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Appearances

Featured Characters:

  • Batman (Flashback and main story)

Supporting Characters:

Antagonists:

Other Characters:

Locations:

Items:

Vehicles:

Plot

Prologue

A 7.6 earthquake strikes Gotham City, shattering most of its infrastructure and killing thousands. Thousands more evacuate in following days - especially when the federal government refuses to send aid, instead passing the Federal Declaration of No Man's Land, which officially expels Gotham from the United States.

In early January, a military blockade is deployed around Gotham, with all bridges dynamited and the surrounding waters mined. Those remaining - some by circumstance, others by choice - are left to fend for themselves, unable to rely on public utilities or codified law. Even Batman, to the dismay of many, has apparently vanished.

Part One

Three months after its isolation, Gotham settles into a quasi-feudal status quo between the following parties and their respective territories:

  • The Blue Boys, former police led by once-Commissioner James Gordon
  • The Huntress, who operates a small protectorate around her own home
  • The Penguin, who operates a healthy black market from the fashion district
  • Poison Ivy, who has barricaded herself inside Robinson Park
  • Dr. Leslie Thompkins, who operates a MASH sector for the ill, wounded, and pregnant
  • Two-Face, who operates a series of gladiatorial "trials" from City Hall
  • Various street gangs, such as the LoBoys, Street Demonz, and Xhosa

An unofficial party exists in Oracle, who controls no territory beyond her clock-tower headquarters but collects vital intelligence through a network of adolescents - chief among them a functionally mute (and illiterate) but highly athletic girl named Cassandra. Unfortunately, this network proves limited in reach, and intelligence remains low on the likes of Batman and the Joker.

Unbeknownst to Oracle, Batman has deployed an intelligence agent of his own - Alfred, who spends every day scouting the dilapidated city in disguise. Batman himself has indeed left Gotham, but only to pursue more political and financial power for Wayne Enterprises, in hopes of legally restoring the city. This pursuit, shared with no one else, lasts months; in the meantime, Batman's absence bitterly disappoints Gordon, who grows steadily more ruthless in his own pursuit for survival and order.

In mid-March, Batman returns to Gotham, where he quickly learns the Huntress has been using his symbol to rally hope and intimidate enemies, even donning a homemade Batgirl costume. Though still wary of her willingness to kill, Batman accepts the "new" Batgirl as an ally; with Oracle's grudging cooperation, the pair proceed to rout an attack from Black Mask, quell threats from Penguin and Ivy, and ultimately secure more territory than any other party save Two-Face.

Despite these accomplishments, as well as entreaties from his wife and lieutenant Sarah, Gordon refuses to even acknowledge Batman. Instead, he enters a tenuous alliance with Two-Face, unaware that Two-Face has already held similar talks with the Penguin. Partly out of infatuation for Gordon's liaison Renee Montoya, Two-Face agrees to help Gordon against Penguin - not by providing the Blue Boys with additional manpower, but by fulfilling an earlier deal with the Penguin to entrap Batman.

The trap successfully diverts Batman for several hours, leaving only Batgirl to defend his territory. The Penguin seizes this opening and invades, his men slowly overwhelming Batgirl through sheer numbers - but leaving their own land inadequately protected from the Blue Boys. By the time Batgirl retreats, the Penguin finds his victory worse than Pyrrhic: Gordon has conquered half his preexisting territory, while Two-Face now lays claim to his new territory. His men too spent to challenge either party, the Penguin is forced to retreat as well.

Shortly afterward, Batman escapes Two-Face's trap and returns to his (former) territory, where he finds six civilians deliberately executed in a show of contempt. While a horrified and furious Batman buries these men, Two-Face exults in his conquest - until Gordon, still conflicted about his own actions, declares their alliance finished. Considering this an attack on his integrity, as well as his feelings for Montoya, Two-Face begins planning reprisal.

