--Batman: Gotham Knights #43-46
It's January 3. Felix Desidero continues his investigation into whether or not Bruce committed child abuse against Jason Todd and Dick Grayson years ago. He even serves Bruce with a court order. Batman lets off some steam by talking with Nightwing and then busting Query and Echo. Back at home, Bat Boy Aaron Langstrom, who is still living secretly in the Batcave, spies curiously on Batman, who works feverishly on a case which involves the kidnapping of a high-school basketball star. Alfred tells Bruce he should put his detective skills to better use and find out who has been eating the sandwiches he's been leaving in the Batcave. Batman then runs into Man-Bat who is out looking for his son. They team-up (!) and solve the kidnapping case together. But then Man-Bat smells Aaron's scent on Bruce and flips-out,going so far as to destroy the Batmobile! After Bruce calms him down, he realizes that Aaron is hiding in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Desidero interrogates Alfred, Dick, Tim and Cassie about whether or not Bruce is a good father. Bruce arrives just in time to be interviewed as well. Desidero leaves seemingly satisfied with Bruce's genuine answers and legitimate tears. In the Batcave, Kirk Langstrom reunites with his son and all is right in the world again. Next, the Spook finally gets out of jail on parole and moves into a Halfway Home. He had served time for almost 8 years! The Spook tries to go on the straight-and-narrow, but the Bat-family hounds him so much, he freaks out and deliberately violates his parole to escape their persecution. It's back to the safety of Blackgate for the ol' Spook. NOTE: I should also mention that Bruce is wearing the wrong costume in all of the flashbacks from issues 43 through 45. Writer Scott Beatty tried to retcon Batman's history here to make it so that he didn't switch over to the yellow-insignia costume until after Jason's death, which is absolutely one-hundred percent wrong. Also, the the B&W Second Features to GK #43, GK #45, and GK #46 are all non-canon, whereas the B&W Second Feature to GK #44 is canon. The latter is a tourist guidebook to the best shopping, culture, and food in Gotham City.
Where the hell has Cassie been lately? Cassie has been staying in Smallville, where she and Superboy have reaffirmed their feelings for each other. However, they decide it is best if they remain friends instead of lovers. When Cassie returns to Gotham, Batman, yet again, is not a happy camper about the time she has spent with Superboy. The Dark Knight believes Dr. Death (!) is supplying Tarkastanian rebels with a deadly poison. Since Batgirl has had experience with the Tarkastanian metahuman known as Black Wind, Batman takes her on a trip to Tarkastan, where the duo encounters Black Wind and his rebel group. However, Batman learns that Dr. Death has been supplying the Tarkastanian government with his poisons, not the supposed "terrorists." In the end, Black Wind dies a revolutionary hero, while containing the poison from spreading. Bruce and Cassie, who was kind of in love with Black Wind, are saddened by the loss of such a good and decent man. In Gotham, Bruce publicly condemns the terrorist nation of Tarkastan. NOTE: This is the first time we have seen Dr. Death in seventeen years!
--Avengers/JLA #4The former Oan Guardian Krona has been traveling the multiverse for the past month, wiping out universe after universe, including the Antimatter Universe which houses the Antimatter Earth (the one with the Crime Syndicate of Amerika). Meanwhile, the gigantic alien from Universe-616 (Marvel's Universe) known as Terminus has somehow crossed through the Bleed and wound up on Earth-0 (the main DCU Earth). The Spectre (Hal Jordan) tells the JLA that Terminus doesn't belong on their plane of existence, and vanishes the monster away. As the day wears on, several beings from the DCU inexplicably crossover to Universe-616 and vice-versa The U-616 cosmic entity known as The Grandmaster materializes on the Watchtower and explains the only way to save the multiverse is to collect 12 items of power, six from the DCU and six from the Marvel U. The Grandmaster gives the JLA a list and then disappears. Flash is able to use the Speed Force to send the JLA (plus the Atom) into U-616. The JLA then takes a tour of Earth-616. In NYC, Bruce witnesses the ruthlessness of the Punisher, who he's met in Gotham before and has nothing but contempt for. Batman breaks out of his cloak and beats the tar out of the Punisher before reconvening with the rest of the team! The JLA then retrieves the first item on the list and briefly encounters The Avengers before returning home to the DCU. (Many of the JLAers met members of the Avengers 3 years ago, but their memories of the event were erased after Access disappeared). Metron shows up on Earth-616, tells the Avengers about the 12 items needed to save the multiverse, and gives them a Motherboxx which allows them to teleport to the DCU. The JLA and the Avengers throw down in Metropolis, but soon realize they are on the same side. The two super-teams begin collecting the needed items. Meanwhile, the Atom learns that the Grandmaster and Metron have offered Krona cosmic knowledge in exchange for helping them trick the remaining heroes of the multiverse into playing the deadly game in which they are currently involved. When the JLA is able to collect more items than the Avengers, the Grandmaster reveals that he's placed his bet on the winning team. However, Krona is pissed and begins to fight the Grandmaster. Then Krona attacks Galactus using the 12 items of power. In an instant, history is completely re-written and everything is all wrong. The DCU and U-616 are merging into a single bizarre mish-mash universe (again). Eventually, the JLA and the Avengers travel into the Grandmaster's realm and he shows them their true histories in a brilliantly illustrated scene. Batman invites Captain America and The Thing into the Batcave to strategize a plan of action. Then its off to fight Krona for the fate of the multiverse in what is like a forty page battle which depicts practically every character from the DCU and Marvel U (except no X-Men, which is kinda weird). In the end, Krona is defeated and his essence is trapped in a "Cosmic Egg," which is stored for safekeeping in the Watchtower. The JLA bids the Avengers farewell and the two teams return to their respective universes. The Bleed between their worlds re-thickens and the destruction done by Krona is reversed by the Spectre. However, unlike in the previous encounter with heroes from Earth-616, the DCU heroes don't lose their memory of this epic event! Thank god. The effects of this major event will be felt down the road during the JLA "Syndicate Rules" story-arc and then the mega-event "Trinity." Oh, I also wanted to mention that this story-arc explains that Earth-0 is much larger than Marvel's Earth or our Earth that we live on. This is not only a big deal, this is really cool and helps explain why the main DCU Earth has so many extra countries and cities. The main DCU Earth has room for them!
