Red Robin: The Dark Knight Returns, Chapter 4: Second Chances

by Ben Sloane

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On a cliffside a quarter mile above Aparo Reservoir, Red Robin and Batwing monitored the situation through binoculars.

“There they are,” Red Robin said.

“Who are these helmet-headed geezers, again?” Batwing asked.

“The bald one is Mister Zero,” Red Robin answered. “His gun emits an ice-ray that can freeze-dry a human body in seconds. You need to spend more time with the files.”

“I knew that one,” Batwing muttered.

“The one in green is the Spinner. Batman and I faced him only once. He robbed drill and fan factories and tried to kill us with a giant top. Everything had a spinning theme.”


Red Robin threw Batwing a look, but no answer.

“Oh,” Batwing said. “Yeah. Gotham-itis.”

A few long minutes passed, with no activity at the reservoir.

“What do you think they’re here for?” asked Batwing

“Probably something to do with Gotham’s water supply,” Red Robin replied. “If Zero turns his freeze-ray on the reservoir, it could take days to thaw. Fortunately, the floodgates are closed.”

“They’re not doing anything!” Batwing said. “What are they waiting for?”


“Or Batman.”

Red Robin noticeably tensed at Batwing’s words. The youth immediately regretted his comment.

“Let’s go,” Red Robin said. “We’ll get these two wrapped up and then look for the others.”


Mister Zero and the Spinner paced along the pathway separating the Aparo Reservoir and dam from the falls. The icy Zero stood at attention holding his freeze-ray, a spray nozzle with a gun-firing mechanism. A pair of hoses attached the nozzle to two cylinder tanks on his back. He wore a clear plastic bubble helmet over his head.

The Spinner wore the exact cumbersome green outfit he’d made when he first encountered Batman and Robin. Thick metal discs lined his suit along his torso and limbs.

“Wrr thel arhay?” said the Spinner.

“Remove that blasted helmet!” yelled Mister Zero. “I told you I can’t understand a vord you zay!”

The Spinner turned toward Zero as he reached to remove the green, faceless, bucket-like helmet attached to his costume. “I said where are they? We’ve been here an hour already!”

“Patienze, you idiot!” said Zero. “Zero hour iz approaching!”

“Oh, jeez!” sighed the Spinner. “What is it with you and zero, buddy?

“Vhat?!” yelled Mr. Zero. “You dare? You tried to kill Batman and Robin with a giant vindow fan, and you dare inzult my methodz?”

“You tried to kill Batman with a Sno-Cone!”

Zero growled under his breath, but held his tongue. “Thiz bickering iz futile,” Zero said. He paused, then resumed talking in a more conciliatory tone.

“Zo… the ringz on your coztume. You can throw them, yez? They ist razor-sharp?”

“No. They don’t come off. They’re part of the suit. Pretty smart-looking, eh?”

“Bah! You look like a paztry cutter!”

“He said, ‘Dress in your old outfit,’ so I’m dressed!”

“You look like a fool!”

“At least I don’t call myself Mister Zero! Were Mister Loser and Mister Please-Kick-My-Ass taken?”

From nowhere, a pebble struck the Spinner in the side of the head.


The pair of villains turned to the direction of the stone throw and spied Red Robin and Batwing stepping onto the reservoir walkway.

“Sorry about the rock, rockhead,” said Batwing. “But we didn’t want you guys finishing what we came here to start.”

“Kill them!” Mister Zero shrieked as he sprayed his freeze-ray in a wide arc over the heads of the caped crusaders.

Red Robin and Batwing dived over the side of the dam and swung via their bat-ropes beneath the freeze-ray. They landed back onto the pathway behind Mister Zero and the Spinner. Red Robin flung two razor-sharp batarangs at Mister Zero, cutting the supply lines to his liquid tanks.

“Take Spinner,” Red Robin ordered. “I’ve got Zero.”

With that, Red Robin launched himself at Mister Zero, taking him down with a flying tackle. The geriatric German fell easily beneath Red Robin’s force.

Batwing rushed the Spinner. The one-time thug swung wildly at the young hero, the discs on his arms cutting the air.

“C’mon, kid!” Spinner said. “It’s not you guys we want. It’s the Batman! Give us a break, huh?”

“OK,” said Batwing, grabbing the Spinner’s wrist. “Here’s one.”

