Batman is famous for his ability to plan ahead, sometimes even against his own teammates. While this usually makes him one of DC’s most dangerous fighters, this habit came back to haunt him is in the classic JLA storyline, “Tower of Babel,” by Mark Waid, Howard Porter, and Steve Scott. In the 2000 story, Ra’s al Ghul, one of his most dangerous foes, uses Batman’s paranoia to his advantage against the Justice League.
The Demon’s Head manages to steal the Dark Knight’s contingency plans to take down the Justice League and uses them to neutralize the World’s Greatest Heroes. Now, we’re taking a closer look at what exactly Batman’s plans were for each Leaguer, and did Batman’s teammates reacted to the knowledge that their colleague was planning against them.
As the story begins, Ra’s al Ghul is once again planning a worldwide assault, knowing that his greatest foe and his allies are the only things standing in his way. Unbeknownst to the heroes, Ra’s and his League of Assassins are tracking them over their communications frequencies, which allows them to strike at the JLA anywhere in the world.
The mastermind’s attacks begin with the Dark Knight himself. After stealing the corpses of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Ra’s leads the Dark Knight on a chase all over the world to distract him from countering Ra’s’ goals and prevent him from helping his teammates. Eventually, Batman makes his way to Ra’s’ hideout and is almost shattered when the Demon’s Head offers Bruce the opportunity to submerge his parents in the life-giving Lazarus Pits.
Ra’s’ attacks on the rest of the League were more directly confrontational. After neutralizing Batman, Talia al Ghul and her team fire a projectile filled with nanites at the Martian Manhunter. These nanites were designed to transmute magnesium, causing J’onn’s skin to burst into flames, the Manhunter’s weakness, anytime it hits the open air. Plastic Man and Aquaman were attacked while at the United Nations. A squad of assassins breaks in, freezing Plastic Man solid and shattering him before spraying Aquaman with a modified fear toxin that makes him terrified of water to the point where Arthur nearly dies of dehydration.
While the remaining Leaguers, search for the answers behind these attacks, Ra’s launches his full plan, sending out a signal that alters the language centers of brains worldwide, nearly initiating a global collapse while also further disrupting communication between his enemies. This occurs just as Wonder Woman and the Flash are going to check on Green Lantern at his apartment, as he’d not responded to his summons.
They find that Kyle has been blinded, neutralizing his capacity to form his energy constructs effectively. As they help their teammate, Wally and Diana are attacked by even more League assassins. They fire a VR chip directly into Diana’s brain, causing her to hallucinate and convince her body that she’s facing an unbeatable foe. Diana’s unyielding nature meant that she wouldn’t stop fighting this enemy until her body gave out. Meanwhile, Wally is shot from behind with a vibratory projectile designed to adapt to his ability to vibrate his own molecules. It lodges itself into his spinal column, giving him epileptic seizures at lightspeed.
Manhunter arrives in a containment suit to prevent combustion, but it limits his offensive capabilities. Superman arrives to aid his colleagues, but Talia exposes him to red Kryptonite, which alters his cellular structure and turns his skin transparent, exposing him to excruciating levels of solar radiation and overcharging him to the point where he can hardly contain himself.
The team manages to pull itself together and overcome Ra’s’ schemes, but their faith in Batman is shaken to the core. The League votes on Bruce’s continued membership. Flash, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern vote for him to stay, while Wonder Woman, Plastic Man and Aquaman no longer wish to fight beside him. It comes down to Superman to break the tie, but they find that Batman has already left before he could even vote, knowing full well the decision that his friend was going to make.
While Batman wasn’t the only person to create plans to stop the Justice League, he never intended to use his plans on the JLA, so long as they stayed on the side of the angels. But that didn’t change the threat they presented to the team and the world at large. “Tower of Babel” shows that sometimes friends can make the most dangerous enemies.
In the classic Justice League story, “Tower of Babel,” DC's mighest heroes were all defeated by Batman, even though he never lifted a finger.