September 2002 to December 2002
Bat Year Fourteen Part Two begins in September with Zero Hour and ends around Christmas-time shortly after Underworld Unleashed. QUICK NOTE about Zero Hour: The editors of DC originally wanted Zero Hour to function the exact same way as the original Crisis, meaning they wanted there to be a blank historical slate leading up to 1994 (when this story was published). While our chronology gives a quasi-blank slate to the history of the DCU for everything prior to the original Crisis (published in 1986), I’m hesitant to do the same regarding Zero Hour. Not to mention, Zero Hour creates a sliding timeline, which last slid to at least 2002 (see “Intro to Year One Era” and “Intro to the Post Year One Era” for more details). I mean really, are DC editors trying to tell us that only stories published after 2002 are officially canon and the rest are just retroactive reference materials? I don’t buy that for a second. Okay, let’s begin Bat Year 14 Part 2!
ZERO HOUR: CRISIS IN TIME
——————–Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4-3
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #31
——————–Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #2
——————–Detective Comics #678
——————–Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #1
——————–Catwoman Vol. 2 #14
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #10
——————–Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #0
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #0
——————–Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #0
——————–Catwoman Vol. 2 #0
——————–Detective Comics #0
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #0
Whew. Zero Hour. Here we go. As Batman and Robin are chasing down 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! After consulting with Oracle (who is just as shocked to see a living mirror image of herself) and Superman, the heroes quickly learn that time itself is somehow being compressed and various alternate realities are merging into one timeline (hence the appearance of Batgirl, a pre-Crisis Earth-Two Alfred Beagle, alternate Batmen and Robins, young Dick, cavemen, dinosaurs, and many other anomalies). Meanwhile, Metron and our friend Waverider (remember him from Armageddon 2001?) show up bearing bad news; time is being slowly erased in a wave of destruction beginning from “the end of time” and working its way backwards. The senior members of the JSA are also reverted to their correct ages, putting most of them around 80-years-old. (A magical effect had kept them from aging since the 1940s). But who is responsible for all of this chaos? At first, the heroes think Hank Hall (formerly Hawk and the Monarch, now going by the name Extant) is responsible. However, the heroes are dumbfounded when they learn the true architect of this crisis is Hal Jordan (aka Parallax). As we already know, since the destruction of Coast City, Hal has gone insane and wishes to destroy the universe. Together, all of the superheroes unite and are able to defeat Hal and the timeline is restored, albeit with distinct differences. For Batman specifically, all of the alterations to his specific history will be later retconned back to what they where prior to Zero Hour (due to Infinite Crisis), so they needn’t even be mentioned! Okay, okay, I’ll mention them. First, even after fourteen years into his career, Batman was supposedly to have still been regarded as an urban legend by the mass populace, which was not only stupid, it was impossible. Second, Bruce was supposedly never to have known who his parents’ murderer was. Again, dumb. But like I said, these changes never happened as far as we are concerned since they were canceled-out years later. Editorially, Zero Hour is the event which makes all of the superheroes’ origins more recent and contemporary by advent of the “sliding time-scale” and subsequent compression of all DC Universe stories. See the “Intro to the Modern Age” for more details. Moving on, after the Crisis in Time is resolved, there are several zero issues which serve as jumping-on points for our characters as they continue on with the brand new DC timeline. Batman’s zero issues mainly consist of flashbacks to Bruce’s youth and to his training prior to becoming the Caped Crusader. Every flashback regarding Batman’s origins is pretty accurate, but we have to ignore any incorrect references to the Wayne murders or inconsistent references to Batman as an “urban legend.” For anyone wondering, in his zero issues Batman takes down a serial-killing mugger, corrupt media mogul Randolph Spire, the Stone Brothers, and some kidnappers.
