--Swamp Thing Vol. 2 Annual #4
This Annual takes place roughly two years after Swamp Thing Vol. 2 #55. Batman and the GCPD examine a corpse that has been infected with a strange white fibrous spore. Batman checks up on Floronic Man and Poison Ivy in Arkham just to make sure they aren't responsible. Batman then discusses the possibility of Swamp Thing's involvement with Commissioner Gordon and Detective Bullock before heading to Chinatown to prevent a suicide attempt. The troubled victim, however, happens to be infected by the spore, which subsequently infects Batman. As the virus-spore takes over Batman's mind and body, he remains hidden in the Batcave for nearly two weeks before traveling to Louisiana to find Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing is able to save Batman's life and hold the spore at bay. He reveals that the spore preys upon the healthiest creatures on Earth, hence its ability to easily infect Batman.
NOTE: Batman locates Green Arrow's long lost son, Connor Hawke, and reports the news to Ollie. Ollie thanks Bruce and gives his condolences regarding the death of Jason Todd (as seen through flashback in Green Arrow and Black Canary #5).
ANOTHER NOTE: The flashback story that occurs in Batman and Superman: World's Finest #7 by Karl Kesel (1999) occurs here. Superman has just returned from space and comes to talk to Batman about how the latter has been dealing with the recent tragedies that befell Jason and Barbara. Supes flies Bruce to Smallville where they have dinner with his parents (Martha Kent and Jonathan Kent).
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #37
Batman goes down memory lane and narrates a tale of yesteryear (which occured in Bat-Year Seven shortly before Batman donned the yellow-oval costume). The Dark Knight reminisces about the time he trained rookie cop Mercedes Stone in the art of vigilantism, only to see her killed shortly thereafter. Compared to Jason's death, Mercedes' death doesn't really seem to bother Bruce that much does it? It does make sense, in the wake of Jason's death, for Bruce to be recalling others that he has let down in the past.
--Batman: Turning Points #3
It's been two months since the death of Jason and the paralysis of Babs. The so-called "Garbage Man," a serial murderer with the same exact MO as last year's Dumpster Killer is at large. Despite working the case, the still-depressed and dejected Dark Knight hasn't responded to the Batsignal in two months. A wheelchair-bound Barbara visits Bruce in the Batcave. There, she chastises him and tells him to meet with her dad, which he does. On the roof of the police HQ, the old friends chat and Gordon talks to Batman about the loss of Robin.
--Justice League International #19-21
Big Barda, J'onn, and Green Lantern G'nort are off on a mission in deep space to rescue Mister Miracle from the interstellar villain Manga Khan. Meanwhile, Black Canary has just quit the team. With the JLI in a particularly weakened state, it's time for a membership drive! Batman will do anything to keep his mind off recent tragedies, so he takes charge and is able to recruit the Thanagarian husband-and-wife-duo of Hawkman and Hawkwoman. (This Hawkman and Hawkwoman will both later be revealed as impostors. They are actually Thangarian spies). Moving on, Superman rejects Batman's invitation into the JLI. Also, Green Flame and Ice Maiden change their names to Fire and Ice, respectively (although it takes a while for the new names to actually stick). And Max Lord recruits Lobo (!), who is actually a double-agent working against the team on behalf of Khan. J'onn and company chase Khan to Apokolips where Barda teleports the rest of the team to their location. Batman and the stunned rest of the team are instantly thrown into an all-out-war with dozens of Parademons. Just when things are looking at their worst, terrified little JLI manager Oberon accidentally stumbles into Darkseid's living room. Surprisingly, Darkseid treats him to a nice conversation and hearty lunch and then simply commands everyone to leave, claiming they are a mere annoyance to him! Great stuff. Highly recommended.
--Detective Comics #595
--Power of The Atom #9
J'onn tries to recruit the Atom into the JLI, but the Atom declines. Batman tries to recruit Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who is on the fence until the Atom shows up and convinces him to say no. Damn you, Atom!
--Justice League International Annual #3, Part 2
Sooo goood. Batman and J'onn get to know each other a little better when they team-up for a case. Also, Guy Gardner reads an issue of "JLI," a chronicling of the team's adventures in comic book form, and is pissed off about his characterization. After yelling at Max, who authorized the comic, he storms off to attack the writers! Giffen loves intelligent self-reflexive meta-fiction and I love Giffen.
