It was the panel that broke the bat.
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Batman’s now-infamous early ’90s back-breaking scene is a piece of comic book history, and in The War for Earth-3 #1 (opens in new tab) (on sale March 1st) history is repeating itself.
The first issue of a limited series, The War for Earth-3 #1 is written by Robbie Thompson and Dennis Hopeless, featuring art by Steve Pugh, Dexter Soy, and Brent Peeples, with colors by Matt Herms and letters by Josh Reed, Travis Lanham, and Simon Bowland.
But if you haven’t already read it, be warned…
Spoilers for The War for Earth-3 #1 follow…
In 1993’s Batman #497 (opens in new tab), part of the now-iconic ‘Knightfall’ storyline, the then-new villain Bane brought the Dark Knight down on his massive knee, shattering Bruce Wayne’s backbone and scarring the history of Gotham forever. It was the biggest comic book event of that year and still ranks as perhaps the most vicious defeat of a DC hero outside the Death of Superman or crippling of Batgirl in The Killing Joke (opens in new tab).
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The scene was repeated across mediums, most notably in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, in which Tom Hardy’s Bane defeats Christian Bale’s Batman in the same manner as his comics counterpart. Now, the finishing move returns to comics, although this time, the receiver might just deserve it.
In War for Earth-3, an event that first began in the pages of Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller and her team of titular villains-turned-government agents have made their way to an Earth parallel to the one we’re familiar with. For those not in the know, Earth-3 is populated by villainous counterparts of your favorite DC heroes. Instead of Superman, this world hosts the megalomaniac Ultraman. Instead of Wonder Woman, Earth-3 is terrorized by the scheming Superwoman. Finally, this world features Owlman, Thomas Wayne Jr. (Bruce’s older brother in alternate continuities) who exudes Batman’s Mental prowess, advanced technology, and now, history of beat-downs.
In a confrontation with Waller, who the villains of Earth-3 believe to be only a small threat, Owlman is attacked by the Suicide Squad, especially Talon, a former agent of the Court of Owls and now a member of Task Force X. After humiliating the non-powered supervillain, Talon brings Owlman down over his knee, shattering his back in a panel that’s almost an exact replica of the most infamous one in Batman #497. And just like that, Owlman is no longer a problem for Amanda Waller.
But the neutralizing of Batman’s evil counterpart isn’t even the biggest victory for Waller in this issue. The biggest threat to her invasion of Earth-3 wasn’t Owlman at all, but Ultraman.
Ultraman, who hates Owlman on Earth-3 as much as Superman likes Batman on the regular Earth, couldn’t be defeated, so Waller decides to offer him a partnership. She suggests he rule Earth-3 as a god (as opposed to a king), allowing her to take care of the politics of ruling and “headaches” like the now crippled supervillain.
The issue ends on a terrifying note: the two most powerful people fighting the War for Earth-3 have just joined forces, and heaven helps anyone that opposes them.
The War for Earth-3 continues in Suicide Squad #13, also on sale March 1.
Want to learn more about the Talon and the organization that birthed him? Check out Newsarama’s explainer on DC’s villainous Court of Owls.