Modern Age (YEAR FOURTEEN) Part Three

This page has not been updated since 2011. For an updated and correct version of this timeline, please redirect to THE REAL BATMAN CHRONOLOGY PROJECT.COM.

Bat-Year Fourteen continues.  Part Three runs roughly from January 2004 to March 2004.

--Batman/Judge Dredd: Die Laughing #1-2
A recently escaped Joker gets his hands on the inter-dimensional time-travel belt (last seen in the hands of Scarecrow in Batman/Judge Dredd:Judgement on Gotham a year ago). Batman is unable to prevent Joker from activating the device, but something malfunctions during the trans-universal leap to twenty-second century Mega-City One Earth causing only Joker's spirit to jump and leaving his corporeal form in a comatose state on Earth-0. The Joker ghost, loose in Mega-City One, is able to take over a gang leader's body for a host vessel and free the imprisoned Judge Death, Judge Fire, Judge Fear, and Judge Mortis. Judge Mortis is able to manipulate law enforcement agents to attack and shoot Judge Anderson, who manages to jump to Gotham where Batman nurses her back to health. While Anderson recovers, Batman universe-leaps to Mega-City One and joins up with Judge Dredd. "Judge Joker" and his four "Dark Judges" then take control of all the judges and begin wreaking bloody havoc all across the domed city. After a crazy battle Batman and Dredd defeat the evil judges. Joker, incorrectly thinking he has gained immortality, universe-jumps back to Earth-0. However, Joker's spirit leaves his host body and returns to his own body, which is safely secured at Arkham. Back in the Batcave, a slightly injured Dark Knight checks up on Anderson, who has nearly made a full recovery and now lounges in the nude on a bed in the middle of the cave. The story ends with a heavy implication that Batman and Anderson get it on before she returns to Mega-City One.

--Green Lantern Vol. 3 #71 
Green Lantern Kyle Rayner (who replaced insane Hal Jordan), still in his rookie year, travels to Gotham as a part of a "Hero Quest" to talk to Batman about what it means to be a hero. After helping the Dynamic Duo defeat the Checquered Gang, Kyle tries to chat with the Dark Knight, but gets the brush-off. Luckily, Robin isn't such a dick and talks to Kyle.

--Nightwing Annual #1
This story takes a week or two and overlaps with the next couple of tales. Nightwing is investigating Emily Washburn, whose previous couple of husbands have died under mysterious circumstances. There's really only one way to solve this case. Dick woos her and then marries her! Just like in So I Married An Axe Murderer, it turns out that it was Emily's childhood friend that committed the murders. Dick's marriage is annulled after the case is solved and Emily's heart is left broken.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #46-47 ("CORNELIUS STIRK")
Marion Grange is elected the new mayor of Gotham!  Seth Voder (who is secretly in the Penguin's pocket) is elected the new District Attorney.  Both of their terms won't begin for a month or two.  Meanwhile, Cornelius Stirk has easily escaped from the new Arkham, which apparently still lacks any real security.  Before recapturing Stirk, who tries to kill the new mayor-elect, Batman mentions dealing with Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and Agent Orange (all in one night).  Therefore, we must assume that these three escaped from Arkham as well! That makes over a dozen high profile escapes since Jeremiah moved Arkham into the mansion (and that's not including the release of Mr. Freeze, who was deemed "sane" by a board of doctors.  Jeez.

--Batman #526-528
In case you haven't noticed the trend, lately Batman has relied less and less on others and hasn't been patrolling with Robin at his side as much.  Alfred definitely has noticed and he has a long talk with Bruce about how the latter has changed ever since Bane.  Alfred goes on to say how Tim is the most capable Robin of the three Robins and that Bruce should put more faith in him.  By the end of this issue, Bruce's eyes are indeed opened and the Dynamic Duo is operating at 100% capability again.  Two-Face escapes from Arkham (twice in one week no less!) with the goal of killing off all of the criminals who escaped his justice when he was DA.  Batman tracks Harvey to the circus and is able to apprehend him.  Plus, Sarah and Jim fully reconcile!  Yay!

NOTE:  After Batman apprehends Two-Face at the end of Batman #528, Two-Face immediately escapes custody (this will be the third time in less then one week) and goes on a ten day rampage which overlaps with the next couple of stories and culminates with Batman: Two-Face - Crime & Punishment a bit further down on our list.

