Modern YEAR FOURTEEN (Part 2)

2002 (July to December)

–NOTE: In Green Lantern Vol. 3 #48-50 (“Emerald Twilight”). Early July. Neither Bruce nor Jean-Paul are involved in this note, but it is a very important item nevertheless. Ever since the destruction of Coast City, Hal Jordan hasn’t been the same. Now, he wishes to destroy the universe in order to “save it” by rebuilding it in his own image. Talk about a god complex huh? Jordan becomes the violent super-villain known as Parallax and winds up destroying Oa and killing most of the Guardians. (We will find out later that Hal has become symbiotically linked to an evil alien known as Parallax, which has helped bring his dark side to the forefront.) Hal also effectively shuts down the Green Lantern Corps by murdering a bunch of its soldiers, including long-time friend Kilowog. These events culminate with with Parallax’s defeat and Kyle Rayner replacing Jordan as the newest Green Lantern.

–Chain Gang War #10-12
Jean-Paul and Deathstroke shut down the Chain Gang permanently.

–Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire #1
Denny O’Neil and Barry Kitson’s awesome MARVEL/DC crossover occurs now and YES, it is canon. But wait, this must be out-of-continuity, right!? Wrong! Amazingly, Jean-Paul’s encounter from this issue is specifically referenced in Batman #509. In Lake of Fire, Batman teams-up with Frank Castle aka The Punisher against the Joker and Jigsaw. And because Jean-Paul mentions Jigsaw by name, we must assume that this encounter did indeed take place, meaning that both Frank Castle and Jigsaw are able to somehow transport themselves from Marvel’s Earth (Earth-616) to DC’s main Earth and then back again. It isn’t mentioned how or why this happens in the issue, nor do the characters speak of alternate Earths, but it does some way some how. Interestingly, this is the only time (as far as I know) that a Marvel character is directly referenced by name in any Batman comic book ever.  Could I just advise my readers to ignore one tiny word of one seemingly insignificant word balloon? I could easily do that, as I have with so many other inconsistencies in the past.  However, keeping this Punisher encounter as canon is so unique and shocking to me that I’d rather not ignore it. Obviously Doug Moench, who wrote Batman #509, was feeling jocular at the time, or thought it was cool too, so there you go.

———————–Detective Comics #674
The ruthless Gunhawk (Liam Hawkleigh) and Bunnyhawk (who will later change her name to Pistolera) enter the Gotham crime game and cause a ruckus.  Bunny is injured, but before Batman (Jean-Paul) can apprehend them, they escape.

–The Outsiders Vol. 2 #7-9
Az-Bats meets the new Outsiders, which now features a lineup that includes Geo-Force, Halo, Katana, the Eradicator (who has merged with Dr. David Connor), Sebastian Faust, Charles Wylde, and Technocrat. As the Outsiders fight against Sanction, Az-Bats gets involved and winds up taking on everyone. During the intense battle, both Halo and Marissa Barron (Technocrat’s wife) are killed. Halo’s spirit enters Marissa’s body, so Halo is able to live on. After Sanction is defeated, Az-Bats turns his full attention on the Outsiders, engaging them in a series of violent fights. (NOTE: There are mentions of Gunhawk being loose in Gotham, which means these issues must occur here.)

–DC Retroactive: Superman – The ’90s #1
It’s been supposedly “nearly a year” since Doomsday originally fought and killed Superman—actually it’s been more like eight-and-a-half months, but whatever. Metropolis still hasn’t fully recovered from the titanic battle. Now, Lex Luthor’s cloned body has begun to deteriorate. Dying and in a panic (afraid he won’t ever get to live his dream of killing Superman), Luthor sics a giant monstrous worm creature known as a Cruiser on the Man of Steel. Supes easily defeats the creature. While neither Batman (Jean-Paul) nor Bruce are seen in this issue, Bruce does make a phone call to Clark at the Daily Planet offices warning him that seismic activity has been occurring in the labs beneath LexCorp tower. (The seismic activity is Luthor preparing the Cruiser for attack.)[1]

———————–Batman #508
———————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #28
———————–Detective Comics #675
Batman (Jean-Paul) tracks down Abattoir and chases him into a foundry where the villain winds up dangling precariously above a vat of molten metal. Jean-Paul begins hallucinating visions of both St. Dumas and his dead father as Abattoir begs for salvation. Robin busts onto the scene just in time to see Abattoir fall to a gruesome death! When Batman willingly allows Abattoir to die, Abattoir takes the secret location of his kidnapped cousin to the grave with him, thus dooming the innocent victim as well. In SOTB #28 Commissioner Gordon finds out about Abattoir’s death and accuses Batman of murder. In a brilliant scene by Alan Grant, Gordon breaks down and demands to know what happened to the original Batman. Jean-Paul tells him that he is Batman, he always will be, and he’s not afraid to kill again. Enraged, Gordon smashes the Bat-Signal! Jean-Paul’s “Crusade” comes to an end as he adds even more armor and lethal weaponry to the Bat-suit and mercilessly brings Gunhawk to justice.

———————–Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #59-61 (“QUARRY”)
———————–Robin Vol. 2 #7
Bruce and Alfred travel back to Gotham from England. Benedict Asp threatens to kill both the President of the United States and “Hemingford Grey” (a disguised Bruce) using power siphoned from a telekinetic-bond to a heavily drugged Shondra. Issue #60 has some of the strongest and most moving dialogue of the entire “Search” story-arc as Alfred tells Bruce he won’t help him go down a path that will only lead to his destruction. Alfred then legit quits, resigning from his post (!)—a scene that is also shown via flashback from Nightwing: Alfred’s Return #1 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31. The effective moving dialogue continues as Alfred converses with Jean-Paul about what it really means to be Batman. With tears in his eyes, he begs Jean-Paul to help Bruce. Also, in a conversation with Robin, Commissioner Gordon reveals that Bruce has confirmed to him over-the-phone that there is indeed a new Batman. Bruce references details from Miller’s “Year One” that only the original Batman would have known to prove his claim! Looks like Gordon is finally back in the loop! Meanwhile, Asp (with Russian goon Colonel Vega) captures Bruce. Jean-Paul fails miserably in his rescue attempt, and Bruce is whisked away to Santa Prisca where he reunites with Shondra (albeit in a holding cell). In captivity Bruce reveals that, before the original kidnapping, he was planning on proposing marriage to her! Asp attempts to kill the lovers, but winds up getting killed himself as Shondra uses her psychic powers on him. Unfortunately, Shondra’s powers burn her out to such a degree that her mind is reduced to the state of a young child. With her final coherent act, she heals Bruce’s spine!  This mystical healing is one of several events which have a significant impact upon Bruce’s future resilient physical condition and lasting youthful appearance at an age where he should be well past his prime. In the end, Bruce mourns the loss of yet another love, but pays for personal care for the brain-damaged Shondra in the hopes that she may one day recover. And, for anyone wondering, she will eventually recover, but not for many years down the road. Chuck Dixon’s Robin Vol. 2 #7 functions as the conclusion for both “The Crusade” and “The Search.” Tim reunites with his father for the first time since his kidnapping. (Jack Drake had been recovering from injuries in England ever since he was rescued.) Bruce, healed, but still recovering from his injuries, muses out-loud to Tim that he may stay retired forever and live comfortably as a regular citizen. That is until Tim reveals that Jean-Paul killed Abattoir. Bruce flips out and they break into the Batcave to confront him. Bruce demands that Jean-Paul step down as Batman and return the mantle of the Bat back to its rightful owner, to which Jean-Paul responds by punching-out Bruce and driving off in the Batmobile. Robin engages in a high-speed chase, but his kiddie car is no match for Batman’s ride. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce tells Robin not to worry, that intense training will commence, and that in due time the fight will be brought to Jean-Paul.

–FLASHBACK: From Batman & Superman: World’s Finest #9 Part 2. Az-Bats meets with Superman one-on-one for the second time. They team-up to stop a murderous vigilante from executing mob boss Donnie Riven (twin brother of Metropolis crook Lonnie Riven).