--Legends of the DC Universe #31-32 ("THE 18TH LETTER. A LOVE STORY")
Wonder Woman intervenes in the civil war of a small European country and confronts the bloodthirsty General Michael Lysander aka the immortal supervillain Almacaeon. Almacaeon is already dealing with the tempestuous immortal Amazon (and WWII/All-Star Squadron vet) known as The Fury. Upon seeing Diana, Almacaeon is smitten and tells her that if she spends the night with him, he will stop the war. Diana does spend the night with him and is able to bring some actual good out of the villain! Diana also learns the tragedy of his immortality; Almacaeon, the Fury, and several others have retained their youth by possessing magical "letters of prophecy" and it's not all it's cracked up to be. Although they don't sleep together, Diana and Almacaeon share a kiss and reveal that they both have feelings for each other. Almacaeon, in an act of repentance and love, decides to commit suicide by destroying all the letters of prophecy, including the Fury's. Naturally, the Fury flips her lid and begins fighting Diana. Eventually, Almacaeon kills himself, but allows the Fury to continue living. Wonder Woman, who is really torn up, meets with Superman, but is unable to explain how she feels to him. Turning to the normally coarse Batman, she is able to make a connection with the Dark Knight on a level which they had never had before. Hmmm, I wonder if Bruce and Diana will ever be an item? SPOILER ALERT: This story does indeed lay the groundwork for an upcoming romantic attraction between Wonder Woman and Batman.
--JLA #66-67 ("THE DESTROYERS")
It's been over four months since Kyle has parted with his cosmic Ion powers and he still hasn't made the adjustment back to Green Lantern-level power. At night he suffers from nightmares. Kyle's nightmares come true when the armored 3000 year-old Aztec war machine known as Tezumak begins kidnapping children in Orlando. The JLA is quick to respond, but it's all a distraction. The primary threat lies in the arrival of Native American shaman-warrior Manitou Raven. The ensuing battle with Raven and Tezumak results in the destruction of a thinly-veiled Disneyworld. Raven explains to the League that he and Tezumak have traveled to the future from the past to stop a group of "destroyers" that will cause the end of humanity. Raven and Tezumak believe the JLA are those "destroyers." The JLA beats down on their opponents, causing them to retreat to the Atlantic Trench (where Atlantis used to be before it mysteriously disappeared during the Imperiex War over a year ago). In an instant, Atlantis reappears, albeit above ground, devoid of life, and in complete ruins.
NOTE: Batman apprehends first-time petty thief David Thompson. Thompson begs for lenience and Batman lets him go, explaining that he will be watching his every move in the future (as seen through flashback in the B&W Second Feature of Batman: Gotham Knights #41). We learn that Batman has a policy of letting first time-offenders go free and keeping tabs on them afterward. Thompson is on a long list of crooks.
--Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day #3
Both the Titans and Young Justice disband after Donna Troy is killed in action while battling an old Superman Robot (from the Dominus affair in Bat-Year Fifteen) which is under the control of the supervillain Indigo. A large funeral is held and many of the prime-time DCU players attend, including Batman.
--Detective Comics #788-790
Death Row inmate Eddie Hurst breaks out of prison and goes on a killing spree. His final would-be-victim, Kira Kelly, is saved by Batman. When the Dark Knight takes him down, Eddie bursts into electric light and all that remains is a small carved stone. Batman touches the stone and is magically endowed with a blind superhuman rage. He then takes down some gangsters using his metahuman strength, before realizing that he is being magically controlled by Kira Kelly. The Caped Crusader fights off the spell and sends Kelly to Arkham. After that, Batman busts up a drug lab and then visits Jason Todd's grave with Cassie. NOTE: Issue #790 must take place before the events of "Hush Part 2" (in which Batman discovers that Jason Todd's corpse is missing). Therefore, the "August 16th" date mentioned in the story is incorrect. Likewise, the mention of it being Jason's birthday is also incorrect.
--Second Feature from Detective Comics #785-788 ("THE DOGCATCHER")
A dogcatcher catches Harley Quinn's missing dog and winds up putting the poor pup down. The Joker finds out and this is bad news. Joker goes on a mini-rampage at the pound before Batman busts him.
--Formerly Known as The Justice League #5-6
Maxwell Lord (!) has assembled a few old JLIers and formed a new hero-for-hire group known as the Super Buddies. Team members include Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Fire, Captain Atom, Mary Marvel, Elongated Man, G'Nort, and L-Ron. When Manga Khan lands his space ship in Queens, the Super Buddies are on the scene and barely prevent a major extraterrestrial incident from occurring. (In fact, Booster and Beetle almost cause it). Meanwhile, the JLA stands watch as irreverent Giffen hilarity ensues, although Plastic Man fails to see the humor in any of this. The Super Buddies chat with the JLA after Khan leaves.
NOTE: JLA Classified #4-9 is a follow-up to Formerly Known as The Justice League entitled "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League" which takes place now. Batman isn't in these issues as they only follow the continued misadventures of Max Lord's short-lived Super Buddies.