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #32
——————–Detective Comics #679
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #11
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #33
——————–Showcase ’94 #12
——————–Detective Comics #680
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #12
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #34
——————–Detective Comics #681
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #13
Bruce decides he’s not quite ready to be Batman full-time yet and leaves Gotham in the capable hands of temporary Batman, Dick Grayson! The new Batman then meets with a pissed off Commissioner Gordon, who (once again) realizes immediately that there’s a new face under the mask. Dick tells him to chill out and makes quick work of Croc, Ventriloquist, Ratcatcher, Two-Face, and some deadly Blackgate escapees. Meanwhile, Tim juggles the busy life of being a masked superhero, spending time with an overbearing father, and trying to squeeze in dates with his girlfriend. In the last two issues, GCPD Detective MacKenzie Bock debuts and Robin takes down Steeljacket solo. We also see the emergence of the villainous “Troika” which consists of a bunch of Russian supervillains, but we’ll get to that in our next story-arc. The most important part of “Prodigal” is in the conclusion where Bruce returns to reclaim the mantle of the Bat and has an intense conversation with Dick (who becomes Nightwing again). Why did Bruce choose Jean-Paul over Dick? Well, because he knew Dick was his own man and didn’t want to assume that he would be the natural successor to the title. Where did Bruce go for the entire “Prodigal” run? We never really learn. Maybe he was soul searching. We do learn that Alfred has left his post indefinitely to do some soul searching of his own. Bruce also debuts the brand new all-black Bat-costume and we learn that Jean-Paul is shell-shocked, living in a homeless shelter. 
–The Batman Chronicles #1, Part 2
Anarky gives a lesson in anarchy to his fellow juvie-hall mates. This story takes place here because when we next see Lonnie he will have been out on probation for almost two months already.
——————–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 Col. Vega, Romana, the Dark Rider, and KGBeast. Wait, Troika means Triad, which means “three”, which means that Vega, Romana, and KGBeast screw-over the Rider and kick him out of the team into the waiting arms of Batman. Eventually, Batman and Robin are able to stop the Troika from detonating a nuclear device, but they can’t prevent Harvey Bullock from getting shot and going into a coma. By the way, Gordon references Batman’s initial encounter with the Dark Rider as occurring before the fall of the Soviet Union. The only year Batman was active before the fall of Red Communism was Bat-Year One. We should disregard Gordon’s Soviet comments and place the Dark Rider’s debut instead in Bat-Year Eleven.
–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #36
Black Canary’s friend is killed by Street Demonz so she comes to Gotham and teams-up with Batman. Also, while Bullock is laid-up (after getting shot by KGBeast), Bock becomes Montoya’s new partner.
Jean-Paul is still living in a homeless shelter and is still crazy. Batman finally gets around to feeling a bit responsible for the former Az-Bats and goes to check up on him. After helping him escape from a burning building, Bruce advises Jean-Paul to travel to Europe and settle his unfinished business with the organization that “programmed” him in the first place, the Order of St. Dumas. Bruce then gives Jean-Paul his old Azrael costume, detailed information and maps regarding the Order, one hundred thousand dollars in cash, and access to a bank account with several MILLION dollars in it. You heard me, Bruce just gave Jean-Paul over a million clams and then some! If I was Azrael, I’d say the hell with St. Dumas, and hop a permanent flight to the Caribbean! But, no, Azrael has a mission and the avenging angel departs for Europe.
–Batman #516-517 (“SLEEPER”)
Batman takes his new grim attitude and captures both the mind-controlled sleeper agent known as Sleeper and her handler Remmy. There are a lot of references to CIA sleep-deprivation testing and MK Ultra drugging in this story. We also learn that Jean Paul’s one-time foe Mekros underwent the same CIA brainwashing that is applied on Sleeper. In an interesting note, Bruce speaks in detail with an expert in the field of sleep studies. I know this is “back-engineering,” but we can easily assume Bruce is worried about his own sleep deprivation tests from years earlier (as well he should be). Other items of note: 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, Detective Bock gets his nickname “Hardback” from the recently awakened Bullock. Third, Bruce meets odd socialite Madolyn Corbett.