———————–Batman #509
———————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #29
———————–Detective Comics #676
———————–Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #62
———————–Robin Vol. 2 #8
———————–Catwoman Vol. 2 #12
———————–Batman #510
———————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #30
———————–Detective Comics #677
———————–Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63
———————–Catwoman Vol. 2 #13
———————–Robin Vol. 2 #9
Bruce hires Lady Shiva to whip him back into shape. Shiva trains him and then sicks an army of pissed-off ninjas on him as a final test. Wearing a Tengu mask, Bruce defats all of the ninjas. Meanwhile, Nightwing and Robin (and the returning Harold) keep tabs on Batman (Jean-Paul), who becomes more and more violent and hallucinatory as the weeks go by. Batman’s unhinged violence comes to a head when he tangles with Catwoman and deals with the remnants of the late Carleton LeHah’s crime syndicate. Finally, Bruce dons the cape and cowl and we have the match of the century: Batman vs Batman! Jean-Paul takes round one and leaves Batman, Nightwing, and Robin behind amidst a ton of collateral damage. (This battle is also referenced in DC Universe Legacies #8, albeit via a highly-abridged recap that features an unreliable narrator who has only obtained information from newspaper reports.) Bruce is able to catch up with the unhinged Jean-Paul at Wayne Manor and they duke it out in the Batcave for round two. While Bruce is no match for Jean-Paul physically, he easily outwits his raving opponent and reclaims the one true mantle of the Bat! (Round two is also shown via flashback from Batman #683.) Bruce leads the weary Jean-Paul out of the cavernous underground and into the light of day, where he sends him on his way instead of turning him over to the police.  In the final issue, Batman and an elated Robin bust some would-be museum burglars. For the first time in over five months the Dynamic Duo is officially back in action![2]

–REFERENCE: In The Batman Files. Bruce listens to audio recordings that the Batcave surveillance system was able to capture while Jean-Paul was in charge. Troubled to hear some of Jean-Paul’s hallucinatory ranting and raving, Bruce prints out transcripts of the audio for his crime-files.

–REFERENCE: In Batman: Europa #3. Batman, reflecting on all that has happened to him in recent months, dreams of a hopeful future where, old, broken, and retired from crime-fighting, he eventually retires to Paris, France. (Obviously, this will never happen.)

–NOTE: In Huntress Vol. 2 #1-4. Batman isn’t a part of this arc, but he surely would be aware of it, especially since he pretty much hates Huntress’ guts. Huntress and GCPD Sergeant Detective Dan Holtz go after Tony Bressi, who retaliates by putting a hit out on Huntress. In the end, super-villain Redzone winds up killing Holtz and Bressi before being defeated by Huntress.

——————–Detective Comics #678
——————–Batman #511 / Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4
——————–Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #3-0
Zero Hour. Here we go. Detective Comics #678 starts us off with a time anomaly signaling even more strangeness to come. Batman comes home from a quiet night’s patrol to find himself in an alt-reality where he had been killed as a child instead of his parents. After navigating this odd world, he phases back to reality.[5] The temporal anomalies continue with Batman #511, which completely overlaps with Zero Hour #4 and even re-shows partial events shot-for-shot with verbatim dialogue. As Batman and Robin chase Joker, Batgirl shows up to assist them! Joker escapes, but Batman and Robin are more confused as to how and why Barbara is not only in costume again, but walking again as well! Batman learns that this Batgirl is from an alternate reality where Jim Gordon is dead and Harvey Dent is police commissioner. This alternate reality has begun to merge with the reality of Earth-0. Not only that, the Joker they’ve just encountered is the Joker from that reality. After briefly dealing with the alternate reality Joker and alternate Harvey Dent at police HQ, Batman consults with Oracle (who is shaken, having just met her living mirror image only seconds prior). Batman then consults with Superman. The heroes quickly learn that time itself is somehow being compressed and various alternate realities are merging into one timeline (hence the appearance of alt-Batgirl, alt-Joker, alt-Dent, and now many other anomalies, including but not limited to alt-Batmen, alt-Robins, cavemen, and dinosaurs). Meanwhile, the Linear Men (Waverider, Rip Hunter, an alternate universe Matthew Ryder, and Liri Lee)—whose job is to preserve the sanctity of the space-time continuum—learn some upsetting news. Waverider and Metron bear the bad news, that time is being slowly erased in a wave of destruction beginning from “the end of time” and working its way backwards, to Earth’s heroes. The senior members of the JSA are also reverted to their correct ages, putting most of them around 80-years-old. (A magickal effect had kept them from aging since the 1940s.) But who is responsible for all of this chaos? At first, the heroes are shocked to learn that Hank Hall (formerly Hawk and the Monarch, now going by the name Extant) is responsible, having activated a cosmic artifact known as the Worlogog. The heroes will be even more dumbfounded when they learn the other architect of this crisis is Hal Jordan (aka Parallax), who has just murdered Time Trapper.[6] As we already know, since the destruction of Coast City, Hal wishes to destroy the universe. All of the superheroes—including Superman, Batman, Robin, Nightwing, the alt-Batgirl, Impulse (Barry Allen’s 30th century grandson Bart Allen), the New Titans (with new-ish member Phantasm), Alpha Centurion, Darkstars member Donna Troy, an L-Ron-controlled Despero, Amazing Man, “Warrior” Guy Gardner (who has traded in his power ring for Vuldarian metahuman powers), the alternate “SW6” universe Legion of Super-Heroes (Emerald Dragon, Saturn Girl, Live Wire, and Cosmic Boy), Dr. Mist’s occult order of Leymen (including Donovan and Kryssing), and dozens more—unite to battle Exant and Hal. The villains murder the JSA’s Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite, mind-control the Team Titans (including Metallik), murder Waverider, and then begin eradicating all of time and space. The alt-Matthew Ryder absorbs his deceased counterpart to become the new Waverider. Starman meets with his sons Jack Knight and David Knight, passing the Gravity Rod to the latter. Power Girl gives birth to a baby boy named Equinox! In New York City, Hal ushers in a spate of whiteness that envelops the comic book page (in a very meta-way). Hal begins re-shaping the multiverse, but before he can finish, a small group of heroes—sans Batman but including Superman, the new Waverider, Damage (Grant Emerson), and others—challenges him. The heroes best Extant and then cosmically clash with Hal, which causes a second white meta-wave that leads to the erasure and instant restoration of the timeline, albeit with distinct differences. (This bombora of time-altering soft-rebootery also occurs in several spin-off titles, notably Robin Vol. 2 #10 and Catwoman Vol. 2 #14, neither of which feature Batman.)[7][8] Waverider tells the heroes that he has restored the timeline as best as possible—but of course things ain’t exactly as they were. For Batman, specifically, all of the alterations to his personal history will be later retconned back to what they were prior to Zero Hour (via Infinite Crisis), so they needn’t even be mentioned! Okay, okay, I’ll mention them. First, even after fourteen years into his career, Batman was supposedly still regarded as an urban legend by the mass populace, which was not only ridiculous, it was impossible. Second, Bruce supposedly never learned who killed his parents. Again, ridiculous. But, like I said, these changes never happened as far as we are concerned since they were canceled-out years later.[9] Editorially, Zero Hour makes all of the superheroes’ origins more recent and contemporary by advent of the sliding-timescale and subsequent compression of all DCU stories. At the end of Zero Hour #0, a detailed DCU timeline is shown. However, because Sliding-Time will eventually slide Zero Hour onward to 2002, this timeline should be ignored.[10]

