Modern Age (YEAR FOURTEEN) Part Three

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!

CONTAGION
--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.

LEGACY
--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
--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!

--JLA #1-4 ("NEW WORLD ORDER")
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.

Modern Age (YEAR FOURTEEN) Part Two

Bat-Year Fourteen Part Two begins in September 2002 with Zero Hour and ends around Christmas-time shortly after Underworld Unleashed.   QUICK NOTE about Zero Hour:  The editors of DC originally wanted Zero Hour to function the exact same way as the original Crisis, meaning they wanted there to be a blank historical slate leading up to 1994 (when this story was published).  While our chronology gives a quasi-blank slate to the history of the DCU for everything prior to the original Crisis (published in 1985-1986), I'm hesitant to do the same regarding Zero Hour.  Not to mention, Zero Hour creates a sliding timeline, which has since slid to at least 2002 (see "Intro to Year One Era" and "Intro to the Modern Age" for more details).  I mean really, are DC editors trying to tell us that only stories published after 2002 are officially canon and the rest are just retroactive reference materials?  I don't buy that for a second.  Okay, let's begin Bat-Year 14 Part 2!




ZERO HOUR: CRISIS IN TIME
--Batman #511
--Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4-3
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31
--Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #2
--Detective Comics #678
--Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #1
--Catwoman #14
--Robin #10
--Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #0
--Batman #0
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #0
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #0
--Catwoman #0
--Detective Comics #0
--Robin #0
Whew.  Zero Hour.  Here we go.  Zero Hour begins as Batman and Robin are chasing down the Joker when Batgirl shows up to assist them!  The Joker escapes, but Batman and Robin are more confused as to how and why Barbara is not only in costume again, but walking again!  After consulting with Oracle (who was just as shocked to see herself standing in front of her) and Superman, the heroes quickly learn that time itself is somehow being compressed and various alternate realities are merging into one timeline (hence the appearance of Batgirl, a pre-Crisis Alfred, young Dick, cavemen, dinosaurs, and many other anomalies).  Meanwhile, Metron and our friend Waverider (remember him from Armageddon 2001?) show up bearing bad news; time is being slowly erased in a wave of destruction beginning from "the end of time" and working its way backwards.  The senior members of the JSA are also reverted to their correct ages, putting most of them in their sixties.  (A magical effect had kept them from aging since the 1940s).  But who is responsible for all of this chaos?  At first the heroes think it is Extant aka Hawk aka the Monarch, but they are dumbfounded when they learn the true architect of this crisis is Hal Jordan, aka Parallax.  As we already know, ever since the destruction of Coast City, Hal has gone completely insane and wishes to destroy the universe.  Together, all of the superheroes unite and are able to defeat Hal and the timeline is restored, albeit with distinct differences.  For Batman specifically, all of the alterations to his specific history will be later retconned back to what they where prior to Zero Hour (due to Infinite Crisis), so they needn't even be mentioned!  Okay, okay, I'll mention them.  First, even after fourteen years into his career, Batman was supposedly to have still been regarded as an urban legend by the mass populace, which was not only stupid, it was impossible.  Second, Bruce was supposedly never to have known who his parents' murderer was.  Again, dumb.  But like I said, these changes never happened as far as we are concerned since they were canceled-out years later.  Editorially, Zero Hour is the event which makes all of the superheroes' origins more recent and contemporary by advent of the "sliding time-scale" and subsequent compression of all DC Universe stories.  See the "Intro to the Modern Age" for more details.  Moving on, after the Crisis in Time is resolved, there are several zero issues which serve as jumping-on points for our characters as they continue on with the brand new DC timeline.  Batman's zero issues mainly consist of flashbacks to Bruce's youth and to his training prior to becoming the Caped Crusader.  Every flashback regarding Batman's origins is pretty accurate, but we have to ignore any incorrect references to the Wayne murders or inconsistent references to Batman as an "urban legend."  For anyone wondering, in his zero issues Batman takes down a serial-killing mugger, corrupt media mogul Randolph Spire, the Stone Brothers, and some kidnappers.

