. “After plastic surgeons successfully repaired Harvey Kent’s scarred face, some Hollywood producer tried to make a quick buck by making a television movie of his two careers as district attorney and Two-Face. Paul Sloane was the actor playing Harvey. A jealous props man put real acid in the prop bottle thrown in the courtroom scene. Sloane was horribly disfigured, and he embarked on a crime spree exactly as Harvey had done. After Batman and I captured him, doctors using the same techniques that saved Harvey Kent were able to repair Sloane’s features, but never his split personality. He was in Arkham for decades.”

“But he’s out now?”


“And you think he might have something to do with this Batman II?”

“Enough clues point to it,” Red Robin replied grimly. “What other villain would be behind a second Batman and Robin?”

“But the crimes didn’t involve any twos…” Batwing said.

“Exactly,” said Red Robin. “The crimes he stopped featured only odd numbers — First Gotham Bank, three mayoral candidates, five kidnapped babies, the Seventh Heaven nightclub. None of those were crimes Two-Face would plan for himself. And look at some of the perps — a judge and jury, a gang of two-faced men. Sloane may have been released from the asylum, but he’s not free of his mania.”

“So he’s stopping crimes that he considers uneven, while clearing the decks of anyone who might be his competition!”

“I’d bet the cave on it, Jason.”

At that moment, the Red Racer pulled into an alley on the south side of the towers.

“Ready?” said Red Robin.


Red Robin flipped a switch on the Red Racer‘s dash. The roof of the high-performance vehicle separated and retracted.

“Three, two, one…”

The rocket ejector seats propelled Red Robin and Batwing high into the air. As they reached the height of their flight arc, the Dynamic Duo fired their grappling guns. Matching bat-cables shot to the highest reaches of the Twin Towers.

Red Robin and Batwing allowed the auto-winch to pull them to the roof. At the balcony level, they released their lines and landed nimbly on the veranda. In unison, each kicked at one of the two glass doors leading to the penthouse apartment. The panes of glass shattered into thousands of shards. The Dynamic Duo leaped into the room.

“Robin!” yelled Two-Face. The dark, coarse voice had returned. The villain dived behind a love seat. Immediately, he sprang up with a machine gun and sprayed the room with gunfire. Red Robin and Batwing scrambled for cover. Red Robin released smoke pellets from his utility belt, flooding the area with a dense, covering fog. Batman II and Robin II moved forward, facing off with the Dynamic Duo, mentor to mentor, sidekick to sidekick.

“Stop!” yelled Sloane, in his quavering falsetto. “We can settle this peacefully!”

Batwing tossed a batarang, narrowly missing Sloane’s head.

“Or not,” Two-Face growled.

Batwing and Robin II lunged, wrestling to the ground, neither gaining an upper hand. Red Robin and Batman II circled each other, fists in defensive posture.

“I don’t want to do this,” Batman II said.

“Then don’t,” Red Robin replied.

“Put your fists down.”

“You first.”

The caped crusaders continued circling.

“I can’t hit you, Robin.”

“The name’s Red Robin now.”

“No matter. I still can’t do it. And I don’t think you can bring yourself to hit me, either.” Batman II stopped moving, but did not lower his defenses.

“If I have to, I will,” said Red Robin.

“But you don’t want to,” Batman II said. “We’re on the same side.”

“With Two-Face on your team? I can’t believe it.”

“What can we do to convince you?”

“Give up the costumes,” Red Robin said. “Find another city. Dump Two-Face.”

“We can’t do that,” Batman II said.

“Why not?”

“We have… reasons of our own.”

“Name one.”

“Stop fighting, and I’ll give you one — the very best.”

“Batwing!” Red Robin yelled. “At ease!”

“You, too, Robin!” Batman II ordered.

Red Robin chafed at hearing someone else called by his boyhood alter ego. Batwing and Robin II reluctantly ceased their fighting and joined their adult partners.

“I love this city, too, Red Robin,” Batman II said, “just as my father did. My father fought for this city, and so will I.”

“You can’t mean–” Red Robin began.

