DC Ten Year Plan

Introduction

For those of you who may not have heard, James Gunn and Peter Safran, new heads of DC’s movieverse, are putting together a ten year plan. So I thought I’d pitch my own.

Assumptions

1. We’re playing it where it lies. That means no rewriting 2023’s The Flash to get rid of Ezra Miller, or assuming he’ll be killed in the final five minutes (he might be… but that’s a much easier thing to fix in my pitch than the reverse).

2. Budget is now one of the names of the game. So we’re a lot less likely to see the kinds of big-budget ensembles I prefer for my comic movies, (as you can tell from my other pitches). But I still expect team-ups and duos to be the norm.

3. Covid makes some movie failures an open question. WW2 could have been a winner at the box office, even if it wasn’t a great movie. For that reason I expect sequels to be greenlit that wouldn’t otherwise (you wouldn’t normally do a Suicide Squad 3 after that kind of a box office drop… but the pandemic creates this odd uncertainty- so I expect sequels to happen if only to keep the talent happy).

4. We’re assuming none of these balls get dropped, which is a big assumption. No one expected Black Adam to thud quite as hard as it did; it was supposed to build out the Justice Society, but it won’t get a sequel, and I suspect the Society won’t get a spin-off, either, at least not in its current state.

5. I’m assuming 3 movies per year. I know next year will have 4, but I think that’s entirely because DC blinked and moved Aquaman off of Avatar 2’s weekend- no reason to give up $100+ million just to play chicken with Disney- maybe a lot more, if Avatar is well-received and Aquaman isn’t. I expect 3 movies is the max DC will try to do on average; anything else risks glutting the market and stretching their producers too thin. It’s possible that changes; if they can consistently produce 3 per year without major duds, they might step up to 4… but I suspect savvy executives would recognize Marvel’s quality has slipped somewhat due to Feige being stretched thin, and try to avoid that.

6. I’m assuming we stop at trilogies. Marvel are experimenting with Thor 4 and Cap 4, but that happened later; for now we’re assuming after trilogies that things evolve.

7. You could read the statement about not having 4 Batmen as meaning literally that… but I think it points to a collapse of the multiverse- a Crisis on Infinite Earths as dictated by corporate fiat. Which we can work with.

TWIST

Given that reports have put Wonder Woman 3 as getting the ax, Momoa being out as Aquaman and Gunn rebooting Superman without Cavill… it looks like they’re aiming for more of a tabula rasa than I initially assumed. Because my procrastination is an onion of infinite leaf, I will still pitch my original version, and then also pitch a wide open, blue sky version after that. Honestly, I think a clean slate is the way to go… but I’m frankly a little shocked Warner/Discovery are moving ahead with it.

2024

I figure this is kind of a rebuilding year. So I’m only pitching one project, the only one I think has a chance of getting greenlit and made in time to come out in the same year as Joker 2.

Wonder Woman 3: War of the Realms

I’ve seen the reporting. I don’t believe the sequel is dead; the first one made $800 million, and the sequel suffered because of the pandemic. So it’s getting a sequel, and it’s one of very few projects that might make a 2024 deadline at this point.. To me the main question is whether or not Patty Jenkins will be involved. The next is whether or not they want to recast Gal Gadot- which is far riskier (most people don’t know Jenkins, but they know the actress in the role).

I think 1984 got made largely because after the first one blew up, Jenkins had too much clout. They thought the Wondertrain could never be derailed, so they might as well keep milking prequels, and if it ever did, you could just start making modern sequels. I think it’s time to pull that rip-cord.

This one takes place in the aftermath of Justice League. Wonder Woman has come full-circle, rejoining the world as well as now essentially leading the League. So it’s going to involve at least a little of her role as part of the world. I’d lean into it, make her ambassador from both Themyscira and also from the Hall of Justice- so she represents her people and the Justice League to the United Nations. That also neatly sets up an arc for her, in that there’s bound to be tension between the League and her nation.

The other big narrative thread we have lingering is Steve. She needs to get over Steve. Personally, I prefer the Frozen route; she’s the world’s premier superheroine, so it’s not great if her movies are all about the boy she likes (and we can’t even lean into her sex-positivity of the first film because she’s been portrayed at this point as being an emotional shut-in after Steve’s death). So I’d introduce Artemis. I’d make her literally Diana’s little sister, bratty, brash, spoiled and snotty, in all the ways a second child to the perfect first can be. She’s also incredibly hurt that Diana abandoned her, and the Amazons.

Perhaps that’s why, when there’s a minor territorial scuffle with Atlantis, Artemis fans its flames into outright war. Now, obviously, this sequel would be more financially viable if you get Momoa as Aquaman. But you could also do Mera, running Atlantis in his stead while he attends to League business, perhaps settling up a cool, strange superheroine cat fight. Or you could have it be Orm, Black Manta, the bench of, “briefly took over Atlantis to cause trouble” villains is reasonably deep (this pun is intentional).

Regardless, it becomes clear to everyone, the Amazons and the world, that she can’t both be their ambassador for peace and a part of the world’s unofficial superhero justice department. She has to choose. I’d have her speak to Athena (because again, the Gods are real in her world), and the Goddess of wisdom says that she can be a true and faithful sister to her people- or she can embrace the world as her people, and be faithful to them, and leave rule and representation of the Amazons to those without a foot in both worlds.

So she helps put an end to the conflict, first, then resigns as the Amazonian ambassador, because she can’t be both a peacekeeper and a peacemaker- and her heart and her skills are more in the one than the other. And at the same time she reconnects with her love for her sister- with her love for all of her sisters- and realizes that at some point Steve became a symbol for the loss of all of them, as well.

2025

The Batman 2: Hush

I’m assuming Matt Reeves maintains largely full control, but I can’t pass up a chance to pitch some Batman, and it’s taking up space in my schedule, anyway, so loosely tracking the comic story, in the same way that The Batman loosely tracked a few different stories; Joker is treated like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs in the original story. We could go a step further, keeping him in shadow for most of the runtime. That would allow us to, if Joker 2 makes anywhere near what the first did, have a cameo from Phoenix, canonizing his Joker as the post-Flashpoint Joker (or at least one of them). Because we’d need Dick around, and because I think the idea of Robert Pattinson trying to foster a child would be funny, one of the segments of the story involves the death of the Graysons and Bruce taking Dick in- then immediately realizing he’s an emotionally stunted adolescent, and in no way ready for a kid.

The Suicide Squads

Sequel box office is usually a referendum on audience enjoyment of the previous film; it can be helped by marketing, but only so much. People were intrigued by Squad 1, then let down, so they were less keen to be bit a second time- even by a superior product. But this superior product was also the baby of the new boss of DC, or at least one of them, so I expect it to get a third entry.

I assume James Gunn would be writing and likely directing this one himself. As the name implies, it’s Squad 1 vs. Squad 2. Amanda Waller re-recruits her first squad to go after her rogue squad, headlined by Redemption Tour Will Smith. She wants them dead or back on her leash, and their leverage destroyed. How can you not salivate at the idea of Deadshot vs. Bloodsport, King Shark vs. Killer Croc, Harley and her Spear vs. Kitana and her Kitana? It might even be fun to do Ratcatcher 2 vs. Enchantress.

Given the casualties 1 suffered, we could either add characters. My preference would be to recruit Clayface, but a brainwashed Clayface who believes he’s Steve Trevor, and that he’s been serving as a deep cover black operative since his ‘death,’ with the aim of eventually putting him and Wonder Woman together for some emotional fireworks. Or you cold just have Peacemaker show up and join their squad. Either way, 2 is outmatched and things look dire… until Harley cashes in a favor from the Birds of Prey! Waller is lead away in cuffs (handed off to General Wade Eiling), and Task Force X is officially disbanded, with both squads freed.

Of course… that just means Waller and her special project go deeper underground… but that’s a concern for another day.

Green Lantern Corps.

Not to be confused with my more pie in the sky version I pitched before, this would be smaller.

Given that Ryan Reynolds was essentially doing a variation on Guy Gardner’s personality, and I’m assuming we’re going to be doing this as small-scale as you can do something like this, we have two human main characters, and they’ll be John Stewart and Kyle Rayner. John’s been around the block, and Kyle’s the rookie.

We play the GL Corps. almost like a police department, that kind of bureaucracy, codes of conduct, etc. Assuming we want to make this as cost-effective as possible, we can do it almost like Men in Black, that there’s essentially a sector house stationed on Earth, that they work out of. The front office is staffed by humans, or at least shapeshifters and humanoids. As they get deeper in, their coworkers get weirder. Then John leads him into an interrogation room.

Stewart tells him they’re at war. One of their own, Sinestro, has been recruiting. Their rings run on willpower. Sinstro’s runs on fear. His theory, the same of many petty dictators, is that fear is more powerful than will. And Kyle’s there because, right now, they’re losing that war, and doesn’t want to talk about what happened to Hal. He asks Kyle to tell him how they got there.

Kyle was a graphic designer. Mostly freelance. Hard to keep a single gig going in this economy. Between gigs he liked to station himself at a coffee shop and sketch, to keep his design skills limber.

A Sinestro member crashes through the shop. Kyle’s slashed with a piece of broken glass. The Sinestro is blasted by green light, and we see that he landed on a Green Lantern. It holds out its ring to Kyle, and tells him to take it- take it and run.

We see Kyle running down the street as yellow energy flies past him. Someone vulnerable is frozen in his path, a child, maybe a stroller or an elder person. Kyle turns, the ring clutched in his hand, and holds up his arms and closes his eyes- he can’t let someone else get hurt because of him.

We’re back in the interrogation. “For the record, that blast would have incinerated both of you. For the same record- I’ve never seen a civilian activate a ring, let alone one they were only holding.” We’re back. Kyle opens his eyes, and sees the green bubble he created. The Sinestro starts to punch it, and the bubble cracks. Kyle tries to reinforce it with his mind, a flurry of motion as he imagines intricate defenses, but they’re too weak to hold the creature back, it’s going to break through.

A green burst of energy knocks him down and back, and Stewart lands in front of Kyle. In the interrogation room, Stewart asks for the ring, and says they can’t be taken. Kyle says it was given to him. “Be that as it may, the odds of you getting it to work again are astronomical, and even if you do, you won’t have a way to recharge it. Unless I swear you in.”

They talk about what joining the Lanterns means, and eventually has him repeat the oath after him, then has him slide on the ring, and he transforms into a Green Lantern.

We meet Sinestro. We’re going to do something different, here. The Sinestros are mostly working on Earth. They’ve taken over a Central American cartel- converting some of them with rings, killing others. They did this for access to their chemical processing and networks. And the reason is that they’ve partnered with a human with expertise in creating fear chemically, Dr. Jonathan Crane, and they intend to use his chemicals to amplify their strength a hundred fold and crush the Green Lanterns, first on Earth, but eventually on Oa.

So you can do a lower key, earth-based crime story with the Lanterns for a lower budget, but with the promise of potential space-based chicanery to come- but depending on box office you can keep the action mostly Earth-based- so it doesn’t have to be a Star Wars to justify sequels.

2026

Flash 2/Earth 2

I’m assuming that with as risk-averse as WB-Discovery has been, they don’t want to keep Ezra Miller around. In light of that, I expect they’ll recast- maybe a cameo of Ezra, but replace him, maybe with Wally from a different universe, the future, whatever.

So at the end of Flashpoint (I’m assuming they keep him through that- if only because they want him around, at least theoretically, for press), Barry emerges on Earth 2. At first he doesn’t understand it- he’s never emerged in the wrong universe before. We play up the similarities between this world and the Snyderverse, hinting hard in promo material that Flash will actually be returning to Snyder’s DCEU.

I’d honestly keep that going as long as possible. Flash is captured by people who look a lot like his Justice League… only they aren’t. And they’ve also captured another Flash, a Wally West. He came with his Barry here, summoned by some kind of mad science that pulls those in touch with the Speed Force there. Because this Earth is dying. It’s a wrong Earth. They want to use the Flashes to escape it before it’s destroyed.

The two Flashes are able to escape together. They have a conversation at superspeed, Wally at first thrilled to see Barry, before the realization hits him- he isn’t his Barry, which means his Barry really is dead. The Crime Syndicate are just behind them. Barry realizes they can’t both get away- and sacrifices himself so Wally can make it out- because I’m a sucker for the classics, I’d have his death happen like it did in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Suddenly Wally is our lead.

He’s found by Lex Luthor- this planet’s greatest hero. They team up with a heroic version of the Joker, called the Jester, to destroy the stolen LexTech that is drawing Flashes. While the Syndicate were distracted looking for their own way out, Lex evacuated the rest of the Earth- but he and Jester stayed behind to make sure the Syndicate didn’t follow- or escape to some other unsuspecting Earth.

The pair fall fighting the Crime Syndicate, and Flash both manages to destroy the Flash lure, and escape back to Barry’s original timeline. If we can wangle the cameos, Flash goes to the Justice League. Most of them just assume he’s Barry. But Batman sees through him. He waits until the others have given them distance. “You aren’t Barry. Just who the hell are you?”

Aquaman 3: Return of the King

I’ll assume James Wan (or at least his bank account) are pissed at the cancellation of The Trench. But that was a silly idea- an unbranded Aquaman spin-off designed around… Black Manta? But there’s no reason the concept, and the production design has to go to waste. I’m assuming from the synopsis that it’s Black Manta Aquaman will be teaming with in 2, otherwise he would be the main villain here. If he’s in 2, then we’ll swap in Charybdis… and we’re going to do a lot of foreshadowing about severed hands- but we’re probably not going to chop off his hand… no matter how big of a fan of the Evil Dead movies I am (though if we do, we aren’t giving him a hook- we’ll give him a turbine hand). But if we do do Charybdis… I’d have him claim to be the rightful king of the seven seas, with the Trench’s legions at his back to enforce the claim.

This would be, overall, a much darker story. The creatures of the Trench have been riled by a new leader, promising that their old foes, the Atlanteans, the Amazons and the Lost Kingdomians can no longer hold back their strength. And… they win, around the halfway mark. The terrible creatures of the Trench overrun Atlantis, which is forced to evacuate, half of their forces going to Paradise Island, the other to the Lost Kingdom. I’m just… going to assume that Arthur’s arc is accepting his role and responsibility as Atlantis’ ruler, which means Atlantis falls in part when Arthur refuses to lead, expecting the generals and army to handle things. He fights with them, even at the head- but he is not their figurehead.

I’ll assume including Aquaman, or at minimum Aquaman elements, in Wonder Woman 3, will have both cemented a connection between the two places, and helped juice box office. So I’d say the reverse would work here, and also, Wondy sort of owes Arthur a return of the favor. The Amazons sustain casualties as part of the evacuation, leading Diana to lead the Amazon forces. She’s a natural at it, something that awes Arthur (it’s one thing to command seven heroes, another to command an army and a nation without breaking stride). She gives him the tough love pep talk he needs, inspiring him to be the leader Atlantis needs. As part of that he pleads to let the Atlanteans take the first line- they were beaten back, but not broken. They need to reclaim their dignity nearly as much as they need to reclaim their home. The Amazon generals are reluctant; if their front line doesn’t hold their defenses overall weaken- the Atlanteans could lead to the fall of the Amazons if they can’t hold long enough. Arthur is adamant they’ll hold. He gives his warriors a Braveheart speech, and they drive the Trench warriors back into the sea.

They continue the fighting all the way back to Atlantis, and retake the city. Atlantis’ generals argue for driving them back into the trench, then mining the cliffs; that will close the passage, and collapse the trench, killing most of them, and sealing the rest away. But Aquaman, during the evacuation, saw some of Atlantis’ worse-off, those left behind by previous regimes, and sees the parallels. At first he resists, and the generals press harder, assuming, from his inexperience, that he can be cowed, until finally he bellows, “No. They are angry because we have, again and again, made them lesser. We are not their betters- we are their brothers. I am not the king of the beautiful parts of the ocean, I am king of the seas, and they are my people, too.” So Arthur sues for peace, and with a little humility, is able to end the conflict without bloodshed, reuniting the two kingdoms under his rule.