--Black Lightning Vol. 2 #13
Black Lightning has recently been falsely accused of a string of horrible serial killings in his hometown of Brick City. When the whole world has seemingly turned its back on Black Lightning, Batman shows up to let him know that he still has support from his friends. Inspired by the Dark Knight, Black Lightning exposes the true killer, wealthy maniac Adrian Wentworth, and clears his own name.

--Batman: The Vengeance of Bane II, Part 2
When we last saw Bane six months ago he had just begun a long stretch in solitary confinement in Blackgate.  Now that the stretch is over Bane is back among the regulars and he's back in peak physical shape, but this time without the Venom addiction.  First things first, he beats on KGBeast as revenge for the trouncing Beast delivered to him before.  Bane is then able to escape from prison with the help of Buzz Galvan, the Ratcatcher, and KGBeast (who now respects him). Next, Bane sets out to shut down the Venom pushers in Gotham.  One of the main players?  An ex-Major League slugger.  MLB and steroids?  No way!  After a brief reunion with Batman (good stuff) Bane heads out of the country on a quest to find his father.  This quest immediately continues in Bane of the Demon #1 which starts now and overlaps with the next bunch of stories.  We'll pick up with Bane's tale when we get to it a bit later, but for now, back to the life of Batman.

--Detective Comics #693-694
The villain known as Allergent debuts with the goal of killing all plant-life in Gotham.  This plan really pisses off Poison Ivy, who escapes from Arkham (yes, that means, like Two-Face, she also escapes twice in one week) and goes after him.  Eventually, Batman and Robin recapture Ivy while the mysterious Lock-Up captures Allergent.  Also, Sarah Essen-Gordon steps down as Commissioner and takes a job as Marion Grange's Special Liaison to the GCPD. (Sarah is basically a lieutenant again).  In a shock to everyone, Jim doesn't become Commissioner again as promised.  Instead, lame-duck Mayor Krol appoints his buddy Andrew Howe as the new Commissioner.  Oh, the dirty politics of Gotham.

--Action Comics #719
After the Joker's last encounter with Superman (in Action Comics #714), Lois had taken a toy Joker doll as a souvenir and put it on the mantle in her apartment.  When she handles the toy in this issue she gets dosed with a deadly poison.  Superman rushes to Gotham, grabs Batman, and they confront Joker in Arkham.  Joker tells them that they must inject him (Joker) with the doll's poison which will cause his toxic antibodies to turn his own blood into the antidote.  The catch is that the Joker will die.  Batman and Superman freak-out, unsure of what to do.  In the end they decide they can't take even the Joker's life, but luckily, it was all a ruse and the poison from the doll wasn't even fatal.  Lois is fine and the Joker gets the last laugh.

--Robin #26
One of Tim's classmates dies in a school shooting.  Robin and Spoiler go after the killer, but get trapped in a hail of gunfire until Batman saves them both.

--Batman: Two-Face - Crime & Punishment 
Two-Face has been rampaging all across Gotham for ten days now and his schizophrenia is getting more and more intense.  Harvey's insanity reaches a boiling point when he begins to blame his father for all of his mental disorder.  Good thing Christopher Dent is alive and well enough for Two-Face to hold his public execution live on national TV.  Before Harvey can off his dear old dad, Batman busts him.  Harvey then battles his Two-Face alter-ego inside his own mind and tries to commit suicide, but Bats saves him.  Harvey is finally able to suppress his evil half and enjoy a few moments of respite, although his sanity only lasts for a brief period of time.

--Batman: The Chalice
Batman captures the once-again escaped and once-again nutso Harvey Dent, but the real story in The Chalice begins when mysterious benefactors entrust Bruce to protect the Holy Grail.  Yes, THE Holy Grail.  The first thing Bruce does with the Grail is test its power.  He fills it with holy water and pours it into an open gunshot wound that he received during his altercation with Two-Face and voila!  He is completely healed.  This is an important event which, combined with his resurrection in a Lazarus Pit and Shondra Kinsolving's mystical curing touch, serves to aid in the youthful and healthy preservation of Batman's physical nature as time marches on.  Azrael is the first to warn Bruce about the dangers of protecting the Grail, but the latter tells Jean-Paul not to worry.  But Bruce does begin to worry when Ra's Al Ghul comes a-knocking and they battle it out as they always epically do.  They nearly kill each other, but Talia breaks-up the fight and they go their separate ways.  Meanwhile, Catwoman and Alfred team-up to defend Wayne Manor against the religious cultists known as the Merivingian Brotherhood.  In the end, Bruce realizes the Grail is more trouble than it's worth and gives it to Superman for safekeeping.  The Chalice takes about a week to wrap-up.