THE OBSIDIAN AGE
--JLA #68-72As the DCU’s top science-heroes and magic-heroes study the recently reappeared Atlantis, Zatanna makes a startling discovery. When Atlantis was attacked during the Imperiex War, Tempest (formerly Aqualad) cast a spell of protection which was supposed to have saved the underwater kingdom by sending Aquaman and its people to a safe alternate dimension. However, something went horribly wrong: Tempest’s spell accidentally sent the entire population of Atlantis 3000 years into the past. Zatanna explains that after being sent back in time, someone must have cast a second spell, a containment spell, which made Atlantis completely invisible and undetectable for the next 3000 years (until now). Using Tempest’s magic, the JLA decides to go back in time to rescue Aquaman and his people. Batman wires remote command “Omega Gabriel Alpha” back to his Batcave computer. Superman seems shocked at this command. Moving forward with their plan, the JLA is sucked into a time vortex. Cut to one month later. It’s early-February. The JLA has yet to return and the Earth is in shambles. “Omega Gabriel Alpha” finally kicks in. The Batcave computer sends out robot spheres to recruit a new JLA team. Batman, in a pre-recorded video of himself, explains this special computer program was “designed to run in the event of a cataclysmic dissolution of the league followed by a decline in the integrity of the various systems around the Earth.” Batman and Superman’s hand-picked league includes the following; Nightwing as leader (!), the Atom, Green Arrow (Oliver Queen), Hawkwoman, Firestorm, Faith, a reformed Major Disaster, and Jason Blood (Etrigan). Back to 3000 years ago, the JLA is in hiding while they assess a mysterious situation. Aquaman and the Atlanteans from the present are still missing. However, the sorceress Gamemnae has lifted Atlantis above ground and rules the paradise with the aid of Rama Khan (ancient ancestor of the Rama Khan that fought the JLA recently) and a metahuman super-team, which includes Manitou Raven and Tezumak. Gamemnae was responsible for sending them into the future to fight the “destroyers” (the JLA). Meanwhile, Bruce has gotten ill, stricken with a fever of 106. The rest of the League sneaks into Atlantis and is shocked when an aquatic avatar of Aquaman bursts out of a pool of water begging for help. Aquaman has been magically bonded to this pool of water, where he faces constant pain and agony. Back in 2007, the replacement JLA reports for duty. Massive drought and water shortage have mysteriously begun to plague the Earth. The seas are literally drying up. Lava flows threaten to destroy Tokyo. The replacement League is able to save Tokyo on its first official mission, but is surprised to learn that all of the Earth’s water is being literally flushed into the planet’s core through a hole beneath Atlantis. The replacement JLA is even more surprised when Zatanna and Tempest discover what appears to be the skeletal remains of Superman, hidden within the ruins of Atlantis! Back 3000 years ago, we learn that Rama Khan has foreseen the destruction of his beloved country Jarhanpur at the hands of “the destroyers.” And wouldn’t you know it, he’s not entirely wrong! The League’s intervention into the affairs of the modern day Rama Khan did indeed result in the destruction of Jarhanpur (as seen in JLA #64). Thus, it is pretty easy for Gamemnae to manipulate Rama against our heroes. The JLA also discovers a terrible secret. Aquaman’s people were enslaved by their own kinsmen as soon as they arrived in the past. Aquaman was promptly lured away and never heard from again. The JLA is also disturbed to learn that they have arrived not in the year 993 BCE as they had hoped, but instead in 978 BCE. The modern-day Atlanteans have been slaves for fifteen years! Plus, Aquaman has been under constant torture for fifteen years! After Superman literally cries out for justice, the JLA goes after Gamemnae, but runs headfirst into her tough super-team. And when I say tough, I mean tough. The Jewish alien warrior known as The Anointed One is not only fast enough to catch Flash, he’s strong enough to literally rip his legs off! And he does. He literally rips Flash’s legs off.
THE OBSIDIAN AGE Continued...
--Aquaman Vol. 6 #1
--JLA #76Back in 2007, the laws of physics continue to break down and the entire planet is on the verge of being thrown into the sun. The replacement JLA finally meets the cause of all the chaos; a 3000 year old Gememnae in gigantic monster form. The battle isn’t going so well, so President Luthor decides to bomb Atlantis using the newly developed weaponry discovered during “New Maps of Hell” (a month ago in JLA Classified #10)! Of course, Luthor doesn’t bother warning the replacement JLA, who barely escape thanks to the help of Green Lantern! But how? I’ll tell you! In the year 993 BCE, Kyle creates an avatar of himself using his ring. Kyle’s avatar waits patiently for 2985 years to deliver a message to the replacement JLA. The GL avatar fills in Nightwing and company about what is happening (what happened) in 993 BCE and offers a plan to save the day. Why didn’t the ring avatar warn the JLA before this story? Hell, why didn’t he warn the JLA before the Imperiex War? Ah, the plot holes are piling up! (I guess, in defense of this part of the story, you could argue that GL wanted to mess with as little history as possible). Anyway, back in 993 BCE, the JLA are getting their asses handed to them by the “ancient league.” Batman, recovered from his fever, finally makes his return and joins the fray. Sensing that the end is near, Batman and Wonder Woman kiss! Let me repeat that; Batman and Wonder Woman kiss! Every member of the JLA are then killed. Let me also repeat that; the JLA are killed! Well, everyone except for Plastic Man, who goes missing. Tezumak kills Batman, while the Anointed One pummels Superman to death. Right before the JLA are defeated, Manitou Raven realizes he’s fighting on the wrong side and concocts a secret magical plan to right the wrongs. As Kyle chokes out his final breath, Raven tears out Kyle’s heart. After a wild celebration all over Atlantis, the power hungry Gamemnae begins absorbing the members of her super-team into her body, which in effect steals their metapowers and kills them. Raven uses his powers to prevent the spirits of the fallen JLAers from passing on to the afterlife. Instead, he re-routes their spirits into Kyle’s extracted heart. Raven then traps Gamemnae as she tries to absorb him and, together, they become linked in a spell which will put them to sleep for the next 2985 years (until Gamemnae breaks free to wreak havoc on the planet). The battle between Gamemnae and her League has decimated Atlantis. The city lies in ruins. Then things get confusing. (They weren’t already!?) In the present, Kyle’s ring avatar leads the replacement JLA to Raven who still has Kyle’s heart, which still contains the spirits of the dead JLA. Raven releases their spirits and the zombie JLA begins to battle the now Godzilla-sized Gamemnae. Meanwhile, Raven sends half of the replacement JLA back in time to the year 993 BCE (after the JLA get killed, but before Gamemnae is trapped with the sleeping spell) to try and