Batman II raised his hands to his cowl and began to lift it from his head.

“Batman, you can’t!” protested his young partner.

“I have to, Robin.” Batman II removed his cowl, revealing a handsome man with dark, curly hair. He looked familiar, somehow, though Red Robin didn’t believe they’d ever met.

“My name is Tony Gordon Junior, Red Robin,” he said. “This is my son, James. My father was Gotham’s district attorney. My grandfather was Commissioner James W. Gordon.”

Red Robin gasped.

“He retired not long after your partner,” Gordon continued. “He was heartbroken when Batman died. He feared what would happen to Gotham if you were killed, too. Before my grandfather passed away, I promised him I would help protect Gotham as best I knew how.”

Tony Gordon stretched his hand forward to Red Robin.

“This is the best I can think of — as Batman!” Gordon said. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to Gotham City.”

“If you value Batman’s memory,” Red Robin said, refusing to shake Gordon’s hand, “don’t soil it by associating with Two-Face!”

“He’s reformed!” Gordon said. “He’s paid his debt to society, and he’s been cured of his mania.”

“Couldn’t prove it by me,” Batwing said, surveying the damage done to the penthouse by the machine-gun fire.

“You broke in here, unprovoked!” Sloane said. “We only defended my property.”

“His knowledge of Gotham’s underworld is invaluable,” Gordon said. “Through his contacts, we were able to prevent the assassination of Mayor Hill and save the Madison babies.”

“Can’t you let us make amends for our past?” Paul Sloane asked. “We would have offered our assistance to you, but we didn’t know how to contact you.”

“Suppose I believe you?” Red Robin said. “Why all this? Why a new Batman and Robin?”

“Gotham needs a Batman,” said Sloane. “And as one of your old foes, I believe I’m qualified to say so.” The old villain sighed. “Quite frankly, the thought of a pouncing Red Robin just doesn’t scare us.”

“I don’t trust him,” Red Robin said to Tony Gordon. “Any good that comes from him is tainted.”

“I need his knowledge,” Gordon said. “Unless you’re willing to take us into your confidence, share your secrets, and the information you have in the Batcave?”

Red Robin was silent.

“I understand,” Gordon said. “I just ask that you understand, too.”

“I can’t stop you,” Red Robin said. “Just stay out of our way.”

“Now, get out!” Two-Face yelled. “Or we’ll sue you, the Justice Society, and the Gotham Police Department for damages!”

“Aren’t you going to let the coin decide?” Batwing taunted.

“Maybe we will, brat!”

“Let’s go, Batwing,” Red Robin said. The Gotham knights exited the room. “But I’ll be watching you,” Red Robin said just before they left, “all four of you.”

Minutes later, Red Robin and Batwing landed on the rooftop of Gotham Hospital a few blocks away from Two-Face’s penthouse. Red Robin removed two thin cords from his utility belt, then connected them to a small radio device the size of a deck of cards. He initiated a radio signal, then awaited a greeting at the other end. A woman’s voice answered the call.

“Helena,” Red Robin said. “Can we talk freely?”

“I’m alone. Go ahead.”

Red Robin quickly informed Helena Wayne — better known as his crime-fighting sister, the Huntress — of the situation.

“I just got back into town tonight after shutting down one of Silversmith’s drug pipelines,” Helena said. “I saw the news reports but couldn’t raise you at the cave. I figured you were already investigating.”

“Did you know that Sloane’s face was scarred again?”

“I remember hearing about that some time ago, yes. Just as doctors were beginning to make a breakthrough in his mania with the number two, another Arkham patient attacked Sloane in the asylum laundry, throwing lye in his face, burning him horribly. After he was released from hospital care, he refused further plastic surgery, saying he’d come to peace with his looks. Eventually, he made enough progress with his psychiatrists to earn release.”

“His circumstances are terrible, but I can’t let sympathy blind me,” Red Robin said grimly. “I can’t believe he’s legit.”

