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Welcome to Bat-Year Fourteen (April 2002 to March 2003). "Knightfall," "Zero Hour," "Contagion," and the reforming of the "Big Guns" JLA are the big things that happen this year. Bruce turns 39 in February. As you can see, we have a ton of compression going on here. These stories run the duration of one storyline year, but will comprise tales written from April 1993 to January 1997. Wow. This first part of Bat-Year Fourteen runs from April 2002 to September 2002. Jean-Paul Valley, during this year, will don the mantle of Batman for approximately four-and-a-half months.
--Detective Comics #659
--Detective Comics #660
--Detective Comics #661
--Batman #495Bane destroys Arkham unleashing every insane criminal Batman has ever apprehended. Bruce, Tim, and Jean-Paul (and Alfred, Ace, Harold, and Huntress) have their work cut out for them. The good guys recapture Mad Hatter, Mr. Zsasz, Amygdala, Cornelius Stirk, the Cavalier, and Poison Ivy. Bane kills Film Freak. Robin gets caught in the middle of a brutal Bane vs Killer Croc rematch. Elsewhere, an alien menace has reared its ugly head, which leads us to a slight interlude known as "Bloodlines."
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #1Xenomorph-like shape-shifting aliens are feeding off human spinal fluid. Once fed upon, the human fodder dies, except for a select few who gain metahuman powers instead. Don't ask me how or why. It's stupid. It's "Bloodlines." In SotB Annual #1 Batman teams-up with the returning Pagan and the debuting Joe Public.
--Detective Comics #662
--Detective Comics #663
--Detective Comics #664
--Showcase '93 #7-8 ("2 FACE")
--Detective Comics #665
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-18 ("GOD OF FEAR")Batman and Robin recapture Firefly and the Riddler. Batman rescues Mayor Krol from the Scarecrow and the Joker. The Dark Knight also apprehends Two-Face after he holds a twisted "trial" against the Caped Crusader. And last but not least, Batman defeats Bane's three tough henchmen. After all of this insanity Bruce returns to Wayne Manor in a weakened, fragile state only to discover a beaten Alfred and Bane awaiting him. Bane has known Batman's true identity for some time now. Bruce is barely able to contend with the powerful behemoth and is tossed around the Batcave like a rag-doll. In one of the most iconic Batman splash pages of all time Bane raises Bruce above his head and literally breaks him in half. Bruce's back is broken. Bane then hauls Bruce's limp body downtown and hurls him off of a two-story building in front of countless onlookers. Bane now owns Gotham, but this is just the beginning. (There is also a flashback to this scene in DC Universe Legacies #7). With Bruce out-of-commission Jean-Paul Valley dons the cape and cowl and officially becomes the new Batman. However, Jean-Paul is merciless due to his programming by "The System." In his first night out, he nearly kills a petty thug with a sledgehammer before Robin stops him. Right away, Tim can tell the new Batman will be more trouble than Bruce bargained for. Jean-Paul eventually tells Robin to stay out of his way, creating a serious rift in-between the duo. Despite his insane rage and lack of finesse, Jean-Paul is able to recapture the Scarecrow and Anarky by himself. Meanwhile, Bruce begins his recovery and begins a romantic relationship with Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, but before it can fully develop, Jack Drake and Shondra are kidnapped and taken out of the country.
--Batman Annual #17Batman (Jean-Paul) teams-up with the debuting Ballistic in Annual #17 against the alien parasites who just won't go away.
NOTE: The UN sanctions a new splinter version of the Justice League known as the Justice League Task Force which is led by Martian Manhunter and has a rotating roster of members. Nightwing is a founding member, but quits after only one mission.
--Justice League Task Force #4In Catwoman #2 Selina Kyle's apartment explodes nearly killing her. She soon learns that her case is related to the kidnapping case involving Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving. In issue #499 a wheelchair-bound Bruce, Alfred, and a stowaway Selina go on a globe-trotting search for the kidnapped Mr. Drake and Shondra. Bruce and Alfred make cameos in Justice League Task Force #4 where they ask Martian Manhunter for help from the JLTF. Meanwhile back in Gotham, Jean-Paul is preparing for the inevitable confrontation with Bane by designing new high-tech Bat-gloves complete with razor sharp claws.
--Robin Annual #2
--Detective Comics Annual #6Robin teams-up with the debuting Razorsharp and The Psyba-Rats against the alien parasites. Jean-Paul field tests his new high-tech Bat-gloves as he teams-up with the debuting Geist against those dastardly extraterrestrials. NOTE: Jean-Paul says he became Azrael a year ago. Not true, more like a couple months ago.