——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31
——————–Batman #0
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #0
——————–Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #0
——————–Detective Comics #0
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #0
The Crisis in Time has just been resolved, but the damaged and reformed timeline is still “settling.” As such, we are treated to a a residual aftereffect issue (Shadow of the Bat #31) that includes a chronal aberration and also several zero issues that serve as jumping-on points for our characters as they navigate the “new” askew DCU timeline. In Shadow of the Bat #31, which occurs a day after Zero Hour has ended, time anomalies affect the Batcave and a rotund pre-Crisis Alfred Beagle shows up to help the Dynamic Duo bust a returning Andy Goodwin and Biff Bannon.[11] Batman’s zero issues, which follow, mainly consist of flashbacks to Bruce’s youth and to his training prior to becoming the Caped Crusader. Every flashback regarding Batman’s origins is pretty accurate, but we have to ignore any incorrect references to the Wayne murders or inconsistent references to Batman as an “urban legend.” In his zero issues, Batman takes down a serial killer, the Stone Brothers (who he is familiar with from his vast computerized crime database), terrorist bombers, corrupt media mogul Randolph Spire, and some kidnappers. Spire says Batman is still in the “early years of his strange career,” which doesn’t seem to reflect our current moment—either at LOTDK #0‘s publication date (Bat Year Eleven) or following later Sliding-Time retcons (Bat Year Fourteen). In the concluding Robin Vol. 2 #0, Bruce decides he needs a reprieve from combat and that Dick will temporarily become Batman! In the Batcave, Dick dons a Bat-costume, taking up his mentor’s mantle! (We should also note that, as per the Zero Hour tie-in Justice League America #0, Wonder Woman moves the JL home-base to a brand new satellite HQ made out of an escape pod from the ship of deceased super-villain Overmaster. Bruce would likely be aware of this.)

——————–Batman #512
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #32
——————–Detective Comics #679
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #11
——————–Batman #513
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #33
——————–Showcase ’94 #12 Part 1
——————–Detective Comics #680
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #12
——————–Batman #514
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #34
——————–Detective Comics #681
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #13
Our story picks up right where Robin Vol. 2 #0 left off. Having decided he’s not quite ready to be Batman full-time yet, Bruce has temporarily bestowed the honor of being Batman unto Dick Grayson! Dick, wearing the Bat-costume, chats with Bruce and Robin in the Batcave. (As referenced in The Batman Files, it is Bruce’s hope that Dick will one day become a permanent Batman after his death. Another reference in The Batman Files adds a bit of humor to this opening dialogue as well. Yet another reference in The Batman Files places the beginning of “Prodigal” shortly before Christmas. This, unfortunately, must be ignored.) With Gotham’s protection in the capable hands of his talented substitute, Bruce begins a top secret project—(more on that below). The new Batman meets with a pissed-off Commissioner Gordon, who (once again) realizes immediately that there’s a new face under the mask. Dick tells him to chill out and makes quick work of Croc, Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, some deadly Blackgate escapees, a chainsaw-wielding Two-Face, some small-time murderers, and Tally Man. Meanwhile, Tim juggles the busy life of being a masked superhero, spending time with an overbearing father, and trying to squeeze in dates with his girlfriend.  In the last two issues, GCPD Detective MacKenzie Bock debuts and Robin takes down Steeljacket solo. We also see the emergence of the evil Troika, a team consisting of Russian super-villains Colonel Vega, Romana Vrezhenski, the Dark Rider, and KGBeast. But we’ll get to the Troika stuff in our next story-arc. The most important part of “Prodigal” is in the conclusion where Bruce returns to reclaim the mantle of the Bat and has an intense conversation with Dick (who becomes Nightwing again). Why did Bruce choose Jean-Paul over Dick? Because he knew Dick was his own man and didn’t want to assume that he would be the natural successor to the title.[12] We also learn that Jean-Paul Valley is shell-shocked, living in a homeless shelter. But where did Bruce go for the entire “Prodigal” run? Determined to upgrade his entire crime-fighting system, Bruce spent “Prodigal” setting up a bunch of mini-satellite Batcaves all over Gotham (as referenced in Batman: No Man’s Land #0). Mind you, these are not safe-houses (which Batman already has); these are legitimate alternate Batcaves. The following are set up: Central Batcave below Robinson Park, Batcave South in a boiler room in the shipping yard across from Paris Island, Batcave South-Central in an abandoned subway station, Batcave East in an abandoned Wayne Enterprises oil refinery, and Northwest Batcave in a subbasement of the abandoned Mercey Mansion (which will coincidentally become the new Arkham Asylum this year). Bruce also re-activates the Bat-Bunker below the Wayne Enterprises Tower in downtown Gotham (as referenced in Batman & Robin #1) and constructs a satellite Batcave in a sunken submarine at the bottom of Gotham Bay (as referenced in the “Bruce Wayne: Fugitive?” arc). Bruce also debuts the brand new all-black Bat-costume, which is co-designed and co-created by the Tailor (as referenced in the second feature to Detective Comics #789). This new costume consists of a full body-suit (sans gloves or boots) and has a steel back brace, superfluous armor, and razor blade spikes on the arms and legs.

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

——————–Batman #515
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #35
——————–Detective Comics #682
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #14
Bruce is back and he’s a lot grittier than usual. In fact, he kind of reminds me of the Giffen-era “angry dad” JLI Batman from the late 80s.  He won’t say where he’s been or what’s changed in him, but he will go after the terrorizing Troika, which consists of Colonel Vega, Romana Vrezhenski, the Dark Rider, and KGBeast. Wait, Troika means Triad, which means “three”, which means that Vega, Romana, and KGBeast screw-over the Rider and kick him out of the team into the waiting arms of Batman. Eventually, Batman and Robin are able to stop the Troika from detonating a nuclear device, but they can’t prevent KGBeast from shooting Harvey Bullock, who goes into a coma. By the way, Gordon references Batman’s initial encounter with the Dark Rider as occurring before the fall of the Soviet Union. The only year Batman was active before the fall of Red Communism was Bat Year One (1989)—or arguably Bat Years Two and Three as well since the Soviet Union didn’t technically end until July 1991. In any case, we should disregard Gordon’s Soviet comments and place the Dark Rider’s debut instead in Bat Year Ten (which reflects our chronology).

–NOTE: In Batman: The Vengeance of Bane II Part 1. Batman isn’t in this one (unless you count Bane’s nightmares of the Dark Knight), but it is very important to future events. Bane is a shadow of his former self, wasting away in Blackgate. In fact, he’s gotten so soggy and unfit that new inmate KGBeast kicks the shit out of him just for fun. While in the infirmary, Bane befriends Buzz Galvan and the Ratcatcher. With their help and inspiration, Bane decides to get back into shape. First, he murders another inmate, which earns him a long stretch in solitary confinement. The second part of Vengeance of Bane II takes place after Bane has completed a supposed six month stint. However, due to compression, we’ll reunite with Bane when his solitary ends in three months.

–REFERENCE: In Batman #516, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #36, and Azrael #1. Batman, having tested his new costume in the field against the Troika, decides that some necessary tweaks must be made. While the all-black color scheme (with yellow oval symbol) will remain, the Dark Knight ditches the body-suit and returns to a costume that has boots and gloves. Batman also gets rid of the razor spikes on his legs.

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

–Detective Comics #683 Part 1
It’s been three days since Harvey Bullock was shot by KGBeast. He remains in a coma. Meanwhile, Batman and Robin—thanks to a tip from snitch Brigham “ZBad” Thomas—bust up a series of Penguin-organized heists, after which Penguin’s men Nico Vanetta and McQuade report back to Penguin about their failure. Soon after, Penguin meets a statistics/data analysis genius known as The Actuary, who keeps winning big at the brand new Iceberg Lounge and Casino. (Penguin has recently opened what will become his most infamous club, the largest and most lucrative he’s ever run. It’s a front, of course, but it will allow Penguin to augment his position as a legitimate business owner, a role that he will continuously scaffold for many years to come.) Impressed with the Actuary’s gambling strategies, Penguin hires him to plan a Batman-proof heist for him. Penguin also has Vanetta and McQuade kill ZBad for snitching. NOTE: Since ‘tec #683 goes directly into ‘tec #684, but the latter shows Bullock awake from his coma, there is a hidden ellipsis within ‘tec #683, breaking it in twain right here.

