"Night of the Owls: In the Line of Fire": In 1944, young Japanese girls were recruited into workhouses where they would spend their days creating balloons for the glory of the emperor. These balloons were special, though. Each one would be sent across the pacific to
Synopsis for "Night of the Owls: In the Line of Fire"
In 1944, young Japanese girls were recruited into workhouses where they would spend their days creating balloons for the glory of the emperor. These balloons were special, though. Each one would be sent across the pacific to the west coast of the United States, and each one carried a bomb.
Two years later, in Gotham City, a representative of the Court of Owls visited Haly's Circus to collect the newest recruit into the Talons. Haly's best aerialist appears to be a horribly disfigured girl named Mary. Haly explained that he picked her up in Oregon after her family was killed by one of Hirohito's explosive balloons, and she was caught in the blast. He would not allow her to appear officially in the circus, because her disfigurement made the audience and the other circus folk uncomfortable. In the meantime, she helped shovel dung, while wearing bandages to hide her face. The member of the Court peeled away the bandages, and promised that he would bring her to a new home, where she would be given a new mask, all her own.
Now, after investigating an explosion in Little Jakarta - Gotham's Indonesian community - Batgirl finds herself fighting a masked figure with skills the likes of which she hasn't seen before. The fighter is superior in almost every respect, and manages to knock Batgirl off the edge of a building. As she holds on for her life, Batgirl has to choose between falling to her death, or climbing up, and getting fatally beaten to death. The assassin leans over her, and simply pokes her forehead before disappearing. The bomber let her live. Fortunately, Batgirl managed to snag an old scrap of paper from the woman's hand.
Outside Gotham City Police Headquarters, Commissioner Gordon bumps past a man who mentions that Gordon dropped something. As he bends to pick it up, he sees that it is a token of the Court of Owls. The man warns that Gordon should not turn around. He should not make any moves, lest his daughter Barbara be killed. The man leans in to Gordon's ear and whispers that several prominent Gotham citizens will die tonight, and there will be nothing he can do to prevent it. It is vital that the rest of Gotham understand that there will be no savior for them. No matter how strong his compulsion, the Commissioner must not light the Bat-Signal. The rabble must never be allowed to believe that one man owns the night. Otherwise, everything Gordon holds close will burn.
Barbara returns to her apartment to find that her room mate Alysia is not home, unusually. Icing her bruises, Barbara inspects the note, and sees that it contains Japanese kanji script translating to a date: November, 1944. A strange, impossible idea pops into Barbara's mind, and it makes her uncomfortable. Barbara recalls that Japan had built thousands of balloons to carry bombs to the West coast of the US. Hundreds landed as far inward as Detroit. One had caused the only recorded American casualties in the continental US - a family in Oregon was killed while on a picnic. The media had covered up the balloons in order to prevent the panic they were meant to cause. She wonders how it is possible that one of these balloons could have appeared in Gotham, decades later.
At police headquarters, Det. Mel McKenna informs the Commissioner that some training exercises in the Barrens have gone awry due to the appearance of a mystery assailant. With quiet frustration, Jim simply asks to be kept informed. Soon after, he is informed that an assailant has appeared in Chinatown, with possible Metahumans attacking. Jim has a few extra men sent. Another report comes that several important Gotham leaders have been murdered. Fed up, Jim demands to have any phone but his own, and he calls his daughter. Instead of Barbara answering, the Court of Owls responds, warning that he was not allowed to contact anyone. Gordon looks up too late to realize the imminent danger outside the building. Officer Renny opens the front door in time to see several paper balloon bombs coming to a landing at his feet. The blast knocks the commissioner off his feet.
Barbara suddenly receives a message from Alfred Pennyworth explaining that the city has come under attack by the Court of owls, who have sent their undead, rapidly healing assassins called Talons to kill many of Gotham's most prominent citizens. Barbara realizes that the woman she fought earlier must have been one of these Talons. Donning her costume, Batgirl speeds off on her Batcycle to face the threat.
Gordon puts McKenna in charge of the floor and has her put all survivors into the holding cells, for their safety. Additionally, he has her send a squad car to his daughter's apartment. In the meantime, he intends to risk his life in order to turn on the Bat-Signal. McKenna tries to talk sense into him, but he responds that people need to believe that someone is out there who will answer that call. Otherwise, the city will never get up from this fallen state.
Batgirl is horrified to see the destruction to police headquarters, worrying about her father's safety. She spots the Talon up on the roof, and rappels up to face her. Her father struggles upstairs from the inside while Batgirl clambers up onto the roof. She sees the materials for the balloon bombs lying around, but a swift kick in the face from the Talon takes her completely by surprise. Knowing that the Talon is capable of regenerative healing, Batgirl uses her sharpened Batarangs, with little effect. The Talon returns fire with throwing knives that slice at Batgirl's arms.
Another bomb blasts near the wall of the building, knocking James Gordon back down the stairs. Meanwhile, Barbara realizes that she can't fight the Talon hand-to-hand. If she is to survive - if her father is to survive - she will have to make an important decision. Using all her might, she kicks the Talon off the side of the roof, where she bumps into several of her own bombs on the way down.
After the explosions have subsided, Batgirl leaps down to check on the Talon, and is surprised to find that she is still alive. She peels off the Talon's hood, and finds yet another mask - the face of an expressionless girl. Batgirl asks the Talon why she didn't kill her at their first encounter. She certainly could have. The talon struggles to write out on the ground, using her own blood and her finger, "I hav mask 2. I understand."
The commissioner finally makes it onto the roof, where he turns on the Bat-Signal, thinking he's won. However, the symbol that appears in the sky is not that of the Batman. It is the emblem of the Court of Owls. He hears a voice mockingly tell him that this was their plan all the time. They had manipulated him into being the messenger of hopelessness for Gotham City. Batgirl looks up, realizing that with this stroke, the Bats have lost Gotham to the Owls.
The remainder of the Talon's bombs explode around the city, under the glow of the symbol of the Court of Owls.
Appearing in "Night of the Owls: In the Line of Fire"
- Ayumi (Flashback only)
- Gotham City Police Department
- Renny (Dies)
- Detective Nie
- Det. Mel McKenna
- Alysia Yeoh (Mentioned only)
- Batman (Mentioned only)
- Nightwing (Mentioned only)
- Japan (Flashback only)
- Nagasaki (Flashback only)
- Gotham City (Flashback and main story)
- This issue is part of Night of the Owls, and makes references to events in Batman #9, Batman and Robin #9, and Red Hood and the Outlaws #9.
- This issue is reprinted in Batman: Night of the Owls.
- Batgirl Recommended Reading