Batman and Green Arrow: Mixed Signals, Chapter 1: Archer Trouble

by HarveyKent

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It was late at night in Gotham City, or early in the morning, if you prefer. As he crouched on a rooftop overlooking the financial district, Batman consulted the digital time display on his utility belt; it was 3:47 A.M. The night was nearly over, and it had been a slow one. Just one attempted mugging in the theater district, hours ago. He was grimly satisfied, but deep down, a bit restless. He knew this lull in criminal activity could not last, and he craved action to keep his senses alert and his skills at top performance.

“All cars in vicinity of Moldoff Avenue,” a voice suddenly crackled in Batman’s ear, the miniature radio receiver in the earpiece of his cowl, tuned to the police band. “Proceed to Kashdan’s Fine Jewelry, 139 Moldoff, near corner of 61st Street. Silent alarm.” Batman smiled grimly, and proceeded over the rooftops.

In minutes, Batman’s boots touched the street in front of the darkened jewelry store. Distantly he heard sirens, but they would take several more minutes to arrive. The caped crusader tried the door, found its lock broken, and burst through.

A figure in the semi-dark of the lighted city night whirled to face Batman, a figure clothed in a costume he had not seen in years. The momentary surprise was enough; in a single fluid motion the figure notched, drew, and fired an arrow at Batman. The darknight detective’s trained reflexes took over, and he dived out of the way, but the arrowhead exploded in a bright magnesium flare. Cursing himself for letting himself be caught off-guard, Batman ground his gloved knuckles against his eyes, trying to clear away the spots. His ears heard the sound of the rear entrance, of running feet. Seconds later he heard the chirrup of police sirens as the squad cars pulled up; his eyesight returned enough to see the blue-suited blurs burst into the store.

“Batman!” one officer, still a blur to Batman but whose voice he recognized, cried out. “Did you get them?”

“Sadly, no, Officer Samuels,” Batman said, still blinking away the spots. “I was a bit off my game tonight. He got the drop on me with a magnesium flare; got out the back while I was blinded. Stupid rookie mistake.”

“Hey, we all have our off-nights,” Samuels said. “You’ll get him next time. You always do. Who was it?”

Batman looked around the store, the open display cases, the rifled drawers. “Someone I thought I’d seen the last of,” he said. “The Blue Bowman.”

***

“The Blue Bowman?” Commissioner Gordon said, a tone of disbelief in his voice. “Cobb only used that identity once, several years ago. (*) I thought he’d given it up as a bad idea.” Batman and his longtime friend stood in the commissioner’s office later that day, discussing the events of the previous night.

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Blue Bowman,” Batman #139 (April, 1961).]

“It was him, all right,” Batman said. “That same blue Robin Hood outfit, and the trick arrows. And I fell for it like a rank amateur.” Batman shook his cowled head. “Nightwing will never let me hear the end of this.”

Gordon suppressed a smile. “He was the last one who fought Cobb, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, he told me about it,” Batman said. “Several months ago, Cobb was one of several minor-league villains who accepted a contract on the original Robin. (*) They hadn’t known then that he had become Nightwing, but learned it somehow. They were working for ‘Jumbo’ Carson, who was Ant-Man when Robin fought him many years ago.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Secret Society of Super-Villains: Don’t Try Anything Funky and “The Secret of the Ant-Man,” Batman #156 (June, 1963).]

“Cobb was still using his Signalman identity,” Gordon said. “One thing bothers me, though. Whether as Signalman or Blue Bowman, Cobb delighted in sending clues to his crimes. We had no tip-off about the Kashdan heist.”

“Cobb isn’t the Riddler,” Batman said grimly. “He may have enjoyed taunting me, but he had no mental compulsion to do so. Perhaps he’s finally wised up and stopped sending clues.”

“That’ll make it less easy to catch him,” Gordon said.

“Perhaps… but catch him I will,” Batman declared.

