For those keeping track of DC’s so-called Trinity of Evil — and you know that Popverse is very eagerly amongst that number — should pay special attention to Batman #140, which features an event that feels particularly significant for future events. Yes, this means that spoiler warnings are in place should you choose to read on. Consider yourself continuing at your own peril.
Meet the other ultimate Batmen
The second part of ‘Mind Bomb’ sees Bruce Wayne face off against a multiverse’s worth of the Zur-En-Arrh Batman inside his own mind, while the Zur-En-Arrh Batman is in control of Bruce Wayne's body in the real world, attacking — and perhaps even killing — the Joker. Yes, attacking and maybe killing the Joker, because the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is, at least in his own estimations, the ultimate Batman… or, rather, one ultimate Batman, in a run of stories by writer Chip Zdarsky that is very deliberately exploring the limits of Batman as a character.
Zdarsky's run started with ‘Failsafe,’ in which Bruce Wayne had to deal with another ultimate Batman — a robot he’d designed (well, that the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh designed; it’s a little complicated) to activate in case he ever went rogue. To say that Failsafe was good at its job is an understatement; it defeated both the Justice League and the collective Bat-family, and was only stopped when it believed that Batman was dead.
At the climax of ‘Mind Bomb,’ Bruce Wayne is victorious… maybe. (The fate of the Joker is left unclear, which I suspect is something we'll come back to at a later point.) Certainly, he beats the multiversal Zur-En-Arrh Batmen in his mind, and in doing so, drives “his” Zur-En-Arrh Batman out of his body… but that turns out not to be quite the victory it appeared to be, as he and the reader alike discover where the Zur-En-Arrh Batman has moved on to: the robotic Failsafe body.
“This wasn’t supposed to be the plan for a long time, Bruce,” the combined Zur-En-Arrh Batman/Failsafe explains. “We were only supposed to activate the Terminus Project once our body was weak… unable to go on. But I needed somewhere to go, didn’t I? Somewhere for the new Batman to call home.”
Wait, who is The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh?
The first time anyone met the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was in 1958’s Batman #113, by France Herron and Dick Sprang, where he was introduced as the Batman from another planet who teamed up with Bruce Wayne to save the day on his home world. (“Zur-En-Arrh” being the name of that planet.) The story ended with it being deliberately unclear whether or not Zur-En-Arrh, or the Batman from that world, was even real.
Half a century later, that question was unexpectedly answered by writer Grant Morrison, whose run as primary Batman writer deliberately referenced multiple elements of the character’s past — including the revelation that the “Batman of Zur-En-Arrh” was actually what was described as a “back-up personality” created by Bruce Wayne for situations where he (Wayne) was ever mentally incapacitated. Unfortunately, that persona proved to be too violent and unstable for his own good, being described by Zur-En-Arrh himself as Batman "when you take Bruce out of the equation."
During Chip Zdarsky’s run as Batman writer, that last element has come to the fore: the idea of a Batman so single-mindedly focused on Batman’s “mission” that everything else — most importantly, empathy of any kind — becomes a secondary consideration. During Morrison's storyline, the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh retreated into Bruce Wayne's subconsciousness when it wasn't needed anymore... but what happens when he's done hiding in the background?
Who is the ultimate Batman?
So, what happens now that a Batman that lacks… well, humanity, really, has taken on an invincible robot form that has previously defeated the world’s greatest superheroes?
Putting aside the obvious threat of, 'Well, now the ultimate Batman and the other ultimate Batman have teamed up, and they're both bad guys' there’s something noteworthy about this from a Trinity of Evil perspective: we’ve already been told who is in the Trinity: Zur-En-Arrh, Amanda Waller, and the Brainiac Queen. That last character becomes oddly more important now that we know Zur-En-Arrh has opted to become a robot, in that Brainiacs are traditionally cyborgs. Could their shared reliance on technology be a factor in the future? Could this be what initially brings the Trinity together, in fact…?
Batman #140 is available now, propelling the Trinity of Evil storyline into 2024.
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