--Batman: Bane of the Demon #1-2
The first 15 pages of issue #1 begin right after Bane leaves Gotham at the end of Vengeance of Bane II and overlap with the next couple of stories which follow (i.e. the previous couple of stories before now) as Bane scours the globe in search of his unknown father.  By the time Bane reaches Singapore we are right about here on our timeline.  In Singapore Bane finds the Order of St. Dumas in a war with the League of Assassins. (The Order of St. Dumas has been experimenting with a deadly virus and Ra's Al Ghul's wish is to steal the plague from them).  After getting involved in the fight, Talia takes a liking to Bane and organizes a meeting between him and her father.  Ra's immediately respects Bane at first, but the latter quickly sours on the former.  Surprisingly, Bane then begins a sexual relationship with Talia!  At this point Ra's decides Bane is better as an asset rather than an antagonist and decides to keep him on the team.  Towards the end of issue #2 Ra's mentions jealously that the deadly plague which he seeks has already been released upon Gotham City.  "Contagion" has already begun!

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #48
--Detective Comics #695
--Robin #27
--Catwoman #31
--Azrael #15
--Batman #529
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #49
--Detective Comics #696
--The Batman Chronicles #4
--Catwoman #32
--Azrael #16
--Robin #28
The beginning of this tale slightly overlaps with Bane of the Demon #2.  A deadly plague has struck Gotham and it's not pretty.  Only three people have ever survived Ebola Gulf-A aka The Clench filovirus aka The Apocalypse Plague.  Since these three survivors are the possible key to finding a cure, Robin, Catwoman, Azrael, and the mercenary known as Tracker scour the globe in an attempt to find them.  Unfortunately, it's a wild goose chase as the survivors never really had the virus in the first place.  Robin heads back to Gotham to help Nightwing and Huntress deal with riots all across the panicking city.  Meanwhile, Batman sends the immune Poison Ivy into the epicenter of the disease to test a possible antidote.  Of course, the antidote doesn't work, Ivy goes rogue, and Batman and ex-commish Jim Gordon have to take her down.  But just as Batman and Jim are bonding for the first time in ages, the riots get worse, the governor calls in the National Guard, and Tim contracts the virus!  Who will save the day?  Jean-Paul!  Azrael learns that the Order of St. Dumas is responsible for the outbreak. Because of his history with the Order, Az has access to a cure.  Following a surprise run-in with the returning Carlton LeHah, Azrael is able to deliver the cure to the authorities and end the deadly plague.  Az also learns that the Order didn't create the man-made virus.  But where did it come from in the first place?  We shall see a little further on down the road.  Oh, due to the incompetence of both Andy Howe and Armand Krol, the governor pushes up Marion Grange's inauguration and instates her as the new mayor of Gotham!  She immediately fires Howe and re-hires Jim Gordon as commish!

--The Joker: Devil's Advocate
In the beginning of this week-long story Batman states that the Joker has been loose for months. However, this just isn't possible. Maybe he's been loose for nearly one month tops.  In Devil's Advocate the Joker is arrested for a crime he didn't commit and actually goes to trial and is sentenced to death!  For the first time in his life the Joker is going to real prison.  Insert cool Tommy Mangles cameo here!  Anyway, Batman knows justice isn't being served and as much as he hates to do it, he is able to prove the Joker's innocence.  Just before the electric chair switch is thrown, the governor calls and the Joker is saved at the last second.  There are some great scenes of a shaven-headed Joker on death row that shouldn't be missed in this memorable one-shot.  Special thanks to "odi" on this one!

--Batman #530-532 ("THE DEADMAN CONNECTION")
Talk about Indiana Jones.  Batman teams-up with Deadman and the duo travels to Machu Picchu in Peru to stop international mercenary/terrorist Jackson Killeen from stealing an ancient Aztec treasure.  This case involves resurrected mummies, Batman summoning a swarm of bats to his aid with a mystical flute given to him by a shaman, and various other ridiculous supernatural occurrences.

--Batman: Riddler - The Riddle Factory
The Riddler hijacks a public access signal and puts on a live pirate TV game-show in which he gets all Wizard of Gore and seemingly kills all of his contestants.  At the end of each show he exposes some life-shattering dark secret that he has dug up on a random Gotham celebrity.  In actuality, the Riddler isn't killing anyone.  It's all a ruse and the traveling game show is a distraction while Nigma's goons search for a hidden mob treasure lost since the 1920s.  In the end, the Riddler tries to expose a dark secret of Gotham celebrity Bruce Wayne, but is unable to.  Nada.  Bruce has got nothing to hide.  If the Riddler only knew.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #50-52
The new villain Narcosis debuts and doses Batman with a hallucinatory drug which makes him think he is battling an army of evil rogues all at once.  Batman's horrific vision includes a montage of nearly every Alan Grant original character from the past two or three years.  Original Alan Grant characters?  Joe Public, Wild, the Human Flea, Pagan, etc...  Truly terrifying.

