Year Twenty-One, Part 3. December 2009 to January 2010.
NOTE: Superman's and Batman's search for the mysterious "Third Kryptonian" has not gone well, and who can blame them, since this Countdown shit has been so frustratingly busy? While the search has been a failure thus far, it has yielded the discovery of various other bizarre extra-terrestrials living on Earth (as mentioned in Superman #668).
ANOTHER NOTE: Batman administers a polygraph and a medical exam on Cassandra Cain before officially inviting her back into the Bat-family (as referenced in Batgirl Vol. 2 #1). Cassie also moves into Wayne Manor, although she won't be there very often.
Two of the Rogues supposedly involved in Flash Bart Allen's death, Pied Piper and Trickster, get on Poison Ivy's bad side and she ties them up in vines and literally hangs them out to dry off of a Gotham rooftop. Batman soon stumbles across the villains and delivers them into the eager and vengeful arms of Flash Wally West. Piper and Trickster are unable to convince Wally that they had nothing to do with Bart's death (which is actually the truth).
--NOTE: Catwoman goes for a rooftop midnight stroll with her baby Helena and stumbles upon Batman in the middle of a brutal interrogation of some random crook (as seen via flashback in Catwoman Vol. 3 #79).
Countdown 10 (incorrectly numbered, this story goes here because Red Tornado makes an appearance in his android body, and his body will be destroyed in our next story). Superman (in his lead-suit) and Batman continue their quest to collect all of the world's Kryptonite. The World's Finest fight Metallo and Superman tears the villain's Kryptonite heart out of his chest (and replaces it with a mechanical one). Afterward, Batman decides its time to start searching for non-green colored Kryptonite. Their first stop is the Oblivion Bar, a hangout for the DCU's magical heroes, including Phantom Stranger, who helps the pair find a new Silver-Kryptonite chunk hidden within an mystical amulet. The magic effects Superman immediately, causing him to take his lead-lined helmet off. The Silver-K then causes Superman's mind to revert to that of a child. Zatanna tells the JLA that the only way to bring Supes back from his weird acid trip is to find the other half of the amulet. To find the charm, it's off to Dinosaur Island (basically the Savage Land of the DCU, which can only be seen or traveled to through use of magic as it exists outside of time and space). On the island, Zatanna and Batman talk with the natives and learn that the amulet is inside an active volcano. Bruce takes his shirt off and climbs into the fiery cavern, quickly locating the magic item, which causes him to have a hallucination of his "desires": one, his parents alive again, and two, making out with Zatanna!? That's a new one. As soon as the amulets join together, Superman is cured.
--Justice League of America Wedding Special #1
--Justice League of America Vol. 2 #13-15Countdown 33 to 28. Hal Jordan has an escort service send over a bunch of strippers for Ollie Queen's bachelor party. But when Ollie isn't interested, Hal sends them away. But the girls aren't leaving without cash, so Hal calls Bruce, who is on monitor duty at the Hall of Justice, and asks him to borrow 3,600 bucks. Hal also realizes that their very public celebrity bachelor party will expose all of their secret identities to the press, so he asks Bruce if they can move the party to the Hall. Bruce sends the money and then waits for the party to come to him. At the party, Hal tells everyone that he is taking some time off from the JLA and John Stewart is going to replace him. (In actuality, both Hal and John will be JLA members, alternating whenever one or the other is unavailable). Meanwhile, the Injustice League nearly kills Firestorm and reveals that its membership is in the dozens. As Batman and Red Arrow inspect the crime scene, the Injustice League, with superior numbers, attacks the heroes on multiple fronts. Batman, Red Arrow, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Hawkgirl, Vixen, Geo-Force, and John Stewart are all captured and tortured at the Hall of Doom in the Everglades. Not only that, Luthor and Joker are filming the torture sessions! Also, Red Tornado's body is destroyed for the 8th time. Luthor then challenges Superman to come save his friends. Superman and Black Lightning charge down to Florida, but are easily beaten into submission by the evil League. As Luthor prepares to kill Superman with a Kryptonite knife, Firestorm sneaks into the Hall of Doom and frees all the captive heroes. With the odds evened out the JLA is able to kick the IL's asses. Amidst the tumult, the staunch feminist villainess Cheetah tries to murder fellow IL member Dr. Light for being a rapist. Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad then immediately show up with government warrants. It's off to the hellish prison planet for Joker, Cheetah, Poison Ivy, and a dozen or so other supervillains. Afterward, Batman recruits Firestorm into the JLA. NOTE: Luthor is indeed captured by the heroes and handed over to the Suicide Squad, but he will remain in prison for a while before being sent to the prison planet.
--Second Feature from Justice League of America Vol. 3 #18
Since Red Tornado's body has just been destroyed by the Injustice League, Tornado's consciousness is downloaded into the Watchtower CPU. Tornado's new temporary body is now literally the entire computer system of the Watchtower satellite. Batman, along with Tornado's family, Zatanna, Niles Caulder, Will Magnus, and John Henry Irons, are all present to greet WatchTornado when he comes back online. The team of scientists (and magician) tells Tornado that his new humanoid shell won't be ready for him for at least several weeks.
--Batman/Catwoman: Follow the Money #1
This 2010 Howard Chaykin one-shot seems appropriately placed here since Selina's demeanor feels "pre-prison planet" in the story. The Cavalier is back in action for the first time in years (since Knightfall if you can believe it) and the dashing villain masterminds an embezzling scheme with three other co-conspirators, which siphons millions of dollars from Wayne Enterprises, virtually draining the company's pension fund. Batman teams-up with Catwoman and they travel to Chicago and Montreal to nab two of the embezzlers. However, the third man, Peter Leonard, not only evades capture, but double-crosses the Cavalier and flees to the ex-Soviet nation of Panchea with all the money in tow. In the States, a government investigation into the theft probes Wayne Enterprises accounts and gets dangerously close to discovering the company's links to the Bat-family. Bruce and Selina, in order to protect the secrets of the Dark Knight, break into an investigative office and destroy the case files. Bruce makes a quick trip to Panchea and easily "convinces" Leonard to turn himself in. Meanwhile, Selina is able to steal back the stolen millions from Leonard's offshore bank account. Batman returns home and immediately busts the Cavalier, who gets blamed for the destruction of the IRS Wayne-probe files.
NOTE: Scarecrow still refuses to use his patented fear gas, but he is using his nerve toxins in other ways. The villain introduces his fear chemicals into a wine bar at the Gotham Symphony. Batman is able to nab Scarecrow and clean up the mess (as mentioned in Catwoman Vol. 3 #71).
--Catwoman Vol. 3 #71
Countdown 32. Bruce meets with Selina at her apartment and they discuss their lives. Bruce cradles a cute sleeping baby Helena. Then Catwoman and Batman go up on the roof and continue their conversation. Catwoman is worried about both being able to safely raise her daughter and lead the costumed vigilante lifestyle. So Selina has a plan, but it will require Bruce's help. Bruce dresses up as a silly over-the-top supervillian called The Revolutionary and pretends to publicly detonate a bomb "killing" Selina and Helena. Escaping into the sewers and back to Wayne Manor, the hoax is a success. The world now thinks that Selina and Helena are dead.
--Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, Part 2
Countdown 32 (should correctly be Countdown 30). Ollie and Dinah's wedding is crashed by Deathstroke, who now leads the remaining Injustice Leaguers (there are still about 30 or so members, including the first official post-original Crisis debut of Nocturna)! Batman pops in and leads the heroes in a successful charge against the villains. Deathstroke escapes, but everyone else is apprehended, thus ending the short-lived Injustice League. A day later, Ollie and Dinah are then happily wed! Well, not exactly. During the Injustice League raid on the wedding, the shape-shifting villain known as Everyman switched places with Ollie. A day later, Everyman weds Dinah and then tries to kill her on their honeymoon! Dinah struggles with Everyman and kills him by stabbing him in the neck. Everyman dies, but remains shape-shifted in the form of Ollie. None of Dinah's friends can explain why or how, but they all think Ollie either went crazy or was possessed by an evil force, which caused him to wig-out. No one even considers that this might be a fake Ollie, especially since DNA, bone, and tissue samples all match those of Oliver Queen. (Everyman could perfectly replicate anyone he came in contact with, right down to the DNA). Only Dinah believes Ollie is still alive. She keeps the corpse in her apartment and begins a lone search for her lost lover. NOTE: Countdown #30 also shows the huge wedding battle between the heroes and the villains, albeit from another point of view. This is odd, only because the Wedding Special has a Countdown label of 32. The Wedding Special should be 30.
--Detective Comics #837
Countdown 30. Bruce hires Riddler to find Lisa Newman, a Wayne Enterprises lab tech who has stolen an experimental drug. Riddler tracks down the thief to an Athenian Women's Help Shelter, which is basically a Wonder Woman-inspired aid program designed to function as an empowering all-female support system for abused women. In the aftermath of the Amazon-American War, these shelters have come under heavy public criticism. Anyway, Riddler learns that his old buddy Harley Quinn is the new assistant director of the Metropolis branch of the Athenians. (In an unrelated note, fugitive Holly Robinson has joined this chapter of the Athenians as well)! Using Harley as his in, Riddler finds Newman, who injects herself with the drug, turning into a metahuman monster. Riddler, Harley, and Holly are able to defeat Newman easily and retrieve the stolen serum. In the chaos of the fight, Athena (Granny Goodness in disguise) steals a sample of Newman's blood infused with the serum and delivers it to Desaad. Granny mentions how, with this blood sample, he will be able to create a new breed of evil female warriors. (Oh, and Desaad sure will. Be sure to look for that in a little event called Final Crisis). Why did Bruce hire Riddler in the first place anyway? He was testing the former villain to see if he really has turned to the side of good. So far, he has.
NOTE: Selina (with baby Helena) visits Bruce (with Tim) and confesses to the murder of Black Mask. Bruce tells her he already knows and while he doesn't approve, he understands why she did what she did. Selina then tells Bruce that she loves Helena far too much to endanger her child. She asks Bruce to use his Wayne Enterprises resources to set up a closed adoption (as seen through flashback in Catwoman Vol. 3 #72).
--Teen Titans Vol. 3 #50-52 ("TITANS OF TOMORROW TODAY")
Countdown 35 to 18 (another very lengthy range, but it fits right here quite well). The Teen Titans remember their fallen comrade Bart Allen by erecting a statue in his honor next to the Conner Kent statue at their San Francisco HQ. Afterward, the Titans help Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes) fight Lobo. Meanwhile, Bruce, Diana, Clark, and J'onn are all attacked and captured by mysterious shapeshifters. In Gotham, Wonder Girl (Cassie Sandsmark) comforts Robin, who is having trouble getting over the loss of Bart. Just as they are about to kiss (Robin and Wonder Girl have kissed before, usually always when comforting each other regarding the loss of a loved one), the Titans Tomorrow show up, unveiling the heroes they've captured. For anyone who doesn't know, the Titans Tomorrow (as they are colloquially known) are the grown-up evil version of the Teen Titans from 2019 of an alternate timeline. (A thirty-year old Tim is Batman, a thirty-year old Cassie Sandsmark is Wonder Woman, etc...) The Titans Tomorrow explain that, in their reality, things got so bad because they were too soft when they were younger. Meanwhile, the Sinestro Corps War, which has been building at the other end of the universe for weeks, impacts Earth for the first time: As a pre-invasion strike, Sinestro makes it rain Starros all over Earth. Thankfully, the heroes captured by the Titans Tomorrow escape. While the Titans Tomorrow and Teen Titans deal with the Starros, old Tim chastises young Tim for not using lethal force, to which young Tim replies by putting a gun to his own head. Before Tim can do anything too rash, old Lex Luthor from the future shows up with a bunch more former heroes now turned evil in their old age, including Cassie Cain as Batwoman and Charlie Gage-Radcliffe as Huntress. Old Lex has been manipulating the old Titans. Eventually, the Teen Titans get rid of the Starros, and old Tim realizes the error of his ways and helps defeat the bad guys, thus ensuring that the Titans Tomorrow future (his own alternate future) never occurs. In an instant, all of the Titans Tomorrow fade from existence.
--Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Cyborg Superman #1
Countdown 30. Cyborg Superman and an army of Manhunter robots lead the first manned Sinestro Corps assault on Earth. The Sinestro Corps war is under way! As the JLA battles Cyborg Superman in Earth's orbit, the heroes are shocked when the entire Sinestro Corps arrives and begins laying waste to the planet. In New York, Cyborg Superman destroys the Statue of Liberty. Technically, this issue overlaps with Green Lantern Vol. 4 #24.
--Green Lantern Vol. 4 #24
Countdown 29. A gigantic army of yellow power ring-wielding Sinestro Corps warriors has been battling the Green Lantern Corps for the past several weeks as they slowly carved a path of destruction across the universe. Now that the Sinestro Corps War has officially begun and the Sinestro Corps have arrived on Earth, all hell has broken loose. Batman and the JLA face off against Cyborg Superman and hundreds of Manhunter androids. Sinestro—with his generals Parallax, Superboy-Prime, and the Anti-Monitor—battle Green Lanterns and a plethora of other heroes all over Earth, resulting in the iconic destruction of Mount Rushmore. In this crisis of mega proportions, every DCU hero, led by Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner, who shakes off the evil influence of Parallax, fights the good fight all over the planet and in its orbit as well.
--Tales of the Sinestro Corps: Superman-Prime #1
Countdown 28. Superboy-Prime takes on nearly every single DCU superhero all by himself and holds his own. As the sun comes up and the Anti-Monitor wades through the Hudson River, Superboy-Prime declares himself the victor. After the heroes of Earth back down, the Guardians arrive on the scene and sic a new Ion upon Superboy-Prime, but he doesn't fare any better.
--Green Lantern Vol. 4 #25
The collective heroes of the DCU regroup, re-attack, and defeat the Sinestro Corps, thus ending their insane war of agression. The Guardians unite to not only blast the Anti-Monitor halfway across the galaxy, but send Superboy-Prime to an alternate universe. In the end, Sinestro is officially arrested in Coast City and the Sinestro Corps War comes to an end. Oh, and let's not forget, the Guardians foresee the prophecy of "Blackest Night" during which five more Lantern Corps will supposedly arise (in addition to green and yellow), each based upon a different color of the Emotional Spectrum which gives energy to the power rings. Meanwhile, at the other end of the universe, the Anti-Monitor's corpse crashes into a dead planet and mysteriously turns into the evil Black Power Battery. That can't be good. Just wait until Blackest Night, kids.
NOTE: Selina spends her last melancholy day with Helena before meeting Bruce at the adoption agency. Helena is privately transferred into the safety of an adopted family. The closed adoption is set up in a way that no one, not even Selina, can ever find out who the parents are. Afterward, Selina collapses in depression and sobs hysterically. This breaks my heart. (As seen through flashback in Catwoman Vol. 3 #72).
Countdown 29. Superman decides to finally introduce his adopted son, Chris Kent, to Batman and Robin. Chris gets along really well with Tim, while Supes and Bats invent a "red sun ray emitter," which disguised as a wristwatch, will nullify Chris's superpowers so he can fit in better at school. Batman and Superman have been searching for the mysterious "Third Kryptonian" for months now with no success, until now. The "Third Kryptonian" is Karsta Wor-Ul aka Kristin Wells, who left the planet Krypton decades before its destruction and has been living peacefully on Earth ever since. So, Karsta Wor-Ul was the first Kryptonian on Earth, not Kal-El.