–NOTE: Guy Gardner, who has been without any super powers since the events of Zero Hour (no more power ring), regains a whole new set of metahuman powers when he discovers that he has Vuldarian “Warrior” DNA within his body.
–Guy Gardner: Warrior #29
Guy Gardner opens a bar for superheroes only! Nearly every DC character from Ambush Bug to Zebra Man (ok, not actually Zebra Man) shows up for the grand opening. Hell, even Swamp Thing is there! Guy gets in a fight with Captatin Atom and Lobo. I’m surprised Batman even shows up for this thing.
–Detective Comics #683-684
The Penguin hires statistical criminal genius known as The Actuary to plan a Batman-proof heist for him. The Actuary’s plan? A daytime robbery of the Gotham flower show! Batman is still able to stop the burglary, but the Actuary takes the fall for the Penguin, who emerges as a legitimate casino owner (a title he will hold for many, many years).
Jean-Paul confronts the Order of St. Dumas and learns that the mantle of Azrael has already been passed on to a new warrior. Jean Paul battles the new Azrael and seemingly kills him to reclaim sole possession of the title. However, as seen through flashback in Azrael #10, we learn that the magical villain Abra Kadabra saves the alternate Azrael and makes him an offer from his employer, the demon Neron. Kadabra explains that in a month or so Neron, King of Hell, will arrive on Earth to wreak havoc. In exchange for saving his life, the alternate Azrael must keep Batman occupied upon Neron’s arrival. Kadabra gives him a facsimile of Jean-Paul’s armored Batman costume and bids him farewell. Meanwhile, Jean-Paul’s further investigations into the Order of St. Dumas lead to his first meeting with Ra’s Al Ghul. Oracle updates Bruce and Tim to let them know how Azrael is doing. Bruce tells Tim that Ra’s is the only man he truly fears.
–Flash Vol. 2 #100
Flash tangles with Kobra and his serpent cult. Batman and Robin (along with a bunch of other superheroes) make cameos in this special issue #100 for the Fastest Man Alive.
–Robin 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 went insane, so he kidnaps a bunch of people and puts on a comedy show at the massive, vacant North Gotham structure known as Mercey Mansion. Of course, people get their heads blown-off at a Joker comedy special, so Batman attempts to intervene. Before he has the chance, Wilde Norton aka Wild attempts to kill the Joker. Turns out Wild’s family was tortured and killed by the Joker years ago. After Wild shoots Joker in his hand and leg, Batman is able to clean up the mess and apprehend them both. Dr. Arkham shows up to personally oversee the Joker’s incarceration and declares that the new Arkham Asylum will move into Mercey Mansion. (If you didn’t already know, Arkham has yet to be rebuilt since its destruction at the hands of Bane). NOTE: Mercey Mansion was originally 20 miles outside of Gotham. However, retcons place Mercey Mansion well within the city limits, a mere two miles from downtown.
–Batman: GCPD #1-4
This is a special GCPD Major Crimes ensemble mini-series. When an undercover Montoya is held captive by the terrorist organization known as Cell Six, the rest of the force bands together to bring her home safely. Everyone (including Kitch, Bullock, Petit, Sarah, Jim, Hardback, and Detective Kevin Soong) is highlighted in this storyline. Think of this as a very early precursor to Gotham Central.
Black Mask still hates Bruce Wayne with a passion so he sends Johnny LaMonica aka the new Black Spider to kill someone at random at Bruce’s masquerade ball. Black Spider fails, but it doesn’t matter because he’s secretly working against Black Mask on behalf of rival crime-lord Ottoman Turk. Meanwhile, Mayor Krol is coming down hard on Gordon since the former’s re-election campaign is going poorly. Before we can continue, we have a short interlude when King Snake returns in “War of the Dragons.”