--Man-Bat Vol. 3 #1-3
Man-Bat (Kirk Langstrom) is accused of committing several murders and Rambo-cop Billy Petit goes after him.  Petit shoots down Man-Bat who lands in the sewers and is nursed back to health by Killer Croc!  Meanwhile, Francine Langstrom (Kirk's wife) discovers the real killer is Steeljacket.  We finally learn Steeljacket's origins and the murderer is brought to justice.  Oh, and last but not least, the first appearance of Kirk's son, Aaron Langstrom, who is a little mutant bat-boy creature!
NOTE:  We must assume that after helping Man-Bat, Killer Croc exposes the fact that he has returned to Gotham from New Orleans and is subsequently captured and returned to Arkham because he is incarcerated there in the upcoming Hitman story.

--Batman: Death of the Innocents #1
This is DC's public service announcement about landmines.  After one of Waynetech's employees is killed by a landmine in the civil war-ridden Eastern European country of Kravia, Batman travels there to search for his missing daughter.  After nearly sixty pages of intense battling with both the Kravian army and rebel militias Batman locates the young girl.  Batman then pauses to relax, feeling proud of his accomplishment.  But in that moment, little Sarah touches a landmine and is blown to kingdom come.  Landmines suck.

--Batman: Bane of the Demon #3-4
A couple weeks have passed since Bane has joined forces with Ra's Al Ghul.  The League of Assassins is still searching for the the Clench virus.  Having successfully gathered as much info as they could from the Order of St. Dumas, the League beats on the Kobra Cult and gets one step closer to their goal.  Meanwhile, in those few short weeks, Talia has realized that she absolutely despises Bane, thinks he is a disgusting animal, and regrets ever getting involved with him.  Duh, how could she even begin to compare him to her baby daddy?  Speaking of Damian's daddy, Bane flips-out when Talia says she loves Batman.  Ra's decides it's time to end his working relationship with Bane and imprisons him at the bottom of a flooding well.  Bane escapes and kills dozens of Ra's Al Ghul's men before sword dueling the man himself.  He's no match for Ra's with a blade, but before the fatal slice, Bane reveals that he knows where to find an ancient artifact which can reveal the secrets of the Clench.  Ra's so impressed that he not only decides to let Bane survive, he makes him a member of the League once again and even wishes him to be Talia's mate once again.  Bane, Ra's, and an annoyed Talia begin preparations to bring the chaos and death of the Clench to the entire world, with the ultimate goal of killing billions.  Ra's Al Ghul's "legacy" will soon be at hand, and we'll get to that soon enough.

NOTE:  Catwoman #35 takes place now.  Ra's Al Ghul discovers the ancient artifact which can reveal the secrets of the Clench in the deserts of Sudan.  The League of Assassins sets-up camp and fortifies its surroundings.  The villain known as The Collector forces Brother Umberto (formerly of the Order of St. Dumas) to travel to Sudan in search of the artifact as well.  Umberto brings along Catwoman and Hellhound to aid him.  All three end up being captured and imprisoned by Ra's Al Ghul.

--Detective Comics #697-699
Lock-Up kidnaps Two-Face from a prison transport and locks him up in a hidden location along with his other prisoners, Allergent and Charaxes, who have both been missing for weeks.  Batman, Robin, Nightwing, and Commissioner Gordon arrest Lock-Up and learn that he is crazy ex-police trainee Lyle Bolton.  However, Bolton escapes jail, so the Bat family splits up and each hero goes after one of three possible targets that could be next on Lock-Up's list.  Robin, while in disguise as a juvenile delinquent for his part of the case, gets caught by Lock-Up and added to his prisoners.  Batman and Nightwing are able to trace Robin's location, save him, and then send the criminals to Arkham (which is probably less secure than Lock-Up's fake prison, but oh well).  We also learn that ex-mayor Armand Krol has been found dead as a result of the Clench virus.  Hmmm... very interesting.  The Clench mystery continues.