NOTE: Jason Todd returns from the dead! This tale is told through flashback in Batman Annual #25 by Judd Winnick (2006) and takes place exactly six months after his death. When Superboy-Prime alters history during the future events of Infinite Crisis, he inadvertently revives Jason, who crawls out of his coffin, stumbles into town, and eventually collapses into a coma. When Jason awakens from his coma (almost a full year later), he will wander the streets as a mute amnesiac. Jason will then be discovered nearly another year later by Talia and Ra's Al Ghul. Talia will order the League of Assassins to fix the cemetery to make it look like Jason never was revived in order to hide the fact from Batman. They then will eliminate anyone that can possibly be linked to Jason as a preventative measure as well (as seen and referenced in Red Hood: The Lost Days #1). A year after that, Talia will immerse him in a Lazarus Pit. Jason will remember everything and then spend the next several years secretly training before reemerging in Gotham. But we'll get to that when we get to it...
NOTE: Dick returns from lengthy adventuring on the planet New Cronos to learn that Babs has been crippled for nearly six months! Dick has sex with Babs and in the morning tells her that he's engaged to Starfire! Babs freaks out and kicks his sorry ass out of her apartment (as seen through flashback in Nightwing Annual #2). Dick should be drawn with his injuries sustained while on New Cronos, but he isn't. Oh well.
--The New Titans #55
Dick (having been away for months) finally learns that Jason has been killed. He angrily confronts Bruce and lets it all out, causing Bruce to punch him in the face. Dick and Starfire then visit Jason's grave. Later, Dick regroups with the battle-weary Titans. A version of the confrontation with Bruce can also be seen via flashback in Nightwing Vol. 2 #62. In this flashback, Jason also mentions Babs' paralysis. Dick mentions, in The New Titans #55, that he was Robin for a whopping twelve years. We may be in Year Twelve now, but Dick was Robin for about five years. Also, someone in the issue mentions that he "thinks" Jason died a week or so ago. He thinketh incorrectly. It's been longer than that.
--Detective Comics #596-597
The Caped Crusader shuts down a snuff-film ring. Lieutenant Kitch of the GCPD debuts.
In issue #430 Batman stops a cold-blooded rooftop sniper. Gordon asks Batman about the whereabouts of Robin, who hasn't seen in quite some time, and Batman dodges the question. Also, through flashback, we see probably the ninth or tenth completely different version of what occurred on the day that led up to the death of Bruce's parents. It is a known in-continuity fact that Bruce is tortured by this day and his recollection of its events changes constantly. In issue #432 Batman teams-up with P.I. Maxine Kelly to solve a child-abduction case that is seven years cold. Bats breaks into an FBI office building and fends off dozens of government agents in order to access information vital to the investigation.
A combination of steroids and the after-effects of Gene Bomb radiation (from Invasion!) have transformed Roland Desmond (brother of the original Blockbuster) into the new Blockbuster! Batman teams-up with Will Payton aka the 5th Starman to capture the rampaging hulk in the U.S. Southwest. Starman Vol. 2 #36 shows a flashback to this story as well.
--Detective Comics #598-600 ("BLIND JUSTICE")
"Blind Justice" is screenwriter Sam Hamm's 150+ page Batman opus. This lengthy tale takes about a month to transpire. In it a secret cartel, led by elderly paraplegic Dr. Kenneth Harbringer and criminal mastermind Mr. Riordan, infiltrates WayneTech. The cartel implants bio-chips into "Bonecrusher" soldiers, which allow Harbinger to control their thoughts and actions from a remote location. When cartel member Roy Kane betrays the group, they implant him with a bio-chip and turn him into a homeless amnesiac. Roy's sister comes to Gotham in search of her missing brother, and together with Bruce, they locate Roy and unearth the cartel's plot. Bruce threatens Riordan, only to learn that Riordan is one step ahead of him. The cartel has researched Bruce's past to learn of his many years of training in the Orient and Pacific with infamous unsavory anti-Americans like Chu Chin Le, Tsunetomo, and Henri Ducard. This information is passed on to the FBI and Bruce is arrested for treason! As Bruce addresses the media, Harbinger, who has transferred his body into a new host, shoots Bruce and nearly kills him! When Alfred and a wheelchair-bound Bruce return home they find that Roy, who has been living temporarily at Wayne Manor, has discovered the Batcave and learned of Bruce's identity as the Dark Knight! Roy is more than eager to help Batman. Since he has a bio-chip implant, Roy suits up as Batman, and the injured Bruce is able to control his body using Harbinger's technology! In the end, Bruce is able to clear his name and rehab his injuries, but the substitute Batman is killed in the process. Notably, both Henri Ducard and Roy's sister also discover Batman's secret identity, but they leave town with no intentions of exposing him.
--Batman #434-435 ("THE MANY DEATHS OF THE BATMAN")
Frederick Stone long ago trained a young man in the art of explosives. That young man, although heavily disguised and using an alias, was Bruce Wayne. Flash forward to now; Stone is aware of the fact that he helped train Batman because the Dark Knight uses explosive techniques that are uniquely Stone methods. Stone is paranoid that Batman's rogues will discover his ties to the Caped Crusader and thus, threaten him and his fiance. In an effort to lessen his link to Batman, Stone starts tracking down other possible experts who might have trained young Bruce, dresses them up in a Batman costume, and murders them.
