Hidden Gems – The Last Batman Story

With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in long boxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.

batmanannual15

Written by Alan Grant; Artwork by Jim Fern, Steve Leialoha, Adrienne Roy

In 1991, DC Comics ran a crossover that spanned over a dozen titles worth of Annuals plus various minis, it was called Armageddeon 2001. I can already hear La Bamba from the Tonight Show Band warbling the infamous “in the year two thousand… in the year two thousaaaaaaaaaand“.

The premise of Armageddeon 2001 was that a time traveller named Waverider came back 50 years from the future to discover the identity of the hero that would become the tyrannical despot Monarch.

monarchs

Hank Hall Fans to the Left, Venture Bros Fans to the Right.

The story opens with Bats preventing the torture and murder of a homeless man and with a simple outstretched hand to help the bum to his feet we are thrust a decade into the future to glimpse “The Last Batman Story”. Here the Joker is declared sane and given a talkshow, Killer Croc is a washed up pro-wrestler, a street hardened Catwoman is still prowling rooftops, and the rest of Bat’s rogues gallery are being bumped off in the most grisly of ways. Literally hot off the heels of 86′s The Dark Knight Returns we find Tim Drake has retired as Robin to run for political office leaving a graying Bruce Wayne and an aged Alfred alone continuing the good fight in an even darker, ever brooding Gotham City.

Killer Moth and Scarface are bottom barrel. Whoever did this was doin' Bruce a favor.

Killer Moth and Scarface are bottom barrel. Whoever did this was doin' Bruce a favor.

With Batman as the prime suspect of the rash of villainous murders things go south fast for the Dark Knight Detective when The Penguin takes a nasty spill off of a fire escape during a foiled heist. Cobblepot dies in the street leaving Batman with his only choice but to turn himself in for the Penguin’s Murder. Its a race against time as Catwoman, Drake, and Anarky go out of their way to try to free or prove the vigilante’s innocence, and Joker left to his own devices utilizes his just as crazed but more public-friendly persona to get Batman to unmask on his talkshow before his date with the electric chair. The former Clown Prince of Crime, during a phone call requesting the interview, taunts Batman with The Penguin’s last words prompting Bats to agree to it.

The Coolest Batman Picture Ever... When I Was Eight. Screw That Noise Its Still Cool!

The Coolest Batman Picture Ever When I Was Eight. Wait... Screw That Noise Its Still Cool!

With a quick costume swap with Anarky before the interview and Tim Drake’s return to the mantle of Robin, Catwoman discovers the Joker is behind the entire plot and begins to face off with his goons that have been behind the murders and the frame up of Batman. The newly reunited Dynamic Duo race to Joker’s offices to find Catwoman being overwhelmed by the Joker’s minions who happen to be (prepare yourselves) a pair of government grown Mutant Babboon Commandos.

I Shit You Not.

I Shit You Not.

Batman and Robin make quick work of Catwoman’s attackers, and in her dying moments Selina reveals all that she learned before sharing a dying kiss. Bats declares “This is it, Joker! TONIGHT – IS – IT!” and tears off after The Joker, literally shrugging off a hail of bullets, taking down a gunship with his swingline alone, and tearing into any and every thug that gets in his way.

Batman: Fucking Your Shit Up On The Fly since 1939

BATMAN: Foiling Carefully Laid Out Plans (On The Fly) since 1939

Not one to listen to anyone, especially Robin and or reason, Bats locks Robin inside of Joker’s master control room so he can have his final duel with The Joker. It does not end well for the villain as he gasses Batman and attempts to stab him through the heart only for… well just look at the damn picture below. Who's Laughin' Now? The story ends with Batman being brought back to the present day, and the hobo revealing his true identity to Batman and his purpose for seeking him out. We learn that while Batman has all the factors that could very well give birth to the Monarch but instead his lifeline runs true and that only the truly evil have to fear him. The End. While the story itself is diluted by the fact it ran through pretty much every major title DC was running in the early 90′s, it stands out by showcasing everything thats made Batman great over the decades: his varied rogue’s gallery, a fleshed out supporting cast, the civilian lives he has touched through his actions, the unending war on crime, and his unwavering code that seperates him from the those that violate the sanctity of society’s rules. These are what make Batman great and yet this story also features concepts that anchor this larger than life figure to a fictional world with over-the-top concepts like Mutant Baboon Commandos, Time Travel, and a masked vigilante not only voluntarily allowing himself to be questioned at Police Headquarters but that he was allowed to stroll right out afterwards.

I can just imagine how that went down.  SGT. BULLOCK: Did you stab Scarecrow in the chest?  BATMAN: ...

I can just imagine how THAT went down. SGT. BULLOCK: Did you kill Scarecrow? BATMAN: ... GORDON: Thats good enough for me. You're free to go.

Eighteen years later the main story still holds up, the cover remains both hauntingly beautiful and solemn, and the interior art may not have aged well but where the story calls for a scene to be shocking or iconic it offers it up in spades. While Batman Annual #15 may not truly be “The Last Batman Story” it will always be one of the better Elseworlds tales that didn’t need triple digit pages to tell.

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Comments (4)

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  1. David page says:

    If I ever became a popstar I would cover that entire crossover because apart from the bullshit ending its pretty much a perfect story

  2. Esbat says:

    This is the only comic of the event I have read and I’m going to keep it that way. This wasn’t my first Batman comic but it will always be my favorite.

  3. david page says:

    Yeah it is good this and the two Justice league annuals were my fave annuals in the event

  4. This is one of my favorite issues ever. I love Alan GRant, I really miss his work

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