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Brave and the Bold 184
"The Batman's Last Christmas!"

Mike W. Barr: Writer
Jim Aparo: Artist
Adrienne Roy: Colorist
Dick Giordano: Editor

Snow falls outside of the Gotham Children's Home, while inside, the elderly woman watches her charges play with discarded toys, while incomplete, are nonetheless important to a child's hands. Hearing a tapping on the door, the woman opens it, and sees a large sack on the stairs. Inside the sack are carefully wrapped presents for the children, and while they eagerly unwrap their gifts, the woman turns towards the front porch. The shadow of Gotham's Guardian is leaving the stairs, and as he swings away, the caretaker's thanks is heard on the winter wind...

The Bat-Signal shines in the night sky, and Officer Haggerty wonders if The Batman will come, but The Commissioner knows that his old friend will always come! The Masked Manhunter thanks James Gordon for his vote of confidence... and knows that The Commissioner will always be on hand when he arrives. Gordon isn't so sure, now that Hamilton Hill has won the mayoral race, and has threatened to get rid of him when he took office. The Batman knows that his friend has survived hostile administrations... and knows that he'll do it again. It is Gordon's turn to be thankful for the vote of confidence, and The Darknight Detective wonders why he called him...

One of the local mob bosses, "Spurs" Sanders, has found the records his accountant was going to turn over to the police! One of Sanders' men has recovered the records and will bring them to "Spurs." Gordon wants those records, but they have no idea where Sanders man could be in an area of six square blocks! Swiging from rooftop to rooftop, The Batman scopes out the street below, figuring that Sanders' man could be wearing a disguise... and carrying the records in some sort of... sack! He swings down and gives chase to a fleeing Santa, whose disguise has just been pierced!

Meanwhile, on the rooftop of a Gotham skyscraper, The JLA transporter tube has been activated... and from it emerges... The Huntress! She feels strange leaving one Gotham and entering another on a parallel world known to both The JLA and JSA as Earth-1. The Huntress is the daughter of the late Bruce Wayne of Earth-2... and The Batman of Earth-1, she knows as "Uncle Bruce!" It is her relative whom she wishes to spend the holidays with...

Below in an alley, Batman has caught up with the "Santa' and stuns him with a slap, causing his gunshot to go wild! The "Santa" falls beneath a stomach punch, and as The Masked Manhunter begins to gather up the files, then sees something which makes even him pause! The file reads of Thomas Wayne-- Bruce's father -- lending money to Sanders so that he could become a mob boss, and the thought that his own father bankrolling a gangster leaves The Caped Crusader in disbelief. As he wonders if the contents are true, the "Santa" has recovered, and is aiming his gun at the distracted detective!

The next moment finds his gun being knocked from his hand by a dagger handle, and after that, The Huntress' boot sends him crashing in the snow! Batman greets his "niece" and The Huntress tells him that she found his location by tracing the JLA communicator. Even she can see that her "Uncle" is not himself, and indeed, Batman is not sure who he is anymore! (Holy Dark Knight, Batman!) "Santa" is left for the police, while they swing off for a talk...

At The Wayne Foundation's penthouse, Helena tells how her Cousin Dick told her about the case he and Batman solved on Earth-2, and she knew that it's been quite a while since they've last met. She thanks Alfred for the Christmas cookies, which taste almost as good as her Alfred's -- and the faithful butler understands... Bruce can't understand after dedicating his life to avenge his parents' murder, and now, he has learned that his own father might have been a criminal! Helena reminds him that he's more than just an avenger... he is a detective, and he must use his abilities to find out the truth! (Holy Darknight Detective, Batman!) With two days before Christmas -- Bruce Wayne will pay a visit on his father's accountant, and Helena assures him that they'll get to the bottom of it together! While Bruce gets ready, Helena watches the snow fall, and is determined that history not repeat itself, so that what happened to her father will not also happen to her "Uncle!"

Mr. Randolph receives a pair of visitors at his home, which reminds Helena more of a hospital. Bruce knows that Amos Randolph is a sick man, and the millionaire playboy was surprised to learn that he was still among the living. The nurse tells them that Randolph can see them for half an hour. Inside, a chill hangs in the air, as they enter, and hear a voice like cracking ice greet them. Bruce wishes Mr. Randolph a Merry Christmas, and the old man is introduced to the boy's out of town cousin, Helena. Taking her hand in his cold grasp, Randolph tells Helena that she takes after Bruce's mother.

