"Cleaning House": Since Haly's Circus was set to open in Amusement Mile, there have been numerous posters put up to advertise it, many of which feature Jimmy the Clown as their poster-boy, though he is not eager to be the focus of attention. Unfortunately for Ji
- You know, this last year's been a real snooze to watch, Bat-Fake. I mean, you coming back here, desperate to prove yourself... being all serious... Yawn!
- — Joker
Synopsis for "Cleaning House"
Since Haly's Circus was set to open in Amusement Mile, there have been numerous posters put up to advertise it, many of which feature Jimmy the Clown as their poster-boy, though he is not eager to be the focus of attention. Unfortunately for Jimmy, the posters have caught the eye of the Joker, who is apparently annoyed by the resemblance between Jimmy's character and himself. One night, as Jimmy separates from his friends to get a drink, Joker attacks him in an alley, infecting him with Joker Venom.
Nightwing, meanwhile, is convinced that the Joker knows the identities of Batman and all of his allies, despite Bruce's claims that it would be impossible. As such, he has decided it would be best to pull Haly's Circus out of Gotham City, to protect those he cares about, and then look into the fact that the Joker just broke Raya Vestri out of Blackgate Penitentiary. Not long after leaving the Batcave in frustration, he receives a call from Sonia Branch urging him to come to the circus. Jimmy is dead.
Rushing to Amusement Mile, Dick is stopped at the edge of a police cordon, where a small crowd has assembled to see that Jimmy's grotesquely grinning corpse has been tied to the sign over the gates. A note is attached to him reading "Nobody Likes a Knockoff." In tears, Dick pushes past the crowd to find the other circus folk. Sadly, they explain how the Joker killed Jimmy just because he looked like him. Desperately, Dick urges them to pack and prepare to leave Gotham, turning to Sonia and begging her to leave town or stay with acquaintances. The little voice of Christina Sorrano catches Dick's attention, wondering what the Joker might want with Raya, if he was willing to kill Jimmy just for being a "knockoff."
By sunrise the next day, the circus has been shipped out of the city on their train, and Jimmy's body has been taken care of by the police, giving Dick the chance to investigate at Blackgate. Unfortunately, nobody in her cell block can tell him anything. The last angle of investigation open to him is to go to the morgue and have a look at Jimmy's body. Sneaking in, he begins taking a blood sample from the corpse when Sonia calls him. She requires him to put his name to some papers that will put the construction on Amusement Mile on hold for the time being. Though it will only take a short while, Dick is eager to get Sonia out of the city, and get the Joker under control. Before the morgue technicians return, Dick manages to discover that Jimmy's blood contains traces of kerosene jet fuel.
After changing out of his costume, and doubling back to shake any tails, Dick arrives at Sonia's place, and begins filling out the paperwork she gives him. Meanwhile, Sonia insists that what happened to Jimmy was not Dick's fault, and he shouldn't blame himself. Dick admits that because Jimmy and the others were - are - his friends, because he asked them to stay in Gotham, he feels like he let them down. Sympathetically, Sonia promises that things will be okay, kissing his cheek. The two are drawn to each other, and lock lips in a kiss. Despite his interest in her, Dick's mind is filled with memories and associations. The fact that Sonia's father, Tony Zucco, killed his parents preoccupies him, and he has to break it off.
Fortunately, he is spared having to explain himself by an alert on his phone. Kline Industries used to be a rising power in the aerospace field until allegations of corporate espionage drove them to bankruptcy. Their fuel formula was proven to be stolen from Wayne Enterprises - a knockoff.
Upon arriving at the Kline Industries building Nightwing hears the Joker's taunting voice welcoming him and mocking his attempts to live up to the Batman's name, calling him "Bat-fake" and "Bat-lite." Meanwhile, Dick is attacked by someone who seems at first to be the joker, but soon turns out to be Raya, infected with Joker toxin. The Joker is bored by Nightwing's attempts to be like the Batman, and tonight he will attempt to wake him up. Joker points out that Raya is dressed in an imitation - a knock-off - of Nightwing's uniform, and then leaves them alone to fight it out.
Though Nightwing manages to dodge most of Raya's attacks, he soon realizes that her insane laughter is not so much laughter as the only way that she is capable of expressing her pain while infected with a toxin that her body is rejecting. It is killing her. She collapses, and Nightwing fumbles to inject her with an anti-toxin, unsure of its likely effectiveness. Though it returns her to her normal self, the damage is done. At least Raya manages to apologize for all she did before dying in her former friend's arms.
After ten minutes of sitting there with Raya's body, Nightwing notices something written on the skin peeking through a tear in her uniform. The message written across her chest suggests that the Joker is about to target Haly's Circus.
Appearing in "Cleaning House"
- Sonia Branch
- Raya Vestri (Dies)
- Jimmy Clark (Dies)
- Christina Sorrano
- Tony Zucco (Flashback only)
- Flying Graysons (Flashback only)
- This issue is reprinted in Nightwing: Death of the Family and The Joker: Death of the Family.
- The Joker cards seen on the alternate cover are the same ones that Batman recalls finding in the Batcave in Batman (Volume 2) #15.
- This card was the secret that Wayne was hiding from the family, the fact that Joker might have made it into the Batcave and figured out the family's identities.