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The City That Could Not Breathe

  • Source: The Further Adventures of Batman Volume 3 (March 1993), pages 231 to 277
  • Who: Will Murray
  • Summary: The story begins in Lower Gotham and the air turns blue one December night near the Art Deco spire of the Gotham Tower, once the tallest man-made structure in the world but now the oldest Depression-era skyscraper still standing in Gotham City. It is located in a six square block known informally as Rust Scab where only the homeless live and even cabdrivers avoided. The roaring of beasts could be heard but Gotham Zoo had closed down. A millionaire developer named Kendall Sharp was blamed for the closure. He bought the block on the cheap but let it slip into bankruptcy and decay. He was on the verge of going belly-up himself. 17 were killed in one night. The news blamed it on a serial strangler. Commissioner Gordon told the reporters there were no neck bruises or signs of foul play. Every victim died of simple asphyxiation.

    Batman and Commissioner Gordon inspected the bodies in the morgue. They note all victims died at the same time. Batman investigates Rust Scab, noting it was condemned, a ghost town, and once the heart of metropolitan Gotham. In the Gotham Tower, Batman triggers a trip-wire and hears roars. He runs into Catwoman. She claims Gotham Zoo's wild cats were not shipped to the San Diego Zoo like they were supposed to. She was worried about a black panther named Bast. The oxygen vanishes. Sharing a gas mask, Batman barely manages to return to the Batmobile, replenishes his oxygen, then brings in Catwoman and her cat Spooky and revives them. A voice is projected through the block of someone calling themself the Unseen Strangler and giving a deadline of $50 million or more will die. The Batmobile's engine dies. People lay on the streets like beached fish, affected as far south as Gotham Village. Batman suspects the Unseen Strangler is Kendall Sharp.

    Bruce Wayne pays a visit to Kendall Sharp's uptown office building that Sharp built in the 1980s. Sharp points out they are from different sides, he was not born into wealth and built his empire. He talks about how he bought the block for a song five years ago and had plans to tear it all down and build up Sharp City, a city within a city but the market went belly up. To Sharp's surprise, Wayne offers him $500 million but Sharp turns him down. Sharp suspects he has something up his sleeve.

    The power goes out in Sharp's co-op overlooking Gotham Park. He chokes out an intruder looking in his safe with his Hermes ties. It's Catwoman. Catwoman comes to in the Gotham Tower. There is a machine called the Atmospheric Converter and the zoo wild cats are all in cages. The Unseen Strangler is in a rubberized coverall topped with a fishbowl-like Plexiglass helmet. Batman approaches on the Bat-glider and is shot at. He is hit by sniper rifle bullets. The Unseen Strangler announces he is now demanding $70 million. Batman uses a flare to blind his henchman. On the Converter, there is a indicator that reads, "Oxygen-Ozone Balance." Catwoman gets free. The Strangler is surrounded by the freed wild cats and is slammed by Bast. Batman arrives and punches the Strangler's helmet with brass knuckles. He gasps for air and is revealed to be Sharp. Batman sabotages the Converter's blades with emergy dust. He blows a green gas and the cats paw at it. The Converter soon blows up. Sharp is hit in the neck by a dynamo blade. The cats attack him.

    Commissioner Gordon is startled by Batman in his office and asks how he does that. Batman dryly quips he oils his window regularly. Batman reveals Sharp was going to extort the city to refinance his real estate empire and build Sharp City. The Converter broke down oxygen molecules in the air and converted them into chemically similar but unbreathable ozone. He suspects a freelance renegade scientist is building machines and selling them to madmen. He tosses something to Commissioner Gordon to help in the clean up in Gotham Tower. Gordon asks what it is. Batman tells him it's catnip.