Shazam vs Black Adam

Yes, this essentially functions as Shazam 3 and Black Adam 2, and is probably the smart bet whether or not Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel. Black Adam is one of his big antagonists; one of the other two is a telepathic caterpillar… so I’m going with the one played by the Rock (although I now desperately want Vin Diesel to voice Mr. Mind at some point).

Now… I’ll admit, I haven’t seen Black Adam yet. I don’t know whether or not he retakes his country in that film or not… but that’s a minor detail, because that’s how this movie begins. He remakes the ancient city-state of Kahndaq. This bugs the crap out of Shazam, because people assume it’s him, because they both have a lightning bolt chest. I just imagine Zachary Levi, exasperated, telling an old woman he saved from being hit by a truck and is now beating him mercilessly with her purse pointing to a TV in a shop window bearing news footage of Black Adam rampaging, telling her, as she hits him, “I look nothing like the guy. I have hair. And a cape!” She starts swinging underhand, and while the swing goes off screen, we can tell she’s whacking him in the crotch. “Stop that,” he says, catching the purse.

Shazam convenes the rest of the Marvel family. They discuss; most of them argue for cooler heads; but Billy’s really struggling, here. He wanted to be like Superman, but he’s becoming, “Thanks for saving me, I guess, but screw you, man!” So Billy goes off on his own to fight Black Adam… and has his clock pretty thoroughly cleaned.

I imagine there’s a lot of comedy to be had, excitable Zach Levi trying to convince Black Adam that his relatively naïve and idealistic morality is superior… and Black Adam just really not having any patience for this child in a man’s body.

The Marvels arrive to rescue Billy, and they start to have a big superhero fight… before Billy realizes the damage they’re doing, and all to salve his ego. He realizes what’s really important- the little people, the ones who can’t stop tank shells. Billy convinces the Marvels to stop fighting.

Just then, the warlords Black Adam took Kahndaq back from, counter-attack, seeing the Marvels’ intervention as an exploitable crisis. And they’ve upped their game, getting some magically infused tank shells that actually do hurt him. Billy recognizes that the warlords are the worse of the two evils, so they team up with Black Adam.

At the end, the Marvels tell Adam to leave Kahndaq alone. “No.” He tells them the only way they can pry his home from him is with a war that will level the country- and he knows they wouldn’t do that.

Billy’s angry, but recognizes Adam has a point. “Today, you’re the lesser of the evils. The day that changes, I’m dragging you out of here myself.”

Now… if Shazam 2 is a breakout sequel, you might be able to get money enough for a Justice Society cameo. Say the tanks, given that they’re specifically designed with Shazams in mind, could be a problem for all of our heroes… until the Justice Society show up to help out. This could foster good will with the Marvels, and pave the way for Shazam to continue as a part of the Justice Society.

2027

Justice League: Dark

Okay… this one is wild, even for me. It starts as we’d expect, Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and Tim Hunter, dealing with a magical threat. Because I’m trying to save Justice League movies the way Marvel does for Avengers events, and Wonder Woman’s series ended at 3… she ends up here, to add some star power to the line-up. The magical threat ends up shunting them off into a different DC Universe- essentially a thinly veiled Snyderverse. Something is deeply wrong with a world where Batman is gunning people down on the streets from the safety of his own personal tank. Flash (paralleling Ezra Miller’s real-life problems) is having mental crises faster than anyone can think up solutions. Superman, after the death of Lois Lane, is going full-on fascist. So the characters are caught in this dark, increasingly dystopian world, and have to figure out if they can save it, and if they can’t, whether or not they can at least escape it. Depending on how it plays, this could lay the groundwork for Injustice Lords or the Injustice universe. This exists both because the concept has been a high priority for adaptation, and because elements within WB/Discovery really want to bring back the Snyderverse in some capacity, and presents an opportunity to have your cake and eat it, too. When they finally escape, the end up in the Batcave.

The 3 Jokers

Okay… assuming everything is going to plan, we need to square why we have 2 Jokers running around, and also multiple Harleys. So here’s how we do it, by roughly adapting the 3 Jokers story. Phoenix has a run-in; depending on whether or not a Batman shows up in Joker 2, it can just be with police or a rival mob. Harley saves him, narrowly. She’s concerned for his safety. So they hatch a plan to create more Jokers. He starts experimenting with psychoactive drugs on people they kidnap.

One will, eventually, be the gangster version from Suicide Squad.

This also involves Batman, who at the end of the story captures the Joker, and puts him in Arkham- where he is in Hush.

Personally, I’d also make the original Joker the only one aware of the shifting timelines, first after Flashpoint, then after Wally takes Barry’s place (time rewrites, so that Wally was always their Flash- Batman seems to be the only one who remembered Barry).

Blue Beetle 2: Justice for All

Similar, but distinct from my Justice League: International pitch.

Assuming Blue Beetle does well, it will likely in part be attributed to it catering to the Latino audience in the way that Black Panther’s success was partly attributed to the underserved Black audience (and given the success of Coco is likely a savvy move). So the next logical step is to put him on the International Justice League. Wonder Woman resigning her post as dual Amazon ambassador and Justice League ambassador leaves the UN feeling vulnerable. She’s still their liaison, but in effect it has made the League more independent. So they request the right to build their own League, an international one that can cater to the world’s needs, not just whatever the gods among them deign to intervene in. Some of this is prompted by Russia fielding their own hero team, the Rocket Reds, think a team of Russian Iron Men, and China their own. The world is getting nervous.

Given Blue Beetle has already had one success, and he’s both an American with Latin American roots, he’s viewed as an ideal candidate to lead the team. We want to be as international as possible, so I’d bring in Fire from Brazil, Ice from Iceland, Vixen from somewhere in Africa, Dr. Light (Dr. Hoshi version) from Japan.

I’m thinking a goodly portion of the story is assembling the team, finding and convincing them to work together. Then a crisis occurs, as the Chinese superteam and Russian one combine forces to take over Mongolia, with the stated aim of dividing the country between them. Just as the JLI are about to go fight the good fight, their new handler, Max Lord, pulls Beetle aside. They’ve been waiting for this eventuality. They had warning. From a visitor claiming to be from the future.

He’s been kept in a bunker, a UN safe house that’s essentially its own little Gitmo in New York. Beetle goes to the heart of it, and meets Booster Gold. He told them three things would happen, and two have come to pass. The third is the combining of the Russian and Chinese teams. He’s told them that without him, the conflict will escalate to a full-scale nuclear war. As part of his intake, Max asked Booster why a man from the future would let them catch him. “You’ll let me out. When you need to.”

So the JLI fight the combined forces. They’re tough, but the JLI prove tougher… except Booster stops them. He knows the Russians and Chinese can’t lose face like this- if they can’t compete in the next arms race, they’ll rattle their sabers in the old one… but their fear will lead to launches, and nuclear devastation. But the real truth is they aren’t the aggressors here. Someone is pulling their strings.

There are a lot of directions you can go from here. Any number of telepaths, mind controllers, etc. Whoever it is, I’d make their plan a part of the Anti-Monitor’s plan, meant to soften the Earth up so it provides less resistance- in the same way he guided Sinestro to Earth to weaken the GLs, and eventually Oa. Despero might be the best option, because he can both control some of the characters, but also provide a good boss fight at the end.

Booster’s future tech is able to detect the hidden adversary, and he attacks them, freeing the 3 super teams to fight together and end the conflict.

2028

The Batman 3: Knightfall

I’m pitching this one as much because I get the sense that Reeves just kind of wants to play with all the toys, and this would let him put his imprint on whoever was left. Bane cracks Arkham wide open. This sets up a gauntlet for Batman, who has to capture as many of the inmates before they hurt innocent people as he can. All the while, Bane keeps taking shots at him, to weaken him more and more. But unlike prior, crappier adaptations… Batman doesn’t get his back broken. You could do that in the comics and spend a year on that storyline. But for a film, even a 3 hour one, that makes for a lousy story. So instead… Batman figures out Bane’s plan. It takes a toll on him, true. But he prepares for the moment Bane’s going to attack him, and puts Dick Grayson in the costume; he’s been champing at the bit the entire movie, wanting to help while Batman held him off. It’s for this moment. Bane trashes Dick. He’s brutal, and with the venom Dick can’t win. Bane hoists him over his head, and we hear the sound of a bataring whip through the air. It doesn’t stop Bane from smashing his knee into Dick’s back, but it does cut him off from his venom supply. The real Batman emerges from the shadows, and beats Bane, who slices open his veins to jam the venom line directly into his arm. This fight’s harder, but Bane gets tripped up by Dick from the floor, and Batman knocks him out. Batman asks Dick if he’s all right. “First thing they teach you in the circus is how to fall…ow…”

Green Lantern Corps: Parallax

The Green Lanterns managed to beat Sinestro. As he’s being transported to a launch facility for escort back to Oa, his convoy is attacked. It’s part of a series of raids and attacks the Lanterns are dealing with from a terrorist group calling themselves Parallax. They’ve been targeting Green Lantern support staff and allies, those without rings themselves, bombing their cars, their homes. Energy signatures at the crime scenes indicate presence of both Sinestro and Green Lantern rings- leading to paranoia about who among them have turned, causing Kyle and John to not be able to trust anyone.

What takes them longer to understand is that the terrorists are also targeting remainders of Sinestro’s cartel. This is somewhat hidden, because they take their rings after death, a missing finger being the only indication there was ever a ring there to begin with.

The leader of this ring-powered terrorist organization turns out to be none other than Hal Jordan. He blames both the Green Lantern Corps. and the Sinestros for the destruction of his home town of Coast City. He’s holding Sinestro prisoner, and using his ring as part of the attacks as he makes Sinestro watch his empire crumble.

Kyle and John find and free Sinestro, but are caught by Hal. They prove incapable of defeating him, until Sinestro puts his hand on Stewart’s, adding his will to John’s ring. Together, the three are able to forcibly extract Parallax, the fear entity, from Jordan, and he’s horrified about what he did under its influence.

Sinestro testifies in Jordan’s defense, telling them that under the Parallax entities’ control there’s very little a host can do to resist, that while he certainly aided the entity willingly, Jordan did not.

Batgirl and Supergirl: World’s Finest

We’re at the point where extrapolating from what is to what could be gets… interesting. Because I’m trying to pull together what nearly got made as a gauge of corporate interest… despite management changes wildly altering that interest several times over.

But presumably, there’s confidence in some kind of a Batgirl project. We’re also, if we’re building towards a Crisis, going to need a Supergirl. So I figure combine the two. Give it to whoever the current equivalent to Juno-era Diablo Cody is, maybe Emerald Fennel.

Kara Zor-El arrives on Earth. Jor-El sent his brother on the colony an identical ship to launch Kara, and he did so. But her ship was damaged enroute, and had to use orbital sling-shotting to arrive at Earth. Because she spent more time at near-light speeds, she incurred more time dilation, and Clark’s older cousin is now his younger cousin.

What neither of them know, however, is that the Kandor colony didn’t suffer Krypton’s fate. They were bottled at the last minute by Brainiac… but he considers the city incomplete, given that one survivor managed to escape. He tracks her to Earth, intent on shrinking her down as part of his collection.

Meanwhile, Batman tasks Batgirl with being Supergirl’s handler. He figures she’s good at blending, but can also protect her in a pinch. This leads Batgirl to training Supergirl to fight; she’s only absorbed a small amount of solar radiation, so she’s a lot more vulnerable right now than she will be.

I’m assuming it would kill the budget to actually show the Justice League, but we could have a news broadcast showing that the League, including the entire Hall of Justice, has been frozen in a solid block of ice. The ice seems to be mildly radioactive, so attempts to break free would spread radioactive dust across the city- Batman confirms to Batgirl via radio that the isotope is Kryptonite, that someone knew about the League and how they would be vulnerable. Batgirl doesn’t think it’s a coincidence this is happening right after the arrival of Supergirl.

Their paranoia proves correct, when both girls are kidnapped and brought aboard Brainiac’s ship. He largely ignores Barbara, thinking her to be a human, and of absolutely no consequence, casually threatening her before ignoring her completely to monologue at Kara. Batgirl manages to break the encryption on Brainiac’s computers, waging technologic war on him as he tries to fight Supergirl. It’s a tough fight, since she’s still mostly relying on the self-defense Barbara taught her. Eventually they force Brainiac to flee, and get into an escape pod back to Earth.

2029

The 3 Flashes

Wally keeps getting shunted to alternate worlds. Whatever the Crime Syndicate did, it continues to pull him from reality to reality. He meets another Flash, an older one, named Jay Garrick. Garrick postulates that, as Hawking theorized, there’s a cosmic editor, putting things back to where they were, fixing impossible paradoxes- that the multiverse is trying to send him home.

Both Flashes get pulled to another dark timeline. During their down time, Wally reflects on his Barry, and how he was the better hero, and he would be able to save them. Jay tells him that he was one of the first heroes on his world- he didn’t have anyone to look up to- he had to be the hero he wished he could look up to- and just as crucially, learn to forgive himself when he fell short of that ideal.

They’re met by one of the Monitors. He explains that his people are ethe editors Hawking theorized- that when a tear in reality threatens all existence, they fix it.

This dark reality, however, is actually the future, or at least a possible one, run by Eobard Thawn, the Reverse Flash. His connection to the Speed Force is artificial. He created it with technology, forcing himself into it. He can only maintain that by draining the life of other Flashes, recreating tech created by Lex Luthor to do so. So presuming that Reverse Flash is the antagonist of the first Flash movie, this serves as his origin.

So we get a pretty wild superspeed fight, during which Zoom absorbs enough of the Speed Force to have a legit connection, leading to him going back in time to attack Wally (accidentally attacking Barry, due to the continuity bending that attack created).

The Monitor appears at the end, sheepish over having used them. Reality is safe, for the moment… but they’re also a step closer to a Crisis point. Because the existence of Monitors means the existence of Anti-Monitors, anti-matter, opposing forces from the dark multiverse. They feed on matter, converting entire realities into energy- and one has set his sights on their Earth.

Justice League: Dark Multiverse

Justice League Dark thought they were home- thought they finally found their own universe. We start in the Batcave, where the last film ended. Batman tells them that he’s glad to see them, he could use their help. Joker’s won. He united all of Gotham’s villains under his banner, killed half the police and forced the remainder to disband. With the help of a mysterious, ragged stranger, he erected a magical barrier that’s keeping Gotham separate from the other heroes. Worse, he systematically killed all of Batman’s allies, all his Robins, Batgirls… he’s the last one left. Now he’s executing parents. Every hour, on the hour, he’s killing parents in crime alley, orphaning their children. He says the only way he’ll stop is if Batman kills him. He’s been up for days, at this point, trying to figure out a way to beat Joker. He’s a shell of a man, but he’s terrified that if he kills Joker, he’ll never stop. He knows Joker’s a singular threat, but how do you justify drawing that line? He already crippled Joker… but he still won’t stop.

Wonder Woman offers to do it. He reveals that he knows Joker has a failsafe, that he’s secreted a more virulent version of his toxin in his body that will transform whoever kills him into him. Batman is just a man- he can be beaten- but a Joker with the power of Wonder Woman might not be.

Batman’s plan is to wage an all-out assault on Joker’s compound, hopefully long enough to distract the ragged man and let them remove his magical bubble. They barrier is pouring from a giant bat totem, and is protected by dragons with the Joker’s face. They fight their way to the barrier, as Batman fights his way to the Joker. Batman tries all kinds of things, but he just can’t outmaneuver the Joker. Turns out the Joker isn’t even there, he’s doing all of this by remote. But there is a teleporter, that takes Batman to him. They’re locked in a cage, with a minute to go before the next parents die. They’re related to some member of the Batcast, and the resemblance shakes him. He tries to find a way out of the cage, some way that he can escape after he kills the Joker, biding time, hoping the Dark League can manage to bring down the barrier in time to let the League rescue the family. They only need a second, a fraction of a second, for Flash or Superman to arrive. We watch the clock as he tries desperately to escape, with seconds left. We cut back to the Dark League, destroying the barrier. They realize the ragged figure is behind them, and in a haunting voice he tells them, “Too late,” before disappearing.

We cut back to the cage with Batman and the Joker in it. We can see that the timer stopped, and the family is still alive. We pull back, to see the cage is filled with gas, and the Joker, his neck snapped, hangs limply from Batman’s hands.