--Detective Comics #666
--Batman #500Great two issues to wrap-up "Knightfall." Batman has been increasingly violent recently and Commissioner Gordon can't understand what has happened to his Dark Knight. Jean-Paul finally takes on Bane and it's a pretty even match, but Bane beats him. (This battle is also shown through flashback in DC Universe Legacies #7). Disgruntled, Jean-Paul does something never before done in the history of Batman; he creates a whole new Bat-suit, which is sleek, heavily armored, loaded to the teeth with weaponry, and looks much like his technophilic Azrael costume. Some will always say that "Az-Bats" is complete and utter blasphemy, but I always loved it. I mean, this isn't Bruce. This is the borderline psychotic Jean-Paul. Jean-Paul would do something like this. At the end of issue #500, which has an amazing gate-fold cover, the new-and-improved Batman is able to do what Bruce wasn't able to; he beats the shit out of Bane. "Az-Bats" is here to stay. (Bane's defeat is also depicted in added detail through flashback in DC Universe Legacies #7).
--Showcase '93 #10
Az-Bats meets Renee Montoya and the Huntress for the first time.
NOTE: Az-Bats viciously (and unnecessarily) assaults some car-jackers (as seen through flashback in Primal Force #7).
--Batman: Turning Points #4
Gordon is becoming distraught about the new Batman. He even visits Blackgate, where Bane assures him that there is a new person under the mask and cowl. Dejected over the fact that he doesn't have definitive answers, and feeling betrayed by the Bat-family, Gordon trudges on. This is also the first chronological debut of the brash, Rambo-esque GCPD officer Billy Petit, who will be an important player during the events of "No Man's Land" later on.
NOTE: Superman is resurrected after his corpse is put into an ancient Kryptonian regeneration matrix device. With Hal Jordan, Superman is able to defeat Mongul and Cyborg Superman, but not before the complete destruction of Coast City results in the deaths of over a hundred-thousand people. NOTE: Coast City is the West Coast equivalent of Metropolis, so this is a pretty big deal.
The world celebrates the return of Superman, while at the same time plans a memorial service in tribute to the tragedy that has befallen Coast City. Superman meets the new Batman and invites him to the Coast City memorial service with the rest of the superheroes. Jean-Paul, in a real dick-move, refuses to attend.
NOTE: The flashback from Batman & Superman: World's Finest #9, Part 2 occurs here. Az-Bats meets with Superman for the second time.
--Batman: The Vengeance of Bane II, Part 1
Bane is a shadow of his former self, wasting away in Blackgate. In fact, he's gotten so soggy that fellow inmate KGBeast kicks the shit out of him just for fun. While in the infirmary Bane befriends Buzz Galvan and the Ratcatcher. With their help and inspiration Bane decides to get back into shape. First, he murders another inmate, which gets him six months in solitary confinement. The second part of Vengeance of Bane II takes place after Bane has completed his six month stint. We'll get to that six months later.
KNIGHTQUEST: THE CRUSADE Part One
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #19-20 ("TALLY MAN")"Knightquest" begins now and is split into two parts; "The Crusade" chronicles Jean-Paul's adventures as the new Batman, while "The Search" chronicles the globetrotting adventures of Bruce and Alfred. Jean-Paul struggles to control and understand "The System" programming which rages inside his mind and body. He begins hallucinating visions of a ghostly St. Dumas. The Tally Man makes his debut and is nearly mauled to death by the out-of-control Az-Bats.
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #3
--Bloodbath #1-2"Bloodlines" finally ends (thankfully). Batman deals with the debuting Cardinal Sin and Samaritan, who both gain powers and lose powers in their one-shot issue. The two issues of Bloodbath detail the final attack against the alien parasites, who naturally amalgamate into a single gargantuan mega-monster. Superman leads all of the superheroes into battle, including Nightwing, Robin, and a very anti-social Jean-Paul.
KNIGHTQUEST: THE SEARCH Part One
--Justice League Task Force #5-6
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #21-23 ("BRUCE WAYNE")Bruce and Alfred land in Santa Prisca and part ways with Selina. Bruce's JLTF team (consisting of Bronze Tiger, Gypsy, and Green Arrow) storms a compound where Jack and Shondra are being held, but the bad guys are able to escape with their hostages and the chase continues. We also learn that Shondra's step-brother Benedict Asp is the man responsible for the kidnappings. Bruce (in disguise as British Lord Hemmingford Grey) and Alfred track Asp to London where they hire a local vigilante known as The Hood to aid them in their investigation. Shockingly, Bruce discovers that Shondra was kidnapped because she is a metahuman telekinetic with the power to heal others with her touch. The power-hungry Asp is only able to use his deadly metahuman psychic powers when he's in close proximity to his adopted sister. A disguised, cane-hobbling Bruce teams-up with the Hood and together they are able to rescue Jack Drake, but not before Asp escapes with Shondra yet again.