defeat Gamemnae in the past. Why don’t they go back to like 994 BCE and team-up with the JLA before they all got slaughtered? Who knows. I could venture a decent guess, but I won’t bother. (Also, I guess we can throw away my previous theory about not wanting to mess with history). Anyway, the replacement JLAers are able to filter Aquaman’s prison pool into the sea, which allows Aquaman to rise up as a gigantic water-wraith. In the present, Gamemnae is angry because she can’t kill the JLA since they are already dead, so she uses her magic to bring the zombie Leaguers back to life! Think of the inane logic of this: Gamemnae brings the JLA back to life so that she can kill them. The narrative continues when Raven, in a nod to Apache Chief from the old 70s Super Friends cartoon, says, “Inukchuk!” and grows to giant-size in order to fistfight Gamemnae. Raven sacrifices his life to save the Earth and defeat Gamemnae. Meanwhile, Superman, J’onn, and Wonder Woman literally pull the Earth back into its correct orbit using Wonder Woman’s magic lasso. In 993 BCE, Aquaman defeats Gamemnae and ironically sinks Atlantis in the process! Zatanna then uses her magic to open a time portal which allows everyone, including Aquaman and Raven, to return to the present. But what about Plastic Man? In a pretty huge reveal, we learn that Plas is immortal. Poor Plas was crumbled into a thousand tiny little pieces during the JLA’s fatal battle with the “ancient league.” For 2985 years Plas survived as crumbs scattered across the Atlantic. Firestorm collects the pieces and delivers them to the Atom, who revives the fallen hero. But 2985 years to yourself is a long, long time, and Plas is glad to be back, but he’s had enough. He retires as Plastic Man and goes to spend time with his son. As if the League wasn’t shaken up enough, J’onn and Kyle decide to leave the team as well. John Stewart is sent from the GL Corps to be the new GL rep in the JLA, replacing Kyle. Also, the Atlantean courts put Aquaman on trial for all of the shit that happened to his people under his leadership. He is found guilty and is kicked out of his own kingdom. Okay, so this ambitious time-paradoxical insane epic is definitely worthy of a brief recap. So here it goes. Aquaman and the Atlanteans were enslaved and tortured for fifteen years before returning to the present. Plastic Man was trapped in the Atlantic Ocean for 2985 years. Every other member of the JLA is brutally murdered and then their spirits are trapped in Kyle’s heart for 2985 years before they are released into zombie bodies and then eventually given their lives back. I should note that Plastic Man has painfully felt the slow crawl of 2985 years, which makes his decision to quit the team very justifiable. The other JLAers don’t seem to have felt the sting of a 2985 year wait, so we must assume that in spirit form, time seems to pass at light speed. At story’s end, the JLA now consists of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, GL John Stewart, Flash, Faith, the Atom, Major Disaster, and Firestorm.
HUSH Part Two
--Wizard Zero Special: Hush Interlude
--Batman #617-619It's the first week in February. Over two months have passed since the first part of "Hush." The titular villain has yet to make his presence known to Batman. Since the chaos of the last two months has finally subsided, Batman finally gets a chance to interrogate Killer Croc at Arkham about their previous encounter. Croc busts out and learns that both he and Catwoman were both played by Poison Ivy, but they still don't know who is pulling all the strings. Batman and Catwoman decide to chase Ivy to Metropolis, but not before they give in to temptation and kiss! Gotta love the Jim Lee Batman/Catwoman make-out splash page. When the Bat and the Cat corner Ivy, she's got an ace up her sleeve; she's controlling Superman! Batman and Selina make-out some more and then the former slips on the Kryptonite ring and begins scrapping with Supes! Catwoman throws Lois Lane off of a building and Superman snaps out of his trance to save her. Glad that worked. Superman, Batman, Catwoman, and Krypto the Superdog (!) easily capture Ivy. Back in Gotham, Joker and Harley Quinn attack the Gotham Opera. Catwoman is shot and badly injured and Tommy Elliott is apparently shot and killed! Batman is about to pummel Joker to death before ex-commissioner Jim Gordon shows up and talks him down. A week later Tommy is laid to rest, but Bruce thinks something is fishy about his old friend's death. ERROR: Bruce says Dick is the first person he ever revealed his secret identity to. Wrong. It was Leslie Thompkins. Speaking of Dick, Nightwing teams-up with Batman to take down the Riddler. Afterwards, the bandaged mystery man (from "Hush Part 1") reveals himself to be Harvey Dent! The half-scarred Two-Face is no more! Harvey has undergone complete reconstructive surgery and is back (and supposedly a good guy now)! Meanwhile, Batman reveals his secret identity to Selina (!) and they make-out some more. Bruce is then lured halfway across the globe by Ra's Al Ghul. They have another one of their famous sword battles and Ra's warns him that someone else has recently used the Lazarus Pit. Back in Gotham, Catwoman tangles with Talia and Lady Shiva and gets the shit kicked out of her. After a quick recovery, Batman, Robin, Catwoman, and Huntress deal with Scarecrow. Then the bandaged mystery man shows up again, but this time, reveals himself to be Jason Todd! PS. This is indeed actually Jason Todd (as we learn in Batman #641). But halfway through their fight, Jason switches places with Clayface, who has morphed himself to look just like Jason. After the switch, Batman easily defeats the fake Jason and goes on thinking it was Clayface the whole time. Batman then follows the clues to none other than... Harold? Yes, Harold! Harold initially betrayed Batman in order to set off the chain of events which has led us to this point in exchange for surgery which got rid of his hunchback and restored his ability to speak. Harold apologizes to Batman, but before he can say another word, he gets a bullet in his brain. Our bandaged mystery man is back and he knows Batman's secret identity. This time there are no more red herrings. It's Tommy Elliot, who faked his own death (switching places with Clayface) and now has become the supervillain known as Hush. Why does he hate Bruce? Because as a psychotic child, Tommy severed the brake lines in his parents' car. His dad died in the resulting accident as planned, but his mom was saved by Bruce's father on the surgical table. Tommy has hated the Waynes ever since. Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon show up to help save Batman from Hush, who escapes. Dent reveals that Hush had injected Croc with a serum which caused his temporary monster-mutation. Dent also reveals that his own surgery was conducted by Hush in exchange for his cooperation in the grand plan. However, Hush never realized that by surgically removing Harvey's scars, he surgically removed the evil Two-Face as well. While the evil may be "removed," Harvey has committed a shit-ton of crimes in his life, and therefore, is still detained in Arkham. Oh, I should also mention that Bruce and Selina begin dating now!
