Batman: The Cult

Issue #1

Cover Date: August 1988
Subtitle: Ordeal
Writer(s): Jim Starlin
Artists(s): Berni Wrightson
Storyline: Batman awakened from a dream where he, as a child, found the cave. Inside it, he transformed into the Batman and killed Joker.
He was captive in a sewer, dangling from wrist bindings. His captor soon arrived - Deacon Joseph Blackfire.
Batman realized Blackfire was using a common breaking technique among cult leaders - isolate the victim from their usual surroundings and starve them until they began seeing what the others wanted them to see.
Batman thought back - questions had arisen about Gotham City's homeless. They were seen walking the streets during the day, but no one (including Batman) had seen them sleeping at night. At a crime scene where four bodies were found, he followed bloody footprints to a man hole and into the sewer.
Batman had taken down two street punks who'd shot a hot dog vendor. The vendor shot him, but was stabbed from behind. As Batman tried to get up, he fell. The knifeman abducted him.
With Batman missing for a longer time than he'd ever experienced, Robin (Jason) went to Commissioner Gordon. Gordon told the boy about all the disappearances - over 500 missing persons reports had been filed in the last week alone. The streets were virtually empty at night.
Blackfire, claiming to be sent by God to cleanse Gotham (most of the reported missing were criminals / former criminals), drugged Batman and took him to his totem. It had been growing since it was erected outside his tomb so many years previous. When Batman looked into its eyes, he was converted.
It was said that Blackfire was an ancient Native American shaman who was entombed alive for kiling a tribal chief and heresy. Long after he was entombed alive, he was discovered by Dutch settlers. A few days later, the settlement was devoid of people. There was blood and signs of violence, but all the settlers were gone. The only witness said he saw a naked man walking away from the area.


Issue #2

Cover Date: September 1988
Subtitle: Capture
Writer(s): Jim Starlin
Artists(s): Berni Wrightson
Storyline: Batman killed Two-Face with a machine gun. As Dent fell, he turned into Commissioner Gordon. Batman realized he was having a nightmare, but he woke up to another: he was with Blackfire's crew making a hit on a mafia house. Everyone inside was dead. Jake Baker, the team's leader, led them (with their dead) away and back into the sewer.
After a while, Batman followed "Ratface" out on another job - to kill a pimp. Batman tried to stop him, but failed. A cop showed up and Batman disabled Ratface. When the cop thanked him and showed concern by asking him to speak with Gordon, Batman knocked him out and wandered off. He smashed into a deli and stole some non-drugged food.
Ratface, who'd joined the cult willingly, squealed to the cops. The story was leaked to the media. Robin talked with Gordon about his plan to infiltrate. Batman's mind began to clear. He realized he had to confront the "deacon" to cure himself. As he entered, he was knocked unconscious; Robin, disguised, watched.
The mayor's car was bombed. Afterwards, the entire city council was assassinated.
Batman escaped his would-be murderers and was left for dead. Robin found him in the pit with the cult's dead victims.


Issue #3

Cover Date: October 1988
Subtitle: Escape
Writer(s): Jim Starlin
Artists(s): Berni Wrightson
Storyline: The deputy mayor was killed; Robin updated Batman on the situation - the entire city was polarized on the issue of Deacon Blackfire. Gordon looked over the man's file, which dated back over 80 years. After the police armory was raided, martial law was declared by the governor. Gordon was shot.
Batman and Robin found Blackfire bathing in the blood of his victims. They were spotted and ran.
Another city official was killed - execution style - on live TV. Blackfire's men took over the airwaves and he gave a speech. That night, the National Guard went into the sewers and were slaughtered. The governor requested federal aide and declared Gotham City a disaster area. He urged all citizens to evacuate.
Batman and Robin finally made it to the surface and learned the entire city had been lost to the Deacon's cult. They called Alfred; Batman asked him to take them outside the city - there was no way to win.


Issue #4

Cover Date: November 1988
Subtitle: Combat
Writer(s): Jim Starlin
Artists(s): Berni Wrightson
Storyline: Bruce, after a week of healing, prepared to go back into the city to face off against the first man to defeat him: Deacon Blackfire. A news report came through that a squad of Delta Commandoes went into the city and were all killed.
Bruce and Jason took some target practice. They'd rigged up rifles with tranquilizer darts. Jason spotted a bat flying overhead and declared it an omen. They then tested out their newly equipped vehicle - a mobile arsenal.
Another news report: several dozen people - nearly one hundred - attempted to escape Gotham City, but were gunned down by Blackfire's troops. Batman and Robin suited up.
Before going after Blackfire, who was now hell-bent on martyrdom, Batman visited Gordon in the hospital. He was expected to make a full recovery. The new monster-truck Batmobile roared in to reclaim Gotham City with an infantry troop following behind.
Using knockout gas and explosives, Batman and Robin made it into the sewers. Robin took a bullet to the thigh and stayed behind. Batman reached the Deacon, who was ready to be killed. Batman refused, but did give him the beating of his life in front of his people. As the man begged Batman to stop, the crowd turned on him. Batman and Robin (who'd arrived in time to save Batman from a gunman) escaped as Blackfire was torn apart. On the way out, Batman set Blackfire's totem on fire. Gotham City began to heal.


notes

  • This story takes place over the course of 2-3 weeks.
  • As the story opens, Batman has been captive in the sewer for about a week: "The same damnable dream I've been having all week." and "I've been down here in the sewers a week, maybe longer." (internal, issue 1).
  • Issue 4 shows both Alfred and Bruce referring to Robin as "Jason."
  • "For nearly a decade, I've been the unbeatable Batman. Ten years of leaping into the jaws of death and always escaping relatively unscathed." (Bruce, internal. Issue 4)
  • Issue 4 takes place roughly one week after #3: "It's been a week, all wounds seem to be healing nicely." (Bruce, internal)