The Cataclysm was Ra's al Ghul's plot to purify Gotham City and take revenge on Bruce Wayne for running away from the League of Assassins and his daughter Talia. Phase 1 of the plan was to destroy Gotham City, phase 2 was to torture and replace Batman.
In order to achieve this, Ra's decided to create four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a group of experimental warriors overseen by El Penitente, replacing a project that Ra's al Ghul was not satisfied with. Together, this quartet were meant to oversee Gotham's cleansing and the removal of the Batman:
- Lilith (Larissa Diaz) - The scout of the group, Larissa Diaz was named Lilith and would stalk the city until she located Batman and use her talents to poison the Batman, little by little, to keep his mind clouded and prevent him from performing at his peak performance, ensuring chaos would reign in the aftermath of the League's engineered earthquake.
- Abaddon (Bane) - The muscle of the group, a prisoner from Santa Prisca was named Abaddon and was surgically grafted to an injection system which would fuel his muscles with an enhanced steroid concocted from the chemicals of the Lazarus Pits. With a mind able to match the Dark Knight in tactical analysis and a body surpassing the abilities of the Batman, Abaddon was trusted with defeating and capturing the Batman.
- Dumah (Jason Todd) - Ra's usurped the body of Jason Todd, a young man killed by the Joker, who had been trained by Wayne and using the Lazarus Pit, arcane rituals, forbidden science, and torture, Ra's reshaped the young man into an assassin worthy of helping to bring down the Batman. It was left to him to assist the other Horsemen in logistics and tactics, providing them with the vital intel they would need to overcome Gotham's caped crusader. Once the Batman was captured, Dumah would oversee the torture and torment of the captive Bruce Wayne, making certain that he was at his lowest before he would be released from this world.
- Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) - Given the honor of executing the Batman was Azrael, an experiment from birth overseen by the League and crafted into the ideal assassin. Once the Batman was removed from this mortal plane, Azrael would then become Gotham's new champion, helping the League to usher in a new age for the city, guided to new heights by Ra's al Ghul...
The Undertaking was a trial run of the Cataclysm, a test of the artificial Earthquake machine and a small jailbreak of prisoners in Star City and then a systematic attack on Oliver Queen by the League of Assassins. It was called off so as to not risk tipping their hand that their true target was ultimately Gotham. There were no Horsemen, but the League tried attacking his character and him in person repeatedly, trying to wear him down. They actually beat him unconscious and set fire to his family home, but John Diggle saved his life. Another common thing they would do is call him and make him aware of two imminent attacks against his loved ones and then see which one he'd go to protect. Sometimes they'd carry out the attacks and if Oliver didn't show, leave their target battered and broken, or they'd just video tape him going to save the other person and mail it to the target that Oliver chose not to save. Sometimes, they'd do both. Because of the actions of the League both Thea Queen and Sara Lance left Team Arrow.
No Man's Land
On the anniversary of the death of Jason Todd, November 1st, 2007, in Gotham, the League of Assassins set off an artificial earthquake in Gotham, timed with explosives on the city’s bridges, and a coordinated unleashing of powerful weaponry to the city’s criminals and a mass escape at both Blackgate Prison and Arkham Asylum. This day and the time that followed has since been coined "The Cataclysm of Gotham".
With Gotham declared a No Man’s Land by the US government, Batman was left to restore order in Gotham and capture every single escapee. Easier said than done, that was a task made more difficult by the Four Horsemen. While Lilith carried out her assignment, the second Horseman, the assassin now known as Bane, got carried away. November 22nd, 2007 he captured detectives Bullock and Bard and Captain Gordon and challenged Batman (after executing one of the DEO's agents, Hadley Jagger) at the top of GCPD. After beating the Dark Knight to within an inch of his life, he strayed from the plan and tried to kill the Batman by throwing him over the side of the GCPD Headquarters. Batman was able to grapnel to safety where he was picked up by his new apprentice Tim Drake and his faithful friend Alfred Pennyworth who managed to get him to safety.
With the League's plan in flux, Dumah began to regain his memories. El Penitente’s brainwashing was shown to be faulty when the League attempted to use Vanguard as a horsemen, but it all came crashing down on Jason. He took over the biker gang known as the Order of Righteous Fury, changed his name from "Dumah" to "St. Dumas", and started taking over the criminal underworld. As St. Dumas did so, Azrael watched from the shadows, hoping that Dumas would lure Batman out of hiding.
The League also hadn’t counted on one of it’s most skilled trainees arriving in Gotham to fight off the criminal scum that was seizing it. Oracle, Black Canary, and Huntress rose up to fight back, becoming the team known as the Birds of Prey. They came across this trainee, who was operating as The Nothing, and determined to give this city hope once more, they gave Cassandra Cain a suit as she became the third Batgirl. While Bruce was recovering, his first protégé, Dick Grayson was called in by Tim to become the new Batman and help restore order in Gotham. As Tim officially debuted as the third Robin, they began taking back their city with help from others such as the Birds and Bruce's cousin, Kate Kane, the vigilante known as Batwoman. Black Lightning also stepped up to protect the Bowery and East End from chaos. It was the first time the Vigilante was seen.
