Denny O’Neil is joined by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano for this chapter of the League of Assassins tale, though the cover at least is by Neal Adams.
Having failed to kill Batman, Dr. Darrk has been marked for death by the League of Assassins. Batman tracks him to China, and the story takes place on a train as they cross territory that is friendly to neither, but where Batman is in more danger. Darrk travels with a mysterious woman. She is silent for much of the story, and her identity only clear about halfway through.
It’s a well-written story, making the most of the train, and the variety of locales and people they meet along the way.
After Batman gets injured, the woman tends to him, and we learn that she is Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. Ra’s has not yet appeared, this mention is the first reference to him in the comics. All part of the gradual build of the menace and scope of the League. Dr. Darrk has taken her captive as protection against the League.
The story comes to a surprising conclusion as Talia shoot and kills Darrk. Up to that point, she had seemed a weak and helpless victim. Even still, her facial expression during the shooting does not match the woman we would come to know. One is left to assume, given the events in later stories, that Talia was playing helpless throughout this entire story, lulling Darrk into a sense of security. Was she doing this anyway, before Batman became involved? Or was her being taken captive by Darrk simply a way of ensuring she would get to meet Batman in person? I believe it’s the latter, and Darrk was unwittingly a pawn in her, and her father’s, interest in Batman.
Even Dick Girodano’s inks cannot save this Frank Robbins/Don Heck story. Batgirl manages to escape from the dress cutting machine, so the criminals go after the designer herself, injured in a skiing accident in Europe.
Batgirl saves the designed from being murdered, and captures the killers. In the end, all the pundits are routed, as the designed bases her new wardrobe on Batgirl’s outfit.
This story is followed by a 2-parter dealing with wigs. Killer wigs that crack open the skulls of women too dumb to take the crushing wigs off of their heads before they die. These two tales are definitely the low-point of her series, but Heck’s art continues for the duration of her run, making even her passable stories unappealing.