Part Two

For retreating in the face of the so-called "Great Claim Jumping", Batgirl is shamed and ostracized; though never formally dismissed, she breaks all communications and returns to independent patrols as the Huntress. Cassandra alone continues sympathizing with the disgraced vigilante, but is soon diverted by a new presence: international assassin David Cain, whom Two-Face has contracted to kill Gordon.

Methodical and merciless, Cain takes a half-dozen lives during his first attempt on Gordon, and is only driven off by a combined effort from Batman and Cassandra. Subsequently, Cassandra reveals herself to be Cain's child and ex-protégé; her nonexistent language skills stems directly from Cain, who made her "communicate" solely through physical combat. Though this upbringing left her one of the world's deadliest martial artists, her first kill traumatized her, and she fled her father with an obsession to protect all life.

Batman - himself a former student of Cain's - easily bonds with Cassandra, but insists on protecting Gordon by himself. For his part, Gordon continues to shun Batman, even as his own authority begins to crumble in the wake of Cain's attack. Conditions reach a nadir when the Blue Boys' chief of staff, ex-SWAT captain Bill Pettit, disobeys Gordon and "solves" a hostage crisis through indiscriminate shooting. In the face of multiple rebukes, the unrepentant Pettit deems Gordon unfit to lead, and secedes with more than half of Gordon's men.

Pettit's defection is compounded by another attack from Cain, which Batman quickly intercepts. While the men brawl to a standstill, Cassandra invades Two-Face's headquarters and steals a duffel bag full of cash - the payment intended for Cain. Cassandra brings this cash to her father and proceeds to burn it; seeing this, and realizing the sheer misery he has caused his daughter, convinces Cain to void his contract and leave Gotham.

Cain's departure sees little celebration; Gordon - though acknowledging a life-debt - continues to resent Batman, while Batman himself remains haunted by all the lives he has failed to protect. After finally admitting his insecurities to Alfred, Batman is persuaded to change tactics - to incorporate all of his allies into Gotham's protection and eventual restoration.

Part Three

Toward summer's end, Oracle extends overtures to Nightwing and Robin, both of whom Batman had ordered away from Gotham after the Declaration. Accepting the overtures, Nightwing and Robin return to Gotham and reconvene with Batman; once Batman has apologized for spurning them, the pair readily agree to help him and Oracle in any way possible. They are quickly joined by one final vigilante: Cassandra, now operating under the guise of Batgirl.

Similar mobilizations occur in several other areas. After being deliberately antagonized by Batman (and a reluctant Nightwing), the Huntress permanently abandons her own Batgirl uniform and begins drifting toward Pettit's Blue Boy defectors. Meanwhile, the Joker reemerges with a new aide-de-camp, a former psychiatrist who has fallen in love with him and rebranded herself Harley Quinn. Outside Gotham, Bane is approached by a mysterious woman named Mercy, who - on behalf of an anonymous employer - contracts him to infiltrate Gotham and destroy several sources of city records.

In mid-October, Bane attacks the Hall of Records, deep within Two-Face's territory; in less than a day, most of Two-Face's men are killed, and the Hall set ablaze. This attack goes unchallenged by Batman, who - having deduced Bane's employer weeks ago - had secretly ordered Oracle and Robin to make backups of every record. As Two-Face enjoys no such contingencies, he pleads for help from the Blue Boys, only to be violently rebuked by the Gordons.

Betrayed and humiliated, Two-Face admits defeat on a territorial level, but not a personal one. With his remaining men, he invades the Gordon home and abducts the ex-Commissioner, whom he forces into an ersatz trial. At Two-Face's demand, Montoya joins the trial as bailiff, and is forced to watch Gordon "charged" with every death stemming - directly or indirectly - from his aborted alliance with Two-Face. Though plagued by guilt, Gordon and Montoya successfully argue a right to defense - from none other than Harvey Dent.

His personalities pit against each other, Two-Face is unable to continue the trial, acquitting Gordon by default. While Montoya detains the helpless Two-Face, Gordon returns to Blue Boy territory, where Batman and his network have assembled under a flag of truce. Aware of Joker's reemergence, concerned about Bane's employer, but above all desperate to make amends with his oldest ally, Batman offers to unmask himself; while Gordon rejects this offer, he nevertheless releases his grudge, and promises Batman full support.