An instant later, Superman is there, about to punch a hole in the cage. “Don’t,” Batman says. “Can’t risk you getting exposed to this gas.”

Now… dependent on budget, I’d have the full League and Dark League with him in the cave, still sealed inside the cage, running diagnostics on him. He seems to be fine, and convinces them that he feels fine, and that if they’re going to counteract the poison he needs to be out there, with his equipment. It’s Superman who makes the call, because he’ll always trust Batman. The second he’s out, Batman activates the Babel protocol, countermeasures for the entire League as he systematically murders his way through them. He hadn’t planned on the Dark League being there, and being magic, they survive him a little longer- long enough to open a portal away. But he hitches a ride, coming through with them back into their universe (though that fact will only be revealed in the end credits).

Lobo

The Main Man takes a contract in a hive of scum and villainy. Seems that someone’s special captive got loose. She’s armed, extremely dangerous, and hiding out on Earth. During their first fight, she kicks his butt. Badly. Embarassingly so, to the degree the he never even manages to peel her out of a cloak. The last thing he sees is red glowing eyes.

In their second fight, he bushwhacks her, having finally read the brief provided by his employer. This time he brought kryptonite to the party. For a moment we’ll assume he’s after Supergirl… and you’d be half right- he’s caught Power Girl. Now… to try not to give you a nosebleed, but also tie her into the multiversal shenanigans we’re building up… she is originally from an alternate Earth. However, when her rocket managed to shatter through to a different universe, the Monitors rewrote her history, to be a clone of Kara created by her parents in the bottle city of Kandor to replace the daughter they lost. During the fight in World’s Finest, a little of Earth’s radiation managed to break through into the bottle city, giving Kara enough power to escape, vowing to marshal forces to free them all.

Lobo returns to Brainiac with his prize. Brainiac notices something amiss, and accuses Lobo of playing a fast one. Her signature is wrong… but she is genetically the Kara he was seeking. He deems it worthy of further study, then turns his attentions to Lobo.

See, Lobo is the last Czarnian, a worthy addition to Brainiac’s collection. He captures him, and houses him in a place he doubts very much Lobo will want to escape from.

It is a civilization consisting entirely of prostitution, gambling, liquor and cigar production. Lobo’s eyes light up, and we fade to black. We put up white text. “Fifty black-outs later…” Lobo is drinking alone. An alien prostitute makes a pass, but he’s melancholy. It’s a world catered entirely to his whims… except for his lust for violence and conflict. He’s getting restless. Even tiny, Lobo is able to crack his bottle. But once free, he realizes that without being able to fly, he’s not going to be able to make himself big. On the one hand, that means he can get hammered for pennies. On the other, it means only insect hookers for the rest of his days. He decides to bust out Power Girl. They make an uneasy alliance. She grows him first. He considers reneging, until she starts smacking him around as a superstrong fly- which should be very comical to watch. Finally he grows her. Lobo takes the shrink ray and the bottle he was trapped in. Kara takes the bottle city of Kandor.

I’m assuming Kara had been searching for Ray Palmer, the Atom, to help her try to regrow her city. He tells them that the cities have been shrunk too long; Brainiac’s tech can be reversed over a short period, but after that regrowing becomes impossible. But he promises to keep searching for a cure.

2030

Justice League: Crisis on Infinite Earths

The World Forger has been a busy little bee, creating a nigh-infinite multiverse. Feeling slighted that less attention seems to be paid to his dark, anti-matter universes, the Anti-Monitor devises a plan to consume the positive multiverse’s energy and usurp the World Forger, creating only dark universes.

With each destroyed universe, the Anti-Monitor becomes stronger, leaving the heroes with a single possible path to win: merging the multiverse into a single reality. They manage it, and then beat back the Anti-Monitor. Supergirl and Jay Garrick die in the offing.

Brianiac reports on the failure of the Anti-Monitor. Darkseid smiles. Brainiac doesn’t understand. “We exist beyond any universe While the wall between his realm and the universe remains intact, there is now a crack, through which we may directly influence events. Desaad proclaims, “Darkseid is coming. Darkseid is.”

Beyond

I mapped out three phases, the first ending in the Crisis, the second in defeating Darkseid, and the third ending in a fight with the Dark Knights.

Supergirl would have survived, encased in Kryptonian crystal and eventually revived by the Legion of Superheroes. The New Gods would have lost to Apokalips, as would the Greek Gods, before Darkseid laid siege to Earth

Batman would have paid Lobo to form the Outsiders into a nonlethal black ops team from remnants of Task Force X, who would eventually rebel against him, not realizing his plan was to convince them to use nonlethal means, not keeping them as Waller had.

Next

I’m going to work on my own DCNu movie universe, mostly because I’m jealous Gunn and Safran got that much leeway. Could take me a couple of weeks, but check back soon.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 11: Outsiders: Hard-Traveling Heroes

The Outsiders are traveling in a Winnebago. Nightwing is grousing about how when Ollie offered to sponsor the team, this isn’t exactly what he envisioned. Ollie gives a variation of the Schindler speech, that he wishes he could spend extravagantly on the team, but he looks at the cost of retrofitting a spy plane, or even economy class plane tickets, and compares that to spending the money to vaccinate the poor in underdeveloped countries… he says it took him a long time to get his priorities straight, but he’s not about to go back to being profligate Ollie again, and ribs Nightwing that they could always ask for funding from his father, which gets Dick to stop smiling, for a moment.

It doesn’t last, as Dick’s good nature is one of his defining traits. He also takes a moment to rib Oliver about looking forward to seeing Black Canary again. Ollie admits she’s easy enough on the eyes, but we see how he really thinks of her, as we zoom into his eye, and see in soft focus, her punching bad guys and otherwise being effortlessly bad ass while beautiful. We zoom out, to see an oncoming semi, with Nightwing grabbing the wheel and swerving them out of the way. Dick offers to take a turn at the wheel, and Ollie and stands up, leaving the Winnebago coasting as Dick dives into the seat.

They arrive on the strip, and Dick asks where they’re staying. Oliver tells him to keep going. They drive past the strip. Past the casinos off the strip. They’re in a fleabag motel, with an overly boisterous neon sign declaring it the “Above Reproach Motel,” with “above” and “rep” entirely unlit. Black Lightning gets out and says that seems about right as they unpack. Arrow tells them that he rented out the entire hotel, so they have the run of the place- that Dick had emphasized to him that they needed space and privacy to plan out their caper.

“I also asked him to stop calling it a caper. But it’s been a long drive, everybody. I suggest you get some shut eye. We’ll have a briefing at 6:30.”

Huntress gives him crap about the late start. “I though all of you bat boys were up all night.”

“I probably will be. I was hoping you and I could get in some reconnaisance.”

“Is that what the kids are calling it?” At first it seems like witty reparte, but she’s actually asking (awkwardly and adorably).

“It’s been a while since anybody accused me of being a bat boy.”

“No one wears that much leather without being a bat boy.”

“I legitimately don’t know if we’re confused or flirting.”

“That’s where I live,” she says, and he stares at her a moment, before laughing.

“You had me going.” She’s confused by that. But she likes the attention, and that he’s confident enough to push past her awkwardness. Plus, she really likes patrolling.

“Wait,” she says. “Are we actually patrolling, or sneaking off to have sex… I just want to make sure I wear the right top.” He laughs, and they walk off screen.

We cut to Black Lightning, poking at Lo Mein noodles in a takeout container, sitting on the hotel couch, while talking on his cell. He zaps the TV to change channels. He’s talking to his significant other, concerned that the rest of the team are screwing off in Vegas, and he’s trying to decide between Lifetime movies. She tells him either he can zap his ass home, or they can watch a movie together. He tells her someone has to be an example to all these kids, show them how to act like a professional.

We cut to Canary and Arrow kissing, passionately, slamming against the inside of the door to her dressing room. “Not that I’m complaining, but what happened to waiting?” he asks.

“Oh, you’re still waiting,” she says, and pushes him against the door, “I just want your attention focused on what you’re waiting for.”

“Might have to change my name to Blue Arrow, you keep this up.”

“Ooh, Black Canary and Blue Arrow, I like that alliteration; and there’s the double-meaning of leaving the bad guys black and blue.”

“That is pretty good, but I’d have to sew a whole new set of tights.”

“I’m worth it.”

“Plus those Blue Beetles are very proprietary about their color- and quite litigious.”

“Tell me about it,” Ray Palmer appears, growing from a place sitting on Canary’s counter.

“Dad,” Canary says, snatching flowers from him and throwing them on the counter, “we talked about this: boundaries.”

“I didn’t mean to walk in on a Cinemax movie. I was trying to do one of my, ‘Hey, where did he come from?’ entrances.”

“Yeah, and when you pulled that on me, you got yourself a brand new set of tinitis. You’re just lucky he didn’t have his bow or he might have… bowed you.”

“Et tu, Canary?” Green Arrow asks.

“Et me,” she says. “But at least you learned to throw a proper punch, so there’s still hope for you.”

“Had a hell of a teacher.” She gives him a peck. “Who knows a thing or two about motivation.”

“You’re punishing me, aren’t you?” Ray asks.

“Pretending you’re not here- because you shouldn’t be,” she says.

“It’s about, your mother.”

“Crap,” Green Arrow says.

“I thought the trail went cold in Gotham,” Canary says, spinning to face him.

“It had. Or rather… it didn’t get cold, the GCPD kept it on ice all these years. And that’s why I could find… this.” He shows them an image on his phone of human tissue through a microscope, subtly including a footprint.

“What am I looking at?” Green Arrow asks.

“A slide from Canary’s autopsy. This is the aftermath of an aneurism. She was too good to just catch a bullet in some back alley. I never believed… she was dead before she was shot. This proves it.”

“How?” Arrow asks.

He pinches and zooms in on it, to more specifically focus on the footprint. “It’s a footprint. Given the size, and depth, it’s a woman’s size 6, she weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 125 lbs. Either she was the killer, or an eyewitness. Either way, the odds of someone standing in her brain at the same time of a spontaneous aneurism in a healthy, middle-aged woman… the odds are astronomical.”

“And what are the odds someone would kill my mother with shrinking tech, dad?”

“Not good,” he admits. “Shrinking tech is expensive to make, and mostly gets used by people on our side. I think I was the only one, at the time, operating it.”

“And who had access to your tech?” Arrow asks.

“Anyone with access to the JSA headquarters. Or a storehouse I kept in Jersey, in case that was ever compromised. I had some personal storage for a stretch in the seventies, too, in Gotham.”

“But you’re here,” Canary says, “because you’ve already run down those leads. So why are you here?”

“Because my tech runs on very specific isotopes. Specific, and rare. There aren’t a lot of places to buy them. And the people who supply them, there isn’t a one of them who doesn’t owe me a favor; I taught some of them, helped the rest, in costume or out. And there’s one in Vegas, who sold, just a day ago, to an older woman, fits the rough description, with some allowance for passage of time.”

“Older enough?” Canary asks.

“She thinks so- presuming she’s well preserved.”

“How big a favor did she owe you?” Arrow asks.

“Pretty big. She put a radioactive isotope impurity we can trace in the package.”

“I’m uncomfortable that this conversation began with a package and is ending with one.” Arrow says.

“You’re just sad that the package we’re talking about now isn’t yours,” Canary teases. “But we’ll come back to it,” she says, grabbing her jacket.

“Don’t you have a show?” Arrows asks, pointing to the star on her door.

“Not tonight. I only do an afternoon show today.”

They leave.

We do a little homage to the Batman origin, a wealthy looking couple, woman in furs and pearls, man in a nice suit, with their young son, cutting through an alley. A gunman steps out, threatening them. Nightwing drops down on him like a ton of bricks, the gun clattering noisily to the ground. Nightwing bows with a flourish, and assures the boy it’s all part of the show. A second gunman steps out from behind a dumpster. A bolt pins him to the brick wall, and Huntress lands, kicking him in the face; he remains pinned to the wall by the bolt.

They climb to a rooftop. Huntress looks like she’s pouting.

“You okay?”

“You’re asking me? You were the one who nearly got shot in the back.”

“I’ve learned that part of being a good partner is trusting people to have your back. I knew you’d be there for me.” She’s uncomfortable, physically if nothing else. “So I want you to know I’m here for you, starting with asking if you’re okay.”

“I’m okay,” she says, half-heartedly, and through it we see she’s disappointed.

So does Nightwing. “I know things didn’t happen with Mandragora like you wanted. But taking him in alive, there are a lot of families who are sleeping better tonight, maybe sleeping at all, because you did the right thing.”

“You kind of made me,” she says, her disappointment on the verge of pouting.

“Not what I meant. I know you were there, at the handoff, when the Sheriff’s Department gave him over to the Federal Marshals. You had a shot, and you were far enough away I wouldn’t have been able to stop you. Mandragora may not have killed my parents, but as someone who knows that loss as well as you do, and because the other families don’t know how hard doing the right thing was like I do, I wanted to say ,’Thank you.’”

“Oh,” she says.

“Not what you wanted to hear?” he asks.

“No, it’s not that, it’s… I think I might have worn the wrong top.”

“No,” Nightwing says, and he spins her, so she lands with her back against a wall as he leans into her and says, “You’re not.” But her instincts kick in, and she has her crossbow pressed into his throat. “Unless I’ve misread things.”

“No,” she says, and for a moment she’s embarassed, before rolling him, so he lands painfully on his back. She jumps onto his lap, and says, “I just like to be on top.”

We cut back to Arrow, Canary and Atom. They’re following Atom’s tracker, but it leads them to an arena. The bouncer is definitely powered (we could do a cameo from someone like Killer Croc; Clayface might be even more fun, since Canary could get suspicious and he could tell her to call his parole officer) or just have it be a generic mook who insists “No capes on the ticket. Bids only accepted through a proxy.”

Atom says, “Look, over there, it’s a distraction!” and for a moment they all look where he pointed, but not long enough for him to do anything. Then Arrow realizes that’s his cue, notches a napalm arrow, and sets fire to a car where Atom pointed. The bouncer’s annoyed, but tells them the street is outside his purview- and if they call the fire department he won’t even call the cops on them. Then he realizes Atom’s gone.

Arrow and Canary grab something to eat at a little cafe nearby. “My fries are cold,” Arrow says, “want to make out?”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Canary says, “but knew the moment I vocalized it,”

“Think that’s my cue,” Atom grows.

“I was beginning to think you paused in the middle of the heist to take an old man nap.”

“I could nap… but no. One, I found out that they pawned my gear. I couldn’t get close enough to check the control numbers. They bought the isotope because they had to prove it was authentic for it to go on the slab, which meant shrinking with it. Two, I talked to management. Roulette. She runs the gladiator games and the auction house. She’s usually pretty strictly all about discretion, but,”

We cut to her office, where Roulette is talking to Ray. “I’m a capitalist, first. And I recognize an opportunity when I see one.” She brings up several images of Arrow and Canary together, lingering touches, maybe pecks, typical tabloid fodder, on her row of monitors, even a live feed of them at the café across the street. “I have a reality show apartment I bought, wired up with cameras. Nothing hinky; not toilet or shower cameras.” The couple stay in the apartment one night, and she can sell the hell out of access to the house cams. “They don’t have to do anything but be themselves. They do that, and I’ll give you what you need to find your mystery woman.”

Ray doesn’t trust her, but Roulette made it clear that if they don’t play ball, she’ll sell the gear to an anonymous bidder, and pay the owner in untraceable crypto, and the trail dies there. Their only other option is to try to have Atom intercept the wire transfer and trace it; last time that happened he spent a week crawling through the bowels of a crypto farm in the Philipines- not exactly a ringing endorsement of that strategy.

Canary agrees. Arrow is reluctant (maybe because he was wealthy playboy enough to have been tabloid fodder before). Atom has an idea- he can shrink down and be their guardian angel. Arrow mentions that it’s probably too late, because the sun is coming up. Atom says the deal is for the next night. As they exit the cafe, they see digital billboards are already touting Green Arrow and Black Canary sharing a romantic evening in the Snoop House. “That’s not ominous at all,” Arrow says.

The next morning they’re all gathered for Nightwing’s briefing. He glances at the clock. “We waiting for something, boss?” Black Lightning asks.