--Robin #31
Robin teams-up with JSA alumnus Ted Grant aka Wildcat to stop the Speedboyz gang from robbing a car show.  When he arrives back at the cave Batman has learned about ex-Mayor Krol's death as a result of the Clench and the Dark Knight fills Tim in on the grizzly details.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #53
--Batman #533
--Detective Comics #700
--Catwoman #36
--Robin #32
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #54
--Batman #534
--Detective Comics #701
--Robin #33
--Detective Comics #702
We pick-up right where we left off in Robin #31.  Armand Krol died because Azrael's cure for the Clench doesn't really work.  Az's cure simply mutates the virus so that it lays dormant for an unspecified amount of time and then strikes again. This is terrible news for Tim because he has the virus in his system.  I should mention that Lucius Fox asks Bruce why Madolyn Corbett keeps calling the office.  What's with all of the Madolyn Corbett stuff?  Don't worry, it will come up soon.  Anyway, after Azrael debriefs him, Batman assigns Huntress as Gotham's protector and then flies to Sudan with Nightwing and Robin in search for a cure.  When the trio arrives in the Sudanese desert, they run smack dab into Ra's Al Ghul.  We learn several important bits of info here.  One, Ra's now has control of an ancient artifact known as "The Wheel of Plagues" which is a "table that configures the structure of viruses by scientifically deciphering the mysteries of recombinant genetics."  Two, Ra's had originally created Ebola Gulf-A using only partial knowledge of "The Wheel" extracted from ancient texts.  Three, the Order of St. Dumas had stolen the virus from Ra's when they set it loose upon Gotham.  Four, now that he has access to "The Wheel" Ra's plans to create a more virulent strain of the plague which will essentially kill off 90% of the population to give Earth a brand new clean ecological start.  After these startling revelations, Ra's sets his plans into motion.  Meanwhile, Catwoman escapes from her Sudanese jail cell, beats up Hellhound, and gets revenge against the Collector.  Beleaguered with a 24-hour handicap, Batman, Robin, and Nightwing zigzag across the globe in hot pursuit of Ra's, stopping his men from releasing the outbreak in Paris, Edinburgh, and Calcutta.  Both Henri Ducard and Lady Shiva make cameos!  Back in Gotham, the team joins-up with Huntress and stops Ra's Al Ghul and Talia personally.  Batman faces-off with Bane in the ultimate rematch of the year.  Who wins?  You guessed it.  Batman gets revenge and knocks out Bane.  Before fleeing the country, Ra's witnesses Bane's failure and deems him once again unworthy of Talia.  Oracle uses the final digital copy of "The Wheel of Plagues" to decipher the cure for the Clench just before the files are lost forever in an explosion.

--Batman: Bane, Part 1
The first part of this story takes place literally right after Legacy ends.  An unconscious Bane washes out to sea after being pummeled by Batman.  As luck would have it, he floats right into a gigantic super-tanker complete with a nuclear reactor.  Bane wakes up, climbs aboard, hijacks the massive ship, and meets up with some League of Assassins members who are still willing to serve him.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #55
The mystery of Madolyn Corbett is finally revealed.  Madolyn is a celebrity stalker who is madly obsessed with Bruce Wayne, so much so that she accosts him at home and begs him to marry her!  Spurned, Madolyn runs off to her apartment and Bruce follows to make sure the unstable woman gets the help she needs.  Before Bruce arrives, Madolyn calls 911 and falsely claims that Bruce is attacking her.  Then Madolyn actually stabs herself to death!  Bruce arrives just in time to see her commit suicide and just in time for the police to arrest him for murder!  Bruce spends a night in jail, but is easily able to prove his innocence by morning.  Dick wears the Bat costume yet again to patrol Gotham while Bruce is being interrogated.

--Nightwing Vol. 2 #1-3
At the end of Legacy we learned that a bunch of corpses have been floating upriver from Gotham's sister city of Blüdhaven.  Batman sends Dick down to investigate.  While there, Nightwing finds the source of all the murders; a gang-war between Black Mask's gang and the Asian mob.  Nightwing battles them all and also meets the insanely corrupt Blüdhaven police force (which Dick will learn is almost completely in the pocket of Blockbuster).

Batman: Bane, Part 2
Bane and his crew take their stolen nuclear ship and sail it on a collision course to Gotham.  In order for this plan to work, Bane forces the ship's first mate to schedule a re-fueling stop in Blüdhaven.  In the short amount of time it will take to reach Gotham from Blüdhaven, the authorities won't be able to react quickly enough to stop the boat.  When Bane arrives in Blüdhaven he encounters Nightwing (who is already there on a separate case), but easily defeats and captures him.  In Gotham Bane has a bit more trouble with Batman and Robin as the Dynamic Duo is able to prevent catastrophe.  Bane escapes. 