PRODIGAL
--Batman #512
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #32
--Detective Comics #679
--Robin #11
--Batman #513
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #33
--Showcase '94 #12
--Detective Comics #680
--Robin #12
--Batman #514
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #34
--Detective Comics #681
--Robin #13
Bruce decides he's not quite ready to be Batman full-time yet and leaves Gotham in the capable hands of temporary Batman, Dick Grayson!  The new Batman then meets with a pissed off Commissioner Gordon, who (once again) realizes immediately that there's a new face under the mask.  Dick tells him to chill out and makes quick work of Croc, Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, Two-Face, and some deadly Blackgate escapees.  Meanwhile, Tim juggles the busy life of being a masked superhero, spending time with an overbearing father, and trying to squeeze in dates with his girlfriend.  In the last two issues, GCPD Det. MacKenzie Bock debuts and Robin takes down Steeljacket solo.  We also see the emergence of the villainous "Troika" which consists of a bunch of Russian supervillains, but we'll get to that in our next story-arc.  The most important part of "Prodigal" is in the conclusion where Bruce returns to reclaim the mantle of the Bat and has an intense conversation with Dick (who becomes Nightwing again).  Why did Bruce choose Jean-Paul over Dick?  Well, because he knew Dick was his own man and didn't want to assume that he would be the natural successor to the title.  Where did Bruce go for the entire "Prodigal" run?  We never really learn.  Maybe he was soul searching.  We do learn that Alfred has left his post indefinitely to do some soul searching of his own.  Bruce also debuts the brand new all-black Bat-costume and we learn that Jean-Paul is shell-shocked, living in a homeless shelter.

--The Batman Chronicles #1, Part 2
Anarky gives a lesson in anarchy to his fellow juvie-hall mates.  This story takes place here because when we next see Lonnie he will have been out on probation for almost two months already.

TROIKA
--Batman #515
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #35
--Detective Comics #682
--Robin #14
Bruce is back and he's a lot grittier than usual.  In fact, he kind of reminds me of the Giffen-era "angry dad" JLI Batman from the late 80s.  He won't say where he's been or what's changed in him, but he will go after the terrorizing Troika, which consists of Col. Vega, Romana, the Dark Rider, and KGBeast.  Wait, Troika means Triad, which means "three", which means that Vega, Romana, and KGBeast screw-over the Rider and kick him out of the team into the waiting arms of Batman.  Eventually, Batman and Robin are able to stop the Troika from detonating a nuclear device, but they can't prevent Harvey Bullock from getting shot and going into a coma.  By the way, Gordon references Batman's initial encounter with the Dark Rider as occurring before the fall of the Soviet Union.  The only year Batman was active before the fall of Red Communism was Bat-Year One.  We should disregard Gordon's Soviet comments and place the Dark Rider's debut instead in Bat-Year Eleven.

–Batman/Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle
Batman chases after the Riddler, but in a flash both wind up trapped in a cage in bizarre alternate dimension along with various other warriors, including Judge Dredd! The mysterious all-powerful Emperor Xero arrives, seemingly kills Riddler, and then explains that all the kidnapped combatants must fight each other to the death for his entertainment. Once all the fighters are released into a labyrinthine urban alternate dimension, Batman and Dredd team-up and defeat a bunch of weird aliens, androids, and killer robots. Eventually, Batman and Dredd confront Xero, who morphs into his true form: Riddler! Riddler then reveals that during Zero Hour, he came across a time-displaced scepter from the far, far future. The scepter endowed him with spectacular cosmic-powers, with which he was able to travel throughout the multiverse, kidnap strong warriors from various planets, and imprison them on an alternate dimension of his own creation. After Riddler explains the situation, Dredd is able to shoot him in the arm, causing him to drop the scepter and be defeated. Batman then uses the scepter to return everyone to their correct times and universes. Back in Gotham, the Dark Knight destroys the scepter.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #36
Black Canary's friend is killed by Street Demonz so she comes to Gotham and teams-up with Batman.  Also, while Bullock is laid-up (after getting shot by KGBeast), Bock becomes Montoya's new partner.