“Yeah,” Green Arrow and Nightwing say at the same time, and Dick yields, letting Green Arrow continue. “We’re waiting for Dick to start.”

“We’re waiting for the other members of the team,” Nightwing says. “And I think that’s her.” He sees a woman’s silhouette emerging out of the sun, and as she gets closer we can see it’s Donna Troy. Her iconic star pattern costume doesn’t really sell her as being a Wonder Girl before Cassie Sandmark; it might make sense to go with something like the red jumpsuit; a good mid-point might be to mix that with the Jim Lee DCNu version with the dark pants (so it’s basically a jumpsuit version of Wonder Woman’s costume). Maybe you could go for a gold-accented variant to Wonder Woman’s, kind of like her usual costume intermingled with the golden hawk armor from 1984.

“Sorry I’m late,” she says. “I’ve been in a holding pattern for fifteen minutes. Wally made me promise I wouldn’t land without him; the other Flashes would never let him live it down if he was the last one to arrive.”

“Foolishly, I didn’t swear her to secrecy on that point,” Wally says, suddenly beside her.

“There’s doughnuts and coffee, and bagels and just a ten pound bag of sugar for Wally,” Nightwing says. Wally runs by the spread, and half of it disappears in a blur.

“Suddenly the spread makes sense,” Canary says.

Nightwing gives his briefing. It’s very low-tech, all things considered, as far as what Nightwing is presenting… we can cut away and montage the hell out of it like the whole thing was being done by Soderbergh (alternate pitch: GET SODERBERGH- how freaking cool would that be? I imagine he’d be curious about doing that thing he do but with a much crazier budget and FX).

Nightwing tells them that three casinos off the strip have been taken over by supervillains. Ostensibly, they’ve been hired to have their likeness exploited by the casinos, and to make celebrity appearances, on the floor and at their shows. But really, they’re holding the casinos hostage. At Joker’s Wild, the Joker has rigged the air vents with his Joker toxin- if the casino doesn’t keep giving him his cut, he’ll turn everyone inside (including the held-hostage family of the casino’s owner) into homicidal maniacs, most of whom won’t survive the transformation. At the Double Trouble, Two-Face has wired up every hotel room with explosives corresponding to red or black- and that if the hotel operators cross him he’ll spin his roulette wheel, and blow half the rooms- either red or black based on chance. At The Royal Flush, The Royal Flush Gang aren’t just taking a cut- they’re taking everything, pocketing even the paychecks of the employees, and forbidding anyone with any remaining cash from leaving- if you fail a credit check they’ll let you go, but otherwise no one leaves.

Finally, the problems started when a superpowered mobster named Blockbuster collected a casino in lieu of a debt. He’s been washing the supervillain underworld’s dirty cash through the casino since. He’s also the mastermind behind the takeover of neighboring casinos- he wants to buy them, outright, but first needs the current owners desperate- so he helped organize the attacks to both drive down the price and also take a cut to help him buy at the reduced price. This is because he wants to expand, beyond the relatively respectable among the villain set, to the real monsters, the terrorists, the sex traffickers, but for that he needs more casinos to be able to launder more money. Blockbuster’s casino is a tougher nut to crack, because it’s legit- but it’s also sitting on several times as much cash as it can legitimately claim, enough that it will be bankrupt if it has to make good on what it owes to the underworld figures if it disappears. 

The jobs are all complicated enough that they’re going to need all of them for each– and because if they tip off any one of the villains the others are likely to carry out their threats, they all have to happen concurrently, with all of them dropping in and out of each heist with the precision of a tightly-wound Swiss watch. Nightwing tells them he’s given Wally plans for each of the casino vaults, and has take-out from every delivering restaurant in a mile radius piling up at the reception desk to feed him while he constructs them to scale.

Wally disappears, then reappers, holding a hammer, and with some ketchup on his cheek. Donna tells him about the ketchup. “Oh, I’ve got ketchup everywhere. Moving at that speed, it’s like walking through a condiment tornado.” Nightwing tells them they have a few days, that Catwoman’s been doing some recon for him on the inside, and that’s as much time as they can safely delay before Joker’s likely to get bored and just start killing people to amuse himself.

Montage of them working through the heist stuff. Canary’s phone goes off. She’s got a show at Two-Face’s casino. Arrow goes with her, in civilian clothes. While there, they get a formal invite from Roulette, telling them a car will pick them up, in costume, after her show.

Two-Face is aggressive with Canary, and she flashes back to Black Mask from Birds of Prey, clearly still traumatized by their relationship. But Arrow is there, and comforts her enough that she puts on a brave face (pun!). Canary gets a musical number; Arrow watches Two-Face to see if there’s anything he can apply to their heist, later.

Arrow and Canary grab their ride and arrive at the Snoop House. She’s tired, and is looking forward to sleeping. “Sleeping?” Green Arrow asks, pretending he’s disappointed. She says she doesn’t trust this place enough to break wind in the bathroom, she’s not letting him as much as give her a courtly peck on the cheek. He agrees. But… there’s an expensive bottle of wine on the table. Arrow doesn’t trust it, but Canary uses a sonic cry to test the seal- the bottle is still sealed. Atom climbs through the cork, and tells Canary through an earpiece that he checked it on the atomic level- it’s clean, and it’s nowhere near enough alcohol to get three adults even tipsy- or two, yeah, he meant two, because he’s not here. Arrow is still uncertain, but Canary says she’s going to open it, and cries at the perfect pitch to pop the cork, then tells him either he’ll help her drink it or he won’t.

We cut to a bar, as the last of five bottles of beer are opened up. “This feels weird,” Wally says. “Doing this. When the last time we did this, we weren’t even old enough to do this. You know what I mean.” Donna relates that they were Teen Titans, then- or 3/5 of them were. Nightwing is apologetic to Black Lightning, for not inviting him to join the team. He tells them he’s older than them, he was like nineteen and a half by the time their team ‘debuted,’ that even if he’d wanted to join a team, he would have had only a few months before he was no longer a teen. Plus, he wasn’t much of a joiner, back then, so it’s cool.

“I was living in Italy with assassins,” Huntress adds. “Not, uh, really eligible.” Things are a little awkward, since the group haven’t been a group long, and even those that were haven’t seen each other in a while. So they decide to play some have you ever. Wally starts with he’s never made out with Nightwing, and Donna and Huntress drink. Huntress, either stewing or not quite getting the game, says she’s never made out with Donna. Wally and Nightwing drink, and they explain that the Teen Titans were basically one of those high school parties where everyone paired off and made out with everyone else- only kinkier because everyone was wearing masks, but still, pretty chaste, all things considered- since no one wanted to screw up the team by really pairing off. Which only makes things more awkward with Huntress.

Wally suggest they spin one “or several” of the bottles they’ve emptied, Black Lightning says he’s too old for “this shit,” and bounces. Nightwing realizes they all probably are, but it just means the rapport they build will be built of stronger stuff. He suggests they call it a night.

We cut to Arrow, still wearing his mask, rolling over in bed, curling into Canary. She’s wearing a wedding dress, which causes him to stir, and realize he’s wearing a tux. And they have matching wedding rings. Strewn across the very messy bed are rose petals and Polaroids of their drunken night of debauchery, including a stop off at an instant wedding chapel. Some of the Polaroids would seem to imply they’ve consummated their relationship. Arrow wakes Canary, frantic.

They freak out together, each blaming the other for things getting out of hand, as they spiral further out of hand, and they start pushing each other. Green Arrow tries to stop her early in, saying, “I don’t understand everything that’s going on here, Di, but I’m not going to raise a hand to the woman I love- I won’t be that guy.”

She has no such compunction, saying something like, ”I’m not going to let another man terrorize me ever again,” before belting him. She’s having trouble keeping him and Black Mask separate in her head. We cut to the gladiator arena, where a crapload of spectators, including some of the villains from this movie, bidding on the victor, as expensive looking fight graphics play on the Jumbotron: Green Arrow vs. Black Canary.

Canary throws him through a dresser, and out of it spill his bow and lots of green arrows. He spends a moment searching for something nonlethal, “My fortune for a taser arrow, or a knock-out gas arrow, or even a damned net,” she kicks him in the stomach. He finally picks up a regular arrow (they’re all regular arrows) and notches it. She punches the arrow in half, before punching him in the throat. “Thought you said I was getting better,” he strains.

“Better don’t mean good,” she says, knocking him out. She takes a few steps, realizing she doesn’t feel right. She tries raising her dad, saying they definitely were dosed with something- she’s not hungover, she knows what that feels like. He doesn’t respond, which confirms her concern.

The phone rings. It’s Roulette. Canary’s pissed off that Roulette dosed them and made them think they got married and had sex. She confronts her about putting steroids in the air, maybe something else, too. She cops to it, and tells Canary that Atom’s gear disappeared. But she’s pretty sure the owner took it back, and Ray into the bargain, and Roulette has another way she can find him- when he was in her office, Roulette placed a tracker on him. In her nightstand is the tracker.  

We cut to Atom. He comes to, tied to a chair. He tries to shrink, but his equipment won’t work. “Oh, Ray,” she says, “equipment not working? Funny, that was how I found out about you and Black Canary, back in the day. You were a naughty boy, then, Ray. Have you been naughty now?”

“You? What the hell’s going on?” Ray asks.

The next day, Canary and Arrow talk to Nightwing. He originally was confronting them about sneaking out- and how the team need them focused. Canary bursts like a dam, telling him that her father’s in town, helping look for her mother’s killer, but he’s been taken. Nightwing turns on a dime, no longer concerned about their heists; his family were killed, and clearly he was raised in a family that is motivated by hunting family-killers. He’s laser-focused on hunting the killer with her; it is the most like Batman we will ever see him, though he’s warmer, and more personally supportive at the same time, to the degree that Arrow is a little concerned about Nightwing horning in; no one else validates his insecurity (which only makes it funnier).

Nightwing goes to the others, and brings them up to speed, how this is about saving Canary’s father and avenging her mother. “Avenging?” Huntress asks, perking up. He reiterates they want nonlethal capture; Canary wants to know what happened with her mother, not a corpse. Huntress is hurt; not just disappointed, but hurt.

They cancel the day’s practice, in favor of riding out immediately. They roll up on the safehouse Atom’s being held in.

We cut inside. Atom’s still captive. His captor tries to give him something to eat, even as we see on security feeds that the Outsiders have arrived. Atom’s preoccupied with talking to his kidnapper. “Jean? Honey, what’s going on.” She’s standoffish, but gets close enough for him to grab her, only for him to gently take her hand. “Please,” he pleads, his voice rife with emotion, “Jean, talk to me.” We see Nightwing finish picking the lock on the front door even as Black Lightning electrocutes the cameras, shorting the feed.

She gasps. Wanting him to play cops and robbers with her was the only thing that was keeping her going. “Ray, I…” She crumbles.

She’ll narrate some of a flashback. Jean loved Ray Palmer from the moment they first met. She played hard to get, before letting him woo her; part of her was worried he’d be like other men who gave up after the conquest, and the rest because she was truly worried about how much she wanted him. And for a moment, it was magical, everything she’d imagined. And then Ray joined the Justice Society, and started working with Black Canary. She was beautiful, and fit, and always walking around in those fishnets and that tight, revealing little outfit. She couldn’t compete, especially not with the endorphins of fighting for their lives. And when half their team disappeared, she especially couldn’t compete with their shared grief. Ray left her a long time before he left her. And she never stopped wanting him back. She followed him, figuring out where he kept his surplus equipment. She snagged one of his older suits- not the oldest, which he kept for nostalgia, or the newest, which he was always tinkering on, but one of the surplus ones, one he might not be sure really was missing at all.

She tried to scare Canary off several times. She gave her a handful of close calls. She leaked her identity to the police, to the papers, even to villains. Finally, she thought, maybe she could make Canary forget Ray. She went inside her mind, and started screwing with linkages, and accidentally caused an aneurism. She called Canary an ambulance, but it was Gotham, in one of the neighborhoods where the cops can take hours to show, and where an ambulance won’t come without the cops. Long before anybody came, Canary was gone. Jean panicked, and to cover her tracks, she shot Canary in the head.

It screwed her up. She and Canary had been friendly. They were rivals, sure, she was even willing to hurt Canary to take her place at Ray’s side, but did not want to harm her, not seriously or permanently. She was a broken woman when Ray, hurting over what happened to Canary, reached out. She hadn’t wanted that, but in that moment they truly, desperately needed each other. Their love, their years together, were genuine and heartfelt, even though they were built on a despicable act.

As she finishes telling her story, we realize that Black Canary has been in the room basically since the story started. Jean throws herself at Canary’s feet, seeing how much she looks like her mother, and that blurring the lines enough for her that for an instant she thinks she’s Canary’s ghost, and not her daughter. She pleads with her to forgive her- that she wanted Canary to forget Ray- she didn’t want to hurt her. Canary asks Atom, who Nightwing has cut free, what’s going on. He’s a ghost, himself, telling her that he didn’t want to introduce her under these circumstances, but this is his wife, Jean Loring. They married a year after Canary died; he just lost the will to play superhero after that; even seeing his old costumes made him weep.

“All I wanted was to be the love of your life,” Jean whimpers, collapsing to the floor.

“Instead, you killed her,” Ray says, hollowed out. “This is all my fault.”

“No,” Canary says, hugging him, “it’s not.”

“This, uh, isn’t usually the way this goes,” Nightwing says. “There’s usually more punching.”

“Yeah,” Black Lightning says, “bet that hurts a lot less.”

“So what do we do with her?” Donna asks.

“I just looked it up,” Green Arrow says, “and statute of limitations on any kind of negligent homicide is long since past.”

“Dad?” Canary asks.

“She needs help,” Atom says. “I haven’t always been the best partner; God knows, I’ll always have to wonder if any of this would have happened if I were a better man, but I won’t abandon her again. I’m going to make sure she gets the help she needs.”

This is a perhaps overly somber moment, and we need to transition out of it, but not without letting the characters heal. I think Nightwing does a little wrap-up, back at the hotel. “I think today was a good reminder, for me. Sometimes, with the Titans, we could get wrapped up in the silly, fun aspects of being us. There were times I didn’t take it seriously enough, where I wasn’t able to stop and see the human cost underneath. I’m not saying,” (and here he does his Batman voice), “We should all be more like Batman. Because we shouldn’t. I’m not even sure he should be. We all have to learn to be the best Donna, the best Wally, the best Helena-“

“I prefer ‘Huntress.'”

“The best Huntress, then. Because we still have a job to do. There’s a lot of dirty money flowing through these casinos, funding a lot of the kinds of human misery we often don’t see up close like this. And more than ever, we need to shut it down, because we know how much it’s going to hurt people if we don’t.”

We cut to Arrow and Canary’s room. He’s holding her, when there’s a knock at the door. Atom comes in, and takes over, and father and daughter hold one another. Later, Arrow brings them coffee, where they sit looking out of the balcony. She’s holding her dad’s hand, and rests her head on Arrow’s shoulder as the sun begins to set.

Montage of more prepping for the heists. Included are little moments for each of them, like this one: “Are you sure you can make the shot?” Nightwing asks. We speed through the air as Arrow fires again. There are several arrows stuck to the middle ring of a target, but none in the center, which would allow the shot to slip through the slit between the barely opened faux vaultdoor.

We do the heist montages, with just enough moments spent with each villain and their pairings to feel like they’re not just generic villains from the Oceans movies. Nightwing and Huntress take on the Joker. This one will likely be the most fraught, because Joker’s figured them out, and re-masks them amongst his henchpeople, with masks he cut from the cloth napkins used in the restaurant inside the casino. Joker gets to monolog and threaten, wondering aloud which of the ways he could murder them would hurt Batman the most, intercut with the other heists. Eventually, Joker says he’s bored, and will just transform all of them into homicidal Jokers, and tries to blow the explosives. Nightwing leans into Huntress and tells her that’s why they stopped at the Wild their first night in town, that Joker was bound to do something like this. They fight their way out, leaving Joker knocked out. 