Since he suffers from emphysema, Randolph can't offer them a warm fire, and asks his assistant to bring them some sherry. Bruce presents him with a present... a picture of himself and Randolph with his parents. He then asks if he can examine his father's financial records from 25 years ago, and Randolph has kept them over the years. Reading it, Randolph and Bruce see that Thomas Wayne made several monthly withdrawals of ten thousand dollars, but he never told the accountant about it. Helena knows that the dates match those which Sanders claimed to have received money from the doctor.

Bruce and Helena bid Randolph a Merry Christmas, and she wonders what happened to the old man. He had been aged by a nerve disease, and it is a condition which Bruce shares. Helena tells him that they have another thing to check out... "Spurs" Sanders! "The Double S" is Sanders' home, and is guarded by well-trained security guards... who are not so well-trained that they anticipate a visit from Batman!

A batarang downs a thug, while a kick brings down the other... and "Spurs" greets his unexpected guests. The Masked Manhunter knows that Sanders has never been west of The Gotham River, and he demands to know the connection between him and Thomas Wayne! "Spurs" enjoys the view of The Huntress when compared to that of The Teen Wonder, and he pulls out a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Playing it, Batman hears the voice of his father... making a deal with Sanders to make both of them rich men!

"Spurs" sees that The Batman doesn't want his connection with Thomas Wayne made public knowledge, and he offers to make a deal. The Huntress advises him not to do what he has in mind, and they both leave, with Sanders' Christmas wishes. As they swing through Gotham, Batman excuses himself from The Huntress, and she watches as he swings away. Even though she didn't follow him, Helena knows where her uncle has gone to, especially since she's been there with her own father. She crouches behind a headstone, and watches her uncle at his father's grave. He hadn't wanted to believe it, but the taped sealed it... he now knows that his father was not the fine man whose murder Bruce has tried to avenge, and in the light of this evidence, Thomas Wayne is no better than the criminals Batman fought in his parents' name. To continue as The Darknight Detective would make Bruce as much of a hypocrite as his father was, and he has decided -- that The Batman must die!

The Huntress weeps, for she recalls the day on her world, when her father cast aside his cape and cowl when his wife died in his arms... she remembers that history can repeat itself on two worlds... and she knows that even the bravest of men -- on any Earth -- is only a man. The millionaire playboy is soon seen on the town at night, but without the fire which drives him, he is no longer what he was... and the night has claimed him.

The "Santa" is free and is shopping with his son, while one of Sanders' men watches their progress from a parked car... "Spurs" has decided that all loose ends must be taken care of, and so, the car speeds towards the startled father and son... As the auto continues to bear down on them, the father throws his son to safety, then he is pulled out of harm's way by The Huntress! Knowing that the mob would be after him, she gives the father and son an address where they'll be safe. Bruce watches as the boy rushes to his father's side, and it doesn't matter that his dad's a criminal... The Huntress greets her uncle, and for the first time in days, Bruce Wayne feels better...

He knows that The Batman came into being for more than fighting criminals... he is there to help others from knowing the loss he endured. Bruce is determined to discover the truth, and they head for Wayne Manor! While Helena admires the decor, Bruce concentrates on an early Christmas memory, when he received a toy fire engine from Mr. Randolph... The boy wonders if Santa told him that he wanted one, but Randolph knew this from Bruce's parents! As Randolph places his hand on Thomas Wayne's shoulder... the memory ends, as Bruce has found what he was looking for!

It was his last Christmas with his parents, and the memory has kept it from being The Batman's last Christmas, as well! She sees Bruce tear open his shirt, and soon, it is The Batman standing before her. Even though Helena Wayne is a grown woman, she weeps at the sight, and when her uncle insists that he wasn't gone that long... it seemed that she would have lost both of them... forever! Near the end of Christmas Eve, they swing out into the snowy night, and although The Huntress knows that they are alone, her heart knows otherwise.

