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"Tower of Babel"
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Cover of JLA: Tower of Babel  (2001), trade paperback collected edition.Art by Howard Porter.
Publisher DC Comics
Publication date July – October 2000
Genre Superhero
Title(s) JLA #43-46
Creative team
Writer(s) Mark Waid
Penciller(s) Howard Porter; Steve Scott
Inker(s) Drew Geraci; Mark Propst
Colorist(s) John Kalisz

Tower of Babel is a 2000 comic book storyline that ran in the DC Comics monthly series JLA #43-46. It was written by Mark Waid.

Summary

Tower of Babel deals with Batman's perceived betrayal to the superhuman community by keeping and concealing hidden records concerning the strengths and weaknesses of his allies in the JLA, which include plans to neutralize his allies in a fight. His files are stolen by the criminal mastermind Ra's al Ghul, who uses them to defeat the League through a coordinated attack in order to prevent them from interfering with his latest scheme, the reduction of the global population.

League Defeats

  • Martian Manhunter is covered with nanites that convert the outer layer of his skin into magnesium, causing him to burst into flame (fire being his greatest weakness) upon exposure to air.
  • Aquaman is rendered aquaphobic due to an altered form of the Scarecrow's fear toxin. Without water, he would die in a matter of hours.
  • Green Lantern is rendered blind by his own power ring from a post-hypnotic suggestion introduced during the REM phase and the ring placed on him while he was asleep. Kyle is unable to function without his vision to guide the ring's power, but he is able to overcome the post-hypnotic suggestion after his ring is temporarily removed and the methods behind the attack are explained to him.
  • Thanks to a nanite injected into her ear, Wonder Woman is trapped in a Virtual reality battle against an opponent whom she cannot defeat and is her equal in every way. Her refusal to surrender under any circumstance would eventually cause her to tire herself out and die of exhaustion.
  • A specially designed "vibra-bullet" strikes Flash in the back of the neck, causing him to experience seizures at light speed.
  • Superman's skin becomes transparent after exposure to Red Kryptonite, an artificial creation of Batman's made by exposing a Green Kryptonite sample to radiation developed in the event of him simply wanting to stop Superman for a while rather than actually killing him.
  • Batman is successfully distracted from League business when The League of Assasins steals the bodies and coffins of his late parents Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Repercussions

The attack briefly but effectively incapacitates the League members long enough for Ra's al Ghul to enact his plans. After they all recover, the JLA must also deal with Ra's al Ghul's attack against the language centers of all humanity, using a specially-designed tower to generate a low-level sonic signal which causes written language to be scrambled into total nonsense.

Batman's obsessive pursuit to recover his parents' remains leaves him unable to help the League in their temporary defeat until it is too late. At the moment Batman discovers who was behind the robbery and subsequent attack, Ra's al Ghul offers to drop the corpses into a [[W:C:DC:Lazarus Pit| which would theoretically revive them. But despite being briefly tempted by the chance, Batman rejects the offer as he would prefer to be worthy of his parents' memory rather than betray it in such a manner. Ra's al Ghul begins the second phase of his attack, scrambling not only the written word, but the spoken word as well (similar to stories related about the Tower of Babel).

When League members recover from their injuries and Batman reveals Ra's al Ghul's actions, there is much friction between him and the rest due to his role in devising the traps that nearly killed them. As the effects of the red kryptonite wear off, Superman is able to destroy the machine that is causing the chaos. Ra's al Ghul reveals that a deadly nerve agent is about to be released, sparking a war between two nations already in conflict. As Superman, Batman, and later a restored Aquaman and J'onn move on Ra's' base, Flash, Green Lantern, Plastic Man and Wonder Woman are able to prevent the release of the toxin thanks to Ra's al Ghul's daughter Talia providing them with the locations of the bombs, feeling disgusted at how her father has used her knowledge of Batman to steal his secrets.