***

In the days that followed, the Blue Bowman’s crime spree continued across Gotham. Two nights after the incident at Kashdan’s, a fur warehouse was robbed of several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of furs. The police and Batman arrived too late that time, but a calling card had been left behind: an arrow, painted bright blue, stuck in the wall.

Three nights later, a beat patrolman investigated shadows moving inside a store that bought and sold rare and collectible coins, which had been closed for the night. The officer ended up trapped in a cocoon-arrow, and the Blue Bowman got away with a large sack of coins.

Two nights after that, Batman was patrolling in the Batmobile when he received a radio call about trouble at Byrne-Leigh Stadium. There had been a hockey playoff there earlier, and the concessions vendors had given their cash payments, likely in the tens of thousands, to an armored car courier for transport to the bank. Batman arrived to see the armored car on four flat tires, blue arrows sticking out of the rubber, the driver and guards slumped unconscious across the seats, and a blue-suited figure hauling moneybags out of the opened back of the car.

“Cobb!” Batman called, leaping out of the Batmobile. “This ends now!”

The Blue Bowman whirled to face Batman. Batman saw something he hadn’t seen in the jewelry store, likely because of the flare; Cobb had added a full-face black mask to his costume. This time, Batman took no time to ponder his foe’s costume choice, but charged full ahead. The Bowman drew an arrow and fired, not at Batman, but at the front of the armored car. Batman watched in horror as the arrow struck the hood of the vehicle and burst into flames, flames that quickly spread across the hood.

No!” Batman cried, changing direction. The guards were still unconscious in their seats, likely victims of some kind of gas. Batman had to save them. He quickly pulled two pellets from his belt and hurled them at the hood; they burst into chemical foam, which quickly smothered most of the flames. Batman pulled the unconscious guards to safety; as he did so, he heard the roar of the Blue Bowman’s getaway car speeding off into the night.

Grimly, Batman ground his teeth. Cobb had grown more ruthless. That only made Batman more determined to bring him down.

***

“I have brought you some nourishment, Master Bruce,” Alfred Pennyworth said as he approached the Bat-Computer, silver serving tray flawlessly balanced on his hand. “Dare I hope you will eat it this time, or shall I simply throw it out now?”

“Thank you, Alfred, I’ll take it,” Batman said, without taking his eyes from the computer screen. A large street map of Gotham City was displayed on the screen, blue triangles indicating the places where the Blue Bowman had struck.

“A wise decision, sir, if I may put forward a personal opinion,” Alfred said, setting the tray down at his master’s elbow. “I have prepared grilled salmon tonight, very high in protein.”

“No pattern,” Batman muttered grimly.

“Quite so, sir,” Alfred said. “I used the new grilling pan; it leaves no marks at all on the meat.”

Batman turned to his old friend, prepared to comment, but he saw the twinkle in Alfred’s eye, and chuckled grimly. “Trying to draw me out of myself, Alfred?”

“I took that liberty, sir. If my history with you tells me anything, it is that a slight diversion sometimes aides your deductive processes.”

“What would I do without you, Alfred?” Batman asked, picking up the fork and spearing a piece of salmon. “But still, there’s no pattern to Cobb’s robberies, at least none I’ve been able to detect. A jewelry store, a fur warehouse, a coin collectors’ shop, an athletic stadium — no pattern at all.”

“And no taunting clues from Mr. Cobb this time?”

“None at all. Like I told the commissioner, he’s probably wised up.”

“Not wise enough not to commit crimes in your city, sir.”

“No, not so wise as that,” Batman said, around a mouthful of salmon. “But so far, he’s gotten away with it.”

“I feel confident that you will catch him sooner or later, sir,” Alfred said. “You always do.”

***

Later, Batman prowled the rooftops of Gotham, looking down on the city he loved, searching for some sign of the Blue Bowman.

“Where?” Batman asked himself. “Where will he strike next? Bank… museum, maybe? I just…”

Batman’s introspection was cut off by a sound behind him. He whirled to look, and every muscle in his body tensed. An arrow had landed in the rooftop access doorway behind him — an arrow trailing a cable.