Batwing twisted the Spinner’s hand backward so it looked like the villain was waving to himself. The Spinner collapsed in agony.

Red Robin allowed Mister Zero to rise groggily to his feet, then dispatched him easily with a punch to the sternum and a quick uppercut. Suddenly, Red Robin heard Batwing cry out. The crimson crusader turned to see Paul Sloane — Two-Face — holding a gun to the head of his unconscious partner. From behind him, he heard a buzz of electricity, then he heard nothing at all.


Red Robin stirred awake.

“Remember this one?”

Red Robin recognized the voice as belonging to Two-Face.

“Your mentor foiled this trap when we used it on you the first time. I bet the second time is the charm!”

Two hoodlums appeared, carrying a large mirror. They stood some distance from Red Robin and Batwing, far enough so that the heroes could see their predicament. They were tied, spread eagled, on a giant dollar coin. The coin sat atop a mechanical device. Red Robin recognized it from decades earlier. A giant metal spring waited ready to flip the dollar coin.

“So, you’re giving us a fifty-fifty chance, Two-Face?” Red Robin said. “If the coin lands good side up, we can go?”

“Absolutely,” Two-Face said. “Boys, prepare to flip the coin!”

Two-Face’s gang members positioned themselves on either side of the coin device. At their gang leader’s signal, they rolled it to the edge of the reservoir.

“You have a fifty-fifty chance, boy!” Two-Face yelled. “If the bad side lands up — you land face down in the water and drown. If the good side lands up, you’ll have a chance to untie yourself while you sink! Good luck!”

Suddenly, a pair of batarangs zinged from behind the villain gang, striking the two hoodlums closest to the death trap. Batman II and Robin II appeared.

“Ah!” sighed Two-Face. “The second stringers!”

Two-Face fired a flare-gun into the air. From nowhere rushed a dozen or more costumed villains — Crazy-Quilt, the Fox, the Shark, the Vulture, Doctor No-Face, Mister Blank, Clock King, King Cobra, the Horned Owl, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and others whose names Red Robin couldn’t recall. Although several were old, it seemed that a few of them had apparently regained their youth recently, like so many other villains. (*) Despite the apparent age of some of these colorful crime figures, they overwhelmed Batman II and Robin II with their outlandish weapons and the sheer weight of their numbers. In moments, the pair were bound at Two-Face’s feet.

[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: JSA Reserves: All This and Earth-Two, Chapter 3: Villains Rejuvenated.]

“Sloane!” Batman II yelled. “You devil!”

“You should have listened to Robin, you dolt!” said Two-Face. “Did you really believe that someone like us could ever be anything but duplicitous?”

Two-Face turned to the villainy gathered before him. “Just as I promised!” the scarred gangster yelled. “We thought we missed our chance to kill Batman, but like roaches, costumed do-gooders multiply!” Two-Face swatted at Robin II’s head. “And how perfect that they always travel in pairs!”

Taking two steps back from Batman II and Robin II, Two-Face aimed his Colt .45s at them. “More than any other villain in Gotham’s history,” he said, “I deserve a second chance to kill the Batman!”

He turned to the villains. “And for round two, the rest of you will get a second chance at the first Robin and a first chance at the second Robin, and…” Two-Face paused. “You get the idea.”

“So I guess you’re going to tie us to a giant coin, too?” said Batman II.

“No,” said Two-Face. “We’re going to shoot you.”

Two-Face aimed his pair of .45s squarely at the head of Batman II. Red Robin struggled against his bonds. Suddenly, small explosions burst in a ring around the circle of villains.

Thank God! thought Red Robin. Huntress!

As the smoke thinned, Red Robin waited for a purple and blue whirlwind to plow through the gathered thugs. None appeared. He waited for the ropes binding him to loosen. They didn’t. One by one, the villains began to laugh, at first just chuckling softly, then louder and louder. Soon, they all laughed uncontrollably, doubling over as their stomach muscles cramped.

“Nuh-uh-uh,” squealed a voice through the smoke. “Don’t touch the nice Batman, or Mommy will spank!”

In the midst of the fog and gas appeared a woman in a red and black bodysuit. Her hair was green, and her face a ghastly white.

Good Lord! Red Robin thought. Harley Quinn!

“Surprised?” Harley Quinn said as the smoke and laughing gas dissipated. None of the four heroes responded.