Two-Face likewise figures them out, because the Joker got a lot less morose a few days before. So he captures Green Arrow and tells him that he’s going to put his ideals on trial- that he can choose to be the new man he’s promised through his press agent, more focused on the group, or the selfish man who is going to save the woman he loves, and can walk out scott free. He’s about to answer when Wally, panting in the middle of the desert, standing on top of a large pile of explosives, calls over an earpiece to Arrow that he’s finished. Canary tells him if he doesn’t answer the question first she will collapse his lungs. He offers to let Two-Face shoot him; that losing her he would never be a whole man, but he couldn’t be either, if he let all those people die. He’d rather take a bullet himself. Two-Face flips his coin, tells him that wasn’t an option, but he’ll gladly shoot him and Canary both- that he’s always been a sucker for a tragic love story. That’s when Nightwing and Huntress arrive, and help finish off Two-Face.

The Royal Flush is the most bombastic of the three. When King tries to call the other casinos to tell them that they’ve been compromised, Donna tells him he can’t be weak in front of the other villains. Black Lightning appears, and tells her their communications are fried, and she tells King he can be as weak as he wants, then. Troy and Lightning have trouble with all five members… until the rest of the Outsiders arrive, and help them mop up. 

Finally, there’s the Blockbuster. This one is a lot more straightforward, since the heroes all have to show as civilians. They manage, with Green Arrow’s shot, to block the vault open with an arrow. Then they empty the vault. Blockbuster himself, not believing they could have thwarted his security or his plans, ends up in the empty vault. He tells his assistant to liquidate everything, and get him a charter to Santa Prisca. He needs to buy sanctuary with the King Snakes, because they never cleaned their money through the casino, and therefore are the only ones who might help hide him.

Pre-Credits scene: Arrow and Canary wake up in a hotel room.

“Oliver, why am I in a wedding dress?”

“Because it looked so elegant on you I insisted we take it.”

“And why am I wearing a ring that’s heavy enough I actually feel the weight of it?”

“Ring?” he sits up, bleary-eyed. “Oh,” he says, furrowing his brow, “I suspect because it’s the match to mine.”

“This can’t be legal.”

“I believe the important question is do you want it to be?”

“Not today.”‘

“Fair enough. Though I imagine we keep landing in this position because on some level it’s where we want to end up.”

“Also because you bought some ridiculously good champagne.”

“Ridiculously good champagne notwithstanding.”

“You asking, or telling?”

“You want me to ask, I’m going to need to borrow that rock,” he says, and gets down on one knee. She pulls him up to his feet and kisses him, and we cut away.

Green Arrow is discussing with Nightwing the possibility of hiring on a Green Lantern to up their game as they’re packing up their hotel rooms. He tells Ollie that great minds think alike as John Stewart lands. “I know just the guy,” he says, since then it’s a fun mislead.

Jason Todd calls Dick Grayson, wishing he’d had a crack at the Joker. “Wouldn’t that have been two-cracks? I hear you’re all about the art of the double-tap these days.”

“You can stick to playing touch football with these psychopaths, if you want, but I’ll tell you, brother from another mother, they aren’t playing the same game of patty-cake with you.”

“I’m not usually one to cast the first stone, but there’s plenty of people who’ve used the ‘P’ word to describe you.”

“Pussy.”

“No, the other one.”

“No, I was calling you one for pussy-footing around the word: psychopaths. That’s what they are. Deranged. Unstable. And yeah, I’m on a lot less even of a keel since their Clown Prince tortured me for months. I get about thirteen solid minutes of sleep between nightmares that the bastard still has me chained up in his basement. But we’re not talking about your garden variety mental health patients, here; these are people who revel in it. Who get off on the pain they cause. Believe me, no one looks forward to the day I can hang up my guns for good more than me.” He sighs. “Look, all I really want to know is whether or not you hit him extra hard for me.”

Dick hesitates a moment. “Always. And I know I give you crap. It’s not because I want to, or-“

“To prove you’re teacher’s pet?”

“We both know that’s Barbara.”

“I think you know Barbara a lot more thoroughly than I do.”

“Boundaries, man. And I want to know you’re okay. I can’t even imagine what you went through.”

“You? Probably not. But Dad? I was the one who had to talk him down. I didn’t need that, you know, but seeing it, it almost made the whole thing worth it. To know how much we matter to him, if only for a moment. That’s screwed up, isn’t it?”

“It is. Whole family’s screwed up like that. But you don’t dress like we do and have our kind of nightlife if you had a healthy childhood.”

“Barb kinda did.”

“Yeah…”

“And from the way you’ve talked about the circus it doesn’t sound like such a bad way to grow up… you know, until the tragedy.”

“Yeah. Tragedy does always kind of screw things up.”

“It’s weird, how many of us there are, now. I remember when it was just the three of us, and you and dad were barely talking…”

“It’s still weird to me to think of him as ‘dad.'”

“It helps being tortured by a maniac. Sort of peels away the emotional detachment. But my point was we were a weird little family. A dad. And an older brother slash dirty uncle who didn’t get along with him. And now there’s I’ve lost count how many Robins. Batwoman. At least one Batgirl, with a bunch of Birds of Prey hanging around her. And most of us join or even lead teams of our own.”

“Makes sense,” Dick said. “Just a bunch of orphans trying to figure out where we belong.”

“Yeah.” Jason pauses a beat. “You hit him really damn hard, right?”

“Thought I broke my jaw, his hand, or both, for a second there.”

“You think dad would ever forgive me, if I put a bullet in him?”

“I’ve known Bruce a really long time, and I don’t think it’s about what you’ve done, Jason. I think it’s about what you’re going to do. We all make mistakes, you know? But trying to be better than you were- I think that’s what matters most.”

“Doesn’t sound like a yes, though.”

“I don’t know, man. If I had to guess, if he felt like you couldn’t help it, like you had no choice, he’d forgive you. I think if you did it because you want to, on the hope he’d forgive you anyway… then I really don’t know. What he’s built, it’s bigger than any one of us. You killing someone you could take in, that might bring the whole thing crumbling down. And even then, I think he’d want to forgive you. But this thing he built, he built it so we didn’t have to be alone. You take that from him- from all of us, and I just don’t know, man.” We cut away.

I think at the end, Ollie decides to spend a little more on the team. This is revealed from him ‘souping up’ their Winnebago, which he demonstrate by blowing the horn, which now plays ‘La Cucaracha.’ The Outsiders give him crap for this, then he says that it also does this, and flicks a switch, and the exterior transforms into a sleek, green “Arrow car.” After a moment, the inside increases, morphing to show a state of the art mobile headquarters inside, as well. Ollie plays this off as having used the ill-gotten gains from the criminal’s portions of the heists… but Dick knows how much this kind of Batman-tech costs, and Ollie cops to using some of his fortune on it. Turns out, selectively leasing tech from Wayne Enterprises and Kord Industries, given what those companies do with their profits, is another way to do good with his fortune.

Pitchgiving 2021, part 4: Outsiders 2

We pick up immediately from the mid-credits scene, close on the picture Arsenal’s using of himself for target practice, from when he was Speedy (timeline-wise we’ll probably play fast and loose with this, but the general idea is that he and Ollie were friends, and when Ollie started heroing, Roy tried to help, but was too eager to get out there too quickly, and got the hell stomped out of himself, which required some pain meds while he healed… which led to him shooting heroin; he’s upset at Ollie for cutting him loose rather than helping him through rehab; Ollie’s perspective is that he was helping by cutting him loose, that he’d put too much on the kid’s shoulders and had no right to keep asking for something he couldn’t give). An arrow bullseyes him in the other eye. Jason tears the photo down, the way it tears leaves a sinister-looking happy face torn through the photo. “Self-loathing can be a great motivator,” Jason says, “provided it doesn’t become a problem. You sure you’re good?”

“Fiddle-fit, boss-man.”

“Don’t try to fool me, Roy; you know who trained me.”

“The Joker?” Roy asks.

Jason breaks the leg of the chair Roy’s sitting in so he falls forward, towards one of his arrows Jason freed from his target board. Jason stops him about an inch from the arrow jabbing into his throat. “You get that one crack for free. Next time you bleed for it.”

“I had been pulling your chain,” Roy complains, “but you ain’t convincing me the Bat would pull what you did.”

“There’s plenty of places he and I disagree, but reading people, knowing what they don’t want you to,” he slides a newspaper clipping out of the desk Roy’s sitting at, “I had a hell of a teacher.”

Roy tries to be unphased. “It’s just a newspaper clipping.”

“It’s that girl you failed to save.”

“I tried. She was pinned.”

“Wrong answer,” Jason says, his voice softening. “I was there, remember. We couldn’t lift it, even before Killer Croc knocked me unconscious. There was nothing you could do, Roy.”

“I could have asked for help sooner.”

We see a flashback, Arsenal trying to budge a bolder pinning a little girl under water, but he can’t even wiggle the damned thing; it’s important, for the arc of this, that it at least be feasible a human being could, even if we’re talking men who do those silly strongmen competitions where they pull semi-trailers with their teeth. It might make more logical sense that Roy has to swim rescue breaths down to her as the chamber floods; however, it might not be possible to film that in a way that it visually reads. Regardless, the girl points out that Jason is now underwater, too, and will drown without help. Roy swims Jason to a ladder or something, and by the time he gets back to the girl, she’s gone. Budget allowing, Artemis and Natasha arrive and move the boulder and help Roy with Jason- but the girl can’t be revived.

“Tash and Artemis were busy with Croc. They peeled off as soon as they could…” he squeezes Roy’s shoulder, “it wasn’t your fault. We are a band-aid in the violent patient wing of Arkham; we’re trying to save a world that wants to bleed itself to death. We save who we can. But we can’t save everyone. Probably not even ourselves. But so long as we can lace up our boots we do the job, and we try, anyway, to make this crazy place sane again. You did everything you could- everything I would have.”

“That’s not what you said, then.” I think we just cut to Jason, soaking wet, berating Arsenal. We probably don’t need (or want to hear it), but it’s brutal, cruel even by the standards of what you’d expect from this kind of scene because Jason is beating himself up, too; even in the present, he’s trying to save Roy because he can’t save himself from that guilt, from that pain.

Jason sighs. “World-class detection I learned at the feet of the master. But compassion… was never his strong suit. I was angry, and I was wrong, on the merits, and taking my guilt out on you. With the two of us, with our tech, maybe we could have got her loose,  but I lost focus, and got myself knocked out.”

“I’ll meet you half-way,” Roy says: “We both suck.”

“That’s probably fair,” Jason says. “But use it. Hit the weights harder in the gym. Remember it the next time you’re exhausted and don’t think you can go on- because you know what happens when you fuck it up. No pity party, no wallowing- you make the ones you can’t save count, by using them to help you save the next ones.”

“The Bat let any of you people drink?”

“You think that’s a good idea.”

“I neither want to be alone or sober tonight. Sounds like a perfect solution.”

Jason sighs. “Fine. But we’re planning the mission- and the moment you’re too sloppy for that I start pouring you coffee instead.”

“This gig doesn’t work out for you, something tells me you’ve a promising career as a dominatrix.”

“A male dominatrix is called a dominant.”

Roy gives him a side eye. “I know what I said.” We need to end this scene. I get addicted to banter, and we’ve got a whole movie to plot out, here.

Roy drops off a much sillier Jason a few hours later. Artemis is annoyed he didn’t call, until she sees him with Roy, and realizes he really has been with the other Outsider all night and not either patrolling without her or visiting strip clubs.

“I am going to give you the best sex of the last twenty minutes of your life,” Jason whispers loud enough the neighbors definitely hear it.

Artemis tells Roy she isn’t sure exactly what he means by that, but she is intrigued. However, Jason faceplants loudly across her couch- clearly in no position to deliver on whatever he promised/possibly threatened. She thanks Roy for seeing him home, then hopes he didn’t drive; Roy says he’s got a car waiting to take him back to his place.

Artemis sits on the couch. Jason’s still drunk, still a bit silly, but we also find out he’s got more of his wits about himself than he let on. She asks if Roy’s okay. Jason asks if any of them are. She ponders a moment, before saying Natasha seems fairly well-adjusted, all things considered. And Jesse seems to have a reasonable head on her shoulders, too, probably on account of being a scholar of super-hero history. He grins, saying he mostly meant the pair of them. She smiles back, and says they are screwed up in ways that are adorably complementary, and that she intends to hold him to his boast, and turns out the light.

The next day, Natasha and Jesse are patrolling Gotham, Natasha from the air, Jesse from the street. They’re speaking by radio, trying to understand what it is they’re looking for, but also just chatting, some girl talk- namely about how the Speedsters did start patenting their tech through the QuickStart company she’s now helping run- which Natasha is interested in, because she’s now helping her uncle John run Iron Works. Eventually, Red Hood breaks through to explain to them this is Gotham. With its night time freak parade you might think it’s all one big anarchic carnival, but during the day the city runs on corruption- that if Lex had plied his corrupt scheme here he wouldn’t have had to feed Ivo to the wolves, his polling would have gone up if his corruption was exposed. He points out that Gotham’s corruption is old, as much a pillar of the community as the Waynes, that it’s persisted through years of reformers like Dent and Gordon and even the Batman because it’s run like a company- you take down the head and they just promote somebody else. So while it’s possible you’d see a brutal gang like the Snake Kings take territory – the only way they keep it is paying for it- either in blood or treasure. They’re looking for disruptions, namely violence. Jason’s watching the financials of the hundred or so crime figures most likely to be involved.

Natasha doesn’t like this plan. “So we’re waiting for bodies to drop, or for the corrupt rich to get richer- riches that will be used to fortify their position through bribes and hiring more thugs.”

Jason tells her these aren’t their only irons in the fire. We cut to Roy, showing up at a gang initiation for the Snake Kings. They make him give up his weapons- no projectiles, including some guns and a crossbow. Roy, a little concerned, talks nervously to himself (really a concealed earpiece) about his odds in this crowd hand to hand. Red Hood, on the other end of the radio, tells him that they said he couldn’t bring in any projectile weapons- that didn’t mean he couldn’t turn weapons into projectiles. He also tells him Artemis is standing by to extract him if it comes to that- but they’ll have to try and mop up enough of the Snake Kings to cripple their organization- if they fail to infiltrate them this time they’re done. Roy says he’ll try to handle it.

Artemis complains to Jason on a dedicated channel and says she doesn’t like this- that it isn’t the Amazonian way to use guile and subterfuge. He basically tells her too bad, that if the Snake Kings get their asses handed to them by an Amazon, and think Wonder Woman’s in town, that’s a whole kettle of fish. But dressed like she is, she’s just one more distant cousin in the Batfamily- and even he can’t keep track of all of them. We only see her in silhouette for now, because it’s going to be more fun to wait for the reveal, but she’s definitely wearing a batsuit with pointy ears and the spikey cape.

We cut back to the air. Natasha dispatches Jesse to check out a shooting at the LexCorp. branch in Gotham. She’s in and out, quickly assembling clues. It’s almost an afterthought that she moves a woman out of the way of rifle fire before taking the rifle, unloading it and disassembling it at the shooter’s feet. I imagine she takes the ID out of the first dead woman’s purse and compares the address to the ID from the man’s wallet (and we see that she’s already tied him to a desk with Cat 5 cables). We next see her taking keys from a police sergeant to get into a filing cabinet. “It’s a domestic violence beef. Killed his ex, who had a restraining order on him, and looked about to execute any cute young brunettes with a passing resemblance. Not our guy.”

Natasha asks about Rupert Thorne. On paper, she says he just looks like a run of the mill corrupt politician, but before he came to Gotham, he was linked to organized crime figures in a handful of cities- pictures taken with the local bigshots, never involved in any kind of arrest. Red Hood breaks in to tell them that he’s just the kind of guy the mob would bring in as a face- a lightning rod for criticism and protest, but also always just removed enough from the action to act as a shield for the rest of their exploits. Course, if he doesn’t feel the mob are paying him his due, he might start working on a side hustle. Jason tells them to check it out, but to keep their presence subtle for the time being.

We cut back to Roy, as he’s punched in the face. Roy stumbles backwards, his puncher apparently confident, until he reaches for his belt, where he’d kept a knife in an overly-ornate scabbard- the missing blade for a moment pinched between Roy’s fingers before he lets fly, the blade sticking deep into the meat of his leg. He goes to pull it out, but Roy’s on him, and puts him in a sleeper hold, informing him that it cut his femoral artery, and the only thing keeping him from bleeding out is the knife sheathed in his skin.