WAR OF THE DRAGONS
——————–Detective Comics #685
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #17
——————–Detective Comics #686
King Snake is back and in charge of the Asian mob in Gotham, which leads to a Chinatown gang war between Snake’s Triads and General Tsu’s Shahs. Batman and Robin get stuck in the middle of a huge battle involving Snake, Lynx, the assassin known as Silver Monkey, and a ton of Asian gangs. Eventually, Nightwing and Huntress show up to help, but Batman denies assistance from the latter. Snake is finally apprehended, the gang war ends, and Lynx takes control of the entire Chinatown mob.
While the War of the Dragons ended positively for Batman, it was a bad stain on Jim Gordon’s reputation in the eyes of Mayor Krol. Krol is so livid (and nervous about the upcoming election) that he demotes Jim and replaces him with his estranged wife, Sarah. Sarah Essen-Gordon becomes the brand new Gotham City Police Commissioner! A disgruntled Jim brutally arrests thug Tommy Mangles and then immediately resigns from the GCPD! Batman then easily takes down Black Spider, but Black Mask gets away. Because of Black Spider’s failure, he winds up in Blackgate with a “web” of scars strewn across his face, courtesy of his ousted employer Ottoman Turk. Bullock also goes on a movie-date, which ends tragically (as most things in Gotham City do) with a mugging and the fatal shooting of his date.
–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #39
The new commissioner Gordon makes 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 lame attempt to make the tours seem more “adventurous” or Alan Grant forgot that gators don’t live up North. Bleh. Starman Vol. 2 #17 also has a flashback to this issue that shows Batman fighting Grundy.
–Batman: Gotham Nights II #1-4
Someone has been sabotaging an old island amusement park in Gotham Harbor known as Little Paris. Batman orders Tim to visit the park with his friends to see what he can find. Meanwhile, Batman visits the park pretending to be an undercover Gotham Gazzette reporter posing as a maintenance man. After another ride “accident,” a corrupt city councilman sends in his hired goon Jobe Belden to straighten things out, much to the chagrin of Batman. After interrogating the councilman and the owner of the park, Batman deduces that Belden has been acting alone as the saboteur, collecting big bribes all the while. When confronted, Belden blows up a gas tanker and the whole park burns to the ground. Belden dies in the inferno along with the park owner and his dad (whose complicated pasts are both revealed) and a misogynistic racist character (who learns a lesson and has a change of heart in his final moments). The story ends with the daughter of the latter deceased, who comes to terms with her rough Gotham life and her complex interracial relationships with two guys. Ummm, so yeah, Batman: Gotham Nights II is a Batman story, but it also kinda isn’t.
–Detective Comics #687-688
Cap’n Fear and his gang o’ pirates attack Gotham Bay and capture the Dark Knight! I’m not joking. Robin stops the pirates and Batman is able to escape shark infested waters unscathed. The Cap’n then disappears without a trace.
–The Batman Chronicles #1, Part 1
Ex-cop Jim Gordon meets and teams-up with Huntress to stop some train hijackers.
–The Batman Chronicles #1, Part 3
Batman witnesses the sad, short life of a False Face Society gang member as he continues to hunt for the fugitive Black Mask.
–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #40-41 (“ANARKY”)
The prophet of doom Malochia wishes to blow up Gotham. Batman and Robin team-up with Anarky and Joe Potato to stop him. “Anarky” is a wonderful story-arc which shows just how underrated of a character Lonnie Machin really is. These two issues also function as an homage to Batman’s “Dirigible of Doom” case from Bat Year One as Malochia attempts to use his own Dirigible of Doom to transport his deadly bombs over the city. Anarky is able to crash the zeppelin into the harbor, but seemingly at the cost of his own life. (We know this isn’t the case because we’ll see him again). While all of the craziness is going on, Jim Gordon decides to run for mayor! Retcon corrections in these issues: Lonnie is supposedly 15-years-old in this storyline, but he should only be 14 at this point. Also, Malochia makes a prediction that the world will end in 1999. Since we are already in 2002, we should disregard this. He makes more sense as a 2012 kinda guy anyway. And finally, District Attorney Marion Grange isn’t only just now entering into the mayoral election race. We’ve known about her candidacy for quite some time now.