Randolph is roused from slumber by the sound of something coming down the chimney. The Batman has brought him a Christmas present... but not one he'll like! The present is the truth that it was Randolph disguised as Thomas Wayne, who made a deal with Sanders! It was Randolph's uncontrollable habit of nervous tapping his fingers which provided the crucial clue. Naturally, he doesn't tell Randolph this, and it was with Thomas Wayne's money that the old man built his own fortune! Randolph knows that none of this can be proven! He can never go to prison. The Masked Manhunter turns to leave, telling the old man to check out his surroundings... because he's already in prison!

The Huntress pays a visit to "Spurs" Sanders, who is told that electronic voice-printing will show that it was not Thomas Wayne's voice on the tape. When Sanders insists that it won't be admissible in court as evidence, The Earth-2 heroine tells him that people will read about it in the Gotham Gazette.. and they'll believe it! His "hold" on Batman is broken, and The Darknight Detective makes no deals with criminals! When "Spurs" asks about the records, she smiles, and tells him that they're now the Christmas present of someone who's had him on the top of his naughty list! In his office, Commissioner Gordon inspects the files, and at "The Double S," The Huntress leaves Sanders with her Christmas wishes.

It's Christmas morning, and families celebrate by exchanging gifts, and give love to one another. Batman thanks his niece for giving him back his faith and his cause, for he can think of no better gift to have received. She asks to stay with him -- and watch what he has to do... this will be her gift! At his parents' gravesite, The Huntress watches as The Batman renews his vow to dedicate his life on the fight against all criminals!

A dramatic cover by Jim Aparo, as The Batman removes his cape and cowl, and Bruce Wayne is determined to end his career... before The Huntress' startled amazement!

As we see on the first page, The Caped Crusader is there for the citizens and the children of Gotham when it comes to the holidays. If the sight and sound of Batman joining in the singing of carols is a bit much, then the spirit of giving is not so far-fetched.

The Huntress is one of my favorite characters, especially in her unique relationship with her "Uncle" Bruce. I will never forget the issue of JLA when she told him about her father's death, and how he held her in her grief. Pre-Post-Crisis-Zero Hour etc be damned. because I read it, it happened, and it mattered.

In current continuity, there's Helena Bertinelli as The Huntress, and the now-cancelled Birds of Prey TV show with Helena Kyle, who has inherited the meta-human abilities of her mother.

There's just something about seeing The Batman swinging alongside his counterpart's daughter, as if a family tradition is being continued.

From Bill Finger, we learned that The Thomas Wayne Murder Case was not closed with Joe Chill's death, but that the killer was hired by Lew Moxon, who sought to keep the doctor quiet. Thanks to Mike W. Barr, we have Bruce doubting all he's done over the years, and his struggle to find the truth.

"Spurs" Sanders would share the appearance of The Outsiders' foe, "The Duke of Oil!" by Jim Aparo.

The Pre-Crisis Batman found his parents' killer and would have given up his identity to bring Joe Chill and Lew Moxon to justice. So strong is his resolve on the matter, no matter what the personal cost was to his own world, that it made him all the more heroic in my eyes.

On the last page of the story, we see Batman renewing his vows, and see that he does serve a purpose... never forgetting for what he's fighting for.

The Christmas greeting from the DC Staff includes: Jenette Khan, Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano, Paul Levitz, Karen Berger, Bob Rozakis, Ross Andru, Pat Bastienne, Murray Boltinoff, E. Nelson Bridwell, Albert De Guzman, Carol Fein, Carl Gafford, Jack C. Harris, Nansi Hoolihan, Robert Kanigher, Todd Klein, Joe Kubert, Paul Kupperberg, Bob Lappan, Bob Le Rose, Dave Manak, Sheldon Mayer, Irv Novick, Tamsyn O'Flynn, Julius Schwartz, Milton Snappin, Laurie Sutton, Antony Tollin, Irene Vartinoff, Helen Vesik, Carlos Villanueva, Len Wein, and Tom Ziuko.

The Christmas present would be the Brave And Bold Mailbag, where Batman is seen reclining on a chair, and reading the sacks of mail sent in from readers. Dick Giordano is the one answering the letters of comment,and it's incredible that such a thing be considered a thing of nostalgia. It makes the books of the time all the more special.

Steve Chung
"The Batman's Last Review!"