A good place to start is scans_daily on live journal and follow the Batman tag -- in particular the Rumble in Gotham posts. At the moment someone's recapping the massive Cataclysm crossover (see below).
The Batman events over the 90s start with Knightfall
(Batman is outwitted and outmatched by new character Bane, who eventually snaps Batman's back like a twig in front of most of the GCPD) followed by Knight Quest
(Bruce searches the world for a magical cure for his Christopher Reeve status while his annointed successor -- deprogrammed cult supersoldier Azrael -- proceeds to beat Bane and go insane as a parable explaining why the whole 90s extreme!!!!! character trend didn't belong in the bat books) and Knight's End
(Bruce retrains as Batman in order to take down AzBat).
Bane has been one of the very few of the modern crop of Bat villains to take (his appearance in Batman & Robin as Ivy's dumb henchmen was a massive insult to the character), proving so popular as to be granted a rather neat transformative story arc. Currently one of the lead characters in Secret Six. Also, the events of this arc put a massive strain on the relationship between Batman and Gordon that took several years to fully heal. Between defeating AzBat and Bruce resuming the role, Dick takes over as Batman for a while as a way of correcting the need for someone other than him to succeed Bruce in order for he parable to be told.
The next event -- in scale something of a lull between what came before and what is to follow -- is Contagion
and its followup Legacy
, where Gotham (amongst other cities) is struck by a massively virulent disease. After saving the city, the BAt clan track down the culprit
Ra's Al Ghul and his new associate -- the newly resurfaced Bane
Following that is Cataclysm
, where Gotham's hit by this massive freak earthquake, and left utterly devastated. BGeing the forward thinker that he is, all Wayne buildings are quakeproof -- except for the manor, which collapses into the Batcave. Effectively a changing of the guard period as the then current writers were given a chance to wrap things up before they were all replaced with new blood.
This immediately segues into No Man's Land
, where the sheer scale of devasation sees Gotham evacuated of all who are willing to leave then just fenced off from the rest of the country and declared to no longer be part of America (so imagine New Orleans after Katrina as the result of actual policy rather than simple ineptitude). Gotham basically breaks down into a massive turf war, with Gordon's cops as one of the gangs, with surprisingly a mysterious new Batgirl and a redeemed (but still mad) Two-Face stepping up as Gotham's protectors. Batman, realising that only Bruce Wayne can put things to rights is essentially exiled from his beloved city for a good half of the story line but eventually returns to spearhead the reclaiming of the Gotham.
Bruce Wayne: Murderer
Stuff happens during this particular storyline that's still affecting the Batbooks today, like the introduction of the new Batgirll(s) -- namely Batgirl II shows up standing in for Batman who is outside the city when it's sealed off snd then when he reappears in a moment of true Batdickery is summarily replaced by the newly introduced Cassandra Cain -- hot asian assassin jailbait whose schtick is that she can't speak because she was raised by her assassin father David Cain only to be fluent in Body language -- as Batgirl III in a frankly squcktastic gimp costume. The other significant event is a brief Two-Face / Rene Montoya team up that eventually results in her getting outed (by him as part of a stalkerish attempt to make her love him), quitting the GCPD and becoming the new Question following the death of the original and as a result of that, she involuntarially ends up leading a murder cult. Batman's absense from the streets of isolated Gotham furthers the strain on his relationship with Gordon, who feels increasingly betrayed -- especially due to the murder of his wife at the hands of the Joker, the criminal responsible for his torture and the crippling of his daughter Barbara in the seminal Killing Joke graphic novel (the events of which eventually led to Barbara's reinvention as super-hacker Oracle.
followed by Bruce Wayne: Fugitive
(as mentioned earlier in the thread -- Bruce along with his new unwanted bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux are framed for the murder of long time casual girlfriend Vesper Fairchild; Sasha would go on to become a member and then leader of the US covert agency Checkmate).
The murder was committed by Batgirl's father at the behest of then-President Lex Luthor who had wanted to basically buy out all of Gotham during No Man's Land untll Wayne stopped him and thus wanted revenge. Cain however, as had Sasha shortly before hand, discovered Wayne's alterego and staged the crime where the motive to those who knew Wayne-as-Batman would be him protecting his identity from being revealed by Vesper.
The underlying theme of Batman being the true identity really split the fandom during this time, not least because only a year before Bruce Wayne had been the one responsible for restoring Gotham so Batman's decision to essentially kill off that part of his identity smacked of plot rather than character motivation. Bat/Cat OTPers also disliked Sasha's infatuation with Bruce, his training of her as part of the Batclan once she discovered his secret and his eventual realisation of love for her once she was taken to join Checkmate.
The next couple of years are quiet in the Batbooks, but feature the month-long Officer Down
storyline where Gordon is shot and decides to retire. Also significant during this period is the relaunch of the Catwoman
title responsible for the character's somewhat Emma Peelish looking new look (a vast improvement over her 90s purple body stocking) and return to more street-level escapades. During the run of her new series, Selina is eventually forced to murder Batvillain Black Mask in order to protect her family and friends, as well as past crimes against them. During the whole One Year Later
plot forced on DC by the events of Infinite Crisis, Selina is replaced as Catwoman for a while by her friend Holly when she winds up pregnant with a baby girl -- named Helena as an attempt to invoke the pre-Crisis era as part of the mystery surrounding her parentage -- whom she is eventually forced to give up for adoption once her old enemies start targetting her child.