--Nightwing Vol. 2 #81
Dick has recently been shot by Deathstroke and is hospitalized in Blüdhaven. Bruce, Cassandra, Babs, and Alfred all pay him a visit in the hospital. Bruce again expresses his desire for Dick to quit being a police officer. While Dick recovers, Cassie suits up as Batgirl and fights Deathstroke, obtaining information on his next hit: one of Dick's fellow officers. Dick suits up as Nightwing and saves the officer's life.
--Adventures of Superman #614
This story takes place the day after Valentine's day. Batman discovers a hidden government commune in Ohio known as Heroville, which has existed in secret since the 1950s. Heroville is home to dozens of government agents who were experimented on and trained to be superheroes against their will. Unable to deal with situation, Bruce notifies Superman who makes sure the residents of Heroville are not only free, but well.
--Second Features from Batman: Gotham Knights #38-42
First, a sweaty fat guy plays with Batman and Catwoman real-dolls. Meanwhile, Batman poses for a picture with an old lady. I guess he's changed his anti-photo stance. Next, a paranoid criminal is convinced that his new neighbor is Batman in disguise, so he kills the guy. After that, the actual Batman checks up on former petty thief David Thompson. Bruce then visits an art exhibit which displays sculptures and photos of gargoyles from Gotham's most famous pre-quake buildings. Many of these Gothic statues have factored into his crime-fighting past. In fact, one of the gargoyles pictured has a locked compartment to which Batman has the key. I'm not sure if this is a reference to something else or not.
--Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia
Wonder Woman partakes in the Amazonian ritual known as "The Hiketeia" in which she is honor bound to eternally protect a young Gothamite named Danielle Wellys. But when the Amazon Princess learns that Danielle has killed the drug dealers who murdered her sister, she suddenly finds herself in battle with Batman. Greck Rucka shows a lot of emotional tension between Bruce and Diana and they have a pretty epic battle. I'd like to think that some of the tension is also because Diana and Bruce have kissed recently, and now Bruce is dating Catwoman. Anyway, in the end Danielle kills herself, ending Diana's Hiketeia ritual.
--Batman #619, EpilogueTwo weeks after the Hush affair (it's now late-February), we learn that Tommy Elliot wasn't the only person manipulating everyone. The Riddler was at the top of the chain as well. Not only did he rid himself of cancer by bathing in a Lazarus Pit, Edward Nigma has discovered Batman's secret identity! Batman also finally realizes that Jason Todd's grave is empty. Duh, it's been empty for 6 years! Oddly enough, Batman will be so preoccupied with other shit that he won't be able to investigate this matter right away. And so much for steamy romance between the Bat and the Cat. They break up at the conclusion of this soulless tale because Bruce can't trust Selina. Overall, this was a really sub-par Jeph Loeb story that really makes me yearn for the quality Batman epics of yesteryear i.e. "No Man's Land" or "Knightfall" (or his own brilliant work on The Long Halloween).
--Catwoman Vol. 3 #22
Selina Kyle and Holly Robinson have hit the road and gone on a cross-country road trip. Concerned about Selina (especially since he just dumped her recently), Batman meets with another of her ex-boyfriends, Slam Bradley. Batman asks about Selina and trashes her relationship with Slam, to which Slam replies with snarky comments and fist to the face. Cue one of my favorite fight sequences in all of comics as a tough Slam gets walloped but keeps coming back for more. Only Catwoman would bring two level-headed men like Batman and Slam into a passion-filled, jealous brouhaha. After things settle, a bloodied Slam tells Batman that Selina is on the road and is doing fine.
--Action Comics #804
First, the backstory from Action Comics #803. Years ago when Superman first crashed into Kansas, his little spacecraft emitted a radioactive trail that caused the birth of a metahuman in the USSR. This metahuman, codenamed "Zed," would go on to be trained in the same program as the KGBeast to both become a warrior for the Soviets and to hate Superman. His meta-power happened to be that he had all the powers of Superman, but only under a red sun. After being visited by an alternate reality version of General Zod—one of Krypton's worst criminals in history—around the time of the Imperiex War, Zed created a suit of armor that filtered the suns rays, allowing him to harness his abilities. Adopting his mentor's name of "General Zod" and getting plastic surgery to look just like Superman, Zed has had a secret hand in many of Superman's darkest moments in the past, including the election of Lex Luthor as President. Now, Zed has taken over the former Soviet nation of Pokolistan, invaded the Czech Republic to start a war against a UN-backed coalition, and used a device that has de-powered all metahumans on Earth. After a brief skirmish, Zed and his army have taken control of Washington, DC, captured nearly all of the DCU's heroes, and expelled Superman into deep space. President Luthor has managed to escape, which takes us to the present action in Action #804. Luthor rescues Superman and nurses him back to health on Stryker's Island, which has been placed on a floating asteroid in space by Zed. Superman then charges back to Earth to confront "General Zod." Suffice to say, Superman will quickly defeat "General Zod" and restore the status quo on Earth in Action #805.