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

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

–FLASHBACK: From the B&W second feature to Batman: Gotham Knights #47. Riddler busts into a restaurant while riding a motorcycle. Bruce happens to be dining at the restaurant, which is bad news for Riddler.

–Batman #516-517 (“SLEEPER”)
Batman takes his new grim attitude and captures both the mind-controlled sleeper agent known as Sleeper and her handler Remmy. There are a lot of references to CIA sleep-deprivation testing and MK Ultra drugging in this story. We also learn that Jean Paul’s one-time foe Mekros underwent the same CIA brainwashing that is applied on Sleeper. In an interesting note, Bruce speaks in detail with an expert in the field of sleep studies. I know this is “back-engineering,” but we can easily assume Bruce is worried about his own sleep deprivation tests from years earlier (as well he should be). Other items of note: First, Gordon is having a rough time as he doesn’t trust Batman anymore and his marriage is on the rocks—things are so bad Jim and Sarah have separated! Second, Harvey Bullock wakes up from his coma! He immediately gives Detective Bock the nickname “Hardback.” Third, Batman pretends to be Commissioner Gordon to have a phone chat with coroner Mortimer Gunt. Fourth, Bruce meets odd socialite Madolyn Corbett.

–Guy Gardner: Warrior #29
Guy Gardner opens a superhero-themed restaurant called Warriors Bar! Nearly every DC character from Ambush Bug to Zebra-Man (okay, not actually Zebra-Man, but, yes, Ambush Bug!) shows up for the grand opening. Hell, even Swamp Thing and John Constantine are there! Also present are: Batman, Superman, Captain Atom, Lobo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Buck Wargo, Joey Hong, Rita Muldoon, Tiger Man, Veronna, the Blood Pack (Jade, Anima, Ballistic, Gunfire, Geist, Loria, Mongrel, Nightblade, Razorsharp, and Sparx), Animus, Arion, Arsenal (Roy Harper, fka Speedy), Artemis, Black Thorn, El Diablo (Rafael Sandoval), Fastbak, Fate (new Dr. Fate Jared Stevens), Flamebird (Bette Kane), the Forever People (including Maya), Hero Hotline (including Stretch, Microwaveabelle, Private Eyes, Hotshot, and Dinky the Devil Bat aka BatMyte), Judomaster II, Loose Cannon, the Metal Men (including Will Magnus in his “Veridium” persona), Rex the Wonder Dog, the Sea Devils (Dan Dorrance, Nicky Walton, and Judy Walton), Stanley Dover Jr and The Beast With No Name aka the duo known as “Stanley and his Monster”), Thunderbolt Peter Cannon, Lady Blackhawk (former WWII Blackhawk pilot Zinda Blake, who was permanently shot forward in time during the Zero Hour-tie in Guy Gardner: Warrior #24), and many others. With Cat Grant reporting live from Guy’s wild media event, Blackgate inmates—including Pied Piper and most of Batman’s rogues—watch with keen interest. Dementor visits Blackgate as well. In deep space, the LEGION (including Amon Haak and Davroth Catto) discusses Guy’s new Vuldarian powers. At the opening, Guy gets in a bad fight with Captain Atom and Lobo. I’m really surprised Batman shows up for this.

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

–FLASHBACK: From the second feature to 52 #48. Oracle video-conferences with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash, presumably discussing a case.

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

–Robin Vol. 2 #15-16
Stephanie Brown is kidnapped and held hostage, but Robin is able to rescue her. Robin and Spoiler (with Batman’s help) then bring the kidnappers to justice and learn that Stephanie’s father (Cluemaster) orchestrated her kidnapping from Blackgate. Stephanie visits dad in prison and beats the shit out of him.

–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #37-38 (“THE JOKER”)
The Joker wants revenge against all the people who heckled his bad comedy acts before he became a super-villain, so he kidnaps a bunch of people and puts on a comedy show at the massive, vacant North Gotham structure known as Mercey Mansion. Of course, people get their heads blown-off at a Joker comedy special, so Batman attempts to intervene. Before he has the chance, Wilde Norton aka Wild attempts to kill the Joker. Turns out Wild’s family was tortured and killed by the Joker years ago. After Wild shoots Joker in his hand and leg, Joker doses Wild with his signature Joker Juice. Batman is able to sweep in and rescue Wild, who goes into custody. Meanwhile, the injured Joker escapes into the night. Dr. Jeremiah Arkham shows up and declares that the new Arkham Asylum will move into Mercey Mansion. If you didn’t already know, Arkham has yet to be rebuilt since its destruction at the hands of Bane. (NOTE: Mercey Mansion was originally 20 miles outside of Gotham. However, retcons place Mercey Mansion well within the city limits, a mere two miles from downtown. Also note that Batman has a secret satellite Batcave in a subbasement beneath Mercey Mansion, so this is pretty good for him.) Across town, the Gordons visit Harvey Bullock, who is fully active but still recovering in the hospital. When they arrive, Bullock is sleeping. A nurse gives the Gordons an update about how Bullock’s recovery has gone since coming out of his coma, waking up the exhausted cop so he can take some medication.

–Detective Comics #683 Part 2
Batman visits Commissioner Gordon, learning that the commish and Sarah have separated. Afterward, Batman and Robin bust Nico Vanetta.

–Detective Comics #684
Having just busted Nico Vanetta, Batman and Robin interrogate him, getting dirt about Penguin’s new plan (which has been drawn up by the Actuary). The Actuary’s scheme? A daytime robbery of the Gotham flower show! Batman is still able to stop the burglary, but the Actuary takes the fall for the Penguin. Meanwhile, Harvey Bullock hangs out with Renee Montoya and MacKenzie Bock at the hospital. They note that he is set to be discharged in a couple days.

–FLASHBACK: From the second feature to Countdown #28. Batman confronts the seemingly untouchable Penguin at his new Iceberg Lounge casino.

–Batman #518
Black Mask still hates Bruce Wayne with a passion, so he sends Johnny LaMonica aka the new Black Spider to kill someone at random at Bruce’s masquerade ball. Black Spider fails, but it doesn’t matter because he’s secretly working against Black Mask on behalf of rival crime-lord Ottoman Turk. Meanwhile, Mayor Krol comes down hard on Gordon since the former’s re-election campaign is going poorly. Also, Harvey Bullock is officially discharged from Gotham Hospital and learns that he will work on a limited duty basis until he’s fully recovered from his injuries.

–Batman: GCPD #1-4
This is a special GCPD Major Crimes ensemble mini-series. Montoya and a recently returned Bullock are split up as partners. When an undercover Montoya is held captive by the terrorist organization known as Cell Six, the rest of the force bands together to bring her home safely. Everyone (including Kitch, Bullock, Pettit, Sarah, Jim, Hardback, and Detective Kevin Soong) is highlighted in this storyline. Think of this as a very early precursor to Gotham Central. By the end of this mini, Bullock is re-partnered with Montoya after an injured Soong quits the force.

–Detective Comics #685 Part 1
Batman and Robin take down the Karate Creep, a weirdo that thinks he is Bruce Lee and attacks old ladies. Later, after getting word about something big supposedly going to happen with the Asian mobs in Gotham, Batman interrogates former Chinatown gang member Jimmy Wing. Meanwhile, the GCPD issues an arrest warrant for the notorious mobster Tommy Mangles (Thomas Manchester). Nobody wants to deal with Mangles except for Harvey Bullock, who decides to end his limited duty period and put himself back in action full-time.

–Batman #519-520
Jim Gordon’s reputation is permanently stained in the crooked eyes of Mayor Armand Krol. Thus, Mayor Krol calls Gordon into his office and tells him he has been demoted and replaced with his estranged wife—effective immediately. Sarah Essen-Gordon officially becomes the brand new Gotham City Police Commissioner! A disgruntled Jim brutally arrests Tommy Mangles and then immediately resigns from the GCPD! Batman then easily takes down Black Spider, but Black Mask gets away. Because of Black Spider’s failure, he winds up in Blackgate with a “web” of scars strewn across his face, courtesy of his ousted employer Ottoman Turk. The next day, Batman searches in vain for Black Mask, busting the entire False Face Society in the process. Meanwhile, Harvey Bullock goes on a movie-date with his nurse. This outing ends tragically (as most things in Gotham do)—with a mugging and fatal shooting of the nurse.