“Me either,” said Helena. “But Tony Gordon is a good man. I met him years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. I don’t think he’d knowingly go along with a Two-Face scheme. He must believe he’s doing the right thing, however misguided we find his actions.”

“And as long as he’s on the side of the law, there’s not much we can do to stop him.”

“Unfortunately, no,” Helena agreed. “Let me work on things from my end. I can check out Sloane’s most recent government psychological evaluation, comb through his financial history. Maybe I can dig up something.”

“Meanwhile, Batwing and I will hit the underworld, see what we can find out there.”

“Look on the bright side,” Helena said, hearing the tension in Red Robin’s voice. “Maybe Tony will break his leg or something.”

“We can only hope.”


The following morning, Helena Wayne arrived at Tony Gordon’s downtown penthouse apartment. She announced herself to his personal secretary and asked for a few moments of his time. After being kept waiting for twenty minutes, Helena was escorted to an unoccupied drawing room.

“Tony will be down in a minute,” said the secretary, a statuesque, strikingly beautiful, and forbidding young woman. She wore a black orchid pinned to her jacket and a name tag that read Mercy.

Helena paced the room, taking note of Tony Gordon Jr.’s many athletic awards, from high school through the Olympics, every event from swimming to archery, from gymnastics to the decathlon. Other, less-glamorous awards for his achievements in computer science were noticeably absent, though she knew that until recently Tony had been working in some hush-hush government job as a computer expert. (*) She guessed it was his desire to be the new Batman that explained why he’d quit that job and returned to Gotham, changing his lifestyle drastically.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Suicide Squad: The Price of Redemption, Chapter 1: Formations.]

Scattered among his awards and scholarly diplomas were photographs of himself and his family, his mother Gail, sister Barbara, his father, former Gotham City District Attorney Anthony Gordon, and his famous grandfather, former Police Commissioner James W. Gordon.

After almost another twenty minutes, Tony Gordon finally arrived, barefoot and wearing only a plush bathrobe. He was disheveled, unshaven, and acted hung over. He smiled at Helena, then reclined on a leather divan. His bathrobe fell open.

“Whoops!” he said, laughing while he covered himself. “Helena! You peeked!”

“You streaked,” Helena shot back, smiling despite herself. She knew very well the game Gordon played. She’d watched her father play a less racy version years ago. If she hadn’t known where Gordon had been the night before, she might have believed the act.

“After so many months, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Gordon said.

“Tony, I have to confess,” Helena said tentatively. “I haven’t come to pay a social visit. I have to ask you something very important.”

“Helena, you’re always so serious.”

“I know that you and your son are acting as Batman and Robin,” Helena said. “Please, Tony — stop. You’ve got to stop before it’s too late.”

“Helena… how?” Gordon began, obviously stunned by his friend’s pronouncement. He stood for a moment, open-mouthed, until his face lit up with a realization.

“Your father,” Gordon said. “Bruce Wayne… was the Batman!”

“What?!” Helena exclaimed, her turn to be shocked. “Tony, that’s ridiculous!”

“Last night, Batman’s ‘son’ confronted me, told me to abandon the Batman identity. This morning, Bruce Wayne’s daughter does the same? Last night I tell Red Robin my identity, and this morning you appear? That’s not a coincidence, Helena.”

“Oh, good grief!” Helena laughed.

“I’m not surprised. Grandfather suspected as much for years.”

“Next you’ll say I’m the Huntress!”

Now who’s being ridiculous?” Gordon said, waving his hand dismissively. “You’re far too confident, and as a lawyer, too busy. I’d imagine the Huntress hides her secret identity behind a dilettante lifestyle, as I do, leaving her much more free time. I’m sure you know who she is, though. You probably fund her activities.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Helena began, before Tony interrupted.

“Do me a favor, Helena,” he said. “Ask Red Robin and the Huntress to give me a chance. Trust me. I won’t let them down.”

Helena sighed, then smiled wanly. “If I see the commissioner, I’ll let him know. He can pass along a message.”

“I appreciate the visit,” Gordon said. “And I hope you won’t be offended if I go back to bed. I was out a bit late last evening, you know.”