Also during this time we get the JLA mini series Identity Crisis
. It's baaaad. It involves rape, murder, fridging and insanity. The salient details is that years ago a villain learns a bunch of secret IDs and in order to safeguard their loved ones a majority of the JLA decide to have Zatanna mindwipe him. Batman -- of whom I once saw a ridiculously long list of people who know his -- in yet another stunning display of inexplicable Batdickery, for some reason violently objects to this (I guess because letting it go ahead makes him look like a monumental jerk for not simply brain wiping the Joker into not murdering thousands of people?) so has his memory of the incident erased too. When he finds out what was done, he builds an AI satellite to track all super human activity on the planet. This sattelite is later subverted by Maxwell Lord and alternate reality Luthor to create the unwitting killer borgs mentioned by 3, culminating in the events of Infinite Crisis and yet another
brutalisation of the Amazons and the character assassination of Wonder Woman (Max Lord, using a mind controlled Superman to murder Batman, tells Wonder Woman while bound by her lasso that the only to save Batman and stop Superman murdering countless more heroes is to kill Max himself. So she breaks his neck, saving the day. The AI however simply posts the image of her killing Lord all over the world and instead of supporting her to the world, Bruce and Clark bitch and moan at her in private for somehow betraying
them. The clearly antagonistic world court treats her more fairly than her friends and publically exhonerates her.
Then we come to the anvilicious introduction of a new Batvillain named Hush. Though an attempt is made to to keep the character's true identity a mystery to be solved
it's blindingly obvious that it is newly introduced childhood BFF Tommy Elliot, who atempted to murder his parents as a child but only got his dad, hated Bruce's dad for saving his horribly controlling mum and then hated Bruce for having both his parents die and inherit a fortune.
Aware of Bruce's dual identity, his plan is to replace Bruce after having self-administed plastic surgery to make him look like him. Is fleshed out somewhat more competently under the pen of Paul Dini during which time he literally steals Catwoman's heart to replace her own which earns him the sort of beat down the Joker has wet dreams about receiving, after which Selina from her hospital bed completely and utterly destroys his fortune. Most recenty seen last month, dead broke and scamming Wayne's companies for start up cash before running afoul of Catwoman; sadly his prominent advertising as part of the Battle for the Cowl
event (see below) speaks to his continued survival.
I should also mention that Hush faked the resurrection of a now adult Jason Todd (Robin II). However as a result of Infinite Crisis and Superboy Prime *sigh* punching the walls of reality
Jason Todd is currently spontaneously alive as an adult. And exceptionally pissed at Bruce for not killing the Joker for having murdered him.Batman R.I.P
marks drug-addled brit writer Grant Morrison's ascension to the Batbooks and metaploting overlordship at DC. Basically a bunch of rich neer do wells called The Black Hand decided to destroy Batman for kicks and giggles. Bruce falls almost instantaneously for international jet-setting african socialite Jezebel Jett, reveals his secret identity to her and is then driven insane and doped up on "weapons grade meth" before being dumped in an alley.
As with Hush, Jezebel's sudden appearance combined with her ridiculous name makes it glaringly obvious she's part of the set up and was being strung along all the time by Batman, who it turns out had a back-up personality implanted back in the day against just such an event as this. The Hand pretty much seal there fate by thinking they can involve the Joker and he won't brutally murder them for trying to rob him of the right of killing Batman. Bruce himself is last seen on an exploding helicopter taking out the Hand's leader.
Naturally a lot of people loathed the story. The reveal that Batman had known about Jezebel the whole time didn't stop their relationship up to that point being utterly painful, the claims it would be a defining story were felt by many to have been false (though it is pretty much the ultimate expression of the prepared for anything "Bat God" version of the character that Bruce has to be in order to hang with the JLA), the ending was very Reichenbach Falls, but the worst part was the (re)introduction of Batman's son Damien (from the out of continuity graphic novel Son of the Demon, sired by Talia's heavily implied rape of Bruce at some point in the past and introduced as a completely objectionable sociopathic pubescent brat. Some people have inferred that the cents of this plot line that Batman experiences are actually fake and instead are part of what follows...
Then we have Final Crisis
(if only) which is basically Morrison's "Wouldn't it be cool if Evil wins!" Magnum Opus in which, after having murdered every single one of Kirby's New Gods because DC didn't know what to do with the characters he has Darkseid pull a Xanatos Gambit that eventually sees Darkseid and his peeps, hanging on Earth in stolen human hosts, unleash the Anti-Life Equation via the internet and, well, win. Naturally Superman is off in some parallell dimension or such picking up the gizmo that will save the day. Wonder Woman -- just as naturally, because despite being billed as a member of the Big Three virtually no one at DC has any respect for her at all -- is either mindfragged or outright possessed into becoming one of Darkseid's minions off-screen
. Batman, though... Darkseid has for some time held a kidnapped Batman in order to use him as the Jango Fett for his new army except Batman's so hardcore he defeats the dreamscape machine he's stuck in, killing all the clones connected to it he was meant to be imprinting his badassitude on, then kills Darkseid moments before Darkseid hits him with the old Omega beams.
Which brings us to Battle of the Cowl
set to take place in the wake of Final Crisis
in which prety much every major Bat family member -- including Hush and Damien, the latter is implied via promo art to become Robin for at least some amount of time -- in a battle over the legacy and the mantle of the Bat.