Detective Comics #998
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Doug Mahnke and Jaime Mendoza
Batman asks Hugo Strange if he is responsible for the attacks on his family and friends and Hugo shows Batman his latest creations: clones of himself in stasis tubes. When Hugo asks for a description of the creatures running amuck, Batman describes how they can fly and change shape at will. Hugo, impressed with these monsters, cannot claim credit for them. Batman gets an incoming call on his comms from Alfred telling Bruce Jason Blood is trying to reach him. Alfred patches Bruce in and Jason requires help before the call is disconnected. Bruce asks Alfred to send him the Hellbat armor.
After Bruce concluded his studies with Zatara, he met with Jason Blood to teach him how to instill fear and intimidation in others. As Bruce makes his way to Blood’s Curios, he comes face to face with Blood’s alter-ego, The Demon, who is being held captive by a green, scaly monster. Batman and the monster fight high above the skies. The Hellbat armor is starting to lose its integrity so Bruce activates Devastator powers and channels it into his right hand and hits the creature with a knockout punch. Batman has the monster free The Demon from bondage just before it retreats to Hell. The Demon transforms back into Jason Blood and informs Bruce the demon was a manifestation of fear Batman has created over the years. As the two men start cleaning up the mess in the shop, Batman finds one of his prototype grappling guns. Jason does not know how it got there. Batman asks for a travel sigil and Jason conjures it.
Batman is instantly transported to S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis and comes face to face with Dr. Silas Stone, who is working on some analogue work in his lab. Dr. Stone was the first to help bring Bruce’s ideas and inventions to life. As Batman looks over Dr. Stone’s handiwork, he realizes that this is not the real Dr. Stone. As the decoy Dr. Stone traps Batman, he asks Bruce what does he fear? Bruce answers not being Batman, not being able to help others or make a difference. Dr. Silas Stone morphs into a young Bruce wearing a Batman costume who tells Bruce that the war waged on others ends up being waged against oneself.
I have heard of the Hellbat armor, but this is the first time I have seen it in action. The Hellbat armor is super powerful but if used too long, it could kill Batman. The Devastator power is a callback to Dark Nights: Metal where Batman used the power to transform into a Doomsday-like monster to kill Superman. When the faux Silas Stone asks Batman what he fears, I immediately thought of the Scarecrow but the transformation from Dr. Stone to young Bruce was by technological means. Could Batman have been captured previously and this whole entire scenario been simulated? If that is the case, could the villain be revealed as the Grid, the evil doppelganger of Cyborg? The answers will be revealed soon.
Up Next – The truth behind the gauntlet Batman has been forced to run—a violent odyssey that endangered the lives of everyone who made him who he is—is revealed at last…and the mastermind working to unmake the Batman must be seen to be believed! Is there a goal here beyond destruction? Will Batman emerge stronger…or with a mortal wound at the exact moment that his most dangerous challenge yet is on the horizon in next month’s DETECTIVE COMICS #1000? On Sale 2/27/19.