——————–Detective Comics #685 Part 2
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #17
——————–Detective Comics #686
A week has passed since Detective Comics #685 Part 1. Batman interrogates Jimmy Wing again and learns that an Asian mob war is about to erupt. King Snake is back and in charge of the Asian mob in Gotham. This leads to a Chinatown gang war between Snake’s Triads and General Tsu‘s Shan Tribes. Batman and Robin get stuck in the middle of a huge battle-royale involving Snake, Lynx, a ton of random Asian gangs, and Silver Monkey (leader of the Monkey Fist Cult). Across town, Gotham County Sheriff Steven “Shotgun” Smith (former GCPD Detective) receives a warrant to go after Tommy Mangles, but he decides to ignore it. (Since Jim Gordon already busted Mangles a couple days ago, this is either a continuity error or the news hasn’t been disseminated yet.) Eventually, Nightwing and Huntress show up to help Batman and Robin with the gang war. Batman accepts Nightwing’s intervention, but he denies assistance from Huntress. Snake is finally apprehended, the gang war ends, and Lynx takes control of the entire Chinatown mob. New Commissioner Sarah Essen-Gordon cleans up the mess afterward.

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

–The Batman Chronicles #1 Part 1
Ex-cop Jim Gordon meets and teams-up with Huntress to stop some train hijackers. Both Batman and Jim say that Huntress reminds them of Babs. Don’t forget, based upon hints in Batman Chronicles #1 Part 1, Legends of the DC Universe #10-11, Batgirl: Year One #8, and Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey series, Jim is aware of Babs’ superhero career (and Batman knows that Jim knows too). Jim will never say it out loud, choosing to wink and nod instead—but he knows.

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

–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #40-41 (“ANARKY”)
The prophet of doom Malochia wishes to blow up Gotham. Batman and Robin team-up with Anarky and Joe Potato to stop him. “Anarky” is a wonderful story-arc which shows just how underrated of a character Lonnie Machin really is. These two issues also function as an homage to Batman’s “Dirigible of Doom” case from Bat Year One as Malochia attempts to use his own Dirigible of Doom to transport his deadly bombs over the city. Anarky is able to crash the zeppelin into the harbor, but seemingly at the cost of his own life. (We know this isn’t the case because we’ll see him again.) While all of the wildness is going on, Jim Gordon decides to run for mayor! Retcon corrections in these issues: Lonnie is supposedly 15-years-old in this storyline, but he should only be 14 at this point. Also, Malochia foredooms that the world will end in 1999. Since we are already in 2002, we should disregard this. He makes more sense as a 2012 kinda guy anyway. And finally, District Attorney Marion Grange isn’t just now entering into the mayoral election race. We’ve known about her candidacy for quite some time now.

–Detective Comics #687-688
Cap’n Fear and his gang o’ pirates attack a yacht party in Gotham Bay that happens to be attended by Bruce and random date. The next night, Renee Montoya visits Jim Gordon to discuss his mayoral candidacy. Meanwhile, the Dynamic Duo outfits one of Bruce’s luxury speedboats into a brand new Batboat. Despite the new vehicle at their disposal, Cap’n Fear gets the better of the heroes and even captures the Dark Knight! I’m not joking. Robin stops the pirates and Batman is able to escape shark infested waters unscathed. The Cap’n then disappears without a trace.

–Batman #521-522
Having just helped Nightwing wrap-up a case in England and been convinced by Nightwing to return to the States (as seen in the Batman-less Nightwing: Alfred’s Return #1), Alfred finally returns home, taking up his old role at Wayne Manor! The reunion, however, is short-lived as Croc breaks out of the new Arkham at Mercey Mansion. Batman tracks Croc all the way to the swamps of New Orleans where we learn the latter has been summoned by Swamp Thing! Swamp Thing easily restrains Batman and explains that Croc isn’t responsible for his own actions and is a predatory creature of nature, deserving of protection. Batman reluctantly allows Croc to remain free as long as he permanently remains under the watchful eyes and care of Swamp Thing.

–Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights #1
Note that this item goes here because Alfred is shown, having already returned from his recent soul-searching absence. Also note that Batman has been drawn by John Romita Jr and Klaus Jason wearing the wrong costume. While a minor quibble, he should be wearing his post-“Prodigal” all-black ensemble. Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights begins with Frank Castle aka Punisher (with his buddy Microchip) once again chasing a facially reconstructed Jigsaw all the way from Earth-616 to Earth-0. And once again Punisher tangos with Batman, only this time, it’s Bruce under the cape and cowl instead of Jean-Paul. While Punisher and Batman get acquainted with one another, Joker helps his old Marvel pal, Jigsaw, leap to the top of the Gotham mob pyramid, nose-to-nose with super-boss Jimmy Navarone. Batman, in disguise as Matches Malone, joins up with Navarone’s gang only to watch them all get slaughtered during a simultaneous shootout against both Punisher and Jigsaw. During this shootout, Jigsaw’s face is ruined yet again by Punisher. Batman then gets the better of Punisher in combat, the latter leaving Gotham with his ego bruised. Like the previous Batman/Punisher crossover, this one is also canon thanks to a nod in a mainstream DCU title—in this case a reference in Detective Comics #689. Like before, there is no reference made to alternate Earths or jumping between them, so we must simply imagine that the multiverse-leaping happens off-panel before and after this issue.

–Batman: Gotham Nights II #1-4[13]
This arc is nearly impossible to place—all topical or seasonal references should likely be ignored. Like Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knights before it, Gotham Nights II must go here because Alfred is shown, having returned from his recent absence. And like the Punisher/Batman crossover before it, the Caped Crusader has been illustrated (this time by Mary Mitchell) wearing the wrong costume. In Gotham Nights II, a series that scarcely even shows the Dark Knight, someone has been sabotaging Little Paris, an old island amusement park in Gotham Harbor. Batman orders Tim to visit Little Paris with his friends to see what he can find. Meanwhile, Batman visits the park pretending to be an undercover Gotham Gazzette reporter posing as a maintenance man. After another ride “accident,” a corrupt city councilman sends in his hired goon Jobe Belden to straighten things out, much to the chagrin of Batman. After interrogating the councilman and the owner of the park, Batman deduces that Belden has been acting alone as the saboteur, collecting big bribes all the while. When confronted, Belden blows up a gas tanker and the whole park burns to the ground. Belden dies in the inferno along with the park owner and his dad (whose complicated pasts are both revealed) and a misogynistic racist character (who learns a lesson and has a change of heart in his final moments). The story ends with the daughter of the latter deceased, who comes to terms with her rough Gotham life and her complex interracial relationships with two guys.

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

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

–REFERENCE: In the second feature to Detective Comics #782. Late November—the anniversary of Bruce’s parents’ deaths. Batman places two roses at his parents’ Crime Alley murder site.

–Detective Comics #689-690
Firefly escapes from Blackgate, joins the False Facers, and goes after his rival, Firebug. Batman shakes down Firebug and brutally waterboards him to get information about Firefly, who begins dating his neighbor Deelia Withers under the fake name “Gil Fields.” Eventually, Firefly is apprehended and Firebug seemingly perishes in a fire. We’ll learn much later that Firebug uses the fact that everyone thinks he is dead as an opportunity to quietly retire from super-villainy. Also, Bruce decides to support Marion Grange’s campaign on the condition that Jim Gordon be re-instated as commissioner if she wins.

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

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

–Robin Vol. 2 #19-21 
Robin deals with the returning General and one of Maxie Zeus’ top men, Julie Caesar. He also deals with some serious rocky relationship issues with girlfriend Ariana. And last but not least, Tim, using the false persona of “Alvin Draper,” infiltrates a criminal teenage ninja training camp in order to shut it down. Dick infiltrated a similar camp way back in his first year as Robin.