King Snake, presiding over the fight, stands and declares Roy hasn’t won. These fights are to the death, and he must kill the man. He also moans about using a weapon as a projectile, which was firmly against the rules. Bane stands, and voices that he feels Roy has won; he’s cut the man’s femoral artery, and he will die without assistance, but in preventing the death, he’s also proven both his skill and his desire not to waste the Snake Kings precious resources. He waves away the concern about projectiles; they don’t want the entries to be gunfights, but that doesn’t mean a man shouldn’t be able to use what they left him with to his advantage. 

Bane gives a handful of gestures, after which the next three applicants attack Roy together, even as the one Roy wounded is carried off the field. King Snake is furious with Bane, says something to the effect of “How dare you contradict me in front of my Snakes?” Bane swells up to his full size (no artificial inflation from Venom), and tells him even at his prime the King Snake would have been no match for his Bane- and that he is most certainly now no longer at his prime. Then he pivots; he tells Snake King that if Roy can survive a fight like this, without the time to strategize, without being able to take the short-term pain to gain the advantage, then he deserves a place in the Snake Kings, regardless. And if he dies, then the previous fight was a fluke and he doesn’t.

I’m thinking, just for giggles, he’s up against a man with a long, pliable staff, another with a whip, and a final man with a thin machete. Roy gets the staff first, because he’s used to having to fight with a bow with a broken string. Then he gets the man with the machete to cut specific notches in either end of the staff, before stealing the whip, and threading it through the notches. Finally, he gets the blade. The three men, however, are formidable hand-to-hand combatants, and he’s still having trouble keeping them at bay. He manages to catch them off guard a moment, drop-kicking the first into the other two, so they’re lined up in a row, firing the sword from his makeshift bow through them as all four fall. Personally, I’d cast these three so that they could come back as Bane’s henchmen, that they weren’t using their signature attacks because Bane told them not to, but are otherwise formidable even then.

King Snake is irate this time, believing that Roy leaving them alive is a personal insult after the last match. Roy responds: “I came here to stand with men worthy enough to have my back. If you want me to kill everyone in this room weaker than me, we aren’t going to have enough men left for a basketball team, let alone a gang. But it’s your dime,” Roy grabs the blade, and is about to yank it up and out of them, likely causing fatal wounds. Bane rises, and stops him. He knows Roy could have aimed for the throat, or the head, even the heart, but he can see from there they’ve been pierced just below the ribcage; painful, debilitating, but intentionally avoiding their organs or spines. Bane tries to play it off as a playful thing- that his father would chop off Mozart’s hands if he played a symphony at a different tempo than he preferred- but that he has an appreciation for talent, and that Roy stays.  

Roy leaves to get some air, and is accosted by a handful of thugs, who blame him for throwing off the curve- now anyone who can’t fight 3 guys at once isn’t going to get their shot. Roy’s had the holy hell beaten out of him, and they’re armed with guns, and have enough distance Roy’s screwed. Someone in black rubber drops on all three at once. It’s Artemis. There are, honestly, a lot of permutations of why this would be funny. It could be a cheap Batman costume Jason bought her from a Halloween store, or one he clearly hand-sewed. It could be an ill-fitting Batgirl costume the taller, curvier Artemis is shoved into. It could be funny just putting her into one of the Snyder-era muscle suits just because putting a woman in one would emphasize how silly those were. I’m not sure what the best version of this joke is, but Roy snickers. “I could kill you with one of them; you realize that, don’t you?” She asks, and he snickers again and tells her it might be worth it.

Red Hood, over the radio, and cameras, we now see, switches his focus to Jesse and Natasha, and asks how things are going with Thorne. Natasha’s going over digital records, and tells him Jesse installed a network dongle she could access remotely. Jesse’s read two-thirds of their physical records- would have been done, but at about the 40% mark figured out how the records actually functioned as both the clean transaction records- but, once decoded, showed the dirty records, too- records of payouts to corrupt municipal authorities, contractors. Jason’s concerned she’ll be seen; she says people can’t see things that don’t stay in their vision longer than 1/220th of a second, and that she paces when she reads, anyway; the Speed Force, which protects her (and by extension everyone in contact with her) from the truly devastating impacts of someone moving at those speeds blunts the problems she would otherwise have moving through an office at thousands of miles per hour (otherwise the air she displaced would essentially create tornados in her wake wherever she went).

Jesse clarifies that it’s clear that while Thorne might be their cut out, he functions as a separate entity, a free agent- so that even if Thorne got nailed, they’d just move on to the next cut out. Natasha has the final piece- that isn’t represented on the paper records Jesse’s been scanning: Thorne’s been consulting for a Santa Priscan outfit, namely the mercenary corporation that took over the government, and now operates the gangs and drug funneling operations they’re targeting. The money doesn’t seem to even be acknowledged in any of his political fundraising or disclosures; it’s off the official books. Jason thanks them, and tells them that they’ve done good work- and that they should meet back at the hotel- he’ll be joining them soon.

We go back to Roy, within the Snake Kings compound. He’s at the head of a group lead into the inner chambers. He is greeted by the three mean he pierced together, now bandaged. One each grabs his arms, while the third puts a knife to his throat. “What the hell is this?” he asks. Bane tells him that they’ve had many attempts to infiltrate, from the Bat people, Checkmate, even a Gardner for the Superfriends. And from every law enforcement alphabet you’d care to imagine. They never cared. They let them in- if they passed this final test. The secret to the Snake Kings’ tenacity and strength is their Venom. They sold its weaker form on the streets, like heroin, if heroin made you feel like you could push over a car or a tyrannosaur. But the good stuff, the pure stuff, the strain Bane has hooked to his gauntlet- that was a high no one could walk away with. Strength you could never go back to living without. Riding the Venom meant pledging yourself til death to the Snake Kings. Most of those infiltrators were wise enough to pass, to walk away; the few who weren’t served the Kings, turned on their lives, their lovers, their coworkers, whatever they had believed in their life before the Kings. Venom isn’t a test- it’s a rebirth.

Jason is legitimately worried. “Roy, stall; I can have Artemis there before they can so much as call you a mean name.”

“I can handle it,” Roy says out loud, and snorts a line of Venom, and proceeds to beat the crap out of his attackers. Bane watches, with his hand on the dial of his own Venom supply. After thrashing the three, Roy spins on Bane, ready to attack him, too. But he stops, and says that he can’t stand people trying to kill him.

“Then you don’t like me,” Bane says.  Roy shrugs. He’s not against someone wanting him dead. But doing somebody else’s wetwork? That’s just low class. Besides, he knows if Bane really wanted him dead, he’d turn that dial and do it himself. He tells Bane he puts other people in harm’s way to understand who they are- but they both already understand who they are- the only thing left to be gained is violence. Bane opens his hands, removing the one from the dial as he extends the other to Roy. “Welcome, brother, to the Snake Kings.”

Artemis and Red Hood chat on their private link. She’s pleased with the progress of their mission, and underconcerned with Roy. Jason cuts off abruptly, saying he’ll have to call her back. Because finally, we pull back to confirm that, yes, Jason has been in the Batcave this entire time. And 2, that Batman is standing there, glaring angrily at him. “I asked a question, Jason: what the hell are you doing here?”

Red Hood shoots back that Nightwing called about his little Venom problem. Batman says he doesn’t have a Venom problem. Jason replies that Gotham sure as hell does, and given his history of… performance anxiety, Dick was concerned he might need some help- help he would never, not if he lived to be 9000 years old, ask for.

“I want you the hell out of my cave. Your mission’s concluded. I want you out of Gotham, too.”

“What’s your favorite pie?”

“Rhubarb.”

“It isn’t.”

“But that is the password, if you’re trying to find out if I’ve been doubled or mind-controlled. I haven’t. I just want you gone.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because you put together a team consisting of has-beens and wash-outs, all with a chip on their shoulder or something to prove, most of whom would content themselves with petty revenge. Maybe you just see enough of yourself in them that you want to give them the second chance you feel I haven’t given you. But you put a junkie undercover in a drug sting. You put an Amazon who was too extreme for other Amazons into a batsuit. Your judgment is beyond compromised. And I thought I told you I didn’t want to see that symbol back on your chest until you earned it.” Yup. Subtly, just essentially an indented detail like some of the latter-day Batsuits, Red Hood’s costume has a bat symbol carved into the chest. Eventually he’ll have the full red symbol he wears. I think it should probably be there from the moment we do the mid-credits scene in the last film- Jason essentially considering himself having earned it while Bruce… clearly disagrees.  

“Guess you really can’t go home again,” Jason says, trying not to show how hurt he is. Then he spins on his heels, a smile on his face. “No. You almost had me. I don’t know if this is your pride, or you trying to protect me after you failed so spectacularly to. But you don’t get to tell me not to help. I’ve got an agent in with the Snake Kings. And we’ve put together who the cut out is they’re using to pass a percentage to the local cappos to stave off a turf war.”

“Thorne,” Batman tells him. “I’ve known for a week.” But there’s something beyond intensity in him, perhaps a little pride. “We couldn’t get past the initiation. Everything I tried, every barrier, every countermeasure, anti-toxin or anti-dote, failed to even slow Venom down. Nightwing thought he could talk his way past it- when he refused to snort the stuff Bane tried to kill him. GCPD ignored my advice, put in their most seasoned undercover; Venom hit them so hard he put a bullet in Gordon; he barely survived.”

“Roy can handle it.”

“He’s an addict. Pull him out.”

“You don’t get to give me orders anymore.”

“It’s not an order,” he says, his voice softening. “It’s concern. They look up to you. It means they’ll do most anything you ask. Even when you have no right to.”

“I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“If you think that’s best.”

“I do.” Jason turns to leave, feeling triumphant.

“Just stay the hell out of my cave.”

That night, Artemis arrives. They discuss their progress. Natasha tells them that she installed surveillance equipment on Thorne’s phones, and still has Jesse’s backdoor into his campaign’s equipment. Arsenal’s tracker starts moving. Natasha checks, no emergency communications from any of the known Snake King associates. Jason says that he doubts the Kings tell Thorne everything- only what he needs to know to keep them good with the mob- especially if we’re talking shipments of something a rival might decide to try to take for themselves.

So they follow Roy’s tracker. Red Hood and Artemis ride on a Batbike together. Jesse, mostly a blur, runs beside them, with Natasha in the air overhead. Jason asks Natasha if she’s sure she isn’t exposed. She tells him that with the cloud cover and the gray sky, she’s practically invisible to the naked eye. The rear of a moving truck opens, the back metal gate hitting the pavement with a shower of sparks. One of the King Snakes fires a stinger missile at her. It’s one of the men who Arsenal fought earlier, specifically Bird, tipped off by his falcon. Jason asks Jesse to confirm Arsenal’s location; last thing they want is for him to get hit in the crossfire. Jesse zips up to the truck, then zips back as gunfire hits a sideview mirror where she’d been. She tells them he’s in the cab, and she thinks he took a shot at her. Jason tells her he’s probably preserving his cover, then says, “Natasha, stop the truck.”

She plops down in front of it, planting her feet in the pavement and pushing against it, stopping the truck. Bird leaps out of the back, onto a follow car. “Artemis?” Jason says, but she’s already flying through the air towards the car, letting a spear fly. It goes through the driver and into one of the passengers in the backseat, and she kicks the front passenger through the windshield. We get a quick, brutal fight scene where she fights four men in a confined space and just dominates; it’s more about speed and skill than powers, though- think John Wick. Jason brings his bike to a stop beside Arsenal’s door. Arsenal kicks the door open, and it smacks Jason in the face, bloodying him. Jason opens the door violently, prepared to smack Roy for his little Joke. But we see Arsenal’s eyes- he’s stoned out of his gourd, and his blood is up, his veins bulging, maybe his muscles, too.

Jason’s caught flat-footed as Arsenal draws on him. Artemis leaps between them, her shield on her arm, as she dives past, deflecting the shots. As she clears, Jason flings a fistful of red batarangs into Arsenal, the pain making him drop his gun. Artemis relates that she’s seen that look, fighting Norse berserkirs- that Arsenal isn’t himself. There’s a gunshot, hitting the grill of the truck; there are more Snake Kings at the overpass. Jason and Artemis exchange a glance, and she flies off to deal with the assault.

Jason and Arsenal spar for a moment, Arsenal demolishing him, before picking him up and throwing him onto the hood of a car. From the pavement, Jason tells Jesse to put Arsenal down. Arsenal is suddenly hit with several dozen punches, before falling over. Jesse stands over Jason. “So, when you said ‘down’ I assumed you meant as in lying and not as in like a quadriplegic St. Bernard with a bad heart.” He nods.

Jason checks out the truck, and finds out it’s full of Venom, big enough containers that Jesse can’t lift them, and enough of them that while Natasha and Artemis could maybe each carry one or two, it that would leave too many. Jason calls Batman, and asks him if he knows a way to ruin a shipment of Venom. Batman asks what chemicals they have immediate access to. He says he might be able to whiz in one, and if they weren’t currently shooting at the truck, he might be able to siphon some gas- but the tanks appear to be hardened against heat, and there isn’t enough gas for an explosion- besides which aerosolizing a truckload of Venom in the middle of a city seems like a bad idea. Batman complains that they aren’t giving him a lot of options. “You’re the one with the head for chemistry. We might only be able to hold this truck for another sixty seconds.”

“And where are you- nevermind, I got enough tower pings to triangulate. Can you start the car? Because you’re only a couple blocks from Axis.”

He tries to start it, but the battery took a bullet in the fighting. He calls out, “Irons, start the car.” She routes power to her outer shell and shocks the car to life- also blasting off a couple of Kings who had grabbed her. Jason gets it to turn over, and peels off. “Axis? Thought it was a Superfund.”

“It is .It takes an average of 12 to 18 months to clean up a Superfund site- and this is the third time it’s been designated as such.”

“And that will destroy it?”

“Even if they manage to clean the toxins out of it, would you be willing to take a hit if it might turn you into the Joker?”

“For some people that might be a selling point.”

“Not enough to build a stable market.”

Artemis tells him over the radio she’s led a retreat- which was easy, because the Snake Kings are all following him- some on foot (could make for an interesting scene as several Kings pump after him, T2 style).

Jason says they should keep retreating, but he’ll need one of the flyers with him- to literally pull his ass out at the last minute. He thinks a moment before clarifying- just him- he needs the Venom to be contaminated.

Jason bursts through a chained gate onto the Axis property. Jason checks the side mirror, and sees a King chasing after him, getting close. He drops a batbomb out of the truck, blowing the King off his feet. Jason asks Batman what the shelf-life is on the gases in his grapnels. He says 18 months. Jason says he’s pretty sure the one he has is older than him, and his team aren’t responding. Jason drives the truck up a ramp of fallen wall, and the van tips into a chasm over the pits Joker threw Harley into. Jason jumps out the door, firing his grapnel… which sputters, barely gaining another couple of feet before dropping limply. His oustretched hand is grabbed by Natasha Irons, who flies him over the pit.

She flies him back over the pursuing Kings. They’re firing at them, and Jason gets agitated. She tells him she’s been thinking about his cute little gas bombs, and considering the need for crowd control. Panels in her suit slide open, and a couple of dozen gas canisters shoot out, into the Kings, enough to put even the enVenomed Kings down. “Cops may not be able to get all of them, but they should get some of them, and that should make all our jobs easier.” Jason congratulates her.

Arsenal is in the Snake Kings infirmary. He’s woken by Bane, who puts a bow in Arsenal’s hand; he has his own, even heavier duty, slung on his back. Bane leads him out into the night, specifically to a rival organization’s headquarters. He’s skeptical of Arsenal- that in the infirmary he refused more Venom. “It enhances healing, counters pain. It also makes my men more predictable, and dependable.”

Arsenal’s in pain, and irritable from the detox, so he can’t keep himself from sniping back, “And pliable.” Bane doesn’t deny it, and we get the sense, from his voice, that he’s amused that Roy’s so much more aware than the rest- he’s grooming him for an important position in the Snake Kings. He tells Arsenal to shoot the man in charge, who, on closer inspection, seems to be a ventriloquist dummy.