“So I’ve heard.”

“I won’t let you down, either, Helena. I understand what it’s like to safeguard a legacy. I won’t harm this one.”


That evening, at the tavern Scars and Bars, a known underworld hangout, Red Robin and Batwing stood over a group of uncooperative and now unconscious gangland figures.

“Huntress struck out, huh?” asked Batwing.

“Yes,” Red Robin replied. “She thought a surprise confrontation from an old friend would throw Batman off his game, crack his façade. Unfortunately, our new Batman is adamant he can do the job.”

“And he’s figured out…” Batwing paused before continuing, “…stuff.”

“When we have time,” Red Robin said, “we’ll correct his misconception. If Two-Face can fool him, we certainly can.”

“Are you mad at her?” Batwing asked.

“No. She’s mad enough at herself,” Red Robin replied. “She tried to approach the situation objectively, but her emotions got the better of her. She’s taking tonight off so that she can focus on Sloane’s and Gordon’s financial dealings. If she finds anything dirty, we can take them both out.”

“These jerks don’t know anything, that’s for sure!” Batwing yelled. “There’s got to be something!”

Suddenly, the darkness outside brightened. Red Robin and Batwing leaned through the tavern’s shattered front window. High above them, the modified Bat-Signal branded the storm clouds and fog.

“Maybe this is it,” Red Robin said. “Let’s go.”

A few moments later, Red Robin and Batwing landed on the rooftop of Gotham City Police Headquarters. Standing in the shadow of the Bat-Signal, Police Chief Sarah Essen waited for the Dynamic Duo. Red Robin’s tension eased at the site of the newly appointed chief of police, as Essen had long been one of their most loyal allies on the police force and was one of Commissioner Clancy O’Hara’s most trusted officials.

“Thank you for coming,” Essen said. “I half-expected someone else to show up.”

“It wouldn’t have surprised me, Chief,” said Red Robin.

“He’s partly why I called you here, Red Robin.”

“Have you heard from him?”

“No, I’ve only heard of him,” Essen replied. “Unfortunately, so have many others. We have information that any number of your old foes may be coming out of retirement to try their luck on this new Batman. I don’t have to tell you how many underworld figures were disappointed by your partner’s death.”

“No,” Red Robin said grimly. He’d already felt the repercussions of his own return to active crime-fighting in Gotham City. He didn’t need to be told the effect a new Batman must be having on Gotham’s lunatic fringes.

“I’m afraid we’re going to have a crime spree on our hands, the likes of which Gotham City hasn’t seen since the Crisis.”

“We’ll keep our eyes open, Chief,” Red Robin said. “Do you know who might be planning their comeback? Most of our old foes have such predictable methods, we might be able to head them off before they cause much trouble.”

“I took the liberty of preparing these files for you,” Chief Essen said. “I’m sure you have more detailed information available for yourself, so I’ve just included a list of names and their most recently reported activities. I wish it was a shorter list.”

“Thanks, Chief,” Red Robin said as he took the bulky file. “We’ll be in touch.” Red Robin and Batwing aimed their grappling guns toward a high-rise building a block from police headquarters. Their departure was halted by the abrupt arrival of an out-of-breath blue-uniformed officer.

“Chief!” the officer yelled. “We’ve got sightings of Mister Zero and the Spinner at Aparo Reservoir!”

“It’s started,” Red Robin said. “Let’s go.”

“Red Robin, before you go, can I ask you something? I’ll understand if you can’t answer, but I hope you’ll tell me.”


“This is a different Batman, right?” Essen said, hesitantly. “We hear so many rumors in the underworld that Batman never died. I’ve read so much about the JSA’s rejuvenation that I thought, maybe…”

“I wish that were so, Chief,” Red Robin said. “But no, it’s not Batman.”

“Oh. I’m sorry, Robin.” Chief Essen tried to smile. “But if it was, I’d welcome him back with open arms.”

“Thank you, Chief. So would I.”

With that, Red Robin and Batwing took to their bat-cables and swung off into the night.

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