CAPES & COWLS: This Week In SUPERMAN & BATMAN (Feb. 1)

Who knew there were fates worse than the threat of "hell on earth?"

Apparently, the Oracle knows.

This week, Superman promised that the future of the world isn't only threatened by He’ll, but by a new character named Oracle (who bears absolutely no resemblance to the old one).

Meanwhile, the Bat-books mostly took a break from all the Joker sightings to heat things up in other Gotham storylines. Damian dressed up like Batman in one book, but he's rushing to battle his mother in another. And readers also got introduced to some New 52 villains named the Gotham Butcher and a revamped Mad Hatter.

In this week's installment of "Capes and Cowls," we recap what's happening in these two corners of the DCU:

Superman Family

Superman #16

With this chapter, we're on part 9 of "HE’l on Earth." As we pick up the story, the Justice League, Supergirl and Superboy are involved in a huge battle at the Fortress of Solitude over a powerful being who calls himself He’ll and claims to be Kryptonian. He claims that he wants to restore Krypton by activating a device in the Fortress, and Supergirl wants to help him. But everyone else in the story has realized that the device He’ll is activating will destroy the solar system and Earth. So they're trying to stop H'El and Supergirl.

But issue #16 starts with a flashback to H'El's story of his time on Krypton. He claims to be Jor-El's beloved assistant, and he says that Superman's own parents presented him with the crest of the House of El (that "S" symbol).

When he tells the story to Supergirl, she thinks it's odd that she doesn't remember any of it. Of course she doesn't. As readers know, this isn't the only clue we've been given that H'El's story is whacked. We also know he's purposely withholding information from Supergirl about how damaging his plan will be to Earth.

Is H’El flat-out lying about his past on Krypton? Or does he truly believe what he's saying?

Apparently Supergirl isn't picking up on these hints, though, because she not only believes He’ll... she gives him a big smooch. Yuck.

Lack of attractiveness aside, He’ll has some really impressive powers. As Cyborg tries to Boom-teleport the team, He’ll relocates their destination each time. (This isn't your daddy's Kryptonian, and it's becoming obvious he's probably not Kryptonian at all, am I right?)

Finally, Superman uses his superspeed to tackle HE’l, and Superboy face-plants Supergirl. Score one for the good guys. But the success is short-lived. H’El transports himself, Supergirl and the entire Fortress away from Superman and his allies. He activates the device. D'oh!

But that's not all. The herald of Oracle (who has been shown to readers in the last couple issues) says something ominous about his master's impending arrival. Oracle is coming! And according to his herald, it's the second time he's come to Earth.

Out in space, we see the entity known as Oracle, and he/it destroys a starship. And the caption tells us that "The Oracle has a sacred trust it must fulfill... to bear witness to the end of the world." Uh oh.

Batman Family

Teen Titans #16

Only this one issue this week furthered the story of "Death of the Family," with a plot by Scott Lobdell and dialogue by Fabian Nicieza, which is a nice little surprise for fans of the latter writer's work on the Red Robin series. As we join this issue, Tim and Jason wake up to find that they've been chained together at the wrist, and Joker is forcing the "bat-brats" to participate in a game.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Titans and Outlaws are recovering from the fight we saw last week in Red Hood. Solstice notices (in a thought balloon) that her power surged and so did Kid Flash's, which means her friend [Kurt] Lance is around. Sure enough, he is standing nearby, although out of sight of the teams. But we see him get attacked by Gray Lora from Basilisk. Although he wins that battle, someone else takes him down.

In another side plot (that the comic implies took place at a different time), we see Trigon presenting Raven to his minions, calling her his "black bird of terror."

But those are set-ups for future stories, because we're back with the bat-brats... er, sorry, the former Robins. Joker shows the boys that he has captured Red Robin's father and Red Hood's father, and he says that Tim and Jason must battle each other to determine which Daddy will die. Tim resists, but Jason points a gun at Red Robin's head. They fight.

Finally, Tim gets Jason to join him to instead attack The Joker -- and they succeed. It appears that Red Hood's bullets have killed the villain. Tim shows Jason that the two "dads" aren't really their fathers. But then they find out The Joker isn't dead at all. The "Joker" they "killed" was just a dummy filled with gas, and they pass out.

As the comic ends, Tim and Jason wake up to the sight of two bloody silver platters, and a tagline says "to be continued in Batman #17."

So... at least we know each Bat-family member gets his/her own silver platter! We wouldn't want them to be forced to share!

Batman and Robin Annual #1

We get a break from all the Joker heaviness with the rest of the Bat-issues, particularly Batman and Robin Annual, where we see a Damian giving his father a meaningful vacation.

The story starts as Alfred flies Bruce to England to begin a scavenger hunt that Damian is constructing for him across Europe. Damian says (via video) that he is also traveling across Europe, one step ahead of Bruce, laying out clues for a scavenger hunt through Wayne family history. (The theme follows up on a scene from issue #14 where Damian gave his father one of Martha's pearls. For our discussion with Tomasi about that moment, check here).

During the scavenger hunt, Damian leads Bruce to three places and he finds: 1) A painting created by Martha when Bruce was just a child, 2) A location in an old honeymoon photo of the Waynes, and 3) The place where Thomas proposed. It's all very touching for Bruce, and it provides a bonus opportunity for readers to see Alfred in England with some old chums from his acting days.

