Although never directly identified as an arc, one of the ongoing themes
of Grant Morrison's run on Batman has been the appearance of three
different versions of Batman. The first Batman, a marksman, appears in
the first issue of the
& Son arc, shooting the Joker in the face. Later it is
revealed that the Batman was an ex-cop who Commissioner Gordon says just
"snapped." It isn't until
Batman #664 that the second Batman, a
Bane-like behemoth shows up and begins killing prostitutes. Once again,
Batman runs into the thin blue line. He is met with a wall of silence
when he challenges the officers who had been supplying the call girls to
The story briefly flashes forward into the future to find an older
Damian Wayne that has taken up the mantle of the bat and finds himself
battling a flame gun wielding third Batman (#666). Damian defeats the
third Batman in the future but it wouldn't be long until we saw the same
third Batman costume again. This time, in the present day, the third
Batman invades Gotham PD and takes Commissioner Gordon hostage,
demanding to speak with a Commissioner Vane (#672).
Bruce Wayne is skydiving with new flame Jezebel Jett when he notices the
Bat-Signal lighting up the sky. Bruce Wayne lands safely on the ground
away from Jezebel and calls Alfred, instructing him to tell Jezebel that
he was blown off course and would meet up with her later. Batman arrives
on the roof to find Gordon and the Third Batman waiting for him. Gordon
is shot and before Batman can step in, he too is shot in the chest
causing him to go into cardiac arrest. He is revived by the third Batman
and finds himself locked in a chair in an undisclosed location that
seems vaguely familiar.
As Batman slips in and out of consciousness he recalls his experience
with the Thogal ritual in the caves of Nanda Parbat (52)! He also begins
recalling other unsettling memories such as the death of his parents and
the hand that Bruce played in the death/suicide of Joe Chill (#673).
Meanwhile, Bat-Mite is seen throughout these flashbacks and in the
chamber itself. Finally Bruce recalls his experience in the sensory
depravation testing he did for the military (Batman #156). He realizes
that he is in the same chamber deep in the basement of Gotham PD and
suddenly everything clicks into place.
His fears are reaffirmed as the Third Batman begins torturing him and
recounting his own experience in the program under the twisted Dr. Simon
Hurt. The GCPD, under the command of Commissioner Vane during Gordon's
temporary demotion (Detective Comics #121), partners with the government to form an elite squad of back-up Batmen to step up should anything happen to the original. Through the psychological data derived from the experiments, Dr. Hurt determines that the driving force behind Batman is a major loss or tragedy in his life. In order to replicate those conditions, Dr. Hurt sets into action a series of heinous events in order to cause the amount of psychological scarring the police recruits would need to truly become the Bat. Batman deduces that his captor must be a man by the name of "Lane" whose family was believed to have been slaughtered by Satanists.
The recruits are all trained and the Bane-Batman (real name: Branca) is
given the Venom drug and Hugo Strange's Monster Serum. But the project is
eventually disbanded and the officers are all sworn to secrecy.
All of this exposition gives Batman ample time to dislocate his shoulder and escape from his arm shackle. He takes out Lane but is then attacked by Branca who has been lying in wait the entire time as a back-up.
While Batman is reliving his nightmare experiences in the basement of
GCPD HQ, Gordon is on the roof demanding the wall of silence be broken
and that Officer Farelli tell him what exactly happened during his leave
of absence. Farelli initially refuses but eventually caves in and leads
Gordon to the basement. Just before Branca can smash Batman's head in, the police burst in and Officer Farelli shoots Branca in the head. Lane escapes leaving Batman wondering if perhaps his years and years of training and planning could yet leave him unprepared for some ultimate evil, should it exist.
As Lane stands on the other side of the fence from a mentally and
physically exhausted and defeated Batman he tells him that it is too
late - Batman is finished!
Shortly thereafter, Bruce goes out to dinner with Jezebel and the two discuss their feelings for one another. Jezebel feels that Bruce is hiding something from her and tries to pry his secret out of him. When the two are abducted by the Ten-Eyed Man, Bruce (thinking he is in the cover of the shadows) delivers a vicious beating to the Ten-Eyed Man. Seeing Bruce in this state, Jezebel finally figures out that Bruce Wayne is Batman.