–Sandman Vol. 2 #71
Morpheus aka The Sandman aka Dream of the Endless has recently died, allowing Daniel Hall to become the new Dream. Many of Earth’s superheroes, including Batman, attend Morpheus’ wake (although they do so only in dreams and have no recollection of it afterward).

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

——————–Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 1
Neron, the King of Hell, is ready to enact an evil plan. With help from his servant Kadabra, Neron tricks five of the Flash’s top rogues (all members of the aptly named group known as The Rogues) into setting off large explosions. The explosions not only kill the Rogues, but also open a Hellmouth that unleashes the lord of evil onto Earth. But we’ll get back to that in a little bit. In case you were wondering, the Rogues that are killed are Captain Boomerang, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Mirror Master II (Evan McCulloch), and Weather Wizard. And, don’t worry, these guys will all be resurrected quite soon.

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

——————–Azrael #10
Az-Bats is back! Sort of. But first, we learn via flashback that, one month ago during Azrael #4, Kadabra not only forewarned of Neron’s impending arrival, but also saved the alternate Azrael’s life in exchange for an unknown favor. We now learn what that favor was. In exchange for his saving his life, the alternate Azrael was given a facsimile of Jean Paul’s armored Bat-costume and ordered to distract Batman upon Neron’s arrival. Cut to now. Neron has finally arrived (as we saw in the recent Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 1). Thus, the alternate Azrael comes through on his end of the bargain. Alternate Azrael dresses-up as Az-Bats and shows-up in Gotham to distract Bruce while Neron begins assembling the world’s super-villain community for his evil plan.  Robin calls Batman (this is where we left off in SOTB #43) and tells him about the fake Az-Bats, to which Bruce replies that he is too busy tracking down Catwoman, Catman, and Ratcatcher to assist.  In the end Batman puts his case on hold and easily defeats the fake Azrael/fake Az-Bats.

——————–Catwoman Vol. 2 #26
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #44
“The Secret of the Universe” concludes. Catwoman and Batman wind up teaming-up and they bring down both Catman and Ratcatcher together.

–Green Arrow Vol. 2 #101 
Ever since Zero Hour, Oliver Queen has been living a hermit-like life at an ashram. (We are told that he’s been there for six months, but that’s impossible continuity-wise and should be reduced due to Sliding Time and compression.) Ollie ends his sabbatical when terrorists threaten to detonate a bomb in Metropolis. Ollie stops the terrorists, but is killed in the process. Yes, this is the tragic death of Green Arrow! Upon hearing the terrible news, Batman is devastated at the loss of such a close friend. Don’t worry too much, though. Like most comic book deaths, Ollie’s won’t last too long. In the meantime, Ollie’s son, Connor Hawke, becomes the new Green Arrow.

——————–Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 2
——————–Detective Comics #691-692
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #23-24
——————–Underworld Unleashed – Batman: Devil’s Asylum #1
——————–Batman #525
——————–Justice League America #106
——————–Underworld Unleashed #2-3
Underworld Unleashed continues and we learn that this Mark Waid tale basically serves to upgrade all of DC’s super-villains. A week has passed since Neron, the current ruler of Hell, has come to Earth. And in that time Neron has gathered the entire super-villain community together. How did this gathering go unnoticed? Well, Batman was conveniently distracted by the fake Az-Bats, Catwoman, Catman, and Ratcatcher. And Superman is out of the picture entirely, having been whisked away to another galaxy where he currently remains (as seen/told in Superman: Man of Steel #50). Neron’s plan? To offer every single DCU super-villain something special in exchange for their soul. Dozens of villains accept. Here are the deals which affect Batman the most: Lex Luthor, whose cloned body had deteriorated so badly he was in a vegetative state, trades his soul for a brand new healthy body; Blockbuster sells his soul for genius level intelligence; Killer Moth trades his soul to become the actual moth monster known as Charaxes; and Deadshot trades his soul to join the new super-villain group called Killer Elite, giving him the opportunity to try his “dream assassination”—the murder of an entire kindergarten class; and many other villains gain significantly increased metahuman abilities in exchange for their souls. (Other members of Killer Elite are Chiller, Deadline, Bolt, and Merlyn.) Oh, and of course, the Joker sells his soul for nothing more than a box of Cuban cigars. Seriously. Notably, Poison Ivy, Riddler, and Scarecrow all turn down the deal. Mongul also turns down the deal and threatens Neron in the process, which results in Neron promptly murdering Mongul! Before Batman and Robin are even aware of Neron’s presence, they spoil the criminal plans of Spellbinder and his girlfriend Fay Moffit, using echo-location visors to ward of their dizzying attacks. Later, while Bruce golfs with J Devlin Davenport, Neron makes a pitch to Spellbinder and Fay. Spellbinder turns him down, but is immediately murdered by Fay, who accepts the offer in his place, thus becoming the new Spellbinder. The Dynamic Duo then squares-off with and takes down the new Spellbinder and Charaxes. (The debuting Lock-Up is actually responsible for apprehending Charaxes and detaining the creature inside his own private jail.) Meanwhile, Neron meets with Kryppen at Arkham and offers him ultimate power if he sets a trap for Batman. Kryppen poisons everyone inside Arkham and when Batman arrives the former lets him know what’s up. Kryppen explains that in exchange for the antidote to his poison the Caped Crusader must kill one Arkham inmate of his choosing and turn over his victim’s soul to the devil. Batman refuses, and instead forces Kryppen to drink his own poison, confident that Kryppen will want to survive. Kryppen turns over the antidote. By the end of issue #525, Jim Gordon has dropped out of the mayoral race, Madolyn Corbett has shown up at Wayne Manor acting very bizarrely on multiple occasions, and Batman puts Mr. Freeze back in jail. Concurrently, the Killer Elite run ramshackle across Gotham, prompting the JLA to intervene. Without even knowing it, a patrolling Batman is spared an assassination by the Killer Elite’s Merlyn thanks to the Atom Smasher (Albert Rothstein). In Hell, Luthor and Joker learn that Neron’s goal is to acquire enough soul-power to take over the entire world. Meanwhile, Neron makes his presence known to the world’s heroes by offering each of them seductive deals. For example, Neron offers the life of Jason Todd back in exchange for Bruce’s soul. This is a clever offer on Neron’s part, because he surely would have known that Jason was already alive again at this point. Bruce denies the devil anyway.  Neron offers Oracle super powers and the ability to walk again in exchange for her services as Hell’s librarian. He doesn’t even ask for her soul, but Babs still turns him down. As Neron collects more souls his power and influence grow exponentially, thrusting the world onto the brink of chaos and war. In Gotham, Batman and Robin team-up with Black Canary and Huntress to prevent Major Disaster, Grodd, Blockbuster, and Metallo (John Corben) from stealing nuclear weapons. (This sequence is also shown via flashback from Showcase ’96 #2 Part 3.) Separately, the rest of the world’s superheroes travel to Hell to confront Neron face-to-face. They are only able to defeat Neron after Captain Marvel accepts a deal with the devil. However, Marvel’s boyish soul is too pure and when the King of Hell cannot accept, the deal is broken and all of the souls are released and returned to their rightful owners, thus ending his reign of terror. In the end, Neron winds up giving out a whole bunch of free stuff and winds up with no souls at all.

–REFERENCE: In The Batman Files. Batman, having just dealt with Neron for the first time, doesn’t think much of him. Despite the fact that Neron is King of Hell, a powerful high-ranking demon, and a legit fallen angel from Heaven, Batman will think of him as nothing more than a C-list costumed super-villain, even doubting he is a real demon.

–NOTE: In Extreme Justice #0-1. Here’s a Justice League update now that Underworld Unleashed has wrapped-up. The JLA (led by Wonder Woman) and the JL Task Force (led by Martian Manhunter) still have the full backing of the UN. A third “unofficial” branch of the Justice League (led by a frustrated Captain Atom) now forms as well. (This is Atom’s “extreme justice” team that will be featured in the Extreme Justice series, which starts now.)