--Green Arrow and Black Canary #1
Countdown 29. It's been a month since Oliver Queen's "death" and still, no one believes Black Canary when she says Ollie is still alive and the corpse is a fake. Everyone, except Batman. Black Canary, Batman, and Dr. Mid-Nite perform an autopsy in the Batcave and quickly discover that "Ollie" is actually Everyman. A quick investigation reveals that Athena (Granny Goodness in disguise) and her new Amazons (Granny's Female Furies) have imprisoned and tortured Ollie for the past month on the Island of Themyscira. It will be few more weeks before a rescue attempt can be successfully planned and executed.
--Catwoman Vol. 3 #72
Countdown 28. Bruce isn't in this story, but he is in the flashbacks. Catwoman says it's been a month since she gave up Helena for adoption. It hasn't. It's been a few days. Maybe she meant, it feels like a month. Anyway, she hasn't slept since the adoption and she is very drunk, so she could easily be wrong. Selina meets with Zatanna and explains how sad she is at losing her baby. Zatanna comforts her as best she can.
--The Flash Vol. 2 #233
Countdown 27. Ever since returning from an alternate reality during "The Lightning Saga," Flash Wally West has been taking his wife, Linda, and his two six-year old children, Iris and Jai, on dangerous missions with him. Granted, the kids do have Speed Force powers, but they're eight years-old, and Linda doesn't have any powers at all! When the Wally brings his family into battle against an army of aquatic alien invaders, this is the last straw for the JLA. The ultimate superhero team steps in and easily repels the ET invasion. Afterward, the JLA demands that Wally turn his kids over to child services for endangerment issues! Wally flips out and starts yelling at his teammates. Wally even exclaims that he'll be damned if he's going to take any shit from Batman, who has "gone through four Robins!" Whoa. When Wally calms down, he explains that his children, due to the Speed Force within them, are aging at an incredible rate despite having only been born two years ago. Everyone in the JLA had assumed that the kids had aged due to a bizarre side-effect of being trapped in an alternate reality for a while. Not the case. Blame it on the Speed Force. Because the kids are growing so fast, Wally and Linda have decided to let them live their lives to the extreme, or "all-out" as Wally puts it. And for some reason, everyone in the JLA is okay with this line of reasoning. Hey, why not?
--Supergirl Vol. 5 #23
Countdown 25. Batman test Supergirl by sending a gift-wrapped present to her apartment with a small piece of paper labeled "mistake" on the inside. After Supergirl opens it, Batman chastises her saying that it could have been Kryptonite or worse. Supergirl, who mistakenly says she's been on Earth for "like two years" (it's been well over two-and-a-half years now), is then whisked away by Superman and the Green Lantern Corp to help fight a war in deep space.
--Superman/Batman #42, Epilogue
Countdown 24. Orion is still salty about his wife's affair with Batman. Bekka and Orion argue for a bit, but the latter becomes pre-occupied with all the recent New God murders, mentioning the recent deaths of Sleez and Grayven. Orion also mentions how Darkseid and Desaad haven't been seen since the destruction of Tartaros (in Superman/Batman #42). After Orion departs on business, Bekka is killed by the mysterious God-Killer!
NOTE: Countdown 20. Booster Gold attempts to change history by preventing Barbara Gordon from ever being shot by the Joker (as seen in Booster Gold Vol. 2 #5). Booster time-travels to the events of The Killing Joke dozens of times, but upon each visit, he is unable to alter Babs' fate. Back in present day, Rip explains that some events have such important significance that they are more or less "destined to happen." This is one of those things.
--Captain Carrot & The Final Ark #3
Countdown 20. Captain Carrot and his Zoo Crew are anthropomorphic cartoon superhero animals that live on the cartoon-like planet of Earth-26. Starro the Conqueror sets in motion a plan that will flood the entirety of Earth-26 forcing Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew to usher the inhabitants of the planet onto a giant ark that looks like a cruise ship. The animal heroes attempt to transport their people to an alternate Earth, Earth C-Minus (home to the superhero team Justa Lotta Animals), that resembles their own. However, en route, the ship is diverted by the New Dogs and winds up crashing into Earth-0's orbit! Batman monitors the ship and alerts the JLA. The ship lands in San Francisco, but all the inhabitants of Earth-26 (and the animal JLA) have morphed into regular non-anthropomorphic critters.
--Gotham Underground #1-9
Countdown 27 to 2 (an extremely wide range, but this tale fits right here A-OK). Our tale begins with the Suicide Squad capturing Man-Bat and Clayface and shipping them off to the prison planet. Meanwhile, Batman goes undercover in his Matches Malone guise as Penguin's new number one henchman. Batman is well aware of fact that the Suicide Squad has been apprehending criminals. In fact, he has seen it first hand for months now. However, he still doesn't know why. Batman, as Matches, has infiltrated Penguin's mob because he suspects Penguin has been helping other villains evade capture by the Squad. Sure enough, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, and Hugo Strange (jesus, did everyone escape from Arkham?) all show up looking for help. Just then, the Suicide Squad barges in and apprehends them all except Scarecrow, who gets away. The Squad also arrests Penguin, but just for show, since it was Penguin who actually sold out the villains to the Squad. Bane sneaks up and knocks out Matches. (Batman will later claim that he "let" Bane capture him, which may be a lie). Concurrently, a gang war has erupted all over Gotham (again) to fill the top mob spot which has been long vacated by the deceased Black Mask and ineffective Great White Shark. Tobias Whale, leader of the criminal organization known as The 100, then makes his Gotham debut by claiming leadership of all of the gangs. In Blackgate Penitentiary, Batman (as Matches) is held prisoner, and attacked by Mr. Zsasz in his cell. Meanwhile, Bane studies Matches from afar and quickly ascertains that he's really Batman! Matches discovers Great White Shark in the infirmary, having been transferred to Blackgate from Arkham after having been nearly beaten to death by Bane. White tells Batman that the Suicide Squad is sending supervillains to anther planet. Batman is shocked, but finally knows the truth! Back at Penguin's Iceberg Lounge, Dick Grayson becomes Penguin's new number one henchman using the disguise of mobster Freddie Dinardo. When Ventriloquist and Scarface learn of Penguin's deal with the Suicide Squad, they assemble a unit consisting of Lock-Up, Killer Moth, Firefly, and Scarecrow. These villains attack the Iceberg Lounge but are easily driven-off by Penguin's hired guns known as The New Rogues (Dick is "Heatwave" in the New Rogues). The New Rogues are just a small part of Penguin's new army. Penguin has recently been supplied with the costumes, paraphernalia, and weapons of all the supervillains that have been sent to the prison planet, courtesy of the US Government, who would rather see Penguin in charge of Gotham crime rather than anyone more carnal. Using these supplies, he now controls an army of replacement supervillains. Penguin also has a mystery person don a Spoiler costume to attack Oracle and Robin, as a warning for them to stay out of the deadly gang war that is to come. (This is actually a returning Stephanie Brown (!), but Oracle and Robin assume it is an impostor). Across town, Intergang member Johnny Stitches arrives to contest Whale and Penguin for top mob status in Gotham. A huge three-way gang war breaks out between the replacement supervillains, the 100, and Intergang. At the outset of the war, the new Vigilante (Dorian Chase, brother of the original Vigilante) shoots Dick (disguised as Freddie/replacement Heatwave) in the stomach. As Riddler saves Dick's life, Robin, Wildcat, Batgirl, and Huntress interject themselves into the middle of the battlefield. Vigilante kills a ton of replacement supervillains until Batman, who has been broken out of jail by Alfred, shows up to kick his murderin' ass. When the dust settles, Whale sells out and takes a high-ranking position working for Intergang in Metropolis and the replacement supervillains are defeated. Intergang is victorious. Johnny Stitches becomes the new crime lord in Gotham. Penguin will still run the club, but he works for Johnny now.