Part Four

In late autumn, following relentless lobbying from Wayne Enterprises, a federal court rules the Declaration of No Man's Land unconstitutional. This, coupled with the Declaration's general unpopularity among voters, convinces Washington to reconsider Gotham's expulsion. In tandem with these developments, Lex Luthor openly defies the blockade and begins sending Gotham aid, even promising that LexCorp will spearhead Gotham's reconstruction.

Within weeks, Luthor has established his own territory in Gotham: Camp Lex. Though its seemingly infinite resources attract many of the city's remaining civilians, Camp Lex draws suspicion from Batman and Pettit and outright hostility from the Joker; only the Penguin, hoping to exploit Luthor's assets, offers cooperation. Luthor considers all his "rivals" beneath contempt, secure in the knowledge that he is the power behind Mercy and Bane - until Batman circumvents both, even convincing Bane to leave before Luthor's true goals are exposed.

In early December, the President issues an Executive Order allowing Gotham federal aid, further stipulating that if all infrastructure is restored by New Year's, the Declaration will be lifted. This restoration, a joint effort between the Army Corps of Engineers, Wayne Enterprises, LexCorp, and many smaller companies, brings relief to all - save the Joker, who envies its publicity, and Pettit, whose mounting paranoia leaves him unable to trust anyone else's decisions. As Christmas approaches, the Huntress struggles to keep Pettit in check, while Batman's network launches an all-out hunt for the Joker.

Meanwhile, Luthor encounters challenges from both the Penguin - whose organization Mercy easily demolishes - and Wayne Enterprises, which confronts him with backups of the records Bane had destroyed. These backups disprove many of LexCorp's recent claims to Gotham properties, implicitly exposing Luthor's philanthropy as a brazen (and illegal) land-grab. Though refusing to admit guilt, Luthor agrees to quit Gotham after the reconstruction - the greatest victory yet for Batman's network, but one quickly forgotten when the Joker launches a surprise raid on Christmas Eve.

As Batman's network scrambles to respond, the Joker abducts most of the babies delivered by the MASH sector, then invades Pettit's territory for the remainders. Pettit immediately counterattacks, but Joker's misdirection tactics trick him into shooting his own men; shortly after, the Joker kills Pettit, but finds much stronger resistance in Huntress, who subdues his entire gang (sans Harley) and survives three gunshots point-blank. Before the Joker can deliver a fourth, Batman and Nightwing arrive, forcing him to flee.

While Huntress is rushed to medical attention, the Joker issues a challenge across Gotham: find the babies before he kills them at dawn. After an hours-long search and several false starts, Batman manages to capture Harley, and forces her to reveal the Joker has barricaded himself inside GCPD Headquarters. Unfortunately, only Sarah is close enough to intercept the Joker in time; the ensuing confrontation kills her, but ironically saves the babies, as her death satisfies the Joker enough to surrender without further violence.

Arriving minutes too late to help his wife, Gordon savagely attacks the Joker. Only Batman's pleas convince him to spare the Joker's life - to honor the laws and civilization that Gotham might yet recover.

Epilogue

On New Year's, Gotham officially rejoins the United States. As fireworks break over the city, the Huntress wakes in a MASH cot, bruised but alive; GCPD Headquarters switches on its newly-developed Bat-Signal; the surviving Gordons drink a toast over Sarah's grave; and Batman wanders over Wayne Manor's burial grounds, paying respects of his own.

Notes

Trivia

  • Sgt. Weir and Officer DePhilippis are named after Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis, a married writing team that Greg Rucka knew personally. In joking "retaliation" for killing off Officer DePhilippis, the pair would name a bail-jumper after Rucka in their 2005 graphic novel Three Strikes.[1]

ISBN

  • ISBN-10: 0671774557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671774554

Links and References


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