KNIGHTQUEST: THE CRUSADE Part Two
--Detective Comics #667-668
--Detective Comics #669
--Detective Comics #670-673At this point in Gotham, it has begun to snow and is supposedly near Christmas-time. However, due to retcons, it should correctly be summertime. An excited Robin gets his driver's license early (ridiculously at age 12) due to his father's handicap and goes to retrieve his car from the Batcave only to learn that Jean-Paul has sealed off his secret entrance. Harold and Ace have left as well. When Jean-Paul catches Robin in the cave, he snaps and attacks him. Robin barely escapes, and this incident pretty much severs the working relationship between the duo. (Although Robin does sneak back into the cave once again to try and reason with Jean-Paul). Batman then obliterates The Trigger Twins, Mekros, and Mr. Freeze. Also, Renee Montoya is promoted to detective. Detective Comics #671-673 is a great story-arc where the new Batman meets the Joker for the first time! The Joker is filming "The Death of Batman," complete with a kidnapped film crew, Hollywood producer, and even Siskel and Ebert! There's a great scene where Siskel and Ebert review Batman's new costume (Siskel hates it, Ebert loves it), but when they offer critique about the Joker's film, they each get a bullet in return. Director Joseph Kerr eventually lures Jean-Paul onto the set, but soon dejectedly realizes that Batman is a different person! Batman promptly beats the tar out of Joker, but the Joker escapes custody.
--Chain Gang War #5-6
The homicidal vigilante group known as The Chain Gang is running amok. Jean-Paul engages with them and also meets Deathstroke the Terminator.
--DC Retroactive: Superman - The '90s #1
It's been nearly a year since Doomsday originally fought and killed Superman. Metropolis still hasn't fully recovered from the titanic battle. Now, Lex Luthor's cloned body has begun to deteriorate. Dying and in a panic (afraid he won't ever get to live his dream of killing Superman), Luthor sics a giant monstrous worm creature known as a Cruiser on the Man of Steel. Supes easily defeats the creature. Batman isn't actually seen in this issue, but he does make a phone call to Clark at the Daily Planet offices warning him that seismic activity has been occurring in the labs beneath LexCorp tower. (The seismic activity is Luthor preparing the Cruiser for attack).
KNIGHTQUEST: THE SEARCH Part Two
--Catwoman #6Catwoman's investigation into who bombed her apartment leads her back to Gotham where she attempts to steal a deadly neuro-toxin from a warehouse owned by an animal testing lab.
KNIGHTQUEST: THE CRUSADE Part Three
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #24-25
--Showcase '94 #5
--Showcase '94 #6
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #26-27
--Showcase '94 #7Batman meets Catwoman for the first time! While she is stealing the aforementioned neuro-toxin (from Catwoman #6), Batman shows up to stop her. This is a truly great interaction, not because of their epic battle, but because Catwoman knows right away that it isn't Bruce under the mask. (No sexual chemistry!) Any references to the 1994 World Trade Center bombing are obviously topical. Due to retcons, this story takes place after 9/11, so we can easily replace the 1994 attack with the 2001 attack for the purposes of this tale. Az-Bats then breaks-up a baby smuggling ring. After that he teams-up with Joe Public and they trample the returning Corrosive Man. Next up Jean-Paul gets involved in a mob war featuring cameos by the Huntress, Robin, and the villain known as DeathAngel. Jean-Paul's war on crime continues as he saves a busload of kids from Abattoir. Abattoir then kidnaps the newborn child of Lady Clay and Preston Payne, Cassius Clay aka Clayface V! Holding the baby hostage, Abattoir blackmails the Clayface parents to attack Batman. Batman easily puts them behind bars and the Clay Baby goes into government custody i.e. a government testing lab. The slippery Abattoir escapes yet again, kidnaps his cousin, and begins slowly torturing him in an abandoned warehouse. Next, the Penguin also meets Batman and realizes there is a new person under the mask! NOTE: Following this case, Lady Clay is sent to a permanent holding cell at S.T.A.R. Labs.