--Azrael #1-2
Jean-Paul is still living in a homeless shelter and is still crazy.  Batman finally gets around to feeling a bit responsible for the former Az-Bats and goes to check up on him.  After helping him escape from a burning building, Bruce advises Jean-Paul to travel to Europe and settle his unfinished business with the organization that "programmed" him in the first place, the Order of St. Dumas.  Bruce then gives Jean-Paul his old Azrael costume, detailed information and maps regarding the Order, one hundred thousand dollars in cash, and access to a bank account with several MILLION dollars in it.  You heard me, Bruce just gave Jean-Paul over a million clams and then some!  If I was Azrael, I'd say the hell with St. Dumas, and hop a permanent flight to the Caribbean!  But, no, Azrael has a mission and the avenging angel departs for Europe.

--Batman #516-517 ("SLEEPER")
Batman takes his new grim attitude and captures both the mind-controlled sleeper agent known as Sleeper and her handler Remmy. There are a lot of references to CIA sleep-deprivation testing and MK Ultra drugging in this story. We also learn that Jean Paul's one-time foe Mekros underwent the same CIA brainwashing that is applied on Sleeper. In an interesting note, Bruce speaks in detail with an expert in the field of sleep studies. I know this is "back-engineering," but we can easily assume Bruce is worried about his own sleep deprivation tests from years earlier (as well he should be). Other items of note; Gordon is having a rough time as he doesn't trust Batman anymore and his marriage is on the rocks.  In fact, things are so bad Jim and Sarah have separated!  Also, Det. Bock gets his nickname "Hardback" from the recently awakened Bullock.  Also, Bruce meets odd socialite Madolyn Corbett.

NOTE:  Guy Gardner, who has been without any super powers since the events of Zero Hour (no more power ring), regains a whole new set of metahuman powers when he discovers that he has Vuldarian "Warrior" DNA within his body.

--Guy Gardner: Warrior #29
Guy Gardner opens a bar for superheroes only!  Nearly every DC character from Ambush Bug to Zebra Man (ok, not actually Zebra Man) shows up for the grand opening.  Hell, even Swamp Thing is there!  Guy gets in a fight with Captatin Atom and Lobo.  I'm surprised Batman even showed up for this thing. 

--Detective Comics #683-684
The Penguin hires statistical criminal genius known as The Actuary to plan a Batman-proof heist for him.  The Actuary's plan?  A daytime robbery of the Gotham flower show!  Batman is still able to stop the burglary, but the Actuary takes the fall for the Penguin, who emerges as a legitimate casino owner (a title he will hold for many, many years).

--Azrael #4-5 
Jean-Paul confronts the Order of St. Dumas and learns that the mantle of Azrael has already been passed on to a new warrior.  Jean Paul battles the new Azrael and seemingly kills him to reclaim sole possession of the title.  However, as seen through flashback in Azrael #10, we learn that the magical villain Abra Kadabra saves the alternate Azrael and makes him an offer from his employer, Neron.  Kadabra explains that in a month or so Neron, King of Hell, will arrive on Earth to wreak havoc.  In exchange for saving his life, the alternate Azrael must keep Batman occupied upon Neron's arrival.  Kadabra gives him a facsimile of Jean-Paul's armored Batman costume and bids him farewell.  Meanwhile, Jean-Paul's further investigations into the Order of St. Dumas lead to his first meeting with Ra's Al Ghul.  Oracle updates Bruce and Tim to let them know how Azrael is doing.  Bruce tells Tim that Ra's is the only man he truly fears.

--Flash Vol. 2 #100
Flash tangles with Kobra and his serpent cult.  Batman and Robin (along with a bunch of other superheroes) make cameos in this special issue #100 for the Fastest Man Alive.

--Robin #15-16
Stephanie Brown is kidnapped and held hostage, but Robin is able to rescue her.  Robin and Spoiler (with Batman's help) then bring the kidnappers to justice and learn that Stephanie's father (Cluemaster) orchestrated her kidnapping from Blackgate.  Stephanie visits dad in prison and bitches him out.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #37-38 ("THE JOKER")
The Joker wants revenge against all the people who heckled his bad comedy acts before he went insane, so he kidnaps a bunch of people and puts on a comedy show at the massive, vacant North Gotham structure known as Mercey Mansion.  Of course, people get their heads blown-off at a Joker comedy special, so Batman attempts to intervene.  Before he has the chance, Wilde Norton aka Wild attempts to kill the Joker.  Turns out Wild's family was tortured and killed by the Joker years ago.  After shooting the Joker in his hand and leg, Batman is able to clean up the mess and apprehend them both.  Dr. Arkham shows up to personally oversee the Joker's incarceration and declares that the new Arkham Asylum will move into Mercey Mansion. (If you didn't already know, Arkham has yet to be rebuilt since its destruction at the hands of Bane).  NOTE:  Mercey Mansion was originally 20 miles outside of Gotham.  However, retcons place Mercey Mansion well within the city limits, a mere two miles from downtown.