CITY OF CRIME
--Detective Comics #801-808
--Second Feature from Detective Comics #800
--Detective Comics #811-814David Lapham brings his twisted, dark writing-style to Gotham. Imagine Batman in the world of Stray Bullets. Pretty scary stuff, and also one of the most confusing Batman stories ever written. This story begins quite strong, but winds up turning into a nonsensical mess by its end. First, the Dark Knight avenges the murder of a 14 year-old girl. Then, when a tenement building catches fire, Batman calls in Robin for assistance. Most of the residents are saved, but Batman discovers a locked room full of kidnapped pregnant women. The women all perish in the flames, but the truth about an illegal baby-ring is revealed. Little does Batman know, Penguin is behind the scheme. When another a pregnant teen, Cassie Welles, is kidnapped, Batman vows to find her. Meanwhile, Penguin is frantically trying to eliminate any loose ends which can link him to the crimes. Penguin hires Mr. Freeze to go on a grisly killing spree, murdering dozens involved at safe-houses, adoption agencies, and law offices. If you want to read the BEST and scariest Mr. Freeze ever written, read Lapham's Mr. Freeze. The icy villain freezes dozens of people at a time (mostly pregnant women who have either been paid off or have been kidnapped), smashes them to pieces, and then burns the pieces into ash. All is going to murderous plan, until Mr. Freeze sees a specific victim that causes him to betray his benefactor. He kills Penguin's henchmen and steals away with the girl, who he believes is his long dead wife Nora! (The girl isn't Nora, Freeze is just nuts). Batman makes a few trips to intimidate rich parents that have bought illegal babies, but is still one step behind his leads until he comes across what's left of one of Penguin's henchmen. The dying, partially frozen henchman is missing the lower half of his body and is in shock. After interpreting his incoherent rambling, Batman learns that Penguin is behind everything. Then, the pregnant girl held by Freeze is able to escape into the waiting protective arms of Batman and the villain's threat is over. Following the rescue of the girl, both Batman and Robin discover that many people in Gotham have been replaced by mysterious clay-like doppelgangers, which begin to terrorize the city. Batman then follows up a lead and charges in on the Ventriloquist, only to discover that he's been attacked and lies in a coma. When the Caped Crusader is about to be swarmed by hundreds of clay doppelgangers wearing Halloween masks, a mini-gun toting Penguin flies in on a helicopter and saves Batman's life! Penguin has the wherewithal to realize that a city full of crazed doppelgangers is bad for everyone. Three weeks have passed since the beginning of this tale and now things are going to get really, really weird. Batman goes undercover as a homeless man for an entire week, during which he gathers more crucial information regarding the doppelgangers. He then goes undercover as a construction worker for another week after that! NOTE: There is absolutely NO WAY this story can take up over five weeks. Due to editorial compression, we must assume this tale takes at most one-and-a-half weeks total. Moving on, while the Caped Crusader's undercover work goes on, more and more doppelgangers begin appearing in the city and the citizens of Gotham begin going insane. Robin, ex-commissioner Jim Gordon, and a crazed little Scarface run amok at Gotham Mercy Hospital while the world falls apart around them. This plague of insanity boils to a head when everyone begins to forget the true history not only of Gotham, but of their own lives. (For example, everyone thinks that a crooked politician named Seamus McGreevy is mayor instead of David Hull). Anyway, Batman soon discovers that all of the doppelgangers are a part of one collective supernatural clay-like entity known as "The Body," who is also responsible for the plague of insanity. Traveling underground to an abandoned church that was submerged during the quake, Batman discovers the very, very weird "Body" and puts an end to his madness once and for all. In commemoration for his efforts on this strange case, the city will keep the Batsignal lit for a week straight following this story.
--Nightwing Vol. 2 #86-87
Dick and Babs have not been getting along very well lately. She feels he is not only being too reckless in his crime-fighting, but has become unresponsive to her feelings in several important matters. Sadly, Dick and Babs break up. They had been dating since the beginning of last Bat-Year.
Batgirl discovers that an all-girl metahuman gang known as The Lost Girls is supplying a designer drug called "Soul" on the streets of Gotham. When Batgirl is in trouble with the Lost Girls, Babs reluctantly contacts her newly ex-boyfriend, Dick, to help Cassie out. Nightwing shows up, but by the time he gets there, Batgirl has already defeated the metahuman girl-gang. Batgirl, mad at Dick for breaking Barbara's heart, knocks Dick out of a first-story window.
--Batman: Gotham Knights #47-49 ("VERITAS LIBERAT")
As the Dynamic Duo beat the crap out of Kobra, Alfred calls Bruce and tells him that communications with Bane have ceased in the Himalayas. Bruce learns that Bane was searching for King Snake, who he has learned is his father. King Snake was last seen over a year ago in Robin #92 where he was left for dead in the Himalayas following an altercation involving Kobra. Back at the cave, Bruce, Dick, and Tim yell at Leslie for pointing Bane in the direction of a psycho like King Snake. Dick and Tim then yell at Bruce for backing a psycho like Bane in the first place. Bruce then visits with Checkmate Queen Huntress to gather info on the deceased leader of Kobra (recently killed by Black Adam in JSA #51) and the details regarding his Himalayan stronghold. Batman, Nightwing, Robin, and Batgirl fly to the Himalayas, battle through a few Kobra soldiers, and confront a bearded Bane, who has reunited with his father King Snake. However, Bane is upset that his dad is a raving lunatic supervillain, and sides with the Bat-family against him. Snake falls to his death (!), but not before shooting Bane in the back with a machine gun. Bruce puts Bane into the Lazarus Pit! Bane recovers and vows to be a decent human being for the rest of his life. NOTE: At one point, Alfred says that Leslie knew that Bruce was Batman since the very beginning and even acted as an enabler to his crime-fighting. This is untrue, Leslie found out accidentally in Bat-Year Four and was mad as hell about it.
--Detective Comics #814, Epilogue
Batman ties up some loose ends from the insanely bizarre "City of Crime" story-arc. The Batsignal has been constantly lit for the past week in commemoration of Batman's heroism during the event.
NOTE: Although there is no specific story which details this, it is sometime around now that Huntress leaves Checkmate. There won't be mention of her as the Queen again after this point. We must assume she was either outed as a Batman spy or simply quit the shady organization on her own.
--Second Features from Batman: Gotham Knights #47-49 (B&W)
Riddler reminisces about his history with the Dark Knight. We are shown 13 different specific (new) one-panel flashbacks. Since there are so many, I won't bother to add them in the chronology. Just know, they happened in the past and can probably be attached to other Riddler tales already on our list. Then, a snitch is about to become Gotham's new top mob boss until he is killed by another snitch. The murderer is chased by Batman into the waiting arms of Commissioner Akins and his officers. After that, Scarecrow reminisces about the Caped Crusader as well and tells us that Batman is the only thing he fears (and that he kinda gets off on it).
--Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #168
Batman has declared war on the vicious Dockside Gang, but before he can take them down he accidentally falls off a roof, hits his head, and gets pretty banged up! And for some reason he is wearing his old yellow-insignia costume. Batman can't remember his name or what he was doing, but gets into a cab and goes downtown where he gets in a tussle with the gang known as Los Luchadores. Los Luchadores praise Batman for declaring war on their rivals, the Dockside Gang, and send the confused superhero to take them down. Batman rides in on a motorcycle and gets the crap beaten out of him. The Docksiders take off his mask and lift up his shirt. The Dark Knight has blond hair and a beer belly! Just then the REAL Batman shows up and kicks ass. Who was the faker? Some guy who fell off a balcony while in the midst of a sexual superhero costumed role-play with his wife.
--Catwoman Vol. 3 #27
When Slam Bradley gets stabbed by Philo Zeiss, Catwoman rushes him to the hospital. While Slam is tended to by doctors, Selina meets his son, GCPD Detective Sam Bradley, Jr. Catwoman spends the next few days kicking serious ass all over town in an attempt to find out information about Zeiss. Batman eventually meets Catwoman and gives her the dish on Zeiss. Catwoman tries to kiss Batman, but he stops her with a "we both know this doesn't work."
--Batman #620-625 ("BROKEN CITY")
Killer Croc has recovered from his severe monster-mutation (from "Hush"), and has escaped from Arkham yet again. Batman thinks Croc is mixed up in the murder of crime-lord Angel Lupo's pregnant sister, Elizabeth. When Batman goes to shake down Croc, we find a very different Waylon Jones. Someone has paid for Croc's dental surgery, skin treatment, and hair plugs. Croc still looks like a crocodile man, but he has normal teeth, human-like skin, and a bit of hair! (Batman winds up breaking most of Croc's new chompers right away). We also finally learn that Croc is African American! Who knew? The Dark Knight is pissed and believes Angel Lupo is responsible for his sister's death. But before Batman can question the gangster, two more innocent people wind up dead, leaving behind an orphaned child. The Caped Crusader consults with Crispus Allen and then continues hunting Lupo, first questioning Penguin, and then dueling with Scarface, who is also after Lupo. PS. Scarface has finally gotten rid of his speech impediment! (Don't get too excited because it comes back soon). In Little Tokyo, Batman confronts newcomers Fatman and Little Boy (who is actually a girl), who tell him that Lupo is innocent of Batman's charges, but they have their own bone to pick with the gangster over stolen property. Batman learns that Lupo's crazy girlfriend was the one who murdered his sister. Batman then saves Lupo from Fatman and Little Boy, but the Ventriloquist winds up killing Lupo. Scarface doesn't do it, Arnold Wesker does. The normally quiet and timid Wesker shoots Lupo in cold blood, tells Scarface to shut up, and throws down the dummy! Turns out that Elizabeth Lupo's unborn child belonged to her lover, the Ventriloquist! Our tale concludes with an Arkham visit with Joker, where Batman realizes that the orphaned boy had nothing to do with the Lupo affair. He was a little psycho that had killed his own parents.
--NOTE: Hector Hammond takes control of literally every superhero in the DCU—including Batman—via mind control, except for Superman, who manages to fight off his influence (as seen in a flashback from Adventures of Superman #623). Superman defeats Hammond and restores order.
--Birds of Prey #62
While Black Canary and Lady Shiva chase after the person responsible for murdering one of their former sensei in Hong Kong, Oracle sends Batman and the JSA on separate missions. However, her info is incorrect. Batman winds up bashing down the door of an elderly couple instead of drug dealers. The JSA winds up at a tropical resort instead of a supervillain hideout. What's going on with Oracle's intel? She will later find out that U.S. Senator Bob Pullman and his government agent cronies have hacked into the world's most complex private computer systems in an attempt to flush out the true identity of the infamous Oracle. Babs will wind up on Pullman's list of ten possible suspects, but the senator won't figure out the truth.
--JSA #61-62 ("REDEMPTION LOST")
The Spirit King has returned for the first time in eight years (not seven as Geoff Johns would have us believe) to terrorize the JSA. The Spectre aka Hal Jordan is also on hand to aid the good guys in battle. However, Hal is struggling to maintain a proper balance between his human-side and his vengeful power of God-side. Since becoming the Spectre, Hal has been a fair and balanced, more human version of God's avenging angel. However, Hal suppresses his humanity and delves deeply into his wrath in order to eliminate the Spirit King forever. Afterward, Jay Garrick and Alan Scott travel to Gotham to meet with Batman. Jay and Alan tell Batman that Hal, while still a hero in their eyes, may have lost himself and become the darker version of the Spectre again. Batman tells the JSAers that he considers Hal to be an evil threat, and if need be, he won't hesitate to bring him down. Bruce's hatred toward Hal just won't end.
The first official mission for the new JLA line-up is against the artificially intelligent world-destroying "artist" known as Mnemon. Mnemon has traveled the cosmos stealing everyone's memories and then destroying their civilizations. The JLA stops him from doing the same to Earth. Then, while Superman, Firestorm, John Stewart, and Flash deal with a problem in outer space, Batman and Wonder Woman set up a dinner date to discuss everything that is going on between them. They kissed passionately only a month ago and then didn't talk about it. Then Bruce began briefly dating Catwoman. During that short relationship, Bruce and Diana had a tension-filled confrontation (during her "Hiketeia"). And last but not least, Wonder Woman's on-again-off-again boyfriend Trevor Barnes has just died. So, I'd say there is plenty for them to discuss. Following this, Manitou Raven (who was already invited to join a week ago) is officially made into the newest JLA member! When the League hears word of a devastating interplanetary civil war occurring 53 light years away, the team votes on whether or not they should interfere. Half the team, including Batman, says hell no, while the other half says yes and travels the distance to kick some alien tail. When they arrive in the galaxy far, far away, Superman, Wonder Woman, John, Major Distaster, Faith, and Raven help Kanjar Ro's rebel armies defeat the giant "Peacemaker" army. Supes and Diana then betray the evil Kanjar Ro and force some good ol' fashioned American democracy on the simple alien folk. (I'm glad Batman had nothing to do with this mission). Back on Earth, the Pentagon contacts Batman and demands the return of Faith, who is supposedly contracted to the US government. Batman tells them to piss off.