But the real fun in the issue comes when readers find out Damian has fibbed to his father about traveling just ahead of him in Europe. He's actually back in Gotham, tooling around the mansion with his beloved dog Titus during the day, but doing Dad's job as Batman at night.

And he puts on a small version of the Batsuit. And the cowl. And the Batman voice. It is, quite frankly, adorable. Every kid's dream come true.

There are hilarious moments between Damian and the folks in Gotham (including Gordon, who knows the real Batman well enough to figure out he's talking to Robin under the cowl).

After Damian dispenses with the villainous threats in Gotham and his Dad finishes up his scavenger hunt, father and son meet in London. And it turns out Bruce knew Damian was in Gotham after all. But, he says, he's "learned to trust" his son.

If that doesn't tug on your heartstrings, nothing will.

Talon #4

Things aren't going well with Casey and Calvin's plan to rob the Court of Owls bank. Calvin is in a fight for his life with a huge Talon called the "Gotham Butcher," who is apparently the toughest opponent he's ever faced. Calvin barely escapes the battle by crawling into a subway tunnel, although their quick friend Joey completes the bank transfer.

While Calvin's getting patched up by Casey later at her base, Sebastian realizes the Gotham Butcher has put a tracer on Calvin's suit. He warns Casey and Calvin, but it's too late to keep the Butcher from knocking down the door of the base and squishing one guy's head in the process.

Calvin uses his tracer to lead the "Butcher" into the tunnels, giving Casey and her compatriots enough time to escape and wipe the hard drives. Then Calvin blows the roof of the tunnel, allowing the cold Hudson river water to gush down on the Butcher.

Calvin uses his escape artist talents to get out of the tunnel and river, and he meets Casey and her daughter Sarah on the shore. He announces to them that they all need to go back to Gotham to fight the Court together, "like we should have done from the beginning."

But the Gotham Butcher is far from gone. His hand surfaces from the river, revealing that his armor is glowing and steaming, indicating that the Court has figured out a solution to the "cold" problem.

Batman Incorporated #7

As we join Batman Inc., not only has Bruce been taken by a couple of Man-Bat ninjas, but Knight has died. Poor Squire! In the wake of all this mayhem, the former Robins take charge, as Tim starts to track Bruce (from the signal on Batman's belt), and Dick sends Jason to get together the rest of the Inc. team.

But the current Robin, Damian, is back in the Batcave and is upset that everyone underestimated his mother, Talia. He reveals to Alfred that he has figured out that The Heretic is the Damian baby clone revealed way back in Batman and Robin #12.

Meanwhile, the former Robins are getting toasted one by one (some almost literally). Jason gets betrayed by The Hood, who swears "loyalty to Spyral" as he takes him down. Red Robin walks into a bomb set up by Talia. And Nightwing and the cops are attacked by a bunch of kids who have been brainwashed by Leviathan.

So where's Batman? He's with Talia on the roof of Wayne Enterprises, but Bruce has been trapped in a safe. She has calculated how long it will take him to escape, and she's determined it will be too late. She has the trigger for Otto Netz's bomb, and she drops Batman-in-safe into the pool. Things don't look good for the Bat-family. At. All.

Damian convinces Alfred to let him put on his Robin costume and go help out. Robin flies off to help dad, while everyone else is shown to be in certain trouble. Things are moving toward a fast and ugly conclusion. Time for Damian to save the day from Mommy Dearest. We hope.

Batman: The Dark Knight #16

It's the beginning of a new storyline, and there's been a string of recent kidnappings by gangs of armed thugs. But when Batman disrupts the latest raid by the thugs, the perpetrators are so well armed that they take down the Batplane. Bruce uses what's left of the Batplane to still chase the thugs, but he's only able to save one very thankful woman.

When Bruce gets home, he's confronted by girlfriend Natalya for blowing off their date for the opera. The two exchange some banter, but it ends with Natalya saying, "I know who you are." Bruce looks shocked, but he avoids the statement and, despite a threat from the lady that his departure will mean the end of their relationship, he leaves the room.

Bruce dons the Bat-suit again, going to the Iceberg Casino to interrogate Penguin about the kidnappings, since the thugs were wearing bowler hats. "I'm not the only player in town who's partial to haberdashery," Penguin says.

Sure enough, the comic shows readers that the other "hat fan" in town -- the Mad Hatter -- is looking on security cameras at a line of people outside a club, picking one out, then telling his lackey to go "get" him.

We cut back to Bruce at the scene of the kidnapping, where he finds a wig with a mind control device inside.

Then we see the guy Hatter took from the line, and he's being forced to read from a script. Hatter doesn't like the way he reads the script, so he shoots the guy in the head.

One of the lackeys who sees this non-sensical shooting suggests to the Hatter that things are "getting out of hand," calling it "madness." In a creepy scene featuring Ethan Van Sciver's depiction of a truly "mad" Hatter, the villain asks for his small step ladder, climbs up to look at the questioning lackey's face, and pokes his thumbs into the guy's eyeballs. Everyone else on Hatter's staff gets back to work.

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