--The Batman Chronicles #23, Part 2
This "Lost Tale of the Batman" fits right here because it features a version of the Batmobile that was being used around this time.  In the short story, a burglar flees the crime-scene only to run smack dab into the Batmobile.  Even though the Batmobile is unoccupied, he freaks-out and shoots at it, causing its sensors to activate.  Auto-pilot kicks in and the car chases the burglar right into the waiting arms of the law.

--Azrael #22-23 ("ANGEL IN HIDING")
Jean-Paul quits being Azrael, but just when he thinks he's gotten out, they drag him back in.  The Order of St. Dumas is out to kill Jean-Paul and his friends.  Without any other options, Jean-Paul visits Batman and asks him to fight the Order on his behalf.  Bruce says it isn't his problem, but is sympathetic.  Instead of helping, Bruce has Harold construct Jean-Paul a new Azrael costume.  Bruce also (as he always does with Jean-Paul) throws money at the situation, depositing a million dollars into Jean-Paul's bank account.  After Jean-Paul leaves, Alfred lays a guilt-trip on Bruce and convinces him to travel in disguise with Jean-Paul just to make sure he reaches his European destination safely.  Bruce immediately returns to Gotham after making sure Azrael is okay.  Azrael begins his solo war against the Order.

–Spider-Man & Batman: Disordered Minds
This story serves as an in-canon prelude to the events that will soon follow in DC vs. Marvel Comics. Universe-0 (the main DCU) and Universe-616 (the main Marvel U) have somehow temporarily overlapped in a freak anomaly—for what appears to be no apparent reason. In this issue, due to the anomaly, Batman and Marvel’s Spider-Man act as if they have always lived in the same world (which is certainly not the case). Batman captures Joker and sends him back to the asylum. After a radical new biotechnology is implanted in Joker’s dome, he supposedly is cured of all insane impulses! The same procedure is done to Spidey villain Carnage, with seemingly similar results. However, the quick fix is too good to be true. Carnage and Joker go nuts and wreak havoc until the Caped Crusader and the Amazing Web Slinger bring them to justice. After shaking hands, the heroes swing away into the night. But what is this multiversial anomaly that is causing the DC and Marvel Universes to merge? We don’t learn in this issue, but in “DC vs. Marvel” (up next) we’ll find out.

--DC vs. Marvel Comics #1
--Marvel Comics vs. DC #2
--DC vs. Marvel Comics #3
--Marvel Comics vs. DC #4
Yes, this is meant to be canon. Basically, two ancient cosmic siblings (similar to the Endless) that represent their respective parts of the multiverse become aware of each other.  The anthropomorphic manifestation of the DCU (i.e. the universe which houses "Earth-0" as its primary Earth) challenges the anthropomorphic manifestation of the Marvel Universe (i.e. the universe which houses "Earth-616" as its primary Earth) to a duel between their respective superheroes.  Eleven battles are held, with six victories for Marvel and only five for DC.  For anyone wondering, Batman kicks Captain America's ass and Robin not only beats Jubilee, but he hooks up with her as well!  However, in the end, the cosmic sibling-entities decide they want to destroy each others' universes anyway.  The Spectre and The Living Tribunal are able to save both universes by merging them into a mash-up universe known as the Amalgam Universe (i.e. the universe which houses "Earth-9602").  The Amalgam Universe consists of combination characters from both DC and Marvel.  For example, on Earth-9602 Batman and Wolverine merge to form Dark Claw.  After the creation of the Amalgam U, the cosmic powered metahuman known as Access (who functions as the "cosmic monitor" for the two worlds) is able to restore the status-quo for both the DCU and Marvel U.

--Aztek: The Ultimate Man #6-7 
The Joker escapes from Arkham (this is getting ridiculous, when are they going to get some security at Mercey Mansion?) and flees to the West Coast.  After arriving in the town of Vanity, Oregon the Joker meets the city's resident protector Aztek.  Joker immediately causes all sorts of chaos for the rookie hero and Batman comes to town to assist the "Ultimate Man" in recapturing the clown.