--JLA Classified #50-54 ("THAT WAS NOW, THIS IS THEN")
A quick note before we begin, JLA Classified #49 is out-of-continuity because it is a one-shot that really doesn't fit anywhere. Moving on, this tale begins when Titus returns for the first time in ten years. The evil god has risen from his lunar grave to exact revenge upon the JLA. After infiltrating the Watchtower, Titus beats the crap out of Flash, John, and a visiting J'onn. (J'onn is not on the team at this point). Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and reservist Atom all respond to the emergency call to help their friends. These heroes eventually defeat Titus and return him to his lunar resting place. Major Disaster, Faith, Raven, and Firestorm are not in this story. I guess they had better things to do.
--Aquaman Vol. 6 #11-12
Aquaman is chasing after the supervillain known as The Thirst, who travels the globe draining the life-energies of Earth's river spirits and sea deities. As each spirit or deity is drained of its essence, sea life across the planet begins evolving into hideous monsters. Batman follows Arthur's trail in order to question him about the bizarre hyper-evolution, but is unable to reach him. Batman then meets with the JLA. Manitou Raven explains that negative Occult energy is flowing from Earth's rivers into its seas. The JLA prepares for action, but in the blink of an eye, the crisis ends! Aquaman has defeated the Thirst all by himself and we can all rest easy once again.
NOTE: The flashbacks from Batman: Gotham Knights #50 take place now. Batman thinks he sees Vesper Fairchild and saves her from being hit by a truck. But she is only a Vesper lookalike, sent by Hush to mess with Bruce's head. Meanwhile, Hush (through a third party) threatens the Riddler at Blackgate. Hush wants revenge against the Riddler for trumping his plans during the "Hush" storyline a month ago. The Riddler sends word to Joker asking for help. Joker blackmails the Blackgate warden (with a legit underage sex tape) and forces him to approve transferring Riddler to the Slab in Antarctica. Why does Joker help Riddler? Because Riddler offers to tell Joker the true story of how the latter's wife died 18 (not 12 as Nigma says) years ago.
--Green Lantern Vol. 3 #168
Green Lantern Kyle Rayner visits the planet Galtea to investigate the attempted genocide of its religious people by an unknown force, eventually exposing Galtea's new pope as a shape-shifting Black Circle Syndicate agent working for the vile Amon Sur (son of Abin Sur). Meanwhile, back on Earth, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and John Stewart watch a live TV broadcast of Terry Berg, who talks about LGBT rights and tolerance in America. Oh, it's also worth noting that in the following issue (Green Lantern Vol. 3 #169) Kyle uses his ring to resurrect his long dead buddy Kilowog!
--JLA #80-82 ("THE WHITE RAGE")
The UN World Council (including Lex Luthor) gets to meet and interview the four newest JLA members; Faith, Manitou Raven, Major Disaster, and John Stewart. J'onn (still on leave from the team) enlists Scorch to help him get over his fear of fire. J'onn not only gets over his fear, but falls madly in love with Scorch! The hot new couple begins dating! Meanwhile, a Waco-esque situation arises at the commune/orphanage known as Safe Haven and the JLA goes to make sure everyone is safe and sound. Concurrently, Bruce and Diana go on their dinner date, but it turns out to be a "non-date" as both parties are immediately called away to fight crime. Batman takes down the supervillain known as Plunder. Back at the Batcave, Bruce and Diana promise each other that they will go on a real date soon. Then, Alfred freaks out at a TV news report. The situation at Safe Haven had gotten out of control and bullets started flying. Faith used her explosive powers and accidentally killed over a thousand men, women, and children. Superman has turned himself in to the authorities. Batman assembles the rest of the League and meets at ground zero, where Raven uses his magic to ascertain that no one has actually died. Shepherd and Vela, Safe Haven's operators, are actually the supervillains Übermensch and Hel. They have set up the League on behalf of their own super-team, Axis America, which is basically a fascist White Power version of the JLA. Axis America is led by Mason, who was Faith's former government handler when she was employed by the secret "Clockwatchers" agency. Mason has used a strange metahuman entity known as The Mouth to make everyone believe that the JLA was responsible for the Safe Haven massacre which never even actually occurred. When the evil plan is unraveled, Axis America retreats, the Mouth's illusion fades, and John appears, having protected the innocent people for the past 24 hours straight with his power ring.
--Green Lantern Vol. 3 #170
Batman is only seen in a Watchtower monitor, swinging on a wrecking ball while on patrol in Gotham. The rest of the issue features Kyle Rayner sending a long-distance message about a recent trek through the cosmos to his closest friends, Jade, John Stewart, and others.
NOTE: Arsenal recruits Nightwing into his newly formed Outsiders team. The Outsiders prevent a Joker assassination attempt on President Lex Luthor (as seen in Outsiders Vol. 3 #1-3). This story-arc takes place supposedly three months after the death of Donna Troy. However, it has only been about two months.
--Outsiders Vol. 3 #3, Epilogue
Batman gives his blessing and approval to the newly formed Outsiders team.
On the final day of February, Robin has a rematch with Johnny Warren aka Johnny Warlock. Warlock breaks Spoiler's leg and Robin is pissed. Robin defeats him, but it appears as if Warlock is killed during the fight! Johnny actually isn't dead. (Well he kind of is. His Warlock powers will magically resurrect him shortly after this). Anyway, Robin goes into a depression believing that he has taken a life. NOTE: This issue says that Robin's first encounter with Warlock was "weeks ago." It's been a lot of weeks. It was about four months ago.