WRITER: Alan Grant
PENCILER: Jim Fern
INKER: Steve Leialoha
COLORIST: Adrienne Roy
LETTERER: John Costanza
SYNOPSIS: It's 1991 and Batman is second-guessing himself. He's begun to feel tired, as if his age is creeping up on him and his time is running out. As he swoops down to save what appears to be a homeless man from a mugging, Batman tries his best to keep these thoughts to the back of his mind but he finds it difficult. With the muggers defeated, Batman reaches down to help the homeless man up.
CONTACT! A disguised Waverider begins to view Batman's future timeline as he recounts to the reader his own future past and the tyranny that is Monarch's rule.
In 2001, after years of study and rehabilitation the Joker has been declared sane. With his new-found sanity, the Joker decides he will host his own late-night talk show. However, not everything is calm in Gotham City. Several members of Batman's rogues gallery are turning up dead. The prime suspect? Batman. All these deaths cause Tim Drake to decide to quit being Robin and instead run for political office. In an encounter with the Penguin a stray batarang hits Penguin, causing him to lose his grip and fall to his death. All evidence points to Batman who has no alibi, which leads to his arrest.
In prison, Batman refuses help the help of people like Tim Drake, Jim Gordon and others in hopes that the judicial system will work, for good or ill. Throughout Gotham, Catwoman uses her own special skills to find evidence to help prove Batman's innocence and discover the real culprit. As she works on his behalf, Batman has a surprise visitor in the form of Anarky, who has decided that Gotham needs Batman more than it needs him. The two trade places and Batman escapes just as Tim, who has returned to being Robin, arrives to break Batman out.
The two encounter Catwoman, who reveals the Joker is the one who set this whole plan in motion just before she dies in Batman's arms. Bruce swears that one way or not this whole thing ends tonight! The fight with the Joker does indeed happen and in the struggle a mistake by the Joker causes him to electrocute himself. As Batman kneels over the corpse he allows himself a mad cackle of what appears to be enjoyment.
Shift back to 1991 where Waverider reveals himself to Batman and tells him of the future involving Monarch. Waverider tells Bruce that he doesn't appear to become Monarch. The two part ways, both saying they still have much work left to do. Batman no longer feels quite so old/tired, saying that instead now time is on his side.
MY THOUGHTS: Alan Grant's story is nothing short of wonderful. The plot alone is an amazing concept. Batman so self-aware that one day he will no longer be able to handle being a vigilante leading into a future where he is not entirely certain he didn't actually cause the Penguin's death is easily one of the more human Batman stories. With the pacing and the background details of Alan Grant, this story excels.
There are a lot of things going on not involving Batman directly that help make this story memorable. The Joker's TV show antics are just a small portion of the fun. He releases a non-lethal version of his Joker Gas that causes audiences to smile and laugh for just a minute or so before wearing off. Meanwhile, Killer Croc has established himself as a professional wrestler who somehow manages to wrestle actors/athletes dressed as Batman and Robin every week. He is very popular with prisoners.
Catwoman's loyalty and devotion to Batman comes across as stronger than Robin's. The reader can see that in this story she genuinely loves Batman instead of seeing him as some sort plaything. Batman's rage over her death is very human and helps to show a connection between the two.
The art is almost perfect. Batman is drawn incredibly well and it's wonderful to see adult Tim in the Robin costume. The fashions of 2001 (or at least what Tim wears) seem to be a mix of traditional sci-fi movies and bad early 90's fashion. Somehow the art team makes it work.
I must applaud the art team bringing back the multicolored portion of Waverider's powers we saw in Armageddon 2001 #1. Something about the bright lights and colors adds a level of enjoyment to the character. The only art aspect I have to complain about it that sometimes Catwoman's mask is drawn in a way that makes her look more like Man-Bat.
Batman's laughter near the end of the future story is disturbing. It seems to be a reference to his laughing in The Killing Joke, but this situation seems much more disturbing. I realize I am using this word a lot, but I'm not sure there's another way to easily describe it. The whole scene just sets the story off-kilter a bit.
This portion of the Armageddon 2001 story is yet another well-done entry. A solid plot with an excellent framing device coupled with great art make for a wonderful comic story. Unlike many of the other chapters in this crossover, this could easily work for a standalone Batman tale with just enough information about Waverider and his mission to fill in any missing gaps. A true treat by far.
Where will Waverider's quest take him to next? Only time will tell, but perhaps it is time for him to expand his search and increase his efforts.