WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Batman #45
Before Batman can enjoy his coming marriage to Catwoman, he has to face one last nightmare... Booster Gold's wedding present. The famously flawed and often flailing superhero does his best to surprise Bruce Wayne with, truly, the ultimate wedding present. Not a trinket or even a time machine of his own, but a glimpse at the world where Bruce never became Batman. Naturally, Booster being Booster, things didn't quite go according to plan.
And as Batman #45 opens with Booster and his A.I. assistant Skeets wandering Gotham City in search of the Dark Knight Detective, the true extent to Booster's mistake is revealed. Specifically, when a gun-toting Batman drops onto the scene - who is most certainly NOT Bruce Wayne.
The time-displaced hero recently made his first appearance in the reality of DC Comics Rebirth in Action Comics, where Booster joined DC's Man of Steel on a trip to Krypton's destruction. He caused enough of an uproar when that trip fractured the timeline, and forced the reveal of the wife and child Superman would have had if his home didn't explode. Now, Booster has returned to plague his former Justice League teammate, Batman.
It quickly becomes apparent in Batman #45 that this Gotham City is not the one readers are familiar with, even aside from the new, lethal Batman. Brief interludes reveal that Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin) is President of the United States, Ra's al Ghul openly rules an empire that dominates most of what was Europe and Asia, and multiple Jokers run wild through the streets of Gotham City. Eventually, Booster manages to track down Bruce Wayne, who is in the middle of throwing a party to celebrate his parents' wedding anniversary.
Yes, you read that right.
Booster explains, to a surprisingly unflappable Bruce, that the world he knows is actually a lie, and that Booster was responsible for creating this divergent timeline because of a well-meaning but misguided effort to answer the age old question, "What Do You Get For The Man Who Has Everything?"
The question and Booster's explanation are a nod to the classic Superman story "For The Man Who Has Everything", where Superman was exposed to a parasitic alien plant called The Black Mercy. The alien plant that famously causes its host to hallucinate a perfect world even as they are slowly devoured. It's a story Booster knows as well as comic fans, along with the moral: that Superman came to value his life all the more, after being treated to a vision of a perfect life that wasn't that perfect. Booster concluded that the best gift he could give Batman was to show him how much good he had really done just by being Batman.
Unfortunately, Booster decided the best way to do this was to stop Thomas and Martha Wayne from being killed, then visiting the resulting divergent future, not fully thinking through how the man who was Batman might react to the news that his parents were meant to die. It will be interesting to see how Booster Gold fixes his mistake and puts things back to how they were, before the timeline becomes even more messed up. We suppose it's the thought that counts.
Batman #45 is available now from DC Comics.