DC announced a big summer event that will begin with 'The Death of the Justice League' in April's Justice League #75, where the big event of it is - you guessed it - the death of the Justice League. While according to the publisher one of the 10 main Justice League members will survive, the remaining nine will die - and the publisher has already showed a cover with caskets for Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow.(opens in new tab)
But as one hero falls, another must usually take their place - metaphorically, but also in terms of the monthly (and sometimes even more frequent and sometimes multiple) solo titles starring those heroes.
So who will take up the mantle as the main Batman, the main Wonder Woman, the main Superman, and the rest in the titles that carry their names?
We have some ideas, right now specifically about Batman… especially given how much of DC's comic book line is Batman-focused.
Who could be DC's next Batman?(opens in new tab)
Bruce Wayne has already removed himself from Gotham City for a walkabout of sorts with the rejuvenated Batman Inc., and the Bat-shaped hole has been filled quickly in-story with the remaining Bat-Family taking over the flagship Detective Comics title. At the same time, a new, second Batman - Jace Fox - has begun operating in Gotham City… but he too, has quit Gotham.
So if Batman/Bruce Wayne is dying as part of this 'Death of the Justice League' story, who will replace him specifically and his roost in the long-running, top-selling monthly Batman comic book series?
Obvious choices would be the aforementioned new Batman (Jace Fox), but also the guy who took over as Batman the last time Bruce Wayne died - Dick Grayson. A third option would be Damian Wayne, picking up on several flashforward scenes over the years which have shown him to eventually pick up the mantle of his father and become Batman. Then there's also the idea of the next Batman being Batwoman, which would be fun character-wise.
There could even be a multiversal component with a Batman variant stepping up. Flashpoint Beyond goes on sale the same month as'The Death of the Justice League,' and stars the Batman variant Thomas Wayne of the Flashpoint universe. Perhaps if Batman dies, the mantle would be inherited by his father - even if it's his alt-universe father?
But what if….? to borrow a phrase from Marvel…. What if DC is looking to shock you with something completely new and unpredictable. Something that'd grab the attention of even the most casual of fans. Something that could be considered so risky that they'd want to test the waters first.
What about Lex Luthor as DC's main Batman?
Lex Luthor as the new Batman
If you think about it, Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne have a lot in common.
They're both wealthy (at least Bruce Wayne usually is). They're both normal human beings in a world of metahumans, aliens, and other lifeforms. And they both have the technical prowess to build a suit to help them stand toe-to-toe against stronger adversaries.
Heck, Lex Luthor was even a member of the Justice League for a time.
And not for nothing, both Lex and Bruce have a healthy distrust for Superman to the point they've both weaponized Kryptonite if and when they had to battle the Man of Steel.
How DC has paved the way for Lex as Batman
If I've got you onboard with it as a theoretical possibility, let's now revisit recent events in DC comic books and how these events could be seen as the publisher setting up this surprise, and perhaps testing the waters for a Lex-Batman.
In January 4's Batman #119, Bruce Wayne discovers that his old international superhero organization Batman Inc. is back in business - despite him not endorsing it, or even funding it (remember, his Wayne family fortune was liquidated during 'The Joker War'). He learns that Batman Inc. is back in business thanks to a mystery benefactor quickly revealed to be Lex Luthor.
Remember, Lex Luthor's wealth is on par with what Bruce Wayne used to have. So exit Wayne Enterprises, and enter LexCorp - proud underwriter of Batman Inc.(opens in new tab)
In Batman #119, Lex tells Bruce that he has funded the operation out of his own sense of pursuing justice. What 'justice' means for Lex might be quite different than what it is for Bruce, but nevertheless, he's in charge now.
"It's a win-win…" Lex tells Bruce in Batman #119. "You'll see it my way soon, Bruce."
So just what is 'Lex's way'? We got a possible tease of what it may be on the cover to March 1's Batman #121, with Lex suited up in his own Batman suit - complete with a Bat-logo, but sans a mask (for now). DC says this upcoming issue will reveal "Lex Luthor's dangerous master plan for Batman Inc."
If you think about it, Lex would want to be Batman.
There are precedents to Lex wanting to take over the mantle of superheroes.(opens in new tab)
In 2016's Justice League #52, Lex Luthor took on the name Superman - S-symbol and all.
In 2019's Justice League #28, Lex Luthor kills his childhood friend the Martian Manhunter, and used J'onn J'onzz's DNA to evolve himself into a martian/human hybrid.
So Lex Luthor getting fully into the Batman business makes a kind of sense. And if you think Bruce wouldn't allow it over his dead body, Batman will most likely be dead (or DC wants you to think he will be) once 'The Death of the Justice League' occurs in April's Justice League #75.
Look for more of this in upcoming issues of Batman, and possibly elsewhere in the DCU.
If you think Lex-as-Batman would be mind-boggling, check out our list of the biggest changes to Batman in his 80+ year history.