“I didn’t figure these two dopes for good guessers,” said the Joker’s daughter, giving Batman II a light kick to the stomach. “But I have to say I’m disappointed in you, Red Robbie. I thought for sure you’d be onto me. I left you the biggest clue.”

Quinn leaned down and rolled Batman II to face Red Robin. “Didn’t you even once think, ‘Who are these clowns?'” Quinn shook her head. “I guess not. I tried. The Riddler, I’m not.”

Two-Face rose to his feet. “You!” he said. “Get out of our way! Batman is ours!”

“You like things in twos?” Quinn said.


“Well, nuts to you!” Quinn kicked Two-Face in the groin, doubling him over. She squeezed a flower on her leotard, spraying a liquid over the unscarred side of Paul Sloane’s face. He shrieked in agony and fell to the ground.

“Everybody’s always going on and on about poor ol’ Two-Face! ‘How can we fix Two-Face?’ See? All fixed. I can’t believe nobody thought of this before.”

Sloane moaned in pain.

“Hey, One-Face! Keep it down! You’re spoiling my moment!” Quinn struck Sloane on the back of the head, silencing his cries, then retrieved his twin Colt .45s. “He’s so out of it, he doesn’t remember I set this whole thing up. I swear, the help these days.”

Quinn pointed at Batwing with her head and rolled her eyes. “Of course, I don’t have to tell you…” she said, then turned to the other groggy villains.

“Does anybody else here want to kill Batman?” Quinn yelled.

The Fox limped forward, carrying a heavy cattle prod, which he lifted to use on Batman II. Harley shot him twice in the stomach.

“I said, ‘Does anybody else here want to kill Batman?'”

The others all shook their heads no.

“Okey-doke. Thanks for playing.”

Quinn stood with her hands on her hips, surveying the scene. “I gotta tell ya, Robbie, the big Bat-dope really hurt Daddy’s feelin’s by going off and dying like that. All those years, he doesn’t write, he doesn’t call… what’s a Joker to think? And then to get bumped off by… what was his name? Jensen? Jerkins? Jurgens? How stupid is that, to be killed by a guy named Jurgens? What did he do, soap Batman to death? How humiliatin’! Now, I can see Super-Dope fallin’ for something like that, but Batman?” Quinn sighed heavily.

“And Daddy’s tried so hard, too. Coming after you and the Wingnut was fun and all, but I don’t think he was into it, really. Always thinking of the headlines, Daddy was. ‘Joker Kills Red Robin’ doesn’t have that ring to it, does it? It just sounds like he ruined Spring. Now, ‘Joker Kills Batman!’ That sings!”

Quinn shrugged. “I thought for sure this would bring him out of that coma. (*) Who’d believe he’d sleep through a chance to kill his own Batman? This was supposed to be his Father’s Day present. Well, it’s his loss. Next year, he’s on his own. He better be glad I left the Huntress for him, but I don’t think killing her is going to give him the same warm feeling all over.”

[(*) Editor’s note: See Red Robin: Auld Lang Syne.]

Red Robin felt the ropes binding him loosen. He’d almost sawed through one line using the razor edges he’d recently added to the fingers of his gauntlets, but he was glad he’d have the chance to break free of all the lines at once. He glanced at Batwing, who nodded that he, too, noticed the slack in the ropes.

Suddenly, machine-gun fire sprayed over the heads of Harley Quinn and the other villains. Red Robin and Batwing dropped to the ground and ducked. A woman stepped out from behind the giant coin deathtrap. She wore a short black miniskirt and matching jacket, a chauffeur’s cap, and gloves. A black leather mask hid her identity as Tony Gordon Jr.’s assistant, Mercy Graves.

“Orchid!” yelled Robin II.

Orchid kneeled beside her boss and his son, quickly untying the ropes binding them. She stood and sent out another burst of covering fire. Red Robin stepped to her side and snatched the gun from her hands.

“Hey!” Orchid yelled.

“That’s enough,” said Red Robin.

Batman II and Robin II were on their feet. Batman II nodded to Red Robin, then took off running into the crowd of villains, Robin II close at his heels.

“Batwing!” Red Robin yelled. “Let’s go!”

“About time,” Batwing muttered.