--Batman: GCPD #1-4
This is a special GCPD Major Crimes ensemble mini-series.  When an undercover Montoya is held captive by the terrorist organization known as Cell Six, the rest of the force bands together to bring her home safely.  Everyone (Kitch, Bullock, Petit, Sarah, Jim, Hardback, and Det. Kevin Soong) is highlighted in this storyline.  Think of this as a very early precursor to Gotham Central.

--Batman #518
Black Mask still hates Bruce Wayne with a passion so he sends Johnny LaMonica aka the new Black Spider to kill someone at random at Bruce's masquerade ball.  Black Spider fails, but it doesn't matter because he's secretly working against Black Mask on behalf of rival crime-lord Ottoman Turk. Meanwhile, Mayor Krol is coming down hard on Gordon since the former's re-election campaign is going poorly.  Before we can continue, we have a short interlude when King Snake returns in "War of the Dragons."

WAR OF THE DRAGONS
--Detective Comics #685
--Robin #17
--Detective Comics #686
King Snake is back and is in charge of the Asian mob in Gotham, which leads to a Chinatown gang war between Snake's Triads and General Tsu's Shahs.  Batman and Robin get stuck in the middle of a huge battle involving Snake, Lynx, the assassin known as Silver Monkey, and a ton of Asian gangs.  Eventually, Nightwing and Huntress show up to help, but Batman denies assistance from the latter.  Snake is finally apprehended, the gang war ends, and Lynx takes control of the entire Chinatown mob.   

--Batman #519-520
While the War of the Dragons ended positively for Batman, it was a bad stain on Jim Gordon's reputation in the eyes of Mayor Krol.  Krol is so livid (and nervous about the upcoming election) that he demotes Jim and replaces him with his estranged wife, Sarah.  Sarah Essen-Gordon becomes the brand new Gotham City Police Commissioner!  A disgruntled Jim brutally arrests thug Tommy Mangles and then immediately resigns from the GCPD!   Batman then easily takes down Black Spider, but Black Mask gets away.  Because of Black Spider's failure, he winds up in Blackgate with a "web" of scars strewn across his face, courtesy of his ousted employer Ottoman Turk.  Bullock also goes on a movie-date, which ends tragically (as most things in Gotham City do) with a mugging and the fatal shooting of his date.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #39
The new commissioner Gordon makes Det. Bock her assistant.  And in Slaughter Swamp State Park just miles outside of Gotham, Solomon Grundy returns!  Why are there alligators in the Mid-Atlantic marshland, you ask?  Either the State Park stocks them in a lame attempt to make the tours seem more "adventurous" or Alan Grant forgot that gators don't live up North.  Bleh. Starman Vol. 2 #17 also has a flashback to this issue that shows Batman fighting Grundy.

--Batman: Gotham Nights II #1-4
Someone has been sabotaging an old island amusement park in Gotham Harbor known as Little Paris.  Batman orders Tim to visit the park with his friends to see what he can find.  Meanwhile, Batman visits the park pretending to be an undercover Gotham Gazzette reporter posing as a maintenance man.  After another ride "accident," a corrupt city councilman sends in his hired goon Jobe Belden to straighten things out, much to the chagrin of Batman.  After interrogating the councilman and the owner of the park, Batman deduces that Belden has been acting alone as the saboteur, collecting big bribes all the while.  When confronted, Belden blows up a gas tanker and the whole park burns to the ground.  Belden dies in the inferno along with the park owner and his dad (whose complicated pasts are both revealed) and a misogynistic racist character (who learns a lesson and has a change of heart in his final moments).  The story ends with the daughter of the latter deceased, who comes to terms with her rough Gotham life and her complex interracial relationships with two guys.  Ummm, so yeah, Batman: Gotham Nights II is a Batman story, but it also kinda isn't.