“Not the dummy, the man with his hand up its ass.” Arsenal pulls the shot at the last minute, only cutting the Ventriloquist’s throat- it’s a nasty wound, one the Vetriloquist may never speak again after, but he’ll live, if his mooks can keep pressure on it while they wait for an ambulance.. Bane grabs him by the arm and twists it behind him, straining it until it pops loudly and Arsenal screams in agony.

Bane releases him, and says that he refused to kill a criminal on command- even when it would save his life. That strength of will makes him very dangerous. Bane breaks Arsenal’s bow, and sets his own down at his feet. He tells him it was custom-made, that it cannot be pulled by a normal man, especially not one with a fractured radius. He puts a syringe down beside the bow, tells him he read about him; he preferred needles when he apprenticed to Green Arrow, yes? He offers him a choice. Shoot up with Venom, and he can use the bow to stop Bane. Or stand and watch while he kills an innocent bystander. He picks a woman at random from the street, and jumps down a fire escape. Bane follows the woman into an alley, and is reaching for her when an arrow strikes the brick beside his head. He sees Roy, with a second arrow waiting, aimed right at him. Bane smiles.

We cut to King Snake stalking powerfully around his chamber. Bane is cool and collected, with Arsenal standing by with Bane’s bow. King Snake is furious that Bane is trying to depose him, to use failures beyond his control- failures in part due to Bane’s hiring choices, to push him out. But Bane isn’t similarly passionate at all. He’s cold. Collected. “I inherited the tactical brilliance you used to turn a losing mercenary campaign into a successful coup, but none of your weakness: your vanity or venality. I synthesized Venom from the sciences I taught myself while serving out your prison sentence- from an infant. If I must end you to take my rightful place, I will do so, with regrets. But I will no longer stand by and excuse your failures.” My thinking is that, like in the comics, Bane was part of the experimentation in the Peña Duro prison, working from the Miraclo serum used by Hourman back in the day as a template, to create a longer-lasting formula. Most prisoners died from exposure. While Bane survived, it still only gives him a short burst of strength. However, Bane had taught himself many things, including enough science that he was able to help the scientist fill in the blanks on why his Venom didn’t work. Once it finally did, the scientist promised that he’d help him get out of prison, he’d see to it that he was granted a full pardon. Bane said he will help him escape the prison, but not the way he thought. Bane killed him, and uses his credentials as well as the Venom, to escape.

King Snake complains that he has no right. Bane corrects him, that it is King Snake’s short-sightedness that would have doomed their operations, because without the tribute to keep the other gangs at bay, the Snake Kings would become a losing proposition. But Bane refused to carry out his orders; only a portion of their shipment arrived the previous night- the rest arrives tonight by alternate means. Bane tells his father this proves his superiority of mind, but that if he must, he will prove his superiority in strength, as well. King Snake relents.

The Outlaws still have Arsenal wired for sound; they don’t know whether they can trust the intel, or whether they’re walking into a trap. Jason says it could be a trap, but Arsenal is snared in it. He’s getting him out, and trying to stop the shipment, too, if he can, but it’s his mistake, if they don’t want to come with him. The other Outlaws, in grand speechmaking tradition, relate their own mistakes, which brought them to the Outlaws in the first place. “The Outlaws are where you end up if you’re too traumatized for the Titans, too violent for a Justice League, or too good for the Suicide Squad.”  

They do a Fast and Furious heist of the rest of the Venom, with Jaime Reyes again showing up to assist in the finale. He says he’s sad he missed Jason’s crow-eating speech- but agreed to help, because Natasha says she taped it. He’s sure it’s a lie, before Natasha plays some of the speech over their comms.

The Outlaws win again, this time echoing the Dark Knight Rises having Batman pick up the armored truck of Venom in a batwing and fly off with it.

The Outlaws then travel to the Snake Pit (what the Snake King’s nest is called) and soften them up for the cops, who are finally coming because the Snake Kings can’t afford to bribe Thorne without Venom to sell- who was in turn keeping the cops as well as the cappos of their backs.

Bane and his three henchmen are absent, as is Arsenal. They attack the Outlaws back at their hotel, initially humbling all of them methodically. The foursome all sport Venom upgrades similar to Bane. Bane doesn’t bother with Arsenal, buying him off, essentially, with the narcotic form of Venom he’s been hooked on, expecting him to stay out of it.

Roy is able to resist his demons long enough to help turn the tide, putting an arrow through Bird’s bird, and one into Bane’s leg, buying the other Outlaws enough of an edge it becomes clear Bane can’t win. Bane manages to escape, remarking that he’s learned a lesson: to isolate his foes, removing their friends first, their strengths second, and finally, exploiting their weaknesses. It seems like a win, until they realize Arsenal is shooting up with Venom- in fact, he’s ODing. Luckily, Batman gifted Jason a Narcan derivative he mixed that can keep himalive.

I think next is a tough love moment between Arsenal and Red Hood, where he locks him up. At first, Jason is angry at him, it seems, saying, “You told me you could handle this.” His expression softens. “But that’s on me. I shouldn’t have asked what I did. You wouldn’t take a gambling addict to Vegas and stay on the strip. I put you on the casino floor and told you to stay put. ,I” Jason takes off his mask, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have let this happen to you. But I am going to make it right.” Roy starts chattering at him to let him out, thinking he can talk his way into an opportunity to get off the chain. “I’m getting you clean. Whatever it takes.” As Jason closes the peephole, Roy realizes Jason’s his jailer.

“Don’t say it,” Jason says. Batman asks what he would say. “I told you so, or any variation on that theme.”

“I meant there’s nothing to say.”

“That’s… not like you.”

I’m honestly not sure if this conversation is better, or him just leaving it there, and sitting with Jason. But because it’s a pitch and not an edit of the movie, I can have my cake and eat it, too. “Every one of you reminds me of myself in some facet,” Batman tells him.

“Let me guess: I inherited your temper.”

“I don’t think I was ever as angry as you are. Dick… Dick is the me I wish I could be, that I wish I could heal enough to be; he’s the hope I usually don’t have the courage to live. Tim has the mind everyone thinks I do.”

“But no one can take a crowbar to the face from the Joker like me and you.”

“Kind of. In a lot of ways I’m lucky. Born with money. Health. A good mind. But the one thing that felt like it was mine, that I didn’t inherit, was will. To keep going. Keep fighting. Survive, even when everything inside me told me to roll over and die. To get up, even though you don’t know where you find the strength to. To build something that will outlive you, filled with people who are better than you. And to shoulder your failures. I know what you think, Jason, but you are not one of my failures. I failed you; I know that. Failed to keep you safe. Failed to teach you how to channel your rage, temper it, into something you can use to change the world. But you haven’t failed me. Not a day.”

“Not even with these?” Jason asks, pulling his pistols.

“There was a time they would have been a deal breaker for me. Watching my parents die the way they did… but fighting with Nightwing, of all people, taught me every man has to forge his own path. My path can’t be yours, as much as I might wish it, as much as seeing you so much as hold those hurts.” He sighs. “But I will ask that you use them as a last resort; only when there’s no other way-  that you only take a life in order to save one.”

“You know I can shoot to wound, right?”

“In a fight? With a hundred variables, including enemies moving at least as fast and erratically as you do? I’ve almost killed people with batarangs, and a grapnel, once. I don’t care how cautious you are, you’re going to kill someone with those things. So you should only use them when that’s an acceptable trade. But… I didn’t come down here to ask for that. I came because, I think you’ve been reckless, trying to accomplish more, and bigger. That when I said I wanted you to earn it, you heard I wanted fireworks. I wanted Joker in bracelets, with a few of his teeth left in his skull to show you’d learned restraint.”

“What, even that wouldn’t do it?”

“It might have. But this was what I was waiting for. Consequences, you accepting them, with maturity and grace. We all fail, son. Even Clark, though none of us shoulder it quite as well. But our failures only define us if we let them- and that includes trying to run from them. You made a call, and Roy got hurt. Accepting that you’re going to do the hard work putting him right, and accepting your culpability, that was how you earned it.”

They hug. Credits. Mid-credits scene. Batman and Red Hood continue to hug. Jason says, “If anybody asks I’m telling them I earned it kicking Bane in the nards.”

“I will too, son.” Resume credits. End credits scene. We start on a radar screen. An operator tells someone over radio that that’s negative, still no atmospheric radio contacts. The person on the other end says “Good. Then we still have time.” We recognize this voice from Outlaws 1, belonging to Lex Luthor. We can also see his face, because despite the fact that he’s built himself some Iron Man armor, he still really needs you to know it’s him sitting in it, so the face is see-through. He’s standing on top of the LexCorp. Tower, holding someone shiny in his hand by the throat. “I meant what I said when I thought you were dead, John, the world really would have been poorer for losing your genius. Lucky for it, I’ve got it- backed up every little thought you and that precocious little niece of yours ever had. Your recent stuff, I think we’ll live without. You’ve started repeating yourself, John. It’s sad, really; I know how we’d all prefer to go out on a high note.” He squeezes, crushing the armor around John’s throat, before dropping the armor.

Pitchgiving 2020, Part 8: Batmen

Focused mostly on the relationship between Batman and his Robins (current, ‘dead’ and Nightwing), but also with a healthy accounting of Batwoman/girls as well (they would take over in the sequel, reversing the amount of screentime as we give Batwoman the spotlight in Batwomen, presumably ending with “Batfamily” where we bring them all together which I think would have to introduce a nonbinary member of the gang, because otherwise this is getting a little too gender-normative- Batwing might be a good candidate, or maybe Duke- possibly the new Oracle (I’d make this Oracle a person in a wheelchair inspired by Babs- and of course cast Kiera Allen from Run because she- and it- are amazing), if DC are squeamish about using an existing character. Specifically focuses on the death of Jason Todd, how it caused a rift between Nightwing and Batman, and how it impacts a current case. I think it adapts part of Sword of Azrael, loosely. The sequel would necessarily follow Batgirl (Gordon), Batwoman and any other lady bat-family members we want (I’d probably try to work in Cassandra Cain over Spoiler- unless we could fit them both- but that’s my preference- though Stephanie Brown might be worth adding if she were a Robin at the time); it would likely involve Batwoman’s family and the machinations of her sister.

A blonde, spectacled man is running through the dark streets, clutching his bag like it’s his salvation. A man in a cape drops down in front of him, surprising him, and he falls into a puddle. We think for a moment it could be Batman, until he draws a sword that lights on fire, and in the glow from its flame we see he’s Azrael (the old-school, knight design). He cuts down the blonde man, and we cut away. Morning, Bruce is eating breakfast with Alfred and Tim, with the news on in the background. Tim asks about Dick, and why he left. Bruce talks about him becoming his own man, and needing to live his own life. Tim says he gets that, but that Dick hardly even comes around, and asks what happened. Bruce drops his silverware loudly, and the sound on the TV fades up, “body found decapitated in Gotham’s infamous Crime Alley has been identified as one Ludovic Valley. Police suspect it was a mugging gone wrong, as Valley’s effects were stolen after his murder.”

Cut to a different blonde, bespectacled man, Ludovic’s son, Jean Paul. He’s studying at a religious school, and is interrupted by a priest. Cut to him in the priest’s office, along with a lawyer. We hear words intermittently, like “sorry for your loss,” and enough that we gather that the priest has his father’s Will. He hands him a parcel around the size of what his father was carrying, and then says words we don’t hear; Jean-Paul loses consciousness, hitting his head as he falls to the ground, which we see from his POV.

Alfred and Tim are alone in the mostly dark manor. Alfred asks Tim to remember how he came to them, how he deduced Batman’s identity and asked to be taught. But he wasn’t the only Robin who wanted Dick’s old job. Jason Todd stole the wheels off the Batmobile. Bruce took him in. Trained him. And the Joker killed him- beat him nearly to death with a crowbar, then blew up his body. That was the real end of Bruce and Dick’s relationship. Dick blamed Bruce, for being too eager to fill the hole he left; Alfred says he probably blamed himself for leaving the hole, too. And the tragedy is both men, proud, and stubborn, couldn’t get over their grief enough to admit that they needed each other more then than they ever had.

Cut to POV shot, upside-down, hanging over Gotham. Azrael drops (the Jean Paul Valley redesign), landing outside the Joker/Quinn hideout we saw in the climax of Birds of Prey (this is set before that). He wades through circus freak thugs, slicing them up with his burning gauntlets. He manages to fight his way to the Joker, who is at first amused. His smile starts to fade as the religious fundamentalism starts to seep in- he realizes Azrael is incapable of getting the joke- which is about the scariest thing possible to him. Azrael cuts him pretty badly with his burning gauntlet, and he only escapes with the timely intervention of Harley Quinn- who he promptly abandons. Azrael chases after Joker, but loses him.

We’re in a gym in Bludhaven. Nightwing, in civilian garb, is beating the crap out of a punching bag. Tim, also in his civvies, steps out of the shadows. “You’re the new guy, right?” Tim introduces himself. Dick has kind of a fine line to walk, here, because the Dick we know and love is kind of unceasingly positive, and he’s at kind of a personal crisis point, here, at the same time. So he wants to be friendly, and supportive, but he’s also worried Bruce is endangering Tim, and that he needs to work his stuff out before someone gets hurt. But Tim used his detective skills to track Dick down, even though he’s largely living off the grid. Dick’s impressed, and they agree to go a round. Dick’s the better fighter, and bigger, but Tim does a decent job holding his own, and more importantly he’s really good at reading Dick and compensating. “I knew Jason. I don’t think Bruce ever knew that. But when I heard there was a new Robin, I reached out. Tried to give him some friendly advice. Mostly we just commiserated over Bruce. He was pissed off- but I don’t know that I could say he was wrong to be angry. I tried to help. I tried to get Bruce to see that Jason’s volatility made him vulnerable… but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what he’s like.”

“Proud. Stubborn.”

Dick stops, glares for an instant before smiling. “He must love you.” He tousles Tim’s hair, and we cut away.

At night. Joker attacks the GCPD. To save time, we might just want to cut to the rooftop, where he’s shot Gordon, broken the glass on the batsignal but is using it, with a smile sliced into the paint on the symbol. He wants Batman to protect him from Azrael- that he knows Batman wouldn’t let some other vigilante murder him. Batman punches him. Repeatedly. Gordon gets taken to the hospital, Joker gets taken to a safe house. Later that night, as the storm rages on. The safe house gets broken into; at first it’s unclear what’s happening, but there are in fact 2 Azraels acting in concert. Batman puts up a token fight, Robin is useless. Surprisingly, the Joker puts up the best fight of all, but is eventually taken. That’s when it’s revealed that Tim is in the Batsuit, Joker’s in the Robin suit, (and complains about there being “too much room in the tights” while tugging at the crotch), and that Batman was in disguise as the Joker.

We cut to the Azrael safehouse. LeHah, who we recognize as the Valley lawyer from earlier, is our old school Azrael, and Jean-Paul Valley is the newer one. Jean-Paul is brainwashed, barely able to respond to questions. LeHah is convinced that the Joker is their antichrist risen (Biis), and they need to murder him. The rest of the Order weren’t convinced, and so he’s also taking them out, one at a time, and had to remove their previous Azrael, Ludovic. He’s in control of their newest one, controlled by the System. But LeHah recognizes the boon they’ve found. Batman is Bruce Wayne, in control of the Wayne fortune. With his resources, Azrael’s war on the wicked can expand beyond its current humble expression, so they’re going to break him, for his financial secrets and for the location of the Joker, then they’ll kill him for aligning with the demon Biis.

Nightwing shows up in the cave, to help Tim save Bruce. “I wasn’t sure you’d come,” he says.

“You’re a better detective than that,” Dick replies. Tim accepts the compliment, and pivots to the other Azrael sightings. They all correspond to a religious rotary club’s membership- all connected, powerful Gothamites, specifically targeting the leadership. Next in line is a man named Harcourt. We have a cameo, here, from the Batwomen, and how they’re going to handle the rest of the crime in Gotham, including the mysterious appearance of Alice, so they can focus on rescuing Batman and watching the Joker.