--Hitman #1-3 ("A RAGE IN ARKHAM")
Garth Ennis at his best here.  Everyone's favorite metahuman Gotham hitman Tommy Monaghan (he acquired the powers of X-ray vision and limited telepathic ability during the events of Bloodlines) has just accepted the job of his life.  He's going to bust into Arkham and execute the Joker.  Batman, who has been aware of the Joker hit ever since Contagion, confronts Tommy; a meeting which ends with Tommy vomiting on the Dark Knight and then getting arrested.  Yes, that's right, Tommy blows chunks all over Batman!  Moving on, Tommy easily escapes from the cops.  The news of Tommy's Arkham hit has gotten out on the street and when Tommy gets home he has nine additional hit requests waiting for him, which he gladly accepts.  Tommy breaks into Mercey Mansion and in an amazing couple of panels, he strolls down the hallways of Arkham and nonchalantly kills eight inmates and shoots Mad Hatter in the kneecap.  Upon arriving at Joker's cell, he blasts him away, but the Joker lives!  That's because it isn't really the Joker.  It's the eight-armed, gun-toting monstrosity known as Mawzir who has been sent from Hell to recruit Tommy to become the new Earthly killing agent for the demonic duo known as The Arkanonne.  Did I mention these three demons (Mawzir and the Arkanonne twins) have swastikas carved into their foreheads?  This story is amazing and it only gets better.  Tommy turns down Mawzir's offer and then runs into the real Joker and shoots him in the chest.  Batman joins the fray and is able to patch up the bleeding Joker and save his life, while Tommy and Mawzir engage in a violent shootout.  The ruckus disturbs Killer Croc who is trying to watch Seinfeld and he starts rampaging as well.  Eventually, Tommy is able to take down Mawzir and put a magnum to the demon's head.  Tommy says he'll let him survive if he simply says, "The Arkanonne suck."  Mawzir says it and then Tommy blows his head clean off anyway.  Ennis is depraved and funny and I love it.

--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #142-145 ("THE DEMON LAUGHS")
Ra's Al Ghul appears for the first time since Legacy and he still wants to eliminate 90 to 95% of the world's population.  This time, he's got an ace up his sleeve.  Rather, he's got a Joker up his sleeve.  Talia and company break the Joker out of Arkham and ask him to succeed where Bane has previously failed.  (Don't worry, Talia doesn't have sex with the Joker).  After looting a Quraci bio-weapons plant in the Indian Ocean, the League of Assassins has a brand new plague virus which is equivalent to the Clench.  Batman, Alfred, and Henri Ducard go on a wild goose chase across the globe in search of the villains.  When the Joker attempts to betray Ra's Al Ghul, Talia fills him full of lead.  Batman arrives on the scene just in time to witness his bullet-riddled arch-enemy quickly bleeding to death.  Batman and Alfred decide (for like the millionth time) to save the Joker.  Thus, they do the unthinkable; they put him into the Lazarus Pit!  Joker emerges not only completely rejuvenated and healthy, but completely timid, polite, and 100% certifiably sane!  Batman then stops Ra's Al Ghul (as usual) from killing everyone on the planet and even has (for like the millionth time) a sword fight with him.  Once the initial effects of the Lazarus Pit wear off, Joker is back to his old crazy psycho self.

--The Batman Chronicles #6, Part 1
Ra's Al Ghul just won't quit.  This time Batman finds him in Istanbul, and as usual, Ra's is attempting to gather information from a sacred text which will allow him to continue his quest to reduce the Earth's population.  Like usual, Batman foils his plans.  We get a pretty cool flashback to 16th Century Latin America where Ra's Al Ghul encounters fellow immortals Talon and Blackheart.

--The Batman Chronicles #6, Part 2
Alfred and Tim read from a early 19th Century journal that Bruce keeps in the trophy room.  The journal tells of the secret history of the founding of Gotham City.  Apparently the small outpost of Gotham began as an insane asylum run by murderers.  And one of the founders?  A distant relative of Bruce.  

--Batman #535
Years ago the U.S. government tortured and killed 22 men and 22 apes while conducting top secret eugenics experiments.  The 23rd pairing escaped before the "scientific" procedures could finish.  Now "The Ogre and The Ape" are back to seek revenge on the doctors which forever changed their lives.  Batman, with Oracle's guidance, is able to end the Ogre's killing spree, but sympathetically allows him to walk free instead of turning him over to the police.

--The Batman Chronicles #9, Part 3
Poison Ivy creates a plant-gerbil hybrid and gives it to an Arkham guard who then gives it to his daughter to have as a pet.  Yeah, the logic of some dude giving his six year-old daughter a present from a deadly killer known as Poison Ivy is completely idiotic, but whatever.  The gerbil thing multiplies like a Tribble overnight and by morning thousands of the creatures are swarming all over town.  Batman visits Ivy at Arkham where she reveals she caused all the chaos because she missed him.  In exchange for a kiss on the cheek, Ivy turns all the critters into strawberries.  Crisis averted. 