--Detective Comics #687-688
Cap'n Fear and his gang o' pirates attack Gotham Bay and capture the Dark Knight!  I'm not joking.  Robin stops the pirates and Batman is able to escape shark infested waters unscathed.  The Cap'n then disappears without a trace.

--The Batman Chronicles #1, Part 1
Ex-cop Jim Gordon meets and teams-up with Huntress to stop some train hijackers.

--The Batman Chronicles #1, Part 3
Batman witnesses the sad, short life of a False Face Society gang member as he continues to hunt for the fugitive Black Mask.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #40-41 ("ANARKY")
The prophet of doom Malochia wishes to blow-up Gotham.  Batman and Robin team-up with Anarky and Joe Potato to stop him.  "Anarky" is a wonderful story-arc which shows just how underrated of a character Lonnie Machin really is.  These two issues also function as an homage to Batman's "Dirigible of Doom" case from Bat-Year One as Malochia attempts to use his own Dirigible of Doom to transport his deadly bombs over the city.  Anarky is able to crash the zeppelin into the harbor, but seemingly at the cost of his own life.  (We know this isn't the case because we'll see him again).  While all of the craziness is going on, Jim Gordon decides to run for mayor!  Retcon corrections in these issues: Lonnie is supposedly 15 years-old in this storyline, but he should only be 14 at this point.  Also, Malochia makes a prediction that the world will end in 1999.  Since we are already in 2002, we should disregard this.  And finally, District Attorney Marion Grange isn't only just now entering into the mayoral election race.  We've known about her candidacy for quite some time now. 

--Batman #521-522
Alfred finally returns home!  The reunion, however, is short-lived as Croc breaks out of the new Arkham at Mercy Mansion.  Batman tracks Croc all the way to the swamps of New Orleans where we learn the latter has been summoned by Swamp Thing!  Swamp Thing easily restrains Batman and explains that Croc isn't responsible for his actions and is a predatory creature of nature, deserving of his protection.  Batman reluctantly allows Croc to remain free as long as he permanently remains under the watchful eyes and care of Swamp Thing.

GHOSTS
--Batman Annual #22
--JLA Annual #2
Someone has stolen the old Jean-Paul armored Az-Bat costume from Bruce's secret storage unit.  The perpetrator wears the costume and wreaks havoc all over town.  You will never guess who is beneath the Bat-helmet.  It's the ghost of Abattoir.  Yes, for some reason, Abattoir's spirit has been trapped in a state of limbo ever since his death.  Batman is not only able to exorcise Abattoir's spirit in this issue, he also delivers a baby.  Let me repeat that.  He exorcises a ghost and delivers a baby.  Similar hauntings occur across the DCU during this Annual crossover series.  In the JLA Annual Felix Faust accidentally re-animates the ancient evil wizard Hermes Trismegistus who tries to eliminate all life on Earth.  Obviously, the good guys stop the zombie wizard, but his spirit secretly hides within Faust.  NOTE:  This JLA Annual is meant to take place during a later time.  However, it's a package deal and the Batman "Ghosts" story fits in here perfectly.  If the JLA Annual does indeed take place here, keep in mind that the tattered remnants of the JLA would be led by Wonder Woman, and the JL Task Force would still be headed by J'onn.  Superman and Batman would have just assisted on this case.  Special thanks to "odi" on this one!

--Batman/Demon
Batman reluctantly teams-up with Etrigan to solve some occult-themed murders.  With Etrigan's assistance Batman visits Abattoir in Hell. (Abattoir's ghost was exorcised and sent to Hell in the previous "Ghosts" story-arc).  Oh, and Halloween is simply topical in this story.  We must ignore the holiday, since it isn't that time of year.

--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #42 
Johnny Lynx was the former lead-singer of The Missing Lynx until he fell into a coma and his band-mates robbed him blind.  Now he's back and he gets revenge by killing everyone in the band.  Batman and Robin try to catch him, but he gets away.  The big reveal at the conclusion?  Johnny is a cyborg.  Weird.  He will show up in our next story with his new super-villain name Feedback.  Batman and Robin won't be far behind.