Robin and Nightwing stake out Harcourt’s. He’s hired his own security, which the two Azraels plow through. NewAz is robotic, hurting because it’s the most efficient path from A to B. LeHah relishes doling out religious punishment a little too much, and likes to throw out maxims like, “Azrael does not protect,” and “Azrael does not wound,” as commandments to his protégé. Despite Nightwing and Robin’s intervention, they’re unable to save Harcourt. New Azrael pauses to hear Harcourt’s confession as LeHah flees, and the opening is enough for Robin and NIghtwing to subdue him. They’re able to break through the System enough to talk to Jean-Paul, who is terrified, because he’s been a prisoner essentially since meeting LeHah. He’s tried fighting the System, but it’s like trying not to breathe. They receive a note from LeHah, offering an exchange: Bruce for the Joker.

They meet in the mountains surrounding Gotham. Joker is anxious about their plan, rambling like the lunatic that he is, and at the first opportunity tries to bolt. He’s shot by persons unknown, (presumed to be LeHah), preventing him from escaping. Though it turns out the Joker had his own plan, and his thugs arrive, and it becomes Joker, Harley and clowns vs. the Batmen, while the two Azraels duke it out, accidentally setting fire to the trees and chalet. In the end, Jean Paul makes a conscious decision to save Batman rather than kill LeHah, carrying him out of the burning chalet, even as LeHah screams that “Azrael does not protect!” at him. LeHah tries to attack Azrael as he carries him out, only to be shot himself. The mysterious shooter tells Azrael to go, then tells LeHah , “You can walk out of here, and live to avenge another day. Or you can keep coming, and I’ll put you down like Old Yeller.” We cut away to Azrael carrying Batman away. We hear gunfire as the chalet collapses in on itself.

Tim and Dick fight back to back, holding off the Joker’s thugs long enough for Azrael and Batman to arrive. Joker laughs, and says Batman’s too weak to fight, that they can finish them all off right now. Batman stands in a fighting stance, does that little come get some wave like Neo in the first Matrix, and the Joker and his crew lose their nerve, and head away. Dick’s grinning. “I thought he was right. I thought you were bluffing. I thought-” he turns, and realizes Batman is face down in the snow. “Yeah. That’s exactly what I thought.” He bends over to help him up.

The four men are in the Batcave. Bruce has a blanket around him and a cup of cocoa to warm him up. Dick says one thing is still bugging him: he can’t figure out who the shooter was. “I would have thought that was obvious by now,” Tim says.

“So, this is awkward,” Jason says, stepping out of the shadows. “Especially because Bruce doesn’t like it when I shoot people.” Dick says his name in disbelief: Jason Todd. Tim launches into his explanation of the facts, that the Joker blew up someone alongside Jason’s mother. But that a few months later the Red Hood appeared on the streets of Gotham, and Bruce told him they’d “lost” one of their safehouses, without answering any follow-up questions.

Dick isn’t impressed. Instead, he turns his attention to Batman, who stands, and drops the blanket. “He asked me not to tell. Not you. Not anyone. He said he could never undo what was done to him. But for it to have any value, any meaning– Jason Todd had to stay dead. I’m so, so sorry. I wanted to tell you the truth. But it wasn’t mine to tell.” Nightwing balls his fists, and for an instant we really don’t know if he’s going to throw a punch. If it doesn’t feel like too much, I’d have a single tear fall down Batman’s mask, and Dick embraces him. 

Credits scene setting up the sequel, basically an excuse to adapt the Rucka Batwoman Alice storyline, because it’s good. I might throw in Mad Hatter, too, since it’s hard for me to have an Alice without him- just eventually have her discard him and turn out to be the real big bad all along. Really, for those unfamiliar with the story, it could make for an interesting midpoint reveal, that she isn’t an innocent caught in his web, that she’s been manipulating him this whole time- it just has to be handled carefully so you don’t end up completely undermining him, as happened to Bane in Dark Knight Rises (though conversely, a part of Jervis’ charm has always been how truly pathetic he is).

Pitchgiving 2020 Part 2: Green Arrow and the Outsiders

Green Arrow & the Outsiders (Green Arrow fronted team, gathering together a lot of legacy characters like Kyle Rayner, otherwise a generally more street-level team); Black Canary will end up in this orbit, eventually, though maybe she splits her time with the Birds of Prey. Nightwing. We can add more, depending on exactly how big we want the fireworks at the end of this movie to be, but we might be better off adding them in the sequels, instead: Tempest. Donna Troy. Wally West. Plastic Man. Kyle Rayner. Black Lightning.

Opening montage, Oliver Queen partying hard as a wealthy d-bag as he narrates, with a Bruce Wayne cameo, spilling drinks on Oliver. “I grew up with more money than I knew what to do with. Literally. I burned through money so fast even Bruce Wayne once told me to slow up; he was four martinis deep- so he was one to talk. The only thing I ever earned for myself was this.” Cut to a young Ollie, hitting a target with a bow. Cut again, he’s at the Olympics as a young man, drawing back. “My parents paid to have me taught self-defense; if they’d been as interested in self-preservation they’d have gone into rehab- instead of into the Pacific Ocean.” Quicker cuts, as Oliver spars in a martial arts outfit, and we see his parents’ car go over a cliff, tumbling towards the Ocean. “I slid seamlessly into their lives,” we see him in a suit attending meetings, drinking too much at social gatherings, generally being a feckless socialite.

“Then my life changed.” He gets mugged by a teen, obviously living on the street. She’s going to be his Speedy, eventually. He reacts on instinct, bloodying her and getting the knife away, knocking her into the light enough to realize, “She was a kid, so desperate for a meal that she attacked someone bigger, stronger, better connected. I gave her my wallet. I gave her my keys. She offered to give me a ride home.”

Back at his apartment. “I won’t sleep with you,” she says, anxious.

“I think you misunderstand me.”

“I have HIV.”

“God,” he whispers, and moves to comfort her. Narrating again: “I got her the help she needed. Meds. A place of her own. And a job.” We cut to his work, where she’s interning (paid). But he can’t focus- he’s daydreaming. (insert statistics on homelessness, poverty, etc.). “I left Queen Industries shortly thereafter. I couldn’t keep trying to amass more wealth, when I knew how many people were struggling just to put food on their tables, or afford the meds they need to survive. I plowed most of my fortune into charity, only to find that a lot of charities are run like a business- by which I mean corrupt. Half the ‘charities’ the wealthy ran were just glorified slush funds to buy politicians to advance their interests, the worst run by a real estate developer with mob connections named Mandragora.” I haven’t figured out the mechanism, but Mandragora’s ‘charity’ stands in the way of some work Queen wants to do, or maybe steals money from one of his charities, something that puts them on a collision course. 

This version of Mandragora is going to riff on Trump, while also giving us a logical reason to loop in both Huntress and Black Canary (accompanying an out of her depth Huntress); Question has discovered that he was the power behind the hit on her family- or maybe he was their inside man who set her family up to take the fall, whatever fits. Ollie confronts Mandragora, assuming he can talk sense to him, man to man. Instead Mandragora kicks the crap out of him, and throws him out on the street, where he’s found by Black Canary and Huntress. “You should see the other guy,” he says, as they help him to his feet.

“From the look of you, I’d say the other guy was 97 flights of stairs,” Canary says.

“No such luck, I’m afraid. Would you ladies be so kind as to help me to my” he sighs, “right, I didn’t drive here.”

“How about we help you to a seat, and you can wait for a car, there?” Canary asks, gesturing to a diner down the street.

They eat, and talk, with Canary subtly interrogating him (and Huntress not-so-subtly interrogating him because she is adorably socially awkward). Ollie is entranced by Canary, and I think I want to set up a pattern of him asking her to go out with him, and her rebuffing him, because at a glance he’s a soft, entitled oligarch. “You should get a bite to eat with me, sometime.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Huntress asks.

Suddenly Dick Grayson slides into the booth beside him, and flashes a wide grin. He’s friendly, breezy, effortless. “Don’t worry about introductions. We all have a stake in dealing with Mandragora.”

Canary responds: “I don’t know what you’re”

The camera pans around the table on Ollie, Huntress and finally Canary. “He defrauded your charity. Betrayed your family, which lead to their execution, and I don’t know if you know this yet, but he sold the information that got your mother, the first Black Canary, killed.”

Canary gets up, fast, angry, ready to belt him. He stands, too, his body language saying nonconfrontational, but subtly preparing to handle a fight as he puts up his hands. “Just the messenger. Please, sit.” They do. “Mandragora is not what he seems. If he were just some two-bit hood, even one with some degree of superhuman ability, then any one of us could take him. Except Ollie.”

“Hey,” Olliver protests, before realizing that the protest hurts his bruised face.

“I would have given you the benefit of the doubt, but you can’t even protest without pain. But the reason Mandragora’s been successful is two-fold. One, he’s been using low-level supercriminals as enforcers. That’s not that uncommon, but where he’s innovated, is he doesn’t leave any evidence behind. No witnesses, nothing. You three are, sadly, just some of his latest victims. I’d like to make sure you’re some of his last.”

“Then you just have to get me close enough to take a shot,” Huntress says, her hand tightening around her crossbow.

Nightwing puts up a finger. “No killing.”

“Why not?” Canary asks.

“On the one hand, it’s a slippery slope, where vigilantes justify to themselves increasingly extreme methods of execution, until inevitably they become as bad as the villains they sought to counter.”

“And on the other,” Ollie interrupts, “he knows where all the money’s gone. He’s been preying on charities for decades. We can get that money back, and to the people who really need it.”

Nightwing points a thumb towards him in agreement. “He also knows where the bodies are. I don’t think I have to tell anyone at this table what that kind of closure is worth.”

They arrive at Nightwing’s lair, where he introduces the other member of the team. “Some of us have personal reasons to be in this fight, Black Lightning’s neighborhood was decimated by the gentrification Mangragora pushed with bribes,” he squeezes Black Lightning’s shoulder. “I trust all of you with my life. And that’s what this is. Mandragora doesn’t take prisoners. He doesn’t leave witnesses. We win, or they never find the beautiful corpses we leave behind. If anyone has any reservations, now’s the time to sort them out.”

Nightwing heads for the door. “Where are you going?” Huntress asks, grabbing his arm.

“I want to give people some time to think, without me pressuring them. I want to swing by Mandragora’s safe house one last time, make sure he hasn’t made any last-minute changes to his security. I’ll be right back. Don’t worry.” He exits. She waits a moment, before slipping off after him.

We follow Nightwing, swinging across the rooftops. The city is his trapeze. Subtly, Huntress is following from below, maybe on her bike. NIghtwing lands gracefully on a rooftop opposite Mandragora’s place, and checks it out through binoculars. He hears noise behind him, and Huntress steps out of the shadow. “You followed me. You shouldn’t have.” She doesn’t speak, doesn’t make eye contact, but continues towards him. “Look, I know I have magnetic charisma, but I haven’t showered in about 36 hours, and could really use the personal space.” Huntress’ face is wrong, shifting subtly as she closes in on him. “You aren’t Helena,” he says, as she turns to a puddle of clay crashing against him like a wave. The real Huntress, watching from a neighboring rooftop, flees.

She’s winded by the time she gets back to the safehouse. “They caught Nightwing. If we have any hope of saving him, we have to go. Now.”

“I don’t think the plan was just to rush them,” Black Lightning complains.

“Yeah, all due respect to Night Wing, was it, but I didn’t sign up for a suicide mission,” Canary says.

The merry band is disbanding, until Oliver says, “Wait. We’re all Outsiders, which isn’t a position that comes naturally to me. But I gave up most of my wealth, most of my access, and a lot of my privilege. People like Mandragora corrupt the system, so that change and reform aren’t just difficult- they’re impossible. If we want to fix things- and we’re here because we’ve all seen what happens with a system this broken and corrupt- we have to do it from the outside. This is our chance to fix something broken- maybe even some of the things broken inside of us. I’m going to help Nightwing. I don’t think I can do it alone, but I’m going.”

“Yeah,” Huntress says. “Us medieval weapon users have to stick together.”

“You’re my ride,” Canary says, annoyed. “She’s my ride,” she repeats, to Black Lightning, sighing heavily. “Guess I’m coming with.”

“Hell,” Black Lightning says, “compared to the rest of you I’m Superman. Can’t exactly chicken out, now.”

The Outsiders take on a handful of second string henchers, and Clayface. Oliver sneaks away and finds Nightwing in Mandragora’s room, a little beaten up, but on his feet.  We’ll be cutting back and forth between both fights for the climax, with Canary’s cry and BL’s L enough to make Clayface run away. Ollie gets his bow knocked away at the start of the fight.

“I half expected to find you here chained up in a Leia bikini,” Oliver says.

“Expected, or hoped?” Nightwing asks.

“I knew I should have left you here to die.”

The pair of them, already beaten pretty badly, take on Mandragora together, eventually overcoming him in a brutal, Old Boy-esque battle of attrition, with Ollie finally getting his bow back. This is when Mandragora starts monologuing. Obviously, Mandragora had a hand in killing the Queens, too, after defrauding their charity. This comes out at a pivotal moment, as Mandragora, looking to extract a small victory, goads Ollie. Who shoots him off screen. And again. And again.

“Jesus!” Nightwing yells.

“He’ll live,” Ollie says. We show enough to see that he’s been sticking arrows in limbs, but nothing vital yet. “If we get him to a doctor fast enough. Might walk with a limp. And those injuries are going to hurt. All but guaranteed to lead to arthritis.”

“Ollie.”

“Shut up, boy scout. He’s hurt a lot of people. Justice means he doesn’t walk away from that without hurting himself.”

“I wasn’t going to lecture you, just… we should hurry, so he doesn’t bleed out.”

“Right.” Ollie spins, firing another arrow. This one slices through the string on Huntress’ crossbow.

“Oh, come on, man,” she says. “You have any idea how hard it is to restring a crossbow?” She drops the bow, running towards Mandragora while producing a knife. Olliver intercepts her. “He took everything from me,” she rages, trying to break free.

“No,” he says, rolling her onto her back. “He didn’t. He can’t. Because you still get to decide who you’re going to be- whether or not you let him turn you into someone monstrous.”

“Yeah, well, I decide to stab him in his heart,” she says, standing with the knife. He rolls her onto her back again.

“Not today. Today is about more than your vengeance.” She stands up again, shoulder checking him, and throws the knife into the his boot, sticking him to the floor, before leaving angrily.

“Miss the toes?” Nightwing asks.

“Mostly? My sock is wet, so not a clean miss.”

“That was a brave, if stupid thing,” Canary says. “Ask me again.”

“You want to get dinner sometime?”

“Maybe,” she says, and slinks out.

“I hate to interrupt,” Nightwing says. “But you do realize we have to carry him out of here, right?”

“We can barely stand,” he protests.

“Don’t tell me. I wasn’t the guy who chose to shoot him in the legs.”

“I have more arrows. We could put one in each eye. Then we wouldn’t have to carry him anywhere.”

“Huntress would be so angry with you. Remember, lift with your legs.” They get him up, and Mandragora removes the arrow from his arm and tries to stab Nightwing with it. He drops Mandragora on Oliver while he wrestles for control off the arrow, eventually plunging it into Mandragora’s last uninjured limb, which goes limp.

“Little help?” Oliver asks from beneath Mandragora.

“Jeez… I think I’m going to have to wait for the paramedics.”

Credits. Mid-credits scene: A beaten Oliver is taking off his costume in his secret Arrow Lair. His intern walks in. Played a bit comedically, it seems like she’s now interested in sleeping with him- but what she’s actually interested in, which we find out when she gets hold of his bow and bullseyes his target, is learning from him.

 More credits, and then a post-credits scene: Wally West and Donna Troy are talking with Nightwing.

“So like the Titans?” Donna asks. For the uninitiated, this is Wonder Woman’s one-time sidekick.

“But we’re not teenagers,” Wally says, devouring his food and whipping through to the buffet for seconds.

“We’re not calling ourselves Titans, either. I think the kids are doing something with the name.”

Wally burns through another plate, and gets thirds.

“Ah. That’s cute,” Donna says. Then she turns to Wally. “We all know you just keep getting more so you can blow that poor girl’s skirt up.”

“Hey, I burn calories same as you- I just do it several hundred times faster. If a Flash doesn’t carbo-load pretty much constantly we waste away. It isn’t pretty.”

“I’m pretty sure she was just teasing you,” Nightwing says.

“You know, for one of the fastest men alive, Wally, you really are slow,” she teases.

“But there is one thing you should