The Man-Bat returns as we take a look at Detective Comics no. 402. First, as it is by default, the cover feels like a horror comic book and this comic, particularly to the ending very much feels like a throwback to EC Comics of the 1950s. Vault of Horror, eat your heart out, which I assume happened in one of those comics.
The story opens at Brochem Ltd. as some bad guys try to break-in. Why? We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter to this story. What does matter? The fact that Man-Bat is lurking the rafters as he needs a mysterious chemical in the vault to reverse the Man-Bat process.
Just as Man-Bat is about to strike, Batman leaps into action attacking the safe cracking crew. It is a really well executed moment.
Man-Bat then joins the fray, aiding his idol Batman (his words, not mine). After a bit of an explanation, Man-Bat reveals why he’s there, and that he even brought money to cover the cost of the stolen chemical. However, Batman has an extremely strict moral code and won’t allow it. Man-Bat feels pushed in a corner and without another option knocks Batman out. To show he’s still not a bad guy (not yet at least) he checks on Batman to make sure he’s okay.
The desperate Man-Bat flees, he must reverse the process before fully becoming a Man-Bat. It seems once he “devolves” enough there will be no turning back.
As Batman investigates, he meets Kirk’s (that Man-Bat) fiancé. He then realizes that Man-Bat created a ruse about being in Chicago to buy himself more time. She is, of course, desperate to find her love. Batman brings her to Man-Bat, without mentioning it before she sees him as a monster diving out a window.
Man-Bat is upset that Batman brought his lady into this. The Chicago lie was set up to protect her from the horrible truth. He decides that Batman is officially his enemy, and Man-Bat can officially be added to the best Rogues Gallery in comics! Batman knows the specific chemical that Man-Bat needs and decides that he will cure his wayward groupie.
Man-Bat now soars on bat-like wings. The tragic transformation is complete. There is no turning back, cementing him ever more as a bad guy.
Instinctively looking for a place to hide away, Man-Bat claws his way into what turns out to be the Bat-Cave. Batman returns and turns on the lights, which blinds Man-Bat. A battle ensues after Batman briefly tries to reason with Man-Bat. Man-Bat is more bat than man, so Batman basically runs him over with his car. Roadkill jokes aside, the ending has a powerful resonance as Batman and the readers must decide is it better to let him live as a bat or to live as a man in a vegetative state.