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

–Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1
Oracle hires Black Canary to investigate a string of eco-terrorist bombings all targeted at business mogul Nick Devine. Oracle guides Black Canary into battle at a club where Devine is attacked. Bruce and Lucius Fox are present. Black Canary (along with the queen of the Asian mob, Lynx) then travels to Africa and is able to reveal that Devine is actually behind the bombings and is collecting on insurance fraud. Because the mission is such a success, Oracle decides Black Canary’s next mission will be to put a stop to a Santa Priscan human-trafficking ring. (That mission, shown in the Batman-less Showcase ’96 #3 Part 1, will happen in a few weeks.) The Devine case functions as the official beginning of Oracle’s covert-ops team of rotating members known as the Birds of Prey.

–REFERENCE: In Birds of Prey #6. Now that the Birds of Prey have officially launched, Batman begins secretly monitoring all of Babs’ transmissions and communications. He also bugs Oracle’s apartment headquarters with hidden cameras and audio recording devices. Batman will continue monitoring the Birds of Prey for the next year-plus. (Unknown to Batman, Oracle is aware of his spying and is actually spying on him as well!)

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

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

–Batman: Black and White #3 Part 4
Winter. Batman witnesses a father brutally chastising his young son atop a Gotham roof. The dad throws the boy’s pet cat off the roof to its death, prompting Batman to angrily intervene. Batman does his best to mend the relationship between father and son, but the dad is unhinged and goes on a long bogus “it ain’t my fault” rant. Batman is unable to help, but threatens the dad to change his ways. The Dark Knight also notifies Child Protective Services.

–Batman: Black and White #3 Part 5
December 24. Batman watches after a man that has just testified against the mob. Outside of the man’s home, a hired Santa Claus shows up for a visit with his young daughter, but Batman sees that the Santa is clearly a disguised hitman. The Dark Knights takes down the hitman. Afterward, not wanting to let down the girl, Batman dresses up as Santa and delivers the cheery Xmas Eve visit just as planned.

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


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  1. [1]CHIP: I think the “Superman RetroActive” special is non-canon. I spent several hours trying to figure out how it fit into Man of Steel #31, like writer Louise Simonson said it was supposed to, and ultimately concluded that the issue just does not fit into the tightly plotted Superman books during that time-frame. There are too many details that just do not fit together. So, if it can’t fit in with the Superman books, I feel it can’t fit into the Batman timeline. But, if it did fit, it would take place after issues with a cover date of March 1994, which would go right around “KnightQuest,” although I don’t think Bruce would be too concerned about issues in Metropolis during that crucial time period.

    COLLIN COLSHER: All valid points, Chip. This Retroactive issue was supposed to take place a full year after Doomsday killed Superman, if I’m not mistaken. However, it obviously cannot occur that late (as noted above). Its canonical status is debatable, but if it did fit (as you say), then it goes here (as you say)! And yes, Bruce is extremely busy with his own shit right at the moment, but we just have to assume that he can’t help but contact Clark when he receives a seismic alert. It is merely a ten second phone call after all.

  2. [2]COLLIN COLSHER: The duration of the “Knightfall-Knightquest-Knight’s End” epic originally spanned over a full-year, but due to editorial compression (i.e. time retcons), the original in-story length of time has been considerably shortened. After time compression, Jean-Paul Valley only winds up being Batman for four-and-a-half months.
  3. [3]COLLIN COLSHER: A quick note about Zero Hour, which has a numerical order that counts down instead of up. (This was mentioned in the Modern Age intro, but bears repeating here.) In 1994, some DC editors wanted Zero Hour to function the exact same way as the original Crisis, meaning they wanted a full reboot i.e. a blank historical slate leading up to 1994. 2015’s Convergence arc confirms this fact by officially referring to the chronology that spans Crisis #11 through Zero Hour as the “pre-Zero Hour timeline.” (Some folks that share this view use the term “Sigma timeline” instead.) While my Modern Age Batman chronology gives a blank slate for everything prior to Crisis #11-12, I have not done the same for Zero Hour. Since Zero Hour introduced Sliding-Time, it is not immune to its own physics, meaning that Zero Hour itself has been time-slid (from 1994 to 1998, then to 2000, and then to 2002). This means that—if Zero Hour were a true reboot—only stories published from 2002 to 2011 would be officially Modern Age canon, rendering everything prior to that as mere retroactive reference material. This is DC’s majority opinion, further meaning that the company promotes the idea of two separate continuities within the Modern Age: a pre-Zero Hour timeline (aka Sigma timeline) AND a post-Zero Hour timeline (aka pre-Flashpoint timeline aka Modern Age Proper). I don’t buy that for a second and neither should you. Yes, Zero Hour introduced Sliding-Time to the DCU, but it changed very little narratively. Almost every single retcon that Zero Hour caused—from Batman’s urban myth status to Joe Chill’s erasure to the further muddling of Hawkman’s origin—was quickly ignored and reversed anyway, thus rendering Zero Hour as the very definition of a soft reboot (and barely one at that). To reiterate: in my view, Zero Hour was never a real reboot—and, even if we were to label it as such, it would definitely fall into the soft reboot category anyway.
  4. [4]COLLIN COLSHER: A little more on the behind-the-scenes history of Zero Hour (and the lasting impact of Sliding-Time). We’ve already established that Batman’s “Early Period” is about ten years long. In Frank Miller’s Year One, originally published in 1988, Batman is 26-years-old. By including the ten year buffer in-between Miller’s origin story and ongoing post-Crisis arcs, DC editors realized that Batman was already in his 40s by 1990. Fearful of a future where all the other heroes were getting too old, and because there was money to be made and tons of great (and bad) tales yet to be told, DC Editors felt they needed to make Batman and company more contemporary, and they did so in 1994 with Zero Hour. Since not everyone can write a badass geriatric superhero the way Miller can, DC wanted to make sure that they dealt with the issue of superheroes getting too old too fast as soon as possible.

    In the Zero Hour storyline, Green Lantern Hal Jordan, having recently become Parallax, alters time, compacting the entire DCU timeline (at that point, about 18 years’ worth of stuff) into a smaller package. DC’s next move, just as they’d done in previous publishing eras, was to institute Sliding-Time, making the new compressed package lead up to the current calendar date, which, at the time, was 1994. The timeline then later slid up to 1998, then 2000, then 2002. To keep stories contemporary, editors kept sliding the entire DC history forward, continuously bringing the debuts of the heroes to a more current date. Technically, the year 2000 was the last time they officially slid the timeline (in Guide to the DC Universe 2000 Secret Files), but it is pretty apparent that the Zero Hour place-marker was shifted once more to 2002 based upon character ages and final Modern Age story-arc details. (Interestingly, in this sense, Zero Hour, the very Jonbar point that initiated Sliding-Time to the DCU in the first place, winds up sliding itself from 1994 to 2002.) Some scholars argue that DC slid its timeline beyond 2002, but that’s highly debatable and quite dubious. Our Modern Age timeline reflects 2002 as the final sliding-point, which is why, on our chronology, a 26-year-old Bruce debuts as Batman in 1988 and is 48-years-old at the end of the Modern Age in 2011.

    Sliding-Time is a sticky-wicket that sometimes makes for funky continuity. Marvel has used it since the 1960s, and for that very reason, it’s near impossible to create a detailed chronology for Marvel characters. You can compile reading orders for Marvel characters, but that’s about it. Often, and quite problematically, Sliding-Time will even cause the universal clock within a fictional world to move ahead of our “real life” calendar. Even more problematic, Sliding-Time totally shits on stories that use topical references, including a large bunch of late 80s Cold War/Reagan Era stories (“Ten Nights of the Beast” and every single issue of JLI stand out in my mind). Because of these reasons and more, I’ve often dreamed of the Big Two abandoning Sliding-Time for a “real life” time progression, but it’s something that will probably never happen.