Alfred finally returns home! The reunion, however, is short-lived as Croc breaks out of the new Arkham at Mercy Mansion. Batman tracks Croc all the way to the swamps of New Orleans where we learn the latter has been summoned by Swamp Thing! Swamp Thing easily restrains Batman and explains that Croc isn’t responsible for his 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.
——————–Batman Annual #22
——————–JLA Annual #2
Someone has stolen the old Jean-Paul armored Az-Bat costume from Bruce’s secret storage unit. The perpetrator wears the costume and wreaks havoc all over town. You will never guess who is beneath the Bat-helmet. It’s the ghost of Abattoir. Yes, for some reason, Abattoir’s spirit has been trapped in a state of limbo ever since his death. Batman is not only able to exorcise Abattoir’s spirit in this issue, he also delivers a baby. Let me repeat that. He exorcises a ghost and delivers a baby. Similar hauntings occur across the DCU during this Annual crossover series. In the JLA Annual Felix Faust accidentally re-animates the ancient evil wizard Hermes Trismegistus who tries to eliminate all life on Earth. Obviously, the good guys stop the zombie wizard, but his spirit secretly hides within Faust. NOTE: This JLA Annual is meant to take place during a later time. However, it’s a package deal and the Batman “Ghosts” story fits in here perfectly. If the JLA Annual does indeed take place here, keep in mind that the tattered remnants of the JLA should be led by Wonder Woman, and the JL Task Force should still be headed by J’onn. Superman and Batman just assist on this case.
Batman reluctantly teams-up with Etrigan to solve some Occult-themed murders. With Etrigan’s assistance Batman visits Abattoir in Hell. (Abattoir’s ghost was exorcised and sent to Hell in the previous “Ghosts” story-arc). Oh, and Halloween is simply topical in this story. We must ignore the holiday, since it isn’t that time of year.
–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #42
Johnny Lynx was the former lead-singer of The Missing Lynx until he fell into a coma and his band-mates robbed him blind. Now he’s back and he gets revenge by killing everyone in the band. Batman and Robin try to catch him, but he gets away. The big reveal at the conclusion? Johnny is a cyborg. Weird. He will show up in our next story with his new super-villain name Feedback. Batman and Robin won’t be far behind.
–The Batman Chronicles #2
Robin talks down the crazed Feedback and the cops arrest him. Then Harold catches some burglars while shopping downtown. Yes, Harold! And Commissioner Sarah Essen-Gordon reflects upon her strained marriage, the mayoral election, and Batman among other things.
–Detective Comics #689-690
Firelfly escapes from Blackgate, joins the False Facers, and goes after his rival, Firebug. Eventually, Firefly is apprehended and Firebug seemingly perishes in a fire. We’ll learn much later that Firebug uses the fact that everyone thinks he is dead as an opportunity to quietly retire from 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 “normal crime” without clue-giving, but in the end can’t kick the habit and winds up back in Arkham. Speaking of Arkham, Zsasz gives his origin story to a doctor, but who knows if 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 hitches a train and comes 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 GF Ariana. And last but not least, Tim infiltrates a criminal teenage ninja training camp in order to shut it down. Dick infiltrated a similar camp way back in his first year as Robin.
Morpheus aka The Sandman aka Dream of the Endless has recently died, allowing Daniel Hall to become the new Dream. Many of Earth’s superheroes, including Batman, attend Morpheus’ wake (although they will do so only in dreams and have no recollection of it afterward).
–NOTE: Joker has an unfriendly encounter with Superman (as seen in Action Comics #714) after which the Man of Steel ships him back to Arkham. However, Joker immediately escapes from Arkham yet again, as we will see him free in the upcoming Underworld Unleashed. These seemingly ridiculous stretches of constant break-outs shouldn’t be surprising since the new Arkham at Mercey Mansion has little to no security. In fact, in a month or two, we will see Two-Face escape three times in one week! I know, it’s stupid, but that is just how it is.