NOTE: Bruce nor Jean-Paul are involved in this note, but it is a very important mention. Ever since the destruction of Coast City, Hal Jordan hasn’t been the same. Now, he’s finally gone completely insane and wishes to destroy the universe in order to “save it” by rebuilding it in his own image. Talk about a God complex huh? Jordan becomes the violent and crazed super-villain known as Parallax and winds up destroying Oa and killing most of the Guardians. He also effectively shuts down the Green Lantern Corps by murdering a bunch of its soldiers, including long-time friend Kilowog. These events are detailed in the "Emerald Twilight" arc, which culminates with Green Lantern Vol. 3 #50. Parallax is defeated and Kyle Rayner replaces Jordan as the newest Green Lantern.
--Chain Gang War #10-12
Jean-Paul and Deathstroke shut down the Chain Gang permanently.
--The Outsiders Vol. 2 #7-9
Az-Bats meets the Outsiders!
–Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire #1
Denny O’Neil and Barry Kitson’s awesome MARVEL/DC crossover occurs now and YES, it is canon. But wait, this must be out-of-continuity, right!? Wrong! Amazingly, Jean-Paul references his encounter from this issue in Batman #509. In Lake of Fire Batman teams-up with Frank Castle aka The Punisher against the Joker and Jigsaw. And because Jean-Paul mentions Jigsaw by name, we must assume that this encounter did indeed take place, meaning that both Frank Castle and Jigsaw are able to somehow transport themselves from Marvel’s Earth (Earth-616) to DC’s main Earth and then back again. It isn’t mentioned how or why this happens in the issue, nor do the characters mention alternate Earths, but it does some way some how. Interestingly, this is the only time (as far as I know) that a Marvel character is directly referenced by name in any Batman comic book ever. Could I just advise my readers to ignore one tiny word of one seemingly insignificant word balloon? I could easily do that, as I have with so many other inconsistencies in the past. However, keeping this Punisher encounter as canon is so unique and shocking to me that I’d rather not ignore it. Obviously Doug Moench, who wrote Batman #509, was feeling playful at the time, or thought it was cool too, so there you go.
KNIGHTQUEST: THE CRUSADE Conclusion
--Detective Comics #674
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #28
--Detective Comics #675The ruthless Gunhawk and Bunnyhawk (who will later change her name to Pistolera) enter the Gotham crime game and cause a ruckus. Bunny is injured, but before Batman can apprehend them, they escape. Batman then tracks down Abattoir and chases him into a foundry where the villain winds up dangling precariously above a vat of molten metal. Jean-Paul begins hallucinating visions of both St. Dumas and his dead father as Abattoir begs for salvation. Robin busts onto the scene just in time to see Abattoir fall to a gruesome death! When Batman willingly allows Abattoir to die, Abattoir takes the secret location of his kidnapped cousin to the grave with him, thus dooming the innocent victim as well. In SOTB #28 Commissioner Gordon finds out about Abattoir's death and accuses Batman of murder. In a brilliant scene by Alan Grant, Gordon breaks down and demands to know what happened to the original Batman. Jean-Paul tells him that he is Batman, he always will be, and he's not afraid to kill again. Enraged, Gordon smashes the Bat-signal! Jean-Paul's "Crusade" comes to an end as he adds even more armor and lethal weaponry to the Bat-suit and mercilessly brings Gunhawk to justice.