--The Batman Chronicles #2
Robin talks down the crazed Feedback and the cops arrest him.  Then Harold catches some burglars while shopping downtown.  Yes, Harold!  And Commissioner Sarah Essen-Gordon reflects upon her strained marriage, the mayoral election, and Batman among other things.

--Detective Comics #689-690
Firelfly escapes from Blackgate, joins the False Facers, and goes after his rival, Firebug.  Eventually, Firefly is apprehended and Firebug seemingly perishes in a fire.  We'll learn much later that Firebug uses the fact that everyone thinks he is dead as an opportunity to quietly retire from supervillainy.  Also, Bruce decides to support Marion Grange's campaign on the condition that Jim Gordon be re-instated as commissioner if she wins.

--Batman #523-524 ("THE SCARECROW")
The Scarecrow escapes from the new Arkham with plans of killing all of the jocks who made fun of him in high school!  This marks the second time he's done this!  I guess there were a lot of jock asshole bullies at Crane's high school.

--The Batman Chronicles #3
The Riddler tries "normal crime" without clue-giving, but in the end can't kick the habit and winds up back in Arkham.  Speaking of Arkham, Zsasz gives his origin story to a doctor, but who knows if its true since it's coming from him.   And I guess Swamp Thing has had more than enough with Killer Croc down South.  Croc hitches a train and comes back to good ol' Gotham.

--Robin #19-21 
Robin deals with the returning General and one of Maxie Zeus' top men, Julie Caesar.  He also deals with some serious Ariana Dzerchenko (his girlfriend) issues as well.  And last but not least, Tim infiltrates a criminal teenage ninja training camp in order to shut it down.  Dick infiltrated a similar camp way back in his first year as Robin.

--Sandman #71
Morpheus aka The Sandman aka Dream of the Endless has recently died, allowing Daniel Hall to become the new Dream.  Many of Earth's superheroes, including Batman, attend Morpheus' wake (although they will do so only in dreams and have no recollection of it afterward).

NOTE:  Joker has an unfriendly encounter with Superman (as seen in Action Comics #714) after which the Man of Steel ships him back to Arkham.  However, Joker immediately escapes from Arkham yet again, as we will see him free in the upcoming Underworld Unleashed. These seemingly ridiculous stretches of constant break-outs shouldn't be surprising since the new Arkham at Mercey Mansion has little to no security.  In fact, in a month or two, we will see Two-Face escape three times in one week!  I know, it's stupid, but that is just how it is.

UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED
--Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 1
Neron, the king of Hell, is ready to enact an evil plan.  With help from his servant Kadabra, Neron tricks five of Flash's top rogues into setting off large explosions, which not only kill the rogues, but open a Hellmouth which unleashes the lord of evil onto Earth.  But we'll get back to that in a little bit.

THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE Part 1
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #43
This is part one of "The Secret of the Universe."  What is the secret of the universe?  Drum roll, please.  And the answer is... survival! (and also bizarre abstract art by Barry Kitson, apparently).  Some South Pacific Islanders hire Catwoman to retrieve parts of Catman's cape and cowl, which Thomas Blake had stolen from their tribe.  Meanwhile, Ratcatcher escapes from Blackgate and terrorizes Gotham.  Batman sets out to stop all three, but before he can apprehend anyone he gets a call from Robin in Azrael #10.

UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED Continued
--Azrael #10
Az-Bats is back!  Sort of.  This issue is a continuation of Underworld UnleashedRemember a month ago in Azrael #4 when Kadabra saved the alternate Azrael's life in exchange for a favor?  If you don't, this comes straight from a flashback in this very issue, so don't worry about digging through your back-issues.  Anyway, Kadabra told him that Neron was coming, and guess what?  Neron is here (as we saw in Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 1).  In exchange for his life, the alternate Azrael was given a facsimile of Jean Paul's armored Bat-costume and told to distract Batman upon Neron's arrival.  So, here we see the alternate Azrael dressed up as Az-Bats showing up in Gotham to distract Bruce while Neron begins assembling the world's supervillain community for his evil plan.  Robin calls Batman and tells him about the fake Az-Bats, to which Bruce replies that he is too busy tracking down Catwoman, Catman, and Ratcatcher to assist.  In the end Batman puts his case on hold and easily defeats the fake Azrael/fake Az-Bats.

THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE Conclusion
--Catwoman #26
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #44
"The Secret of the Universe" concludes.  Catwoman and Batman wind up teaming-up and they bring down both Catman and Ratcatcher together. 

UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED Conclusion
--Underworld Unleashed #1 Part Two
--Detective Comics #691-692
--Robin #23-24
--Underworld Unleashed - Batman: Devil's Asylum #1
--Batman #525
--Underworld Unleashed #2-3
Underworld Unleashed continues and we learn that this Mark Waid tale basically serves to upgrade all of DC's supervillains.  A week has passed since Neron, the current ruler of Hell, has come to Earth.  And in that time Neron has gathered the entire supervillain community together.  How did this gathering go unnoticed?  Well, Batman was conveniently distracted by the fake Az-Bats, Catwoman, Catman, and Ratcatcher.  Meanwhile, Superman had been whisked away to another galaxy where he currently remains (see Superman: Man of Steel #50).  Thus, Supes is out of the picture entirely.  Neron's plan? To offer every single DCU supervillain something special in exchange for his or her soul.  Dozens of villains accept.  Here are the deals which affect Batman the most:  Lex Luthor, whose cloned body had deteriorated so badly he was in a vegetative state, trades his soul for a brand new healthy body.  Blockbuster sells his soul for genius level intelligence.  Killer Moth trades his soul to become the actual moth monster known as Charaxes.  Many other villains gain significantly increased metahuman abilities in exchange for their souls.  Spellbinder turns down the deal, but is immediately murdered by his girlfriend who accepts the offer in his place, thus becoming the new Spellbinder. Oh, and of course, the Joker sells his soul for nothing more than a box of Cuban cigars.  Seriously.  Notably, Poison Ivy, Riddler, and Scarecrow all turn down the deal.  Before Batman and Robin are even aware of Neron's presence, they square-off with and take down the new Spellbinder and Charaxes.  (The debuting Lock-Up is actually responsible for taking down Charaxes).  Meanwhile, Neron meets with Kryppen at Arkham and offers him ultimate power if he sets a trap for Batman.  Kryppen poisons everyone inside Arkham and when Batman arrives the former lets him know what's up.  Kryppen explains that in exchange for the antidote to his poison the Caped Crusader must kill one Arkham inmate of his choosing and turn over his victim's soul to the devil.  Batman refuses, and instead forces Kryppen to drink his own poison, confident that Kryppen will want to survive.  Kryppen freaks-out and turns over the antidote.  By the end of issue #525, Jim Gordon has dropped out of the mayoral race, Madolyn Corbett has shown up at Wayne Manor acting very bizarrely on multiple occasions, and Batman puts Mr. Freeze back in jail.  In Hell, Luthor and Joker learn that Neron's goal is to acquire enough soul-power to take over the entire world.  Meanwhile, Neron makes his presence known to the world's heroes by offering each of them seductive deals.  For example, Neron offers the life of Jason Todd back in exchange for Bruce's soul.  This is a clever offer on Neron's part, because he surely would have known that Jason was already alive again at this point.  Bruce denies the devil anyway.  Neron offers Oracle super powers and the ability to walk again in exchange for her services as Hell's librarian.  He doesn't even ask for her soul, but Babs still turns him down.  As Neron collects more souls his power and influence grow exponentially, thrusting the world into the brink of chaos and war.  In Gotham, Batman and Robin team up with Black Canary and Huntress to prevent Major Disaster, Grodd, Blockbuster, and Metallo from stealing nuclear weapons.  Separately, the rest of the world's superheroes travel to Hell to confront Neron face-to-face.  They are only able to defeat Neron after Captain Marvel accepts a deal with the devil. However, Marvel's boyish soul is too pure and when the king of Hell cannot accept, the deal is broken and all of the souls are released and returned to their rightful owners, thus ending his reign of terror.  In the end Neron winds up giving out a whole bunch of free stuff and winds up with no souls at all.

--Azrael #11
Shondra Kinsolving gets kidnapped once again by people who want to abuse her healing powers.  Batman and Azrael go after her.

--Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1
Oracle hires Black Canary to investigate a string of eco-terrorist bombings all targeted at business mogul Nick Devine.  Black Canary (along with the queen of the Asian mob, Lynx) travels to Africa and is able to reveal that Devine is actually behind the bombings and is collecting on insurance fraud.  Because the mission is such a success, Oracle decides to send Black Canary to Santa Prisca to put a stop to a White slavery ring.  This is the official beginning of Oracle's covert-ops team of rotating members known as the Birds of Prey.  Bruce Wayne makes a cameo in this issue.

--Birds of Prey: Manhunt #2-3
Black Canary and Huntress team-up in an attempt to apprehend metahuman thief Archer Braun, who they both have been previously romantically involved with.  Catwoman also joins in the chase after Braun steals from her.  Oracle is in constant contact with the three ladies as the "manhunt" escalates.  It isn't long before Batman and Robin join in the chase as well, immediately causing Catwoman and Huntress to avoid being seen by the Dynamic Duo at all costs.  Oracle eventually convinces Batman to turn the case completely over to her (without telling him who she is working with, knowing full-well Batman wouldn't approve). Bats is a bit puzzled, but ultimately trusts Barbara and backs-off.  The three ladies chase Braun all the way to Russia where they fight Lady Shiva and Braun dies in a fire.


--Nightwing #1
Dick briefly considers retiring from being Nightwing before family papers uncovered by Alfred reveal a possible link between the murder of the Flying Graysons and the Crown Prince of Kravia.  Before departing for Kravia (in Nightwing #2), Dick debuts his modernized blue and black costume.

--Nightwing #4
Nightwing returns from a trip to Kravia, having confirmed what he already knew: His parents were murdered by Tony Zucco and the link to the Prince of Kravia was a false lead.  Upon returning to Gotham, Nightwing meets with Batman and they have a serious heart-to-heart about his upbringing, family, and future.


--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #45
Bruce and Alfred discover a corpse that dates back to the 19th Century while digging in the Wayne Manor wine cellar!  Bruce and Alfred (and Bullock) soon learn that the body belongs to Bruce's Great Great Great Uncle Joshua Wayne.  Through flashback we learn that Bruce's Great Great Great Grandfather Solomon Wayne and Solomon's brother Joshua used the Batcave as a key stop in aiding runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad!  In the 1860s Joshua was killed by Southern bounty hunters and his body went missing, until now.

NOTE:  In the comics around this time period Tim is said to be in 10th grade and 15 years old.  However, due to retcons, he should actually only be in junior high and only 12 years old.

Modern Age (YEAR FOURTEEN) Part One

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.




KNIGHTFALL
--Batman #491-492
--Detective Comics #659
--Batman #493
--Detective Comics #660
--Batman #494
--Detective Comics #661
--Batman #495
Bane 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."

BLOODLINES
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat Annual #1
Xenomorph-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.

KNIGHTFALL Continued
--Detective Comics #662
--Batman #496
--Detective Comics #663
--Batman #497
--Detective Comics #664
--Showcase '93 #7-8 ("2 FACE")
--Batman #498
--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.

BLOODLINES Continued
--Batman Annual #17
Batman (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. 

KNIGHTFALL Continued
--Catwoman #2
--Batman #499
--Justice League Task Force #4
In 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.

BLOODLINES Continued
--Robin Annual #2
--Detective Comics Annual #6
Robin 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.

KNIGHTFALL Conclusion
--Detective Comics #666
--Batman #500
Great 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.

--Superman #83
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.

BLOODLINES Conclusion
--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
--Robin #1-5
--Batman #501-502 
--Detective Comics #669
--Catwoman #5
--Detective Comics #670-673
At 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 #6
 Catwoman'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 #503-504
--Catwoman #7
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #24-25
--Batman #505
--Showcase '94 #5
--Robin #6
--Batman #506-507
--Showcase '94 #6 
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #26-27
--Showcase '94 #7
Batman 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 #508
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #28
--Detective Comics #675
The 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 #7
Bruce 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.

KNIGHT'S END
--Batman #509
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #29
--Detective Comics #676
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #62
--Robin #8
--Catwoman #12
--Batman #510
--Batman: Shadow of the Bat #30
--Detective Comics #677
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63
--Catwoman #13
--Robin #9
Bruce 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.