——————–Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 1
Neron, the King of Hell, is ready to enact an evil plan. With help from his servant Kadabra, Neron tricks five of Flash’s top rogues into setting off large explosions, which not only kill the rogues, but open a Hellmouth which unleashes the lord of evil onto Earth. But we’ll get back to that in a little bit.
THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE Part 1
——————–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #43
This is part one of “The Secret of the Universe.” What is the secret of the universe? Drum roll, please. And the answer is… survival! (and also bizarre abstract art by Barry Kitson, apparently). Some South Pacific Islanders hire Catwoman to retrieve parts of Catman’s cape and cowl, which Thomas Blake had stolen from their tribe. Meanwhile, Ratcatcher escapes from Blackgate and terrorizes Gotham. Batman sets out to stop all three, but before he can apprehend anyone he gets a call from Robin in Azrael #10.
UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED Continued
Az-Bats is back! Sort of. This issue is a continuation of Underworld Unleashed. Remember a month ago in Azrael #4 when Kadabra saved the alternate Azrael’s life in exchange for a favor? If you don’t, this comes straight from a flashback in this very issue, so don’t worry about digging through your back-issues. Anyway, Kadabra told him that Neron was coming, and guess what? Neron is here (as we saw in Underworld Unleashed #1 Part 1). In exchange for his life, the alternate Azrael was given a facsimile of Jean Paul’s armored Bat-costume and told to distract Batman upon Neron’s arrival. So, here we see the alternate Azrael dressed up as Az-Bats showing up in Gotham to distract Bruce while Neron begins assembling the world’s 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.
THE SECRET OF THE UNIVERSE Conclusion
——————–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.
UNDERWORLD UNLEASHED Conclusion
——————–Underworld Unleashed #1 Part Two
——————–Detective Comics #691-692
——————–Robin Vol. 2 #23-24
——————–Underworld Unleashed – Batman: Devil’s Asylum #1
——————–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 supervillain community together. How did this gathering go unnoticed? Well, Batman was conveniently distracted by the fake Az-Bats, Catwoman, Catman, and Ratcatcher. Meanwhile, Superman had been whisked away to another galaxy where he currently remains (see Superman: Man of Steel #50). Thus, Supes is out of the picture entirely. Neron’s plan? To offer every single DCU super-villain something special in exchange for his or her soul. Dozens of villains accept. Here are the deals which affect Batman the most: Lex Luthor, whose cloned body had deteriorated so badly he was in a vegetative state, trades his soul for a brand new healthy body; Blockbuster sells his soul for genius level intelligence; Killer Moth trades his soul to become the actual moth monster known as Charaxes; and many other villains gain significantly increased metahuman abilities in exchange for their souls. Spellbinder turns down the deal, but is immediately murdered by his girlfriend who accepts the offer in his place, thus becoming the new Spellbinder. Oh, and of course, the Joker sells his soul for nothing more than a box of Cuban cigars. Seriously. Notably, Poison Ivy, Riddler, and Scarecrow all turn down the deal. Before Batman and Robin are even aware of Neron’s presence, they square-off with and take down the new Spellbinder and Charaxes. (The debuting Lock-Up is actually responsible for 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 freaks-out and turns over the antidote. By the end of issue #525, Jim Gordon has dropped out of the mayoral race, Madolyn Corbett has shown up at Wayne Manor acting very bizarrely on multiple occasions, and Batman puts Mr. Freeze back in jail. In Hell, Luthor and Joker learn that Neron’s goal is to acquire enough soul-power to take over the entire world. Meanwhile, Neron makes his presence known to the world’s heroes by offering each of them seductive deals. For example, Neron offers the life of Jason Todd back in exchange for Bruce’s soul. This is a clever offer on Neron’s part, because he surely would have known that Jason was already alive again at this point. Bruce denies the devil anyway. Neron offers Oracle super powers and the ability to walk again in exchange for her services as Hell’s librarian. He doesn’t even ask for her soul, but Babs still turns him down. As Neron collects more souls his power and influence grow exponentially, thrusting the world 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 from stealing nuclear weapons. Separately, the rest of the world’s superheroes travel to Hell to confront Neron face-to-face. They are only able to defeat Neron after Captain Marvel accepts a deal with the devil. However, Marvel’s boyish soul is too pure and when the King of Hell cannot accept, the deal is broken and all of the souls are released and returned to their rightful owners, thus ending his reign of terror. In the end Neron winds up giving out a whole bunch of free stuff and winds up with no souls at all.
