Justice League: Why Batman Sent the JLA After… Bruce Wayne!?

While comics often begin with a shocking scene to hook readers, a particularly extreme example of this occurred when Batman gathered the Justice League together for a mission, ordering them to hunt down and apprehend Bruce Wayne.

At the time, Gotham had been turned into a war zone after the US government declared it a no man’s land. Batman told the League that Bruce Wayne was responsible for causing this disaster.

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The other Leaguers were incredulous, as seen in JLA #33 by Mark Waid, Mark Pajarillo, and Walden Wong. Only Superman and Wonder Woman knew Bruce Wayne was really Batman, but the others scoffed to think that a spoiled billionaire required the Justice League to arrest him. Green Lantern even dismissed Wayne as “Gotham’s answer to Donald Trump.” Batman explained he needed to remain in Gotham, but insisted the team take action.

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A squad consisting of Green Lantern, Steel, Plastic Man, Orion, and Big Barda went undercover in civilian clothes to spy on Wayne in a French casino, while Superman and Wonder Woman were on a separate mission. At a baccarat table, Plastic Man tried to get close to Wayne, but accidentally blew his cover, prompting the billionaire to turn and run. The team cornered him and Green Lantern conjured a bola to ensnare Wayne, but it passed right through him. In a tense moment, the two stared one another down. As the Lantern quaked with fear, a creepy smile spread across Wayne’s face as he said “I remember.”

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In reality, this was a White Martian, one of several who had infiltrated the Earth earlier in the series. After the Justice League had defeated the invaders, Martian Manhunter psychically wiped all their memories and made each one think they were an ordinary human. One of them had been working at Wayne Enterprises where it was easy to continually observe him. He was aboard a plane that crashed and woke with no memory of either his Martian or false human identity, but surrounded by Bruce Wayne’s personal documents, causing him to assume he must be the billionaire (and subconsciously shapeshift into the appropriate form). Batman assumed that since most of the League did not know his true identity, the Martian would not telepathically read their thoughts and realize he was not the real Bruce Wayne.

As has been seen, this plan failed. The White Martian was eventually subdued but with great difficulty. This was also part of a bigger problem. Batman’s decision to not tell the League his secret identity let him enact his strategy to sneak up on the Martian, but for once, the Dark Knight’s plans were not enough. While Batman rationalized his secrecy as compartmentalizing who knew what, ultimately he chose not to trust his teammates. A short while later in the famous Tower of Babel story, his distrust would quite literally almost destroy the team.

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