- I shake my head, breathe deeply, try to forget it. You're born, and your history, your time, your place, is a mold into which you're thrown... does it make a difference if a few demons are behind it also? My parents are still just as dead. Gotham is still Gotham. I am still... still whatever I am...
- — Batman
Synopsis for "Dark Knight, Dark City: Part III"
Batman desperately tries to save the baby that the Riddler kidnapped. The baby has a ping pong ball lodged in its throat, and Batman is forced to perform an emergency tracheotomy. It is successful, and he races the baby to the hospital before it can die of blood loss. The baby is placed on life support. Commissioner Gordon reminds him that he is not responsible for this, the Riddler is. There is a clue pinned to the baby that Batman rescued, leading to the fourth and final baby. It says "Only one left, a little boy crawler... You'll find lots of him, though shorter and taller." Batman returns to the Batcave where Alfred helps him decipher the riddle. They realize that every location the Riddler has sent them to has been part of a giant question mark. His next destination is Cooney's Circus Land, where the riddle probably refers to the "House of Mirrors." The final point on the question mark is Stockman's Square, which Batman believes is not notable.
Back in 1793, Jacob Stockman continues his written confession. He and six other men summoned the bat daemon Barbathos and sealed it underground inside their Dark Temple. He is still haunted by the young girl they left inside, who had already been through six steps of preparation to become a "Human Bat." Her death would have been agonizing and slow. Jacob Stockman knows he is destined for Hell, and believes that he deserves this fate.
Batman arrives at the circus and enters the House of Mirrors. The baby is inside, laying on the ground in front of a live goat. Batman is trying to figure this out when the Riddler's henchman Chuck attacks him with a flamethrower. Batman avoids the attack, but he is disoriented by the mirrors and unable to fight back. Chuck leaves unexpectedly. Batman passes the baby onto police officers, and continues to Stockman's Square. There is a warehouse with goons inside. Batman sends the goat in first to trick them, and then swings around to take out the flamethrower. His batline hooks a rotten beam that breaks, and he falls onto the floor unconscious. Chuck grows tired of the Riddler's games, and decides to execute Batman himself. The Riddler explains that Batman will die now that the preparations are complete, but it must be on his own terms. Chuck decides to kill Batman anyway, so the Riddler shoots Chuck.
Batman wakes up and he is tied to an altar in the Black Temple. The Riddler explains that he found a book called The Confessions of Jacob Stockman while he was stealing antiques. The book details how to perform a black magic rite known as the "Ceremony of the Bat." The Riddler believes that he can control the daemon Barbathos if he performs a sacrifice. This involves transforming the victim into a "Human Bat," and he put Batman through the six steps of preparation.
The first step was to "kiss the lips of a hanged man." The Riddler hanged a man so Batman would have to give him CPR. The second step was to bathe in human blood. He lured Batman to the blood transfusion center and blew it up. The third step was a "Danse Macabre," also known as a dance with the dead. He lured Batman to a cemetery, and had robots made of the dead attack him to simulate a dance. The fourth step was to slay a wild dog with a silver dagger. He attacked Batman with pitbull terriers, and had someone hand Batman a silver dagger at the last second. The fifth one was the most difficult, slitting the throat of an unbaptized child. He knew Batman would never do this willingly, so he forced Batman to give a baby a tracheotomy. The sixth one was a sabbath dance, acrobatics before the devil, represented by a horned goat. He had Chuck use the flamethrower to force Batman into doing acrobatics.
Batman tells the Riddler that he has never been this barbaric, and asks if something has happened to him. The Riddler explains that this is only his true potential awakening as he matures into a better criminal. Batman tells the Riddler that he has always thought they respected each other, and he explains that he has felt he was being watched the entire night. The Riddler ignores Batman and prepares to plunge the dagger into his heart. Suddenly the daemon Barbathos speaks to both of them. Barbathos taunts the Riddler, calling him easy to manipulate. The Riddler is terrified, and he flees when the building begins rattling. The Riddler realizes he cannot complete the ritual, so he decides to kill Batman by sealing the underground temple again. Batman gets out of his ropes in seconds.
Barbathos shows Batman a vision of the occult ritual that summoned him in 1765. The occultists flee, and Batman is left alone with their victim. Barbathos reveals that no monster attacked the occultists, as they had thought. It was simply a regular bat, and they imagined it was a monster because they were scared. Barbathos has been trapped in this temple for 200 years, and he speaks to Batman through the skeleton of that bat. He is trapped, but his spirit has become an intrinsic part of Gotham. Barbathos knew that someday a bat would solve a trail of riddles and release him. The city was designed to create Batman so that he could one day free Barbathos. Batman watches the young woman claw at the hatch, and Barbathos commands him to free her. He tells Batman that they are brother and sister of the bat. Batman tries to help the young woman, who tells him her name is Dominique. They realize the Riddler has set fire to the building using the flamethrower. The hatch opens, and they are rescued by Alfred. Batman carries Dominique up the ladder and out of the burning building in his cloak. When they get outside, she has turned back into the skeleton she was when he found her. The building burns down, and Batman remarks that they have not seen the last of the Riddler.
Batman decides to bury Dominique inside the tomb where his parents are also buried. Batman wonders about his true origins, whether it was accident or design that created him. He decides that it does not matter. Even if he was created by the will of a daemon, the things that made him were still real. He is who he is. It makes no difference if a demon was involved. The baby survived, and Batman decides to visit him the next day. He walks back to his house, sees a bat flying overhead, and decides to follow it.
Appearing in "Dark Knight, Dark City: Part III"
- Chuck (Dies)
- Doctor Hurt (Flashback only)
- Dominique (sacrificial victim)
- Jacob Stockman (Flashback only)
- Michael (baby)
- Thomas Jefferson (Flashback only)
- Confessions of Jacob Stockman (book)
- This issue is reprinted in the Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City trade paperback and in Batman: The Caped Crusader Vol. 3.
- Batman Recommended Reading
- Batman (Volume 1)
- Batman (Volume 2)
- Batman (Volume 3)
- Batman and Robin (Volume 1)
- Batman and Robin (Volume 2)
- Batman Confidential (Volume 1)
- Batman: Gotham Knights (Volume 1)
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (Volume 1)
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat (Volume 1)
- Batman: Streets of Gotham (Volume 1)
- Batman Incorporated (Volume 1)
- Batman Incorporated (Volume 2)
- Batman/Superman (Volume 1)
- Batman/Superman (Volume 2)
- Batman/Superman: World's Finest (Volume 1)
- Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 1)
- Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 2)
- The Brave and the Bold (Volume 1)
- Detective Comics (Volume 1)
- Detective Comics (Volume 2)
- Superman/Batman (Volume 1)
- World's Finest (Volume 1)