Heroes should trust each other implicitly. So what happens when one of them doesn’t?
The plot for JLA: Tower of Babel poses this question with its story setup. Ra’s Al Ghul is plotting the destruction of most of human civilization (because you know, it’s what he does), but this time he has employed a rather ingenious method of keeping the JLA out of his hair: he’s located and decoded Batman’s secret files on each and every JLA member and employed the dark knight’s “fail-safe” techniques to render our heroes inactive.
The methods Batman came up with for decommissioning his fellow League members were rather inspired, and just a little too effective. Flash is left convulsing on the ground, Green Lantern is blind, and Superman has been rendered inactive due to a newly created red kryptonite, a version which, while not fatal, forces him to endure significant pain.
So Batman basically had plans set in place to take out each and every member of the JLA if he ever needed to. He’s seriously half a step away from being a super villain.
To be fair, Batman’s reasoning was sound, citing the fact that the heroes had been overcome by villains before and that a fail-safe was needed to stop them in case they ever came under mind control again. What truly seemed to upset the League members was that he kept this from them, never letting on that he had any sort of dossiers on each of them, or that he had these contingencies in place should anything happen. They felt betrayed by a man whom they had trusted with their life, yet whom wouldn’t trust them with the truth.
Batman has always played things close to the chest, but here it seems he took it too far. Almost as if to soften the character and keep him sympathetic, Ra’s randomly decides to lure him to his hideout by digging up the graves of Bruce’s parents and bringing their coffins to the Lazarus Pit, threatening to lower them into it.
Truth be told it was a bit of an odd detail to include, and didn’t really add all that much to the overall story other than give Batman his own trial of sorts to deal with. Of course, his parents’ bodies were saved by the very same allies he’s spent so much time developing plots to decommission, making his actions feel that much more like a betrayal.
Ra’s is eventually stopped, but that story always felt like a subplot anyway. The real story is Batman’s decision to keep these secret files and means of destroying his so-called friends. Angered and hurt, the JLA votes on whether he should be allowed to remain a member. The vote is split down the center, with Superman being the deciding vote. Ultimately, he sides with expulsion.
Yep, Batman has officially been kicked out of the JLA.
What’s more, his actions have far wider reaching consequences than he seems to have known.
Now everyone associated with Batman is looked upon with a hesitant glance, with everyone they know questioning whether they too are keeping secret files on their partners. Batman’s actions have affected Oracle, Robin, and Nightwing, as well as the numerous groups with which these heroes interact.
The comic leaves the story open, with virtually none of Batman’s own emotions being revealed. Does he regret his actions? Is he upset at being forced out of the League? At this point, the reader doesn’t know. What we do know is that he has burned numerous bridges with his actions. More importantly though, he burned those bridges due to his secrets. Had he been forthcoming about what he was doing, even if he kept it vague, the League would likely not have reacted the way they did. Unfortunately, Batman’s error in judgement has not only cost him his JLA membership, but has likely damaged or completely severed the individual relationships he had with its members.
Batman has always been a bit of a lone wolf, but even he needs help now and then. I can’t help but wonder who he will turn to now that so many heroes have felt the sharp pang of betrayal. If he keeps up with this behavior, he’ll undoubtedly wind up alone.