--Batman and The Outsiders Vol. 2 #1-3
Countdown 19. Batman learns that Thunder and Grace are romantically involved. Batman also sends his Outsiders (including Catwoman!) into a heavily defended science compound in Central City run by the evil Mr. Jardine, where the team discovers an OMAC. The Outsiders defeat the OMAC and bring the deactivated machine back to Batman in Gotham. After this first mission Batman fires Thunder again and J'onn quits because he finds Bruce's leadership methods questionable. Batman then delivers the OMAC to Dr. Francine Langstrom for analysis. Francine tells Bruce that she is worried because Kirk has gone missing. (He's been abducted by the Suicide Squad and taken to the prison planet). Black Lightning, Hawkgirl, and Geo-Force show up to chastise Batman and the Outsiders for tampering with a potentially dangerous OMAC. As the argument heats up, the OMAC comes alive and attacks! However, the combined force of the heroes easily takes down the android. Afterward, Geo-Force quits the JLA and re-joins the Outsiders. Batman then tells Geo-Force that he had already decided to demote him to the Outsiders beforehand anyway. Batman also has contacted Cassie Cain and invited her to join-up. Batgirl is now on the Outsiders! Also, Bruce and Francine alter the OMAC's programming and turn it into a brand new superhero and newest member of the Outsiders, called ReMAC. (ReMAC doesn't have a mind of its own and must be controlled by remote).
NOTE: Despite having just quit the Ousiders, J'onn agrees to go undercover disguised as the supposedly returning Blockbuster. In accordance with Batman's plan, J'onn allows himself to be abducted by the Suicide Squad in an attempt to figure out where the prison planet is located and what is going on there. When J'onn eventually will arrive at the prison planet, he will be unable to contact Batman due to the distance (as referenced in Salvation Run and Justice League of America Vol. 2 #19).
ANOTHER NOTE: Countdown 19. Catwoman is abducted by the Suicide Squad (as seen in Catwoman Vol. 3 #74).
YET ANOTHER NOTE: Countdown 20 (yes, this goes out-of-order and follows the previous Countdown 19). Bane is kicked out of the Suicide Squad and sent to the prison planet! Lex Luthor is then also sent to the hellish prison planet along with Catwoman, who falls into the Suicide Squad's "once a supervillain, always a supervillain" category. Likewise, J'onn (in disguise as Blockbuster) is sent to the prison planet as well. (Catwoman, Luthor, and J'onn are the final three supervillains sent to the prison planet, as seen in Salvation Run #2). Under pressure, especially now that Batman (and the rest of the heroes) know about the existence of the prison planet, Amanda Waller issues a public statement admitting that the prison planet is indeed real. However, Waller refuses to go into any details whatsoever regarding the program (as referenced in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #17-18). The US government-backed process of sending of supervillains across the universe will go on hiatus, but the Suicide Squad's orders will remain the same; apprehend as many supervillains as possible.
--52 Aftermath: The Four Horsemen #1-6
Countdown 35 to 16 (again, a very wide numeral range, but this story fits here very well). Bruce and Clark tour the refugee camps of Bialya, which is still in ruins following WWIII. Azruez, Yuurd, Rogga, and Zorrm (better known as Death, Famine, War, and Pestilence of the Four Horsemen) return in the form of a swarm of re-animated corpses. And there a whole lot of corpses in Bialya. As the zombie swarm gets bigger and bigger, the manifested Four Horsemen use their thousands of new hands to begin rebuilding their gigantic techno-organic warrior bodies. As Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Checkmate Agent Snapper Carr formulate a plan of action, Mr. Terrific visits Oolong Island to dig up info on the monsters. Eventually, Superman decides to throw a glacier into the monsters, which is a really dumb idea, because the ice actually causes a chain reaction which activates the Horsemen's gigantic warrior bodies. Batman, Superman, and Snapper deal with two Horsemen in Bialya, while Wonder Woman and the Doom Patrol deal with the other two on Oolong Island. Eventually, all four Horsemen are defeated and their "souls" are entrapped within the body of Dr. Veronica Cale (the evil President of Oolong Island). Dr. Cale derogatorily refers to Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman as the "trinity," thus officially coining the term in DCU canon! Afterward, Bruce, Clark, and Diana have dinner at Wayne Manor and discuss their roles as heroes. They decide collectively that they like being the trinity of the DCU.
--Justice Society of America Vol. 3 #10-11 (“THY KINGDOM COME”)
When Starman Thom Kallor brings Superman of Earth-22 (!)—i.e. the Superman from Kingdom Come—to Earth-0, the Earth’s heroes, including the JSA and Batman, don’t quite know how to react. Batman, for example, preps his Kryptonite ring in the Batcave. However, when everyone realizes that Earth-22 Superman is here to be heroic, they calm down, although Batman and company still discuss the need to send him back to his own reality. Earth-22 Superman decides to stay on Earth-0, since he mistakenly believes his own Earth to be dead. (He will eventually return to Earth-22, but not before joining and adventuring with the JSA for some time).
THE RESURRECTION OF RA'S AL GHUL
--Detective Comics #838
--Detective Comics #839Countdown 26 to 19 (a wide range, but this tale takes place here and now). Batman saves I-Ching (the man who originally trained Wonder Woman) from League of Assassins ninjas (one of which is being spiritually possessed by the Sensei) after the ninjas question I-Ching about the mystical Tibetan city of Nanda Parbat (where a magical fountain of youth exists). Meanwhile, Talia sends Silken Spider, Tiger Moth, and Dragon Fly (we haven't seen Silken Spider and Dragon Fly since Bat-Year Two and Tiger Moth only briefly once since then!) to cause chaos in Gotham. As Batman easily busts the ladies, they deliver a message: Ra's Al Ghul is back from the dead! And Ra's Al Ghul is back, albeit in the decaying radiation-poisoned body of one of his former henchmen, Sam Tang. (The Sensei wishes to challenge Ra's for leadership of the League of Assassins and had poisoned Tang's body so that it would be an unsuitable host vessel). Talia introduces Damian to his grandfather, but Ra's isn't a very sentimental guy. The mad villain tells Damian that he needs his young body as a host, to which Talia instructs Damian to run away. The little hellion severs bloody ninja limbs left and right as he fights his way through the League of Assassins, who are now loyal to their returning master instead of Talia. Escaping to Wayne Manor, Damian begs Alfred and Tim to protect him. Alfred acquiesces to Damian right away, but Tim starts fighting him until about a hundred ninjas show up at Wayne Manor. Meanwhile, Batman rescues Talia from ninjas in Asia and learns that Ra's is heading toward Tibet and that Damian is in trouble in Gotham. Bruce calls Nightwing and tells him to help Damian, while he and Talia chase down Ra's Al Ghul. Nightwing kicks some major ninja ass, but fails in his task. Both Damian and Tim are abducted and shipped halfway across the globe to Ra's Al Ghul's Himalayan stronghold. Now also in the Himalayas, Talia gives Batman the "Suit of Sorrows," ancient magical 12th Century armored suit. I-Ching then shows up and helps the Dark Knight and Talia kick more ninja ass. Meanwhile, Alfred and Nightwing fly into Tibet and also kick more ninja ass too. Batman, Talia, and I-Ching then confront Ra's who gives Bruce a "Sophie's Choice": he must choose who will be his next vessel, Damian or Tim. But Bruce chooses neither and instead tells Ra's about the fountain of youth at Nanda Parbat (which Bruce learned about during his Thogal ritual during 52). The Caped Crusader leads Ra's to Nanda Parbat, but when