63. Batman vs. Ra’s Al Ghul (First Duel)
An interesting aspect of the first stories involving Ra’s Al Ghul by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams (besides the fact that there really wasn’t a “first story” by O’Neil and Adams, as Irv Novick shared the art duties on the first few Ra’s stories almost evenly with Adams) is the fact that the Batman within these stories is barely recognizable to the super-competent Batman of today. The Batman of the first Ra’s story really needs the help of other practically ordinary people to help bring down Ra’s.
Ra’s and Talia had been around for a little while before the famous first duel between Batman and Ra’s took place.
Batman fakes Bruce Wayne’s death and takes on the identity of Matches Malone for the first time (Malone is introduced and is killed in these issues, leaving the identity available for Batman to use). He teams up with a scientist who had worked with Ra’s (not of his own volition) and they race to stop Ra’s and Talia from unleashing a deadly plague. Through the story, Batman gets aid from some unlikely sources, like a famous skier!!
Ultimately, Batman tracks them down only to discover Ra’s dead. He takes Talia into custody but is then confronted by Ra’s - this is the first time we see the use of the Lazarus Pit. Batman is quickly subdued and Ra’s and his daughter take off.
This is probably the first “wow, Batman is tough” scene, as Batman manages to catch up with them and confront them again in the desert. Ra’s is suitably impressed. They proceed to have a sword duel in the desert that Batman perhaps would have won, but a scorpion stings Batman.
As he lies dying, Talia’s love for Batman outweighs her daughterly fealty, and she gives Batman an antidote. He then captures Ra’s and takes him into custody, winning their first battle, but not in the ultra-capable way we’re used to Batman winning battles nowadays.