Shondra Kinsolving gets kidnapped once again by people who want to abuse her healing powers. Batman and Azrael go after her.
–Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey #1
Oracle hires Black Canary to investigate a string of eco-terrorist bombings all targeted at business mogul Nick Devine. Black Canary (along with the queen of the Asian mob, Lynx) travels to Africa and is able to reveal that Devine is actually behind the bombings and is collecting on insurance fraud. Because the mission is such a success, Oracle decides to send Black Canary to Santa Prisca to put a stop to a White slavery ring. This is the official beginning of Oracle’s covert-ops team of rotating members known as the Birds of Prey. Bruce Wayne makes a cameo in this issue.
–Birds of Prey: Manhunt #2-3
Black Canary and Huntress team-up in an attempt to apprehend metahuman thief Archer Braun, with whom they have both previously been romantically involved. Catwoman also joins in the chase after Braun steals from her. Oracle is in constant contact with the three ladies as the “manhunt” escalates. It isn’t long before Batman and Robin join in the chase as well, immediately causing Catwoman and Huntress to avoid being seen by the Dynamic Duo at all costs. Oracle eventually convinces Batman to turn the case completely over to her (without telling him who she is working with, knowing full-well Batman wouldn’t approve). Bats is a bit puzzled, but ultimately trusts Barbara and backs-off. The three ladies chase Braun all the way to Russia where they fight Lady Shiva and Braun dies in a fire.
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 returns from a trip to Kravia, having confirmed what he already knew: His parents were murdered by Tony Zucco and the link to the Prince of Kravia was a false lead. Upon returning to Gotham, Nightwing meets with Batman and they have a serious heart-to-heart about his upbringing, family, and future.
–Batman: Shadow of the Bat #45
Bruce and Alfred discover a corpse that dates back to the 19th century while digging in the Wayne Manor wine cellar! Bruce and Alfred (and Bullock) soon learn that the body belongs to Bruce’s Great Great Great Uncle Joshua Wayne. Through flashback we learn that Bruce’s Great Great Great Grandfather Solomon Wayne and Solomon’s brother Joshua used the Batcave as a key stop in aiding runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad! In the 1860s Joshua was killed by Southern bounty hunters and his body went missing, until now.
-  COLLIN COLSHER: Much of Hank Hall’s time as Extant is later completely erased by Metron (as seen in JSA #14). However, we never learn what parts are specifically erased or kept intact. Therefore, we can assume that all of Hank’s actions in Zero Hour are canon. ↩
-  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. ↩
-  COLLIN COLSHER: Bullock is shot and goes into a coma in the “Troika” story arc earlier in the year. There isn’t a dramatic re-awakening scene in any book. However, in Batman #516 it is stated that Bullock has recently woken up (and one of the first things he does is talk to Bock, bestowing upon him the nickname “Hardback”). In the “Joker” arc (SotB #37-38) the Gordons visit Bullock, who is still recovering in the hospital. Bullock is sleeping, but the nurse makes a statement that Bullock has already awoken from his coma prior to this. ↩
-  DRAKUL: Alfred has been convinced to return to the States by Nightwing in the recent Nightwing: Alfred’s Return #1. ↩
-  ODI: This is the first story featuring Alfred that takes place following his return from hiatus. ↩