KNIGHTQUEST: THE SEARCH Conclusion
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #59-61
--Robin #7Bruce and Alfred travel back to Gotham from England. Benedict Asp threatens to kill both the President of the United States and Hemingford Grey (Bruce Wayne) using power siphoned from a telekinetic-bond to a heavily drugged Shondra. Issue #60 has some of the strongest and most moving dialogue of the entire "Search" story-arc as Alfred converses with Jean-Paul about what it really means to be Batman. With tears in his eyes, he begs Jean-Paul to help Bruce. Also, in a conversation with Robin, Commissioner Gordon reveals that Bruce has confirmed to him over-the-phone that there is indeed a new Batman. Bruce references details from Miller's Year One that only the original Batman would have known to prove his claim! Looks like Gordon is finally back in the loop! Meanwhile, Asp (with Russian goon Col. Vega) captures Bruce. Jean-Paul fails miserably in his rescue attempt, and Bruce is whisked away to Santa Prisca where he reunites with Shondra. In captivity Bruce reveals that, before the original kidnapping, he was planning on proposing marriage to her! Asp attempts to kill the lovers, but winds up getting killed himself as Shondra uses her psychic powers on him. Unfortunately, Shondra's powers burn her out to such a degree that her mind is reduced to the state of a young child. With her final coherent act, she heals Bruce's spine! This mystical healing is one of several events which have a significant impact upon Bruce's future resilient physical condition and lasting youthful appearance at an age where he should be well past his prime. In the end Bruce mourns the loss of yet another love, but pays for personal care for the brain-damaged Shondra in the hopes that she may one day recover. And for anyone wondering, she does! But not for many years down the road. Chuck Dixon's Robin #7 functions as the conclusion for both "The Crusade" and "The Search." Tim reunites with his father for the first time since his kidnapping. (Jack Drake had been recovering from injuries in England ever since he was rescued). Bruce, healed, but still recovering from his own injuries, muses out-loud to Tim that he may stay retired forever and live comfortably as a regular citizen. That is until Tim reveals that Jean-Paul is a total psycho who has killed Abattoir. Bruce freaks out and they break into the Cave to confront him. Bruce demands that Jean-Paul step down as Batman and return the mantle of the Bat back to its rightful owner, to which Jean-Paul responds by punching-out Bruce and driving off in the Batmobile. Robin engages in a high-speed chase, but his kiddie car is no match for Batman's. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce tells Robin not to worry, that intense training will commence, and that in due time the fight will be brought to Jean-Paul.
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #29
--Detective Comics #676
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #62
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #30
--Detective Comics #677
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63
--Robin #9Bruce hires Lady Shiva to whip him back into shape. Shiva trains him and then sicks an army of pissed-off ninjas on him as a final test. Meanwhile, Nightwing and Robin (and the returning Harold) keep tabs on Batman (Jean-Paul), who becomes more and more violent and hallucinatory as the weeks go by. Batman's insanity comes to a head when he tangles with Catwoman and deals with the remnants of the late Carleton LeHah's crime syndicate. Finally, Bruce dons the cape and cowl and we have the match of the century; Batman vs Batman! Jean-Paul takes round one and leaves Batman, Nightwing, and Robin behind amidst a ton of collateral damage. (This battle is also recapped, albeit in a highly abridged way and by an unreliable narrator with information only obtained by newspaper reports, in DC Universe Legacies #8). Bruce is able to catch up with the unhinged Jean-Paul at Wayne Manor and they duke it out in the Batcave. While Bruce is no match for Jean-Paul physically, he easily outwits the raving madman and reclaims the one true mantle of the Bat! Bruce leads the weary Jean-Paul out of the cavernous underground and into the light of day, where he sends him on his way instead of turning him over to the police. In the final issue, Batman and an elated Robin bust some would-be museum burglars. For the first time in over five months the Dynamic Duo is officially back in action!
--Batman: The Last Angel
Catwoman dons a new tiger-striped costume (which only lasts for this story) and attempts to steal an ancient Mayan bat mask from the museum. Batman is able to stop her, but once he touches the artifact, he becomes possessed by an evil Mayan god. Luckily, Catwoman is able to stop Batman before he can do anything terrible. The secret reveal and one-shot return villain in this story? Rupert Thorne! Catwoman directly references the events of Detective Comics #469-476 (Bat-Year Nine) where Thorne had ascended to the top of the mob food-chain in Gotham only to be institutionalized after being terrorized by the supposed "ghost" of Hugo Strange. With Catwoman's assistance, Thorne is now rehabilitated and wilier than ever. However, Batman is able to take him down and make Thorne's return short and sweet.
–Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights #1
Punisher (with his buddy Microchip) chases a facially reconstructed Jigsaw all the way from Earth-616 to Earth-0 again. And once again Punisher tangos with Batman, only this time, it’s Bruce under the cape and cowl instead of Jean-Paul. While Punisher and Batman get acquainted with one another, Joker helps his old Marvel pal, Jigsaw, leap to the top of the Gotham mob pyramid, nose-to-nose with super-boss Jimmy Navarone. Batman, in disguise as Matches Malone, joins up with Navarone’s gang only to watch them all get slaughtered during a simultaneous shootout against both Punisher and Jigsaw. During this shootout, Jigsaw’s face is ruined yet again by Punisher. Batman then gets the better of Punisher in combat, the latter leaving Gotham with his ego bruised. Like the previous Batman/Punisher crossover, this one is also canon thanks to a reference in a mainstream DCU title—in this case Detective Comics #689. Like before, there is no reference made to alternate Earths or jumping between them, so we must simply imagine that the multiverse-leaping happens off-panel before and after this issue.