they arrive, the Sensei has already taken control of the city, having anticipated Ra's Al Ghul's arrival. Upon entering the city, Batman is shocked to learn that the Sensei is Ra's Al Ghul's biological father! Batman easily defeats the Sensei's assassins (unknowingly aided by the magical powers of the "Suit of Sorrows," but is thrashed by the the Sensei himself. The Sensei then easily kills Ra's Al Ghul, but when the former tries to bathe in the fountain of youth, he is burned to death. (The fountain only works on the pure of heart). Batman is badly injured, but rises out of the fountain of youth fully rejuvenated! Concurrently, Ra's Al Ghul's spirit is able to use a random Tibetan monk's body as a new temporary vessel for life. Back at Ra's Al Ghul's stronghold, I-Ching and Talia kick more ninja ass, but Damian is captured and hauled off to Nanda Parbat. Meanwhile, Robin runs into the returning White Ghost, who reveals a Lazarus Pit within the stronghold. White Ghost offers Robin the chance to revive his dead parents if he baptizes himself in the Pit and joins the League of Assassins. Tim is so overjoyed at the possibility of regaining his dead folks, he agrees! Just then, Nightwing shows up and doesn't like what he sees. White Ghost runs off, and Robin tries to take some samples from the Lazarus Pit. Nightwing then tries to talk some sense into the Boy Wonder, but the two begin fighting! Eventually, I-Ching drops some wisdom on the duo and Robin pours the samples back into the Pit and apologizes to Nightwing, while crying in his arms. Talia, Nightwing, and Robin (with Alfred) rush to Nanda Parbat only to find Ra's back in his original body and ready to transfer his spirit into Damian's body. With a resounding "Let go of my son!" Batman beats the crap out of Ra's and saves Damian. Ra's is forced to send his spirit into a permanent vessel. Without any other choices, he picks his son, White Ghost. At full power, Ra's sword-battles Batman while the heroes fight ninja hordes and the League of Assassins super-team known as The Seven Men of Death. The goddess Rama Kushna, angry at the destruction caused to her city, then rises up and expels everyone. Talia (with an unconscious Damian), Ra's (with his assassins), and Batman (with his Bat-family) all escape in different directions. On a plane home, Alfred, Dick, Tim, and Bruce ponder the wild events that have just occurred. Alfred mentions that it is Christmas Day.
NOTE: Sasha Lo (who will later become the crimefighter known as Peacock) pours a beaker of Lazarus Pit liquid into the mouth of the deceased Sensei. The Sensei is immediately resurrected (as seen through flashback in Batman #705). Sasha revives Sensei because she wants to be the one responsible for killing him as revenge for the latter's slaughter of her family years ago.
ANOTHER NOTE: Countdown 24 to 20 (of course, this is slightly out of order, but belongs here). Black Canary, Green Arrow (Connor Hawke), and Speedy (Mia Dearden) rescue Ollie Queen from Themyscira. As they leave the island, Connor is shot by a sniper. Ollie, with help from Superman, rushes his dying son to the hospital where he is stabilized, but in critical condition (as seen in Green Arrow and Black Canary #3). (We will find out the mystery of who shot Connor a bit later).
Countdown 17. Dick has taken up a new hobby of sky-diving and does so, plummeting into Wayne Manor from 20,000 feet above. Tim thinks it's awesome, whereas Bruce is not so amused. In the cave, the Bat-family discusses the new threat which Ra's Al Ghul poses against them. In New York, Nightwing is unable to stop the corpse-stealing of a 13th Century knight from a museum tomb. Superman then informs Nightwing that the body of Black Condor (who was killed along with his Freedom Fighters teammates back during Infinite Crisis) has been removed from Valhalla Cemetery.
--Supergirl Vol. 5 #25
Countdown 17. Supergirl has recently gotten all of her memories of her time on Krypton back. The Big Three worry how all of this emotional baggage will affect her. Batman, specifically, broods in the Batcave, unpleased with the thought. Meanwhile, a pensive Supergirl fights Reactron.
--Green Arrow and Black Canary #4
Countdown 16. Everyone in the JLA, including Batman, is present at the hospital while Connor Hawke undergoes emergency surgery after getting shot. When all is said and done, Connor is alive and breathing, but is brain dead. Ollie mourns over his virtually lifeless son.
Countdown 15. New teenage street-vigilante Violet takes down some small-time thief Marcel Pincus and leaves him tied-up for the cops. Batman and Robin stumble across her leftovers, and the Dark Knight doesn't seem to mind a newcomer as long as she isn't using lethal force. Robin then meets Violet and the two don't get along very well. Meanwhile, Pincus is released on bail and is accosted by Penguin, who hires him to kill Robin and Violet.
--Justice League of America Vol. 2 #17-19 ("SANCTUARY")
Countdown 15 to 6 (again, another wide numerical range, but this story goes right here). Catwoman, Lex Luthor, and J'onn were the last three people to be sent to the prison planet, but the Suicide Squad keeps on busting baddies anyway in the hopes that more will be sent in the future. Batman investigates Bromwell Stikk's tossed apartment and ascertains that the Suicide Squad has abducted the retired supervillain. Meanwhile, the Suicide Squad attacks a large group of supervillains and apprehends Houngan and Blind Faith. At the Hall of Justice, the JLA has a satellite link-up discussion with Amanda Waller. Superman demands to know the location of the prison planet and if the detainees are being treated fairly. Waller claims that everything she has done is within the law and has been authorized by President Horne, and therefore, she doesn't have to reveal the secret location. Several escaping villains (including the new Dr. Polaris, Black Mass, Tattooed Man, Shrike, and the Key) rush to the Hall of Justice and demand sanctuary! While Batman and Superman lock the villains into temporary holding cells aboard the Watchtower, the Suicide Squad shows up at the Hall of Justice, demanding the JLA turn over the refugee criminals. Just as a brawl begins to erupt, Batman breaks everyone up and announces that he has learned the secret location of the prison planet. (An undercover J'onn has finally been able to communicate with Bruce from the prison planet, Cygnus 4019). The JLA then travels to Cygnus 4019, but when they arrive all the supervillains (including Catwoman and J'onn) have vanished. Instead, Kanjar Ro awaits the heroes and attacks them in attempt to steal DNA samples from each member. Eww. The JLA easily defeats their old foe, who explains that he has been spying on the actions of Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad for quite some time and planned to steal DNA samples from the supervillains on Cygnus 4019. However, Kanjar Ro discovered that all the supervillains had been teleported to another planet as they arrived at Cygnus, so he decided to ambush the heroes instead of the villains when they came to investigate, which he knew they surely would. Back on Earth, a very disturbed Batman, Superman, Amanda Waller, and President Horne wonder where the supervillains could possibly be. SPOILER: I'll tell you! Darkseid has transported the supervillains to his own Apokoliptian-esque prison planet which is, unknown to the villains, run by Desaad.
--Infinity, Inc. Vol. 2 #6
Countdown 12. A few people who participated in last year's Everyman Project still have their powers: the new Infinity, Inc! They have all been living together, for better or worse, in Metropolis for several months now. When a series of five murders and three suicides occur in a single Metropolis suburb, all under bizarre circumstances, Batman and Superman meet to discuss the crimes. Batman won't follow up on this case as he's too busy in Gotham, but the Infinity Inc kids definitely will since the crimes are being committed by another ex-Everyman Project person.