Batman states that his plans were a cautionary measure that he devised after the Injustice League swapped bodies with the Justice League with the aid of the alien tyrant Agamemno years earlier (during the Silver Age event). Recognizing the dangers of villains gaining control of the heroes, he created fail-safes in case such a situation ever happened again, the event also inspiring him to create plans to stop the other heroes if they should go rogue on their own. Due to Batman's secretive actions and measures placed against the JLA, the rest of the League vote on whether or not he should remain a member. Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and Aquaman vote for expulsion as they feel that they cannot trust Batman, while Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter vote against as they recognize that Batman had a point in his reasoning for developing the plans in the first place. It is left for Superman to cast the deciding vote. As they enter the room where Batman is held, the team realizes that he already foresaw how Superman would decide and therefore had already left. Superman is not surprised by this, later saying that Batman would know how he and every other League member would vote.

Follow-ups

  • It is revealed in JLA #50 that Superman did indeed vote for Batman's expulsion from the League, feeling that Batman could have told them that his strategies existed and simply withheld any details that would compromise their effectiveness rather than maintain his secrecy. This prompts Batman to show that he trusts the League by revealing his identity as Bruce Wayne to them (although he also notes that Superman must reveal his identity as Clark Kent at the same time).
  • In the JLA Secret Files and Origins #3, it is revealed that Talia al Ghul is the one that actually stole Batman's contingency plans, first from the Watchtower on the moon, and later from the Batcave.
  • The issues raised by Batman's actions here also cause problems for his partners. Robin in particular is treated with some distrust by his current teammates in Young Justice, with Superboy, Impulse, Wonder Girl and Arrowette (Cissie King-Jones) openly wondering if Robin has developed similar strategies to stop them. While Secret affirms her complete faith in Robin, Empress points out that people would be praising Batman if his strategies had come to light under the circumstances they were designed for, and Li'l Lobo concludes that nobody could defeat him and hence whether or not Robin had files on him was irrelevant. This crisis causes the team to temporarily disband following the Imperiex War, and even after they reassemble Wonder Girl takes over as team leader rather than Robin.
  • In DC's 2005 limited series Identity Crisis it is revealed that Zatanna had edited Batman's memories to prevent him from stopping the original Justice League members from lobotomizing Doctor Light after he raped Sue Dibny. The Flash eventually learns what happened from Green Arrow. When Batman discovers the truth, he creates a more extreme device, the Brother I satellite surveillance system to monitor the world's superhuman population.
  • In DC's new universe The New 52, a mysterious intruder infiltrates the Batcave and accesses Batman's computer (which is genetically coded to allow only Batman access) and steals Batman's contingency protocols against his Justice League teammates. While the Justice League investigates the intruder, Batman does not mention anything about the contingency plans.[1] After Despero is defeated by the Justice League in the Watchtower and they recover the Kryptonite ring Despero had from Batman's contingency protocol for Superman, Cyborg tells them that Despero is not the intruder. After this, while Batman and Superman are in Batcave, Superman entrusts him about keeping the Kryptonite ring in case he ever falls victim to possession or mind control. Batman then gives Superman his own contingency protocol, just in case the Justice League needs to protect itself against Batman's vigilantism.[2]

Critical reaction

IGN Comics ranked JLA: Tower of Babel #21 on a list of the 25 greatest Batman Comics, saying that "this compelling story examines the depths of Batman's paranoia, but also shows admiration for his forethought".[3]

In other media

Film

  • It was announced at WonderCon 2011 that the storyline would be adapted as a Direct-to-video movie titled Justice League: Doom.[4] It was released on February 28, 2012.

References

  1. Justice League (vol. 2) #19 (April 2013)
  2. Justice League (vol. 2) #20 (May 2013)
  3. The 25 Greatest Batman Graphic Novels, Hilary Goldstein, IGN, June 13, 2005
  4. http://www.worldsfinestonline.com/news.php/news.php?action=fullnews&id=1001
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