--Detective Comics #601-603 ("TULPA")
A Tibetan mystic creates a "Tulpa" (magical doppelganger) in the form of the evil demon Mahakala to defend himself against mobsters. Naturally, the Tulpa goes on a rampage and demonology is a bit out of Bruce's league. Good thing Randu Singh and the sometimes good-natured demon Etrigan are around to help out! Gotta love Etrigan cameos.
--Justice League International #24
Oberon and Max Lord decide to have an "open house" at the New York Embassy and all the big names in the hero game decide to show up and mingle, including Batman. Hawkman, who is embarrassed and disgusted with the current League, winds up quitting, citing blatant disregard for the values of the original League. But the loss is no big deal because Max and Oberon are able to upgrade the JLI by splitting it into two separate factions; the current members re-assemble as the New York-based Justice League America, while fresh recruits assemble the brand-spanking new Paris-based Justice League Europe! Rocket Red and Captain Atom remain JLI members, but switch over from the JLA to the JLE.
--Justice League America #26-27
Remember when the league last visited Bialya? Well, it turns out that while he was there, Blue Beetle was implanted with a post-hypnotic suggestion by Queen Bee. Back in the States, Beetle is "activated" by a pre-programmed code-phrase delivered over the phone and immediately tries to kill Max Lord! Batman and the debuting Huntress are able to stop him. Government agent Amanda Waller is sent in to de-program Beetle through hypnosis, but due to an "azrael block" in his programming, he slips into a coma. Notably, when Batman questions Waller's ability to handle the situation, Waller takes a crack at Batman's handling of the "Deacon Blackthorne situation." This is a clear reference to Deacon Blackfire from Batman: The Cult, so the use of the incorrect name is either Giffen's mistake or an intentional Waller slip-up (as the event would have occurred less than a year prior to this). PS. Justice League America #27 was the first time Batman met Huntress in the comics. However, Huntress: Year One retconned this--Batman first meets Huntress in Bat Year Seven. Thus, we must ignore the fact that Batman seems to be meeting Huntress for the first time here.
--Justice League America #29
Beetle is still in a coma, so Batman goes to get help from Dr. Fate, but when he arrives at the doc's residence, Fate is nowhere to be found. In his place, Batman finds Kent Nelson, the former vessel for the mystic powers of Nabu (i.e. the former Dr. Fate). Nelson explains that Nabu has chosen a new Dr. Fate, but he's more than willing to assist Batman anyway. Nelson, who still retains some of his old powers, is able to fully de-program and revive Beetle by entering his mind.
--The New Titans #55
Who is Wonder Girl? Donna Troy! If only it were that easy. This Titans issue functions as a re-telling of Wonder Girl Donna Troy's origin. We'll find out much later that Donna is a "key" to the multiverse; a living amalgamation of several other versions of herself from alternate Earths. Naturally, Batman is a continuity-buff like me, so he is present for this Titans tale.
--Batman #436-439 ("BATMAN YEAR THREE")
"Batman Year Three" contains a detailed flashback story concerning the origin of the original Robin and his dealings with Anthony Zucco. "Batman Year Three" is titled so because Bat-Year Three was originally the first Robin year. However, it is my firm believe that retcons have slid Robin's first year to Bat Year Five, so really this story should be called "Batman Year Five." In the tale Nightwing returns to Gotham when he notices that, ever since Jason's death, Bruce has become more reckless and violent. The original Dynamic Duo then learns that Zucco has been paroled and they aren't sure how to handle the situation. However, in a twist Zucco is gunned down by rival mobsters as he takes his first steps of freedom from beyond the prison walls. I also wanted to note that the lean red-haired version of Zucco portrayed in this story is wrong. The correct and current version of Zucco was always a semi-balding, obese, cigar smoker.
THE TEASDALE IMPERATIVE
--Justice League America #31
--Justice League Europe #7
--Justice League America #32
--Justice League Europe #8
NOTE: A new Sportsmaster debuts and robs and trashes a club belonging to the NFL's Gotham Wildcats owner Tom Melcher (as referenced in Manhunter #17). Batman examines the crime scene and chats with Commissioner Gordon.
