Contagion (1996) Reading Order

While Bruce Wayne has been back in the Batman costume for a few weeks, now, but his relationship with Commissioner Jim Gordon is still in tatters. Following Azrael’s stint as Batman (during KNIGHTQUEST (1993-1994) and KNIGHTSEND (1994)) followed by Nightwing’s time under the cowl (during PRODIGAL (1994-1995)), Gordon is no longer sure if he’s ever dealing with the same Dark Knight and will no longer work with him.

His refusal to call on Batman when he was ordered to by Mayor Armand Krol quickly led to his demotion. Jim’s wife, Sarah Gordon was briefly promoted to Commissioner instead, but the crooked Mayor Krol has recently selected the more malleable Andrew Howe to replace her.

Meanwhile, Azrael has been trying to prove himself a worthy ally to Batman and has been working against his former masters, the Order of St Dumas. He located their secret labs on a trip to Africa where he learned how he came to be. His connections have revealed news of a deadly virus that’s about to be unleashed on Gotham City. One that makes its victims bleed from the eyes and hunch their bodies, turning them into quasi-zombies.

SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for the KEY COLLECTED EDITIONS for this event!

Crossover: A standard 11-part event with an optional tie-in issue.

Must Reads: Story arcs marked with a ✔are must-read stories from this time period, along with any key related stories and often-forgotten tales that are worth a read.

Anthology Issues: When an issue contains multiple stories, the relevant story is denoted with square brackets. For example, [2/5] refers to the second story of the five stories in that issue, so you don’t need to read the other four. 

Previous events that directly impact this story:

  • PRODIGAL (1994-1995) – Jim Gordon stops trusting Batman

Want to keep it simple? Here’s the chronological reading order without story descriptions, or spoilers:

  • Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48
  • Detective Comics #695
  • Robin #27
  • Catwoman #31
  • Azrael #15
  •      Batman Chronicles #4 [2/3]
  • Batman #529
  • Batman: Shadow of the Bat #49
  • Detective Comics #696
  •      Batman Chronicles #4 [1/3]
  •      Batman Chronicles #4 [3/3]
  • Catwoman #32
  • Azrael #16
  • Robin #28

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Must ReadsTitle, Issue Number & Synopsis
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48
Azrael warns Batman that someone infected with the Apocalypse filovirus – dubbed ‘The Clench’ – is on its way to Gotham City via an unwitting carrier. Daniel Maris of the Order of St Dumas heads to Gotham’s Babylon Towers, knowing the virus is about to be unleashed but unaware that he’s patient zero. He and the other wealthy denizens lock down the Towers in the hope of protecting themselves. Batman follows a lead to a military base where he learns of the virus’ effects. Now he needs to find a Clutch survivor and create an antidote…
Detective Comics #695
Maris realises he’s the carrier when he starts bleeding from the eyes in front of his fellow residents. Batman & Robin listen in on Maris at Babylon Towers and learn of a survivor of an outbreak in Greenland. Babylon’s residents offer the Penguin $5million to find the survivor. Oracle finds a name – Kendall Stuart from Toronto. Batman sends Robin and Alfred Pennyworth to Canada. Maris’ pilot carries the virus into wider Gotham. In Canada, Robin locates Stuart’s apartment, but Catwoman is already there…
Robin #27
In Canada, Catwoman’s hoping to get to Kendall Stuart first for the $5million reward. Robin convinces her to partner up. In Gotham, Batman warns the Penguin not to keep the antidote for the rich, but his agent Tracker is already heading to Ontario. The US Army move it on Gotham to lock the city down. Det Renee Montoya’s boyfriend is among the infected. Batman sends Azrael to help Robin. But Tracker gets there first…
Catwoman #31
Azrael takes down Tracker as Catwoman fights back against both, while Robin takes off with Kendall Stuart. More gun-toting mercenaries arrive and shoot Stuart to prevent the cure. He tells Catwoman and Azrael of two more survivors before he dies. Robin takes a blood sample. In Gotham, Batman turns to Jim Gordon for help. Robin heads home to Gotham which is now locked down…