--Nightwing #141-142 ("FREEFALL")
Countdown 12 to 8. Dick asks Bruce to buy him half a dozen properties in New York City, with which Nightwing can use as safe-houses if need be. Mr. Money Bags purchases the properties for Dick. Not only that, Bruce hooks Dick up with a sweet job as museum curator for the Cloisters Museum in New York City. Spoiled much? On patrol in Gotham, Nightwing stumbles upon grave-robbers (who have also recently stolen the corpse of a 13th Century knight and the corpse of Black Condor) unearthing the corpse of KGBeast. Nightwing fights the grave-robbers, but they are able to escape with KGBeast's severed head after a re-animated half Black Condor/half 13th Century knight monster attacks. After an autopsy of the monster creature by Dr. Mid-Nite, it is determined that the creature is a clone made-up of the DNA of various deceased metahumans and warriors of the past. All the clues point to Talia Al Ghul, so while Batman is busy on his normal Gotham patrol, Nightwing and Robin go on a little trip to her island headquarters in the African Ocean (which I'm assuming must be near Africa). Once Nightwing and Robin arrive, they discover that Talia is nowhere to be found, but the latter has hired the evil scientist Creighton Kendall to create a clone army for her. Kendall's program is shut down, but the villain evades capture.
--Green Arrow and Black Canary #5
Countdown 11. Ollie and Dinah get married (for real, this time!) at a small, private ceremony. Batman and Superman act as guards from a distance to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. And everything does go off without a hitch, but when the newlyweds return to visit the brain dead Connor Hawke at the hospital, he's been kidnapped! Ollie will begin an extensive search for Connor, which will yield very little progress. In-between searching for his son, Ollie will remain active within the superhero community.
Countdown 10. Batman and Robin apprehend Condiment King (!) and Bruce calls it an early night since he has golf with the governor in the morning. Robin, on the other hand, goes out searching for Violet again.
--Batman and The Outsiders #4-9
Countdown 10 to 2 (wide range, goes here). Batman and Dr. Francine Langstrom learn that the evil Mr. Jardine is working with Brother Eye! Brother Eye plans to create monstrous creatures, but needs to send mutated alien DNA samples to the Moon to do so. Bruce recruits Green Arrow (Ollie Queen) into the Outsiders and personally joins the team on a mission to prevent the shuttle launch at a Jardine Corporation spaceport in French Guiana. For protection, Jardine has at his disposal Militia, Camorouge, an OMAC, and Gunhawk and Gunbunny (who are back as a couple again for the first time in years and make jokes about their rocky divorce and past relationship). The Outsiders are able to arrest Jardine (with the help of the detective ghosts of Ralph and Sue Dinby!), but the moon shuttle still launches. Thankfully, Metamorpho is able to stowaway on board and reports his findings back to Earth: Jardine has constructed a gigantic space station on the dark side of the Moon. Batman sends the Outsiders to steal a Chinese rocket-ship from Inner Mongolia. But this is easier said than done as the team is captured by the Chinese Army and a few government metahumans. While Dr. Salah Miandad (Francine Langstrom's genius assisstant) monitors the situation in China using the Bat-computer, the Dark Knight then assembles Nightwing, Thunder, and ReMAC. In Mongolia, Batgirl saves her fellow Outsiders from the firing squad just as Batman's rescue team shows up, kicks ass, and makes the save. (Dr. Miandad controls ReMAC from the Batcave). On the Moon, Metamorpho discovers that the space station workers, who are all brainwashed astronauts, have drilled a gigantic hole into the lunar surface and, using a particle-beam, have melted ice near the Moon's core, creating a giant underground sea. Metamoprho takes the station out of commission and returns to Earth, where Batman has his old vampire-friend, Looker, psychically analyze one of the brainwashed astronauts' minds for info. Looker learns that the underground sea on the Moon was meant to be a breeding ground for alien monsters, and that one of the brainwashed astronauts' minds has already been transferred into the brain of a fully-functional alien monster. Looker then points Batman in the direction of a seedy Gotham club, where the monster is supposedly located. But Batman is a busy guy and won't actually get to investigate the club until later. Therefore, the last three pages of issue #9 function as an epilogue, the events of which won't take place for over a month.
--Detective Comics #842
Countdown 8. Batman wears the "Suit of Sorrows" given to him by Talia as he tracks down the elusive new serial killer known as Gotham Jack for three days. However, when Batman realizes the magical chain-mail suit is making him violently aggressive to the point of being almost homicidal, he has Robin do a scientific analysis on the armor. Robin confirms what Talia has already said: the armor comes from the 12th Century. However, Robin learns that the armor was forged by the Order of St. Dumas. Bruce, still wearing the suit, then travels to the Swiss Alps for answers. Through his investigation, the Dark Knight quickly learns that a splinter group of the Order of St. Dumas, known as The Order of Purity, actually created the armor. As Batman gets closer to the modern members of the Order of Purity, they try to kill him. But of course, the Caped Crusader deftly outmaneuvers them and gets the answers he was looking for. In 1190, the purest, most chivalrous knight of the Order first donned the magical armor and went completely insane, slaughtering several hundred innocent people in a remote corner of Switzerland. Back in present day Gotham, Batman apprehends Gotham Jack and contemplates melting down the mystic armor. In the end, Bruce chooses to display the "Suit of Sorrows" in the Batcave trophy room.
--Checkmate Vol. 2 #24-25 ("CASTLING")
Countdown 6 to 1. Checkmate learns that Kobra has gained access to the remnants of Lex Luthor's old "Everyman Project" and has turned it into a WMD. Using the "Everyman" process, the terrorist group has the ability to turn normal human beings into homicidal, insane metahumans. Sasha Bordeaux and Mr. Terrific brief the JLA and JSA on the situation and the heroes begin a global assault on Kobra. Batman decides to lead his Outsiders in to battle for this mission. As heroes take down Kobra agents all over the planet, Checkmate realizes the real threat is in New York, where Kobra scientists have genetically engineered baby metahuman snake-humanoids known as Kobra Messiahs, which will become the lethal next generation of Kobra soldiers. Checkmate sends in four of its best agents, known collectively as The Rooks. The Rooks take an injection known as The Apocritic, which allows all of their communication to become telepathic. Pretty cool stuff, Mr. Rucka. Moving on, Batman meets with Sasha and demands to know what is happening in NY. While Sasha explains about the deadly Messiahs, the Rooks have already defeated the Kobra cell in NY and secured the snake-babies. One of the Rooks, Sebastian Faust, uses his magical powers to literally strip the evil clean out of the little Messiahs. Back at Checkmate HQ, Sasha tells Batman that her organization will raise the little bastards to be good guys.
--Blue Beetle Vol. 7 #25
Countdown 5. Blue Beetle battles the evil alien race known as The Reach, who plan on conquering Earth. Knowing that the Reach are monitoring his every digital/electronic action, Blue Beetle sends a good old fashioned snail mail letter to Oracle via the care of his friend Danielle Garrett (daughter of the original Blue Beetle Dan Garrett). Oracle passes the news about the impending Reach invasion to Batman, who lends his aid in the form of a WayneCorp communications satellite that distributes the Reach plans to the entire superhero community. Batman, while remaining behind the scenes, also manipulates events so that other heroes are on hand at the final battle to help out Blue Beetle. Guy Gardner (who was already fighting with the Green Lantern Corps against the Reach anyway), Fire (now working for Checkmate), Ice, Booster Gold, and Traci Thirteen all help defeat the Reach.
NOTE: Zatanna officially re-joins the JLA.
