Justice League Tower of Babel
The Justice League Tower of Babel was written by Mark Waid and released from July to October 2000. The story deals with Ra’s al Ghul and his quest to cause planet-wide chaos. To do this, he must first get through each member of the Justice League…and he does.
The story opens with a conversation between Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia. The two talk about his legacy and how Bruce Wayne fits into it. Ra’s al Ghul feels that Batman is his successor. He feels that his morals, relentless pursuit of what is right, and understanding of things greater than himself makes Bruce the perfect candidate.
The scene ends as Ra’s makes it apparent that he has something of extreme value.
The Tower of Babel switches over to Bruce Wayne as he looks to pay his respects to his parents. That is the story shifts to the gravesite of Thomas and Martha. Bruce is shocked to learn that someone has dug the graves.
Ra’s al Ghul is considered one of the most intelligent men in DC and as such, knows that he cannot take down the Justice League with traditional tactics. Instead, he strikes each member down with methods that could only have been obtained through inside knowledge.
For example, Martian Manhunter has his body covered with nanites covered with magnesium that, when exposed to air cause him to burst into flames. Aquaman is rendered defeated after a gas from Scarecrow makes him afraid of the water. Since Aquaman requires water to live, he is left with only a few short hours to live.
What’s important to know is that while this was happening, Superman reaches out to Batman to ask if he knows how this could’ve happened. Batman replies that he does not know.
A plan in action
Eventually, the only member that remains is Batman and at this moment, Ra’s al Ghul puts his plan into motion.
We learn that Ra’s al Ghul has broadcast a signal across the globe that turns written language into an incomprehensible mess that the brain cannot process.
As the only survivor, Batman has the choice to help his friends but chooses not to. In essence, Batman has become so preoccupied with recovering the stolen remains of his parents, that he hasn’t even noticed that the world has fallen into despair. His pursuit leads him to R’as al Ghul, where his enemy offers to drop their corpses in the Lazerus Pit. This, in theory, will reanimate the corpses and bring them back to life.
With the choice to bring his long-dead parents back, Batman chooses not to. He does this because he does not wish to betray the memory of his parents. He argues that his purpose was created by the death of his parents. If he were to have them brought back, there would be no need for Batman. More than that, his parents taught him that not everything in life is controllable and sometimes you have to live with what life has given you. Ultimately he chooses not to.
This decision causes Ra’s al Ghul to pull out a piece of Red Kryptonite. For those who don’t know, Red Kryptonite affects Superman on a level unlike other Kryptonite. Red Kryptonite causes him to mutate in an unpredictable way. This is important in the sense that Batman does not know where he got the Kryptonite from, nor does he understand how he came to know of its importance.
The Tower of Babel shifts to that of Aquaman and Martian Manhunter (in a body suit protecting him from the nanites) doing battle with Talia al Ghul. It’s important to understand that while Talia stands by the side of her father, she does not always agree with him.
During the skirmish, Superman shows up and the tides look to have changed. That is, until Batman begins to communicate with his team. He warns them that they have to leave the battle before it’s too late. Just as he finishes his message, Talia pulls out a piece of the Red Kryptonite and Superman falls.
This interaction propels Ghul into the next phase of his attack. With written word rendered useless, he begins to scramble spoken word. This means that people are unable to communicate.
The fallen members of the Justice League begin to assemble the thought that Batman is responsible for their undoing. They realized that it was him who had a clear cut way in which to defeat each member, and perhaps they shouldn’t trust him anymore.
The Tower of Babel shifts back to the home of Ra’s al Ghul where Talia has come home to report back. It’s crucial to remember that Talia does not agree with what her father is doing. While she and her father are talking a guard walks in and tells the two that Batman has been killed.
Talia is the mother to Bruce’s son, Damian, and hearing that the love of her life has been killed is a crushing blow. She leaves believing that her father was the one responsible for his death.
It turns out that the soldier was Batman and he immediately begins to send the coordinates of the Tower to the Justice League. If you’re thinking that written and spoken word has become useless, you’d be right. So how did they talk to each other? Know that the Justice League was not affected by it because they are outside of the affected area.
The League, after all of the previous events, isn’t sure whether or not to come to his aid. They feel that they had been betrayed once and this could be another trap to do it again. As their dialogue draws to a close, Superman vacates their headquarters to catch up to Batman.
After catching him, he asks why Batman did what he did, to which Batman explains that he cannot say now but it was for the good of the planet. Batman goes on to explain that Martian Manhunter was attacked first and this was done so as to disable any sort of communication through his telepathy.
The Justice League is the Justice League and as such, put their concerns aside for the betterment of the planet. After a large skirmish Superman destroys the Tower that has caused the language breakdown.
Sensing defeat, Ghul reveals that a nerve gas is set to be released on two fighting nations. The Justice League splits up with Superman and Batman off to find Ra’s al Ghul and Wonder Woman, Flash, Plastic Man, and Green Lantern attempting to stop the gas. At this point Batman reveals that he created a failsafe program to eliminate the Justice League should any of them turn against humanity. This may seem like a good idea but remember, he did this without the knowledge of the team.
The Justice League is able to stop both Ra’s al Ghul and the gas from being released to the public.
The final moments of the Tower of Babel show the Justice League in debate as to what they should do. While some argue that Batman was correct in creating a failsafe, others can’t get past the betrayal. His future, his place on the team is then decided by a vote. Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Plastic Man vote for his removal while Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter vote to keep him in.
The deciding vote is left to Superman. However, before the vote is cast Batman had already left. This moment concluded the Justice League Tower of Babel.