Must ReadsTitle, Issue Number & Synopsis
Azrael #15
Tracker catches up with Azrael and Catwoman as they follow the lead to the other two survivors. Catwoman convinces Tracker to join forces with them. Azrael is quietly convinced his former masters, the Order of St Dumas, are behind the Clench. They catch up with the gangster Fong in San Francisco who believes his survival means he’s immortal. He stabs himself to prove it, but dies immediately.
Batman Chronicles #4 [2/3]
Eric Palmoy is the son of Daniel Maris’ pilot. He watched his family die from the Clench. Helena Bertinelli is Eric’s school teacher. She’s also the Huntress. In order to help him, she risks exposure and breaks into Babylon Towers where she finds the orphaned Eric in his father’s helicopter, already infected and close to death. Batman encourages her to help find a cure…
Batman #529
Robin parachutes back into Gotham. The blood sample he took from Stuart proves to be useless due to the antibodies breaking down when a survivor dies. Azrael drops off Fong’s sample. Batman sends Poison Ivy into Babylon Towers to test his vaccine, while Nightwing, Huntress and Robin fight off rioters converging outside. Inside, Ivy tries to sell the vaccine to the highest bidder…
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #49
Former-Commissioner Jim Gordon calms the riots. Batman’s vaccine doesn’t work, so Ivy offers her kisses as a cure. Batman and Gordon go in after her and take her down. The rioters set fire to Babylon Towers. Robin catches the Clench.
Detective Comics #696
Batman and Jim Gordon escape Babylon Towers with the unconscious Poison Ivy. Gordon’s trust in Batman is restored. Catwoman figures out the number to contact Oracle to ask for help in finding the final survivor. Mayor Krol is infected. The National Guard are sent into Gotham and focus their attention on subduing Batman. Robin doesn’t have long left to live…
Batman Chronicles #4 [1/3]
Tommy Monaghan – the Hitman – has been hired to hunt down a living disease bomb called Thrax. Batman hopes to get to Thrax first in case he may carry a cure for the Clench. But Hitman burns Thrax’s body with phosphorus before he explodes and spreads even more disease over Gotham.

Must ReadsTitle, Issue Number & Synopsis
Batman Chronicles #4 [3/3]
Tim Drake is woken by his father who now knows he’s Robin. Tim somehow made it through the final stages and beat the Clench. He’s reunited with Ariana Dzerchenko who also knows he’s Robin. Tim returns home to find his mother alive. But it’s all part of his fever dream. Tim Drake is still dying…
Catwoman #32
Catwoman heads to Florida in search of the final survivor, Leonore We, who’s been kidnapped by drug dealers. Catwoman rescues her and takes her back to Gotham. Tracker is waiting for Catwoman, but she beats him again and takes Leonore to the Penguin only to find Batman waiting for her. The survivor’s blood is no use now. It’s too late for Gotham…
Azrael #16
The survivors had natural immunity, so never generated antibodies. On microscopically-close inspection, the virus itself looks like a symbol Azrael saw at the Order of St Dumas lab in Africa. It seems an agent of the Order released the virus under a misunderstood instruction from Brother Rollo. This was Rollo’s plan, but it wasn’t carried out to the letter. Azrael’s ally, Sister Lilhy, is able to translate the Order’s antidote instructions. Azrael fights through the Order’s assassins and gets the cure into Gotham City. Nightwing returns to the Batcave with news of the cure for Tim Drake, but he’s too late…
Robin #28
Lilhy and Brian Bryan already faxed the details of the cure to a number of key people and places in Gotham. Tim is already cured! While Batman and Nightwing head off to bring order to the city again, the exhausted Robin teams up with Catwoman to shut down a gang holding a section of Gotham hostage. Marion Grange takes over as mayor and reinstates Jim Gordon as Commissioner. Later, Tim Drake returns home where he’s reunited with Ariana Dzerchenko who has a surprise for him…

Must ReadsIssue & FalloutEvent / Crossover
Robin #29-30 (1996)
Ariana Dzerchenko’s big reveal is that she’s dyed her hair blonde; Alana changes her hair colour back when it seems Tim prefers it that way.
Hitman #1-3 (1996)
Hitman next crosses paths with Batman when he’s hired to kill the Joker.
Detective Comics #699 (1996)
The death of Mayor Krol alerts Jim Gordon to the fact that the Clench is still a present threat.

Batman: Shadow of the Bat #53 (1996)
Batman investigates the resurgence of the Clench, reluctantly leaving Huntress in charge of protecting Gotham while he’s away; Robin learns the Cleanch is still dormant in his body.

Detective Comics #700 (1996)
Batman follows the trail of the new strand of the Cleanch to Ra’s al Ghul.

Robin #33 (1996)
Robin, Huntress and Nightwing locate a cure for the Clench,
Azrael #21-26 (1997)
Azrael appears to bring about the ultimate defeat of Brother Rollo.
Robin #56 (1998)
Ariana Dzerchenko breaks up with Tim Drake due to his apparently untrustworthy behaviour.
Batman #562 (1999)
An attempt on Bruce Wayne’s life is, instead, intercepted by Marion Grange; the shot to her back kills her instantly.
Azrael: Agent of the Bat #66 (2000)
Despite being in direct opposition to the Order of St Dumas, Sister Lilhy returns to the Order, recruiting an Azrael of her own.
Robin #124-125 (2004)
Jack Drake finally learns his son is Robin, causing catastrophic shockwaves in the lives of both Tim Drake and Batman.
Identity Crisis #5 (2004)
Jack Drake is killed by Captain Boomerang when Robin’s secret identity is leaked.

Notable collected editions featuring the Contagion…

Collected Edition TitleCollects…
Batman: Contagion (1996)Azrael #15-16
Batman #529
Batman Chronicles #4
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48-49
Catwoman #31-32
Detective Comics #695-696
Robin #27-28

Collected Edition TitleCollects…
Batman: Contagion (2016)Azrael #15-16
Batman #529-532
Batman Chronicles #4
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48-52
Catwoman #31-32
Detective Comics #695-696
Robin #27-30

Reading Order ©OmniverseComicsGuide 2023

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