The caped quartet waded into the mass of mostly geriatric gangsters. The aging and rejuvenated villains alike fell easily to their onslaught. The Riddler and a trio of Harley Quinn’s hired goons gathered together and rushed the heroes, temporarily halting their rout. As Batwing landed a solid right onto King Cobra’s chin, he noticed Harley Quinn disappear into a stairwell that led to the inner workings of the dam. He bolted after her.

The door to the stairwell was locked from the inside. Batwing stepped back and kicked, knocking it off its hinges with one blow. No light escaped from the passageway. Batwing switched his mask lenses to infrared, allowing him a clear view of his path. There was no sign of Harley Quinn.

Batwing heard gunfire behind him. He turned to the sound, worried for his mentor. The amateur heroes fighting beside them did not fill the young hero with confidence.

Fortunately, Red Robin seemed to have them all outnumbered. Batwing turned back to Harley Quinn’s trail in time to see a giant boxing glove flying at him, but not in time to duck. Stunned, Batwing fell backward as Harley Quinn pounced atop him. She landed palms flat against his chest, shocking him with an electric jolt from her Joker hand buzzers.

The second-generation harlequin of hate dragged Batwing down a half-dozen stairs to a landing, then dumped him into a utility closet. Batwing stood, plucking a batarang from his belt. Quinn swung at him with a crowbar, striking his left elbow at the joint. Batwing howled in pain. Quinn struck again and again, twice on the shoulder, then a glancing blow to the temple. Batwing fell to the ground, his left arm hanging limp at his side.

Harley Quinn grabbed Batwing’s right wrist and handcuffed it to a water pipe next to his head. Quinn unfastened Batwing’s utility belt and yanked at his pants. Batwing kicked at Quinn ineffectively.

“Don’t squirm!” she said. “We only have a few minutes!”

Harley Quinn struck Batwing with a stick. The young hero smelled gunpowder.

“Is that dynamite in your pants, Bat-Brat, or are you just happy to see me?” Quinn stuffed the dynamite in the elastic of Batwing’s tights, then lit the fuse.

“Rest in pieces.”

Batwing tried vainly to move his useless left arm. Harley Quinn shut the utility room door behind her, but if he got the dynamite out of his belt, he could possibly minimize its damage. Unable to dislodge the explosive, he twisted his body, hoping to extinguish the fuse. The fine thread burned lower, ever closer to the stick.

The door swung open with a powerful push. With a loud bark of pain, Harley Quinn fell at Batwing’s feet. Behind her stood a visibly angry Batman II.

“Stay down!” he ordered. He reached down and snatched the stick of dynamite away from Batwing, then yanked the fuse from its stem.

“Yeah! Like that’ll work,” said Harley Quinn.

Immediately, the stick of dynamite began to glow red hot. Turning his back on Quinn, Batman II drew back his arm to pitch the dynamite into the stairwell. Quinn bounced up, landing a flying kick in the center of the Caped Crusader’s back.

The dynamite landed on the floor, inches from his hand. Quinn leaped onto Batman II, throwing a flurry of furious punches. Batman II held Quinn at bay, then used his foot to kick closed the utility room door. That was the last thing Batwing saw before the explosion.

The door fell from its hinges, landing atop Batwing’s prone body. The electric lights blew out. Smoke filled the room. Fire burned in the hallway. By its light, Batwing could see the unmoving body of Batman II. He saw no sign of Harley Quinn.

Red Robin appeared in the smoke. He moved quickly to Batwing’s side, burning through the handcuff with a mini-torch to release his young partner.

“Is Gordon…?” Batwing said.

“There’s no hope,” Red Robin replied.

As Red Robin helped Batwing to his feet, they heard Robin II at the top of the stairs.

“Batman!” Robin II screamed, his voice breaking. Red Robin rushed the stairs, preventing the boy from seeing Harley Quinn’s handiwork. Batwing soon joined them. Having retrieved her machine gun, Orchid stood guard over the villain gang.

“Robin,” Red Robin said. “He’s gone.”

No!” Robin II shrieked. “He can’t be dead! He can’t be!”

A cheer went up from the villains still standing.

“How is Harley Quinn like a corduroy pillow?” yelled the Riddler. “They’re both making headlines!”

Red Robin stepped forward and lashed out with a left, knocking the Riddler unconscious. Two dozen uniformed police officers flooded the area, detaining the villains. In the confusion, Red Robin led Robin II away.

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