--Detective Comics #843-844
Countdown 4. When crooked-businessman Johnny Sabatino's new Gotham club suffers some serious sabotage which delays its grand-opening, Batman suspects Penguin is involved. After questioning Penguin (who is actually innocent for once), Batman learns that Zatanna has agreed to perform her famous Vegas magic act at the grand-opening of Sabatino's club. A week later (which should read a day later for the purposes of this chronology), Zatanna performs her act at Sabatino's grand-opening. After the show, Zatanna flirts with Bruce and asks him why they have never had a romantic relationship when there is obvious attraction between them. Before the conversation can go much further, the Ventriloquist, Scarface, and Moose show up, revealing themselves to be the villains responsible for sabotaging Sabatino's club earlier. Ventriloquist and Scarface take Bruce and Sabatino hostage. In a speeding getaway car, the Ventriloquist oddly slips out of her hypnotic role as Scarface's handler and seems disoriented. Bruce realizes that she is an old acquaintance, Peyton Riley. Riley also remembers Bruce, but before she can speak, Scarface comes to life again and smacks her upside the head, instantly transforming her back into the Ventriloquist. The Ventriloquist then reveals her origin story, telling Bruce how Sabatino, her husband (!), shot and left her for dead, after which, she discovered Scarface and the rest is history. The Ventriloquist also explains how Sabatino screwed over Scarface (back in the Wesker days) and thus Scarface has an axe to grind with him as well. As the Ventriloquist and Scarface take Sabatino for a long walk off a short pier wearing cement shoes, Zatanna rescues Bruce and they go after the villains together. During the fight, which takes place on a boat, the Ventriloquist and Sabatino both go overboard, and both are seemingly killed. Batman then puts a lifeless Scarface on display inside the Batcave trophy room. Zatanna propositions Bruce once again, but Bruce denies her saying that romance would never work between them.
--Booster Gold #1,000,000
Booster Gold recently went back in time and saved Blue Beetle Ted Kord's life from Max Lord. However, this act caused a giant "time-knot" from which a reality was spawned that was much worse than Booster had planned for. Booster undergoes a tremendous ordeal, which involves, among other things, traveling all the way to the 853rd Century to make everything square again. After fixing the timestream, Booster returns to present day. No one knows that Booster has once again saved the multiverse. Instead, Booster is is berated and chastised, as usual, by "A-List heroes" Oliver Queen and Hal Jordan after a collateral damage-heavy battle with the Royal Flush Gang. Batman then calls Booster and orders him into the Batcave for a private meeting. Booster thinks he's going to get chewed out even more, but Batman unveils a surprise which he's been waiting to reveal for ten years now; the Polaroids of Booster from The Killing Joke! Bruce explains that he has been waiting until Booster was the right age to match up with the photos before the big reveal. Bruce also tells Booster that, while he isn't quite sure what his time-traveling missions have been about, he knows they are important. The Dark Knight shakes Booster's hand and tells him to keep up the good work. So, everyone thinks Booster is a loser, except for Batman (but, who else really matters, anyway?). Oh, we also learn that Rip Hunter is Booster's son! His SON!
--Superman/Batman #47-49 ("K")
Countdown 1. Batman and Superman continue their quest to rid the Earth of Kryptonite (which has gone on for the past several months now). Our heroes are disturbed to find an arsenal of Kryptonite in a secret US Government facility in Kansas. Our heroes are even more disturbed when Amanda Waller sicks a Kryptonite-powered metahuman attack squad on Superman. Waller then taunts a captured Batman and threatens to remove his mask. After Superman defeats the government super-agents, Waller unleashes "The All-American Boy," a US Army soldier infused with a Kryptonite exoskeleton and Doomsday's DNA! The Kryptonite Doomsday fights Superman in a battle that completely levels all of Smallville. In the end, having lost control of her creation, Waller flies in the soldier's parents, who are able to talk the beast down. Batman then blackmails Waller with the threat of going public about her Kryptonite eugenics in exchange for her vast arsenal of Kryptonite. But the K-trail doesn't stop there, it leads to LexCorp and the company's new CEO, Lana Lang! But why would one of Superman's closest friends be stockpiling Kryptonite? Because it keeps LexCorp running and she is a serious businesswoman. Feeling threatened, Lana detonates all of her K-caches across the globe, releasing deadly Kryptonite vapor all over the Earth. Luckily, Hiro Okamura is standing by with nanite technology which instantaneously cleans up the mess. Superman then gets rid of the rest of the Kryptonite by throwing it into the sun. Afterward, Superman gives Batman the "final" piece of Kryptonite for safekeeping. Back in the Batcave, we learn that Bruce still has a shit-ton of Kryptonite! Damn.
--Batman #659-662 ("GROTESK")
It is January 10. A new homicidal cyborg vigilante known as Grotesk has been murdering Russian and Yakuza mobsters by spewing napalm on them. Grotesk then steals parts of their skin and sews them onto his body. Batman quickly learns that Grotesk is Wayne Franklin, the brother of Amina Franklin (his former girlfriend). Wayne Franklin, thought to have died two months ago, has returned to kill the men who once tried to steal medical technology that he invented. After trapping his rivals Johnny Karaoke (head of the Yakuzas) and Perun (head of the Russians) inside the Gotham Opera House, Batman shows up and tries to contain the situation, which results in a large explosion and the deaths of Karaoke and Perun. Batman realizes that Amina knows more then she's letting on about her brother, so (as Bruce) he invites his ex to stay with him at the Wayne Enterprises penthouse. Grotesk shows up looking for Amina, and Bruce quickly changes into Batman to fight him. During the fight, Grotesk winds up accidentally killing his sis, before fleeing to the Gotham Seaport. As a huge blizzard rages over Gotham Bay, the Caped Crusader battles Grotesk aboard a ship. The latter falls to his frozen death. Afterward, a small funeral is held for Amina.
In my humble opinion, this is probably the worst Superman/Batman issue (and one of the worst single issues in the final few years of the Modern Age). In this blasphemous tale by writers Michael Green and Mike Johnson, Batman and the JLA finish re-building a destroyed Smallville and in its ruins, discover a mysterious Kryptonian device. Once Superman touches the device, a hidden robot comes alive in the Batcave and begins tearing its way through Gotham, eventually being subdued by Nightwing and the recently formed Titans (which comprises several of the now adult original Teen Titans). Concurrently, a Kryptonian "hard-light" holographic machine activates itself in the Fortress of Solitude, forcing Batman and Superman into battle against holographic versions of their fiercest enemies. And here's where it gets shitty, folks. Bruce and Clark learn that, decades ago, their fathers met. You heard me right. Superman's father, before sending his baby boy to Earth, sent out a probe to scan the cosmos looking for a inhabitable planet which sustained sentient life. Among those planets, Earth. Who should stumble upon this interstellar probe? Thomas Wayne. Daddy Wayne then is astrally-projected to Krypton after handling the high-tech probe, where the Billionaire doctor chats with Jor-El and convinces the latter that Earth is a damn fine place to send his son. I would love to say this tale is non-canon, but it is actually meant to be canon, especially since it follows up on the events of the previous S/B story. Let's just move on.
--Tales of the Unexpected Vol. 2 #4
A series of supernatural executions of criminals has been occurring in Gotham for three weeks. Batman decides it's time to investigate and picks the brain of lead investigator Detective Marcus Driver, who gives a suspect identification that matches the Spectre. Batman and Driver follow the trail of three fugitive crooks and soon find two of them dead, obviously by the Spectre's supernatural hand. The third crook is captured by the GCPD and brought downtown for processing. At police HQ, a giant-sized Spectre materializes, despite Crispus Allen's spirit (which hosts the Spectre) pleas to God to cease the senseless vengeance. But alas, Allen can't hold back the wrath of the Almighty and the Spectre attempts to kill the third baddie. Batman swings in and kicks the Spectre in the face, telling him to get out of Gotham. The Spectre leaves, but not before burning his victim alive.
NOTE: Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman meet to discuss the possibility of kicking Wally West out of the JLA, since lately he has been neglectful of his team obligations, ignoring emergency calls and monitor duty in favor of adventuring with his kids (as mentioned in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #20). Wonder Woman then talks to Wally and the latter is able to reprove his worth to the team by defeating Queen Bee.