For an instant, Batman could not believe that Cobb had brought the fight to him. Then his muscles relaxed slightly, and a ripple of confusion crossed his face. Through the nighttime darkness, he saw that the arrow and cable were not blue. They were green.

“Evenin’, Bats,” Batman’s longtime friend called as he swung down to the rooftop on the arrow-cable. “How’s the hunting tonight?”

“It’s been better,” Batman said grimly, as Green Arrow approached him, and he shook the offered hand. “What brings you to Gotham City?”

“I heard on the news that you were having a little archer trouble. Thought I might lend a hand.”

Beneath his cowl, Batman’s eyebrow arched suspiciously. “You didn’t think I could handle it alone?”

“I shouldn’t even dignify that with a response,” Green Arrow scoffed. “You know I know better than that! I just thought I could help out, give you a new perspective. Besides, from what you once told me, this guy Cobb took up the Blue Bowman idea after talking to one of my old punching bags in prison, so I feel a little responsible.”

Batman regarded his old friend dubiously. “All right, I appreciate the help,” he said. “The problem so far is finding the Bowman. He used to send clues to his crimes, but this time nothing.”

“I read in the papers about the places he’s hit so far,” Green Arrow said. “One thing they seem to have in common is lots of easily liquidated loot. Nothing fancy, just smash ‘n grab.”

“Yes, and I compiled a list of other likely hits,” Batman said. “But so far tonight, no–” Batman stopped suddenly, went silent.

“What is it?” Green Arrow asked. “I know that look; you’ve got something!”

“Radio receiver in my cowl,” Batman said. “Police radio. Silent alarm tripped.”

“Lead the way!” Green Arrow cried, and the two champions were off.

Green Arrow followed Batman across the rooftops of Gotham. Within a few minutes they arrived at their destination: 5 East Second Street, an unassuming little shop called…

“Pleasure Dome Comic Books and Collectibles?” Green Arrow whispered incredulously. “If this is the Bowman, he’s set his sights a bit lower this time! Or maybe he’s a Richie Rich fan?”

“This place was on the news a few nights ago,” Batman whispered back. “Just acquired a huge lot of comic-books in an estate sale, most of them dating back to the 1930s and ’40s, some worth thousands of dollars each.”

“Dang!” Green Arrow replied. “Well, what are we waiting for?”

The twin crusaders burst through the front door to find the cerulean-costumed criminal crouched behind the sales counter, attacking the door of a cast-iron safe with an acetylene-torch arrow. Green Arrow wasted no time, but launched an emerald shaft at the Blue Bowman. The agile criminal dropped and rolled, narrowly avoiding the net-arrow.

Batman vaulted over the counter, pressing the attack, but the Bowman flung his arms out to meet Batman’s descending chin with his fiberglass bow. The darknight detective was momentarily stunned. Green Arrow was right behind him. The emerald archer tensed as the Blue Bowman drew and fired an arrow; Green Arrow was prepared to dodge it, but it was not aimed at him. The arrow flew out into the store, and burst into flame just below the tables of long cardboard boxes of comic-books.

“Lousy–!” Green Arrow cursed, sending a volley of fire extinguisher arrows at the flames. As Green Arrow was putting out the fire, and Batman was shaking off the effects of the blow, the Blue Bowman made good his escape. Batman heard the sound of a motorcycle roaring off into the night.

“Got away,” Green Arrow said, as Batman rose to his feet. “Well, chalk one up to Little Boy Blue. But we’ll get him next time.”

“Oliver,” Batman said grimly, “I think it’s time for total truth between us, don’t you?”

Green Arrow did a double take. “What do you mean, Bats?”

“Come on,” Batman said. “You’ve never been a very convincing liar. You had another reason for coming here, offering your help on this case, than some overblown feeling of responsibility for a criminal copying your methods. Now, what is it?”

Green Arrow prepared to protest, then relaxed his muscles and sighed. “OK, Bats, you got me,” he admitted. “The real reason is this…”

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