WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Batman: The Drowned #1
The Justice League's faced evil versions of Batman before - but none like Bryce Wayne, the Batwoman who's come to take over DC's world in Batman: The Drowned. She's just one of the evil Batmen/Batwomen who have been brought to life as part of DC's massive METAL blockbuster, an event that's already seen the Justice League chased out of their own universe, leaving room for these Bat-nightmares to launch their attack. In the case of Bryce Wayne a.k.a. The Drowned, that means submerging Aquaman's hometown of Amnesty Bay underwater, and turning his Queen Mera into a zombified monster. And Bryce is only getting started.
For those who thought that the story of Bruce Wayne, the 'normal' Batman was a tragic one, METAL has been a serious wake-up call. Bruce is the result of his parents' death, which is admittedly sad. But the more horrifying questions nobody dared to ask aloud have all been made real: What if Batman turned himself into Doomsday? What if Batman stole The Flash's speed? What if Batman had become The Joker? The invading 'Dark Knights' of METAL have answered these questions, but Bryce Wayne stood out as the answer to a question few fans had ever asked... What if Bruce Wayne was born a woman? Thanks to Dan Abnett and Philip Tan, we now know.
The answer is a Batwoman who waged war on Atlantis, gained the powers of Aquaman, and murdered a planet to avenge the death of her lover - Catman. Time to get up to speed.
Bryce Wayne, The Batwoman
The debut of Bryce Wayne reveals that she hails from Earth -11, yet another of the dark, tortured, and ultimately doomed realities of DC's Dark Multiverse (a new addition to DC's Multiverse mythology, and the realm where 'what-if' and 'nightmare' realities die so the better ones above may prosper). While little of her origin story is revealed - we can assume it follows the path of Bruce's - it's her love for a man with a meaningful name that cemented her path to darkness. That man, Bryce's lover, was 'Sylvester Kyle,' confirming that on Earth -11, the genders of DC's iconic characters are swapped... or as Bryce points out, the genders of those icons are swapped from their natural state on her Earth. Whichever way you look at it, Sylvester's murder at the hands of "rogue metas" sent Bryce on a mission of vengeance, slaughtering each superhuman criminal responsible.
But the victory was short-lived, as the armies of Atlantis - led by their Queen, a gender-flipped Aquaman - soon emerged in the name of 'peace.' That's the same basic premise seen in modern versions of the DC Universe: Arthur attempts to lead Atlantis and humans towards peace, usually reaching a bitter or involuntary ceasefire. But in the worlds of the Dark Multiverse, things go far worse: war breaks out, with only Batma-- Batwoman willing to do what's necessary to protect her world.
Bryce Wayne shows the same fanaticism and ruthlessness of her family name... but goes one step farther.
Batwoman Made Herself More Than Human
As the issue reveals, Bryce Wayne is as capable of doing the impossible as Bruce Wayne is on our world. But where Bruce has his fellow heroes and friends to hold him in check, Bryce was on her own. Which means nobody could talk her out of engaging Aquawoman in combat, slaying her before her empire, and claiming her Trident as a spoil of war. But victorious or not, Atlantis would never follow a land-dweller - and avenged their fallen queen by sinking Gotham City and all who dwelled within it. Naturally, Bryce did the only thing that an alternate reality version of Batman could be expected to: subjected herself to experimental surgery to mutate her DNA into that of the Atlanteans.
With superhuman strength, accelerated healing, and the aforementioned trident in hand, Batwoman launched all-out war on Atlantis. To take on the soldiers of the underwater kingdom, she engineered an army of her own: a zombiefied, mutated storm of souls known as 'Dead Water.' The longtime DC fans of Aquaman will know that name as belonging to several villains of Arthur Curry, with similar power sets and appearance. This time though, it comes with a twist: the Dead Water is as much an infection as an army, demonstrated when Bryce Wayne begins her assault on DC's main Earth.
Aquaman may escape with his life, but not before he watches Bryce submerge his town... and turn Mera into one of her Drowned soldiers. Here's hoping there's a cure.
The Drowned Batwoman is Out For Revenge
If this were your standard comic book twist, or usual case of a 'what-if' character from a parallel world stirring up trouble, Aquaman might win the day. And although the Justice League is currently scattered, captured, or moments from death as a result of METAL's scale, they may still find a way to push back the forces of darkness and evil for good (and almost certainly will). But for now, Bryce Wayne represents the overwhelming odds, devastation, and lasting impact that this rise of nightmarish Dark Knights will truly have.
The Drowned is looking to submerge the entire planet in water, just as she did on her home world. The silver lining, if there is one, is that more than half a dozen evil Batmen looking to kill DC's Earth may slow eachother down long enough for the heroes to rebound. Cross your fingers.
Batman: The Drowned #1 is available now.