  5. [5]COLLIN COLSHER: Detective Comics #678 acts as a prelude to Zero Hour. We know this because, in it, Batman still has knowledge that Joe Chill killed his parents. Since Zero Hour #0 retcons this fact (albeit only temporarily), this gives us the definitive placement of ‘tec #678. Note that when the ‘tec #678 time anomaly begins, Batman curiously says “More time anomalies.” This could imply that he’s already experienced one or heard about one occurring recently, and that’s a fine fanwank. However, it’s more likely that writer Chuck Dixon simply didn’t know that his Zero Hour tie-in would be the lead-in issue, thus causing his “more” line to ring erroneously. I’d simple ignore the line.
  6. [6]COLLIN COLSHER: Time Trapper’s metapower (emphasis on meta) is chronokinesis, the ability to not only travel through time, but to manipulate it as well. Furthermore, Time Trapper itself is a physical manifestation of a sentient alternate timeline. (Thank you for this ridiculous concept, Geoff Johns, who was clearly dropping Grant Morrison’s acid when he cooked up this Final Crisis retcon.) In any case, Time Trapper’s secret identity morphs, warps, and alters over time. The Time Trapper killed here is an adult Cosmic Boy. Due to Time Trapper’s chronokinesis, he/she/they never really dies—instead, he/she/they simply gets auto-resurrected with a new history. Following the murder in Zero Hour, the Time Trapper becomes the alt-Batgirl, then Lori Morning, then Superboy-Prime (which will be Time Trapper’s final incarnation on the Modern Age timeline).
  7. [7]CHIP: Like Catwoman #14, Robin #10 is tied closer to the end of Zero Hour because of the fade-to-white ending. Both Catwoman #14 and Robin #10 should be placed prior to Zero Hour #1 since nothing should go between the directly-connected issue #1 and issue #0. There is enough of a narrative gap between issue #2 and issue #1 (roughly six hours based on the captions) for Robin, who appears in both issues alongside Batman, to get back to Gotham to have his little Robin #10 adventure, which includes a young Dick Grayson. Robin going back home for a brief spell can be explained away simply as Batman sending Robin back to keep an eye on Gotham, but then Gotham starts disappearing, thus forcing Robin to return to the main action in New York.
  8. [8]COLLIN COLSHER: Much of Hank Hall’s time as Extant is later erased by Metron (as seen in JSA #14). However, we never learn which parts are specifically erased or kept intact. Thanks to the Rebirth Era’s Doomsday Clock #10, we know that all of Hank’s malicious actions in Zero Hour are indeed canon.
  9. [9]COLLIN COLSHER: 2006’s Infinite Crisis will eventually undo Zero Hour‘s retcons, returning things to as they were prior. Unfortunately, as a result, there are a lot of instances during the upcoming 1994 to 2006 publication period where we’ll have to ignore any references to the Zero Hour retcons—things like the Wayne murder case being unsolved, Batman being an urban myth, and a handful more. While the in-story reasons for the initial retcons and future return to status-quo are apparent (Hal Jordan’s cosmic meddling in Zero Hour and Alexander Luthor Jr’s cosmic meddling in Infinite Crisis, respectively), the wishy-washiness registers less like narrative and more like creators simply changing their minds or wanting to cancel-out prior creators. It’ll be many years past Infinite Crisis before we really begin to see creators making better in-story excuses for retcon flip-flopping, chiefly through narrative inclusion of things like temporary collective memory-blockage and/or temporary cosmic erasure.
  10. [10]COLLIN COLSHER: In 1994, DC’s timeline had Zero Hour at present day with the original Crisis occurring four years prior. My timeline reflects this by having Crisis about three-and-a-half years prior. The 1994 timeline also placed Batman’s debut only six years before Crisis. My timeline gives a full ten years between Batman’s debut and Crisis. This is because my timeline has the hindsight to take into consideration things not yet published in 1994, such as The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and a bunch of Legends of the Dark Knight material.
  11. [11]COLLIN COLSHER / CHIP: In SOTB #31, Robin mentions meeting the alt-Batgirl “a few nights ago.” Zero Hour #4-0, for Batman, only lasts 29 to 30 hours (according to editorial notes within the issues themselves), meaning that SOTB #31 has be a “residual aftereffect” follow-up, taking place here.
  12. [12]ODI / COLLIN COLSHER: Robin Vol. 2 #13 features Batman at possibly his coldest in regard to his fellow Bat-family members. A must read, especially since it concludes the highly underrated “Prodigal” story-arc as well. Also worth noting is that, while there are many artists credited with “Prodigal,” only penciler Phil Jimenez draws Dick’s Batman costume with the infamous spiky shoulder blade cape. No one else does this. So, it’s best to take those spiky shoulders as Jimenez’s bizarre artistic liberty.
  13. [13]COLLIN COLSHER: Batman: Gotham Nights II is technically also named Batman: Gotham Nights Vol. 2, as it is the follow-up to the previous Batman: Gotham Nights mini. The third volume of the series (Batman: Gotham Nights Vol. 3) gets released in 2019-2020 as Batman Giant Vol. 2, before being reprinted as Batman: Gotham Nights Vol. 3 in 2020.

8 Responses to Modern YEAR FOURTEEN (Part 2)

  1. Hi Collin,

    About the 2 tales, you placed between Knights End and Zero hour. I’m talking about Punisher/Batman Deadly knights and Gotham Nights II. In both tales, we see Alfred at some point, so between that time, Alfred was already gone and Bruce had no news from him for a while.

    Not sure exactly if that is really important detail, but just wanted to share the info with you, so you can work with it if you feel like it 🙂

    Great work btw, this website is a real gem. Kudos for all the work you put in this, you have my respect!

    • Hi Martin, thanks for being a dedicated fan of the site! I, along with a colleague/site-contributor, had those stories there primarily due to the fact that they both are def post Jean-Paul yet Batman wears his pre-Prodigal costume. However, I think you are right… Alfred’s appearances in both surely trump the costume illustration error. I’m going to move them post-Alfred’s return. Thanks!

  2. Marcelo Millicay says:

    Hey Collin, I think SotB #40-41 is before DC#687-688, since Gordon decides to run for mayor in SotB and Montoya goes to talk to him about this in DC.

  3. Pocok says:

    Dear Collin,

    How are you doing, hope everything is okay around there!

    I have yet another question from you: I know its not a Batman related story, but I can’t figure out where EXATLY Nightwing: Alfred’s Return can be placed. According to the wikia ('s_Return_Vol_1_1 ) its around The Search and Prodigal, but its quite vague placement.

    Thank you again in advance!

    (also, any news about the upcoming changelog? 🙂 )

    • Hi! Doing well. I think it goes shortly before Batman #521, which sees Alfred return to Gotham from his adventure with Alfred. And, Change Log is coming, I swear! I’ve been doing some other routine maintenance on the site. Hopefully, making it mobile friendly soon, and also adding pictures! But I haven’t forgotten. Coming in 2020, lol.

      • Pocok says:

        Hm, nice! Sorry if I seem (a bit) pushy about that topic lol, thank you for all the hard work you’ve been doing!

  4. James IV says:

    Hey there, hope you’re doing well, just a quick inquiry. You have Detective Comics #678 before Batman #511, which makes sense considering it leads directly into Zero Hour proper, but what do you make of Bruce’s thoughts in #678, stating “Mind reeling. A hallucination? A cruel trick by an enemy? More time anomalies.”

    The best I can figure was that he dealt with a small anomaly earlier, perhaps even that night, that erased itself from his mind until this one popped up, but just interested in your interpretation. Cheers!

    • Hey James, I wouldn’t dwell on it too much. I’m sure that Dixon didn’t know that his tie-in would wind up being the lead-in when he added that line. Sure, you can fanwank that time anomalies have begun, maybe Batman saw one, maybe he heard about it on the news. Or you can just add a caveat that this is the first time anomaly. I’ll add a note though! Thanks!

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