--Detective Comics #604-607 ("THE MUD PACK")
The original Clayface (Basil Karlo) is released from prison and together with Lady Clay (Clayface IV), they are able to free Preston Payne (Clayface III) from Arkham. Karlo also steals the earthly remains of Matt Hagen (Clayface II) in a failed attempt to revive him. After capturing Batman, the foursome (including Hagen's muddy corpse) are in mid-celebration, when Karlo turns on his teammates, knocking them out and injecting himself with samples of their blood to become the strongest "Ultimate Clayface." Batman's ex-Outsiders teammate, Looker, comes to his aid and saves him. Karlo is defeated. On another positive note, Clayface III and Clayface IV fall in love and fly off into the sunset! (Hint: Clay Baby coming soon).
--Captain Atom #33
Captain Atom's powers have disappeared (temporarily) and he is in panic mode, unsure if he can hack it as a super-hero without quantum abilities. Fearing that he will lose his position with the JLE, Captain Atom visits Batman in Gotham and begs him to call Max Lord and tell him he's still good to go. Batman agrees, but not before he verifies firsthand whether or not a powerless Captain Atom is worth a damn. Batman and Captain Atom go on patrol, meeting with Commissioner Gordon, who shows them a grisly murder scene. Scarecrow henchman Stan Trowell and his entire family have killed themselves while under the influence of a new strain of Fear Gas that Scarecrow had been testing. Batman and Captain Atom then take to the streets, bust a few crook heads, and then confront Scarecrow, who doses Captain Atom with the new fumes. Captain Atom freaks out and has a nightmare where a crazed General Wade Eiling nukes the entire city, killing everyone. This is an amazing bit of foreshadowing here since Eiling will later become an insane super-villain. The heroes shake off the effects of the drug and bring a subdued and depressed Scarecrow back to Arkham. Batman says he will make the call to Lord—it's a moot call anyway since Captain Atom will soon regain his quantum powers.
Former anti-hero, ex-con, and ex-Suicide Squad member Manhunter (Mark Shaw) now acts as a bounty hunter, collecting big payoffs for turning in known criminals. Manhunter rolls into Gotham to collect on the new Sportsmaster, whose ID is still unknown. At a Wayne Foundation hotel gala, Shaw introduces himself to Bruce and they chat. Bruce doesn't trust Shaw, quite aware of his criminal history. During the gala, Victor Grover, a pro football player recently fired for taking steroids, angrily accosts the owner of his former team before being shooed-off by Shaw. Later, after a consultation with Oracle (!), Shaw learns that Grover is the new Sportsmaster. Across town, Bruce deduces the same. Both Manhunter and Batman go after Sportsmaster but wind up fighting each other, giving the villain the upper hand. Eventually, Batman takes-down Sportsmaster and leaves him for Manhunter, stating gruffly, "I don't do it for the money." Manhunter vows never to return to Gotham again.
--Detective Comics Annual #2
Bruce narrates this flashback account of his training years. Chu Chin Li sends him to racially-torn Birmingham, Alabama to study under detective extraordinaire Harvey Harris. Young Bruce uses his Frank Dixon pseudonym for this endeavor. Harris winds up being murdered by the KKK. Many years later, Bruce is able to solve the mystery behind his death.
--Justice League Europe #9-10
The adventures of the JLE continue on in France and Batman is present to oversee everything.
--The Batman Chronicles #5, Part 1
This is a flashback which details the origins of how Barbara Gordon became Oracle (as narrated by Babs herself). I've placed it here because at the end of her story, Oracle states that it has been about a year since she "died and was reborn." I take that as meaning a year since her shooting, which would place it right about here in our timeline. For anyone wondering about any discrepancies in her recollection of events, let me address any questions now. Barbara does indeed spend "ten weeks and three days" in the hospital. However, as soon as she gets released, she takes the computer intelligence job with the Suicide Squad under the pseudonym Amy Beddoes. However, this isn't mentioned in her story at all. Instead, Babs tells us that she trains for six months with Richard Dragon before doing any real computer work as Oracle. We must assume that Barbara was training with Dragon while she was simultaneously working for the Suicide Squad as Amy Beddoes. Babs officially becomes Oracle after helping her dad out with a computer fraud case.
NOTE: The flashback from the Second Feature from Detective Comics #789 takes place now. Batman puts the supervillain team known as Mayhem behind bars. Only The Tailor escapes unscathed. The Tailor will then become one of Batman's secret allies, designing high-tech costumes for the the Dark Knight.
--World's Finest #1-3
This gorgeous Dave Gibbons/Steve Rude tale is extremely hard to place. In World's Finest the Joker (with Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee) causes public havoc in Metropolis while Luthor exacts his more subtle style of crime in Gotham. Since the villains have decided to temporarily switch cities, the heroes follow suit. Eventually, both ends meet in the middle and Superman and Batman team-up to take down the Joker and Luthor. Naturally, there is no evidence of Luthor's involvement in any criminal activity at the end. Afterward, The Daily Planet coins the term "World's Finest" for the Earth's most famous heroes. Special thanks to Renaud Battail on this one!