A Shift in Focus
In 1995, the folks at DC Comics felt that some other aspects of Gotham City needed to be explored. They wanted us to get glimpses into the minds of some of Batman's Rogues Gallery, the lives of the Gotham City Police, and the exploits of some of Gotham's other heroes. The Batman Chronicles was designed to give writers--- including those who had never even published a Batman story--- a chance to explore Gotham's dark alleys and even darker minds in anthology fashion as opposed to longer, drawn out tales.
The first issue, launched in July of 1995, contained three stories: "Midnight Train", "Anarky: Tomorrow Belongs to Us", and "Death Mask".
In "Midnight Train", writer Chuck Dixon gives us a story featuring the heroics of Commissioner Jim Gordon and Huntress as they handle a hijacking of a subway train. Batman does appear in the tale, but arrives on the scene after it's over.
"Anarky: Tomorrow Belongs to Us", written by Alan Grant, features the character of Anarky in what could best be described as a public service announcement against greed and corruption in corporations and politics.
The final story, "Death Mask", is written by Doug Moench, the man who created the villain of Black Mask. In the story, it's a member of Black Mask's gang who is the central figure. In fact, Black Mask does not appear in the tale at all. This story is the best one in the book as it features absolutely no dialogue. I would call it "poetry in panels" as the images give you all you need to know and move the story along nicely.
All in all, I would say this was a very nice debut for a new title in the Batman universe, but for someone who knows nothing of any of the characters, they would be totally lost in these characters' place in Gotham's history.