ANOTHER NOTE: All the surviving supervillains on Darkseid's prison planet escape and return to Earth (as seen in Salvation Run #7). However, J'onn is left stranded on the planet.
--Action Comics #851
When Krypton exploded many years ago, everyone died except for what Superman thought was a select few (including himself, Supergirl, and Kristin Wells). However, Superman forgot about the old Kryptonian penal system of sending criminals to the Phantom Zone. Turns out, all the worst Kryptonian criminals were ironically spared the destruction of their planet because they were safely within the Phantom Zone! Now the three deadliest criminals have escaped; General Zod, Ursa, and Non. Zod and Ursa happen to be the parents of Lor-Zod (Chris Kent). The vile trio releases a small army of Kryptonian prisoners and they quickly are able to defeat the JLA and JSA and take over the entire Earth. Zod then exiles Clark into the Phantom Zone. In the PZ, a powerless Superman meets an old friend Mon-El, who is the only innocent person in the PZ. Mon-El helps Supes escape back to Earth. Back on the ravaged Earth, Superman reluctantly joins up with Lex Luthor and his team consisting of Metallo (who has his Kryptonite heart back), Parasite, and Bizzaro. Superman and the villains are able to defeat the evil Kryptonians, although Luthor tries to trap Superman in the PZ as well. In the end, Chris Kent helps win the war, but winds up lost in the vast vortex of the PZ. Despite also having helped save the world, Luthor is sentenced to life in prison. (Don't worry Lex fans, he escapes from prison right away).
I've placed the first nine issues of Kurt Busiek's epic Trinity here because they take place before Red Tornado gets his body back. Also, it should be January, and definitely not Spring as is depicted in the story. When Bruce, Clark, and Diana all share vague, but similar ominous nightmares, they decide to meet in Keystone City to discuss the dreams. After helping Wally West and his kids defeat Clayface, the "big three" go their separate ways and are surprised when reality seems to warp around them temporarily. Meanwhile, on the other end of the planet, Morgaine Le Fey and Enigma (Edward Nashton aka Quizmaster aka the Antimatter version of the Riddler) secretly watch the heroes in battle and plan to recruit Despero in an attempt to replace the "good trinity" of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman with the "evil trinity" of themselves. In Massachusetts, the good trinity aids their fellow JLA teammates against the alien menace of Konvikt and Graak. While the JLA battles the aliens, one of Morgaine Le Fey's werewolf-ish Howler minions is able to burn a magical rune on Wonder Woman's back. (We haven't seen Howlers since Bat-Year 13!) Concurrently, in Los Angeles magical tarot reader Marguerita Covas keeps seeing hazy visions of the powerful "trinity" (Bats, Supes, and WW) which explain how the trio supposedly holds the "key" to the entire multiverse. Morgaine Le Fey knows the metahuman Covas is connected to the mystical power known as the "Worldsoul," so she has the Howlers kidnap the tarot reader. Covas happens to be friends with the superhero Gangbuster, who enlists Hawkman's help to go after his friend. Hawkman and Gangbuster meet with the JLA at the Hall of Justice, where Hawkman reveals that Gotham criminals (including Nocturna, Killer Moth, Calender Man, Mr. Freeze, Dr. No-Face, and Firebug) have recently been hired to steal a ton of Occult items for an unknown source (of course, we know the source is Morgaine Le Fey). Gangbuster is also able to convince the JLA of Covas' visions and their connection to the "big three." Privately, Wonder Woman meets with Bruce and Clark and discusses openly about the differences between dating both of them (which she has done), making the male heroes feel quite uncomfortable. Galaxies away, Morgaine Le Fey and Enigma recruit Despero into their "evil trinity." (Despero is actually Kanjar Ro in disguise). "Despero" reveals that he has stolen the Cosmic Egg (!) from the Watchtower and replaced it with a fake, so no one is the wiser. The next day, Bruce holds a giant party at Wayne Manor where he is attacked by Howlers. Bruce runs into the woods and changes into Batman, easily defeating the creatures. Meanwhile, the "evil trinity" begins "incubating" the Cosmic Egg, which allows them to create several new metahuman supervillains to do their bidding, including Swashbuckler. Swashbuckler begins stealing personal items needed for Morgaine Le Fey to cast a reality-altering spell, such as Jim Gordon's pipe, Nightwing's domino mask, Joker's laugh, and much more. In a side-plot our heroes also suspect that the Crime Syndicate of Amerika has abducted hundreds of people from Earth-0. So, the "evil trinity" is just getting started and the CSA is up to no good as well, but the our fair heroes have a lot of other things to take care of before we continue this tale. Good set-up though, and we will definitely return!
NOTE: Batman apprehends the returning Mr. Polka Dot (as mentioned in Justice League of America Vol. 2 #21).
--Justice League of America Vol. 2 #21, Part 1
Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman meet (as they so often do these days) privately in an inter-dimensional bubble which has been created specifically for the "trinity" by Hal Jordan and John Henry Irons. Their secret clubhouse exists within the hyperspace teleportation tunnel between the Hall of Justice and the Watchtower. The "big three" discuss whether or not they need to re-shuffle the JLA line-up. Huge changes are discussed, but in the end, everything stays the same. Superman and Batman both note that J'onn is still missing, despite the fact that the supervillains have all returned from the prison planet a few days ago.
--Justice League of America Vol. 2 #22-26
While the rest of the JLA meets with Vixen and decides to kick her off the team (because she has essentially lost control of her powers), Batman is with Doc Magnus, Doc Irons, Professor Caulder, and Zatanna as they put Red Tornado into his new body. However, this process goes terribly wrong and Red Tornado is possessed by Amazo, who downloads himself into a Black Tornado body, from which he morphs back into good ol' fashioned Amazo. The entire JLA, including Vixen and the newly embodied Red Tornado, defeat Amazo and teleport the evil android 600 light-years away. Afterward, the JLA escorts Vixen to Animal Man's house to discuss the fact that both animal-powered superheroes have recently lost control of their powers. The heroes quickly learn that Kwaku Anansi (Anansi the Spider aka the African trickster god) is responsible for their recent animal-powered woes. Meanwhile, Batman, Zatanna, and Red Tornado apprehend Professor Ivo once and for all, so that the maniacal doctor can no longer harm Reddy. After re-convening with the rest of the team, Batman attacks Anansi, but the evil diety is able to temporarily alter reality, making it so that each member of the JLA has a completely different origin and history. For example, Bruce Wayne is now the gun-toting homicidal vigilante known as Paladin. Only Vixen retains her own memories. Months pass (!), but Vixen is able to rally the troops and convince them they are living a lie. Vixen then talks down Anansi and the JLA awakens with only seconds having passed on the actual timeline! No one has any recollection of what happened except for Vixen, who is given her spot back on the team. I should also mention that the alternate universe and all its new characters created by Anansi will remain in existence. NOTE: Mr. Mxyzptlk has always taken credit for any previous appearances of Kwaku Anansi, claiming it is one of his many alter-egos. However, this version of Anansi seems to act quite differently from out little imp friend and, not to mention, at this point on our chronology, Mxy would be in a self imposed exile from Earth (based upon events which took place in Countdown #32). Suffice to say, I think it is safe to assume this is the real deal Anansi the Spider.
--Rann-Thanagar Holy War #1
The Rann-Thanagar War has been quiet as of late, but still drudges on late into its second year. When the Thanagarian cult that worships the evil Lady Styx gains a huge following on Rann, things are looking bad. With rumors that the conflict is going to erupt to previous wartime levels, veteran space patrolman Captain Comet contacts his buddy John Stewart and is granted an audience with the JLA. Comet tells the JLA about the faraway conflict and meets with the Teen Titans as well. The JLA refrains from getting involved, but Comet recruits Starfire and Animal Man to accompany him across the galaxy.