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #56-58 ("LEAVES OF GRASS")
Here we go with an Alan Grant marijuana story which comes off like a lengthy after-school special anti-weed ad.  The Floronic Man returns to Gotham and begins distributing his brand of super-weed, an intensely more powerful version of pot.  Floro believes that once the world becomes addicted to his weed, everyone will be in a calm state of ecstasy i.e. wars will end, crime will go down, etc...  After getting his product on the street, Floro also breaks Poison Ivy out of Arkham in order to use her assistance, but Ivy has an agenda of her own.  Batman eventually captures Floro and shuts down the drug's production center, but Ivy escapes.  This story takes about a week to wrap-up and Gordon explains to Batman that ever since Floro's weed began selling in Gotham, crime statistics have dropped noticeably across the board!  Batman shoots Gordon's line of reasoning down in a heartbeat and we cut to Tim giving his fellow classmates a long lecture which ends with the line "and that's why I'll never do drugs!"  This sure ain't no Garth Ennis tale.

--Green Arrow Vol. 2 #101 
The tragic death of Oliver Queen!  The Green Arrow dies while preventing terrorists from detonating a bomb in Metropolis.  Upon hearing the terrible news, Batman is devastated at the loss of such a close friend.  Don't worry too much though.  Like most comic book deaths, Ollie's doesn't last too long.  Ollie's son, Connor Hawke, becomes the new Green Arrow.

NOTE: The flashback that occurs in Batman & Superman: World's Finest #10, Part 1 occurs now.  Two-Face organizes a "villain war" between Batman's rogues and Superman's rogues.  We learn that Harrison Gray is actually alive.  There are a couple plot holes in this weak story, but oh well.

ANOTHER NOTE:  Here's what's been going on with the Justice League.  Ever since around the time of Underworld Unleashed, the JLA (led by Wonder Woman) and the JL Task Force (led by Martian Manhunter) have both continued on with the backing of the UN.  Meanwhile, a third "unofficial" branch of the Justice League, led by a frustrated Captain Atom, has formed as well.  (Atom's team is featured in the Extreme Justice series).

--Total Justice #1-3
Batman, Robin, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern join forces with the three JLA branches to prevent an Apokoliptian invasion by Darkseid.

NOTE:  Atom's JL team invades Bialya in order to end Queen Bee's dictatorial reign of terror.  However,  Atom's invasion isn't sanctioned by the US government.  The UN, wanting to distance itself from the political mess, withdraws funding and support for all of the Justice League branches, thus officially dissolving the entire League.  This all happens in the quasi-canonical JLA: Incarnations #6.

--Justice League: A Midsummer's Nightmare #1-3
Dr. Destiny joins forces with the evil Know Man.  With the recent abolishment of the Justice League there isn't anyone strong enough to confront the villains, so DC's "big guns" join forces to stop them.  Batman fights side-by-side with Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, GL Kyle Rayner, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman.  These collective superheroes don't officially call themselves a team yet, but this adventure sets the tone for our very next story.  PS. This story obviously doesn't take place in midsummer.  The title is simply a Shakespeare pun.

--JLA Secret Files #1, Part 1
The same heroes from A Midsummer's Nightmare prevent a Star Conquerer (a gigantic green member of Starro's parasitic alien race) from taking over Flash's hometown of Blue Valley.  Batman saves everyone's ass.  The Spectre convinces the heroes to become the new Justice League of America!

As the old Justice League is cleaning their stuff out of the JLA Satellite, a strange alien craft lands on Earth.  The Hyperclan has arrived!  These all-star superheroes from a galaxy far, far away have come to clean-up Earth and take over as the brand new meta-powered protectors of the world.  Superman is skeptical, as well he should be.  In a short amount of time the Hyperclan wins over the hearts of the planet and crime is down significantly as the alien warriors act as judge, jury, and executioner.  It's not long before Batman realizes the truth.  The Hyperclan is comprised of evil White Martians who have been successful thus far in their quest to slowly take over Earth!  The "big guns" that assembled in Midsummer's Nightmare meet once again and join forces to defeat the White Martians.  In the process the JLA Satellite is ruined and Metamorpho is killed, but in the following weeks a gigantic fortress known as the Watchtower will quickly be constructed on the Moon, which will house the new JLA headquarters.  The JLA is back and there's no question that this is the strongest lineup ever.  Classic Grant Morrison stuff.  If you want to see a truly badass Batman, Morrison's JLA version of the Dark Knight is second to none.

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