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Batman: Shadow of the Bat #5: The Black Spider ' is issue five of the Shadow of the Bat comic book series.


Batman has his last encounter with the junkie-turned vigilante, Eric Needham, alias the Black Spider, whose murderous and ruthless war against the drug trade in Gotham is at odds with the Dark Knight. While tracking Needham to his apartment one night, Batman finds the man's wife and son, dead. He also discovers a note addressed to him by the Spider. In the note, Needham assures the hero that he wanted someone to know his story, and Batman is the only person he knows who will be able to remember the Black Spider after he is gone.

Reading the note, Batman's mind travels back to the previous night, when he had last encountered the Black Spider. It began with a meeting of drug dealers at the Mayfair Theater in downtown Gotham City. The head dealers, Dak and Herman, are exchanging shipments of heroin for the city's most notorious drug lord, Brett Yale. However, they were ambushed by Black Spider, who launched into the dealers and their thugs, beating two of them unconscious in a matter of seconds. Two of Herman's men attack him with knives, but they prove no match for the highly-trained madman and are shot dead. Daks tries to bribe Spider, but the villain reacts violently, brutally torturing the criminal into giving him the name of his employer: Yale. Needham then repeatedly forces Daks to inhale packet after packet of heroine, driving him into a coma. Daks finally admits with his last breath that Yale is operating out of the abandoned Deever Factory in one of the nearby slums, but has such high security it would be suicide to go after him. Batman then arrives, attracted by the gunfire, and orders Black Spider to release Daks. Needham does so, but claims he is on the same side as the Caped Crusader. The Dark Knight, however, maintains that he will not tolerate killing, even against drug dealers who deserve Justice in a court of law. Spider fires on Batman with his wrist pistol, although Batman jams the weapon with a batarang. He then tackles his opponent, but the Black Spider knocks him down and escapes by latching his grappling hook onto a speeding freight train.

Some time later, Needham returns home to see his wife, Linda. To his shock, however, he discovers her injecting herself with a dose of heroin. They argue bitterly, and Linda admits she is more addicted than ever, despite her husband's constant attempts to destroy her drugs and reform her. The shouting awakens Eric's son, Mikey, who is sad to see them so angry at each other. Needham is softened, and he withholds from discussing the matter further.

Back at the Mayfair Theater, the GCPD arrives to arrest Herman and his men, while an ambulance takes the senseless Daks away. Batman warns Commissioner Gordon that there is a new drug lord in town that offers a large supply of quality heroin at a low price, working with suppliers in Colombia. However, the police have no clues concerning the new man, and Gordon worries that Black Spider may know what they don't. Meanwhile, Brett Yale himself begins to take an interest in the Black Spider, since he realizes the vigilante may ruin his new racket--a cartel of powerful drug lords in South America actually gave the heroin to Yale and a cartel of Gotham drug lords to set up a new market for them to move in. Yale hopes to rake in millions for himself, and decides no one will stand in his way...not even the feared Black Spider.

While Yale puts his plan into action, Needham scolds Linda back at their apartment for ruining Mikey's chance at a normal life by spending every penny the couple has on heroin. He threatens to divorce her and have Mikey taken away so he can lead a normal life, but the boy refuses, voicing his wishes to stay with his mother. Linda wants nothing more to do with Eric, telling him to go take his costume and play his games, but to leave her alone to her own life. While Needham leaves in a rage, a gang of hired thugs enters the apartment. When they tell Linda they have something from Daks, she lets them in. Needham, meanwhile, hurries to an abandoned building nearby, where he has hidden a spare utility belt, his trademark rifle, a submachine gun, and tons of high-powered explosive. He plans to use these to infiltrate Brett Yale's establishment and murder him. However, first Eric decides to patch things up with Linda. Returning to the apartment, he is horrified to discover both his wife and son murdered, forced to consume pure heroin, which killed them within minutes. In the Batcave, Bruce Wayne finds Linda's registered address on the Batcomputer and decides to go there in search of Needham. A sorrowed but maddened Black Spider leaves him a note to read, and then leaves. Batman breaks into the apartment moments later, discovers the corpses, and begins to read the note.

In the present, Black Spider spies on the Deever Factory through a pair of night-vision goggles. He notes the place is heavily-guarded and covered with alarms, so the safest way in is through the front gate, where Yale is least expecting an intruder. Spider snipes the two mercenaries at the entrance, then clambers over the barbed wire fence and charges the front of the building. Yale sends his men out to investigate, who discover to their horror that the hate-crazed Black Spider is the intruder. The vigilante slays over ten of Yale's men, but through their numbers they finally overpower him. Even so, it takes eight bullets to even slow him down. Forced into close combat, he slashes at the thugs with a combat knife before finally being felled by automatic weapons fire. He is dragged inside the factory while the Batmobile, unnoticed by all, speeds to the entrance, Batman having deduced Needham's location. Yale prepares to kill Needham with a syringe filled with a fatal dosage of heroin, but it is knocked from his hand by Batman, who enters the factory through a window and begins a heated battle with the other drug lords present. To his surprise, however, Black Spider appears horrified at the Dark Knight's sudden appearance, shouting that he doesn't understand the circumstances and must get out while he can. When Batman ignores him, the injured Spider knocks him out of a window, claiming that he is saving his life. Yale draws his gun, and prepares to shoot the vigilante, thanking him for removing Batman from the picture. However, the Black Spider then reveals several of his explosives strapped to his costume, attached to a timer, which he detonates. The Deever Factory is demolished in the ensuing explosion, with Needham, the drug lords, and Yale all killed in the blast. A safe Batman watches helplessly from the Batmobile, and, upon recovering Black Spider's mask in the flaming debris, recalls the last words of his note: "If you think of me at all, remember: We're all addicts. Make sure you understand just what it is you are addicted to. You only get one shot at death."