As St. Dumas’s black mask began to rust, he came into conflict with the new Batman and Robin. As the three brothers battled it out, Dumas's mask was knocked off. Seeing Dick caused his memories to rush back to him, and used his brother's confusion to escape. Azrael looked on as Batman defeated Dumas, turned the Order against their master, and discovered the identity of the masked Horseman as one of his fallen comrades. As Batman pursued a fleeing Dumas, Azrael made his move and confronted the exhausted Batman. Though thrown-off by this Batman's techniques differing from those he had trained to counteract, Azrael did manage to defeat Batman by making use of a bullet wound inflicted by Dumas. However, his programming went haywire as he was meant to kill Bruce Wayne’s Batman, not Dick Grayson.
Bruce became more dedicated to recovering, returning to a better state with a drive to find Jason. With his city finally back under control, Bruce finished his long road to recovery and returned to the cape and cowl.
The Cataclysm was an important event for many people. It affected people who would soon become villains:
- Arnold Wesker killed his cellmate during the escape and took his puppet. He later resurfaced as the Ventriloquist.
- Matt Hagen dropped his disguise as Ethan Bennett after seeing Talia al Ghul and became the monstrous Clayface.
- Eric Needham gained the nickname of Black Spider and joined the Sons of Batman
- After the death of his wife, Maximillian Stavropoulos became the mafioso Maxie Zeus.
- Arthur Brown started to embrace his dark side.
- Roxy Rocket became unstoppable and very wealthy.
- Dorothy Tan became traumatized after her mother's death.
- Hayley Fitzpatrick and Bianca Steeplechase joined the Laugh Pack to survive. Bianca was also transformed by the Joker Venom.
- The death of Hadley Jagger left a vacancy in the title of the Judomaster, later assumed by Sonia Sato.
- Maggie Sawyer and Renee Montoya joined the GCPD.
- Bette Kane and Duke Thomas both felt not safe (Betty feeling wealth would make her a target; Duke because his mother died) and decided to join the Sons of Batman.
- The actions of her father during the cataclysm convinced Harper Row to request emancipation.
- Lives of Howard and Jill Travis were claimed, and their daughter Lee found safety with her parents' friends in a brownstone. Among those friends was Mr. Bones who became her mentor. Tan family lost their matriarch.
- After finishing lawschool Kate Spencer decided to move to Gotham to make her mark, wisely deducing that there would be no shortage of restructuring and growth to be found in the ruined city.
In the aftermath of the Cataclysm Amanda Waller saw an opportunity to establish an international agency dedicated to pursuing global threats and investigating the rise of meta-crime. The result was ARGUS, a United Nations sanctioned intelligence operation overseen by Maxwell Lord, with Amanda Waller herself as the deputy director. Under the umbrella of ARGUS, the JLA founders and original members were invited back to found a new team, an international team simply known as the Justice League.
Two other teams were formed in the Aftermath: Dick Grayson formed the Outsiders with the purpose of finding Jason Todd and bringing him back into the fold; While Gotham was under siege, Dick's friend and former Titan, Victor Stone (aka: Cyborg) saw a need for a team of heroes that would handle any crisis that occurred in cities without a dedicated protector or who could investigate other matters of concern without violating the U.S. government ban on the JLA acting in international affairs. So he set up shop inside an old secret training and meeting facility that the "Super Friends" used to use, in the quiet East Coast town of Happy Harbor. This secret team was never given a name, but Cyborg liked to call it ‘Young Justice’ on account of most of its members being teenagers and young adults.
Azrael knew he would never be Gotham’s champion like the Batman had and simply walked away, leaving an unconscious Dick Grayson to discover Azrael’s mercy when he regained consciousness. He took over the Order and became dedicated to the Batman instead, renaming the biker gang "The Sons of Batman".
Trivia and Notes
- Jason replaced El Flamingo who was originally going to be the Horseman Dumah.
- League of Assassins broke Edward Nygma out of Arkham to secure his assistance in planning the terrorist attack.
- Bruce Wayne discovered he had a son while checking on Julie Madison's well being.
- During the tail end of the Cataclysm, Vic Sage and Helena Bertinelli became close and began a romantic relationship. Vic wanted to train her to be his replacement, but Tot convinced him to break things off with her and train Renee Montoya instead. Tot reasoned that Helena was too young, too full of potential, and too invested in Vic emotionally that it would not be fair to have her suffer through the tragic loss of a second boyfriend, having previously been involved with Jason Todd.
- Cataclysm is a combination of storylines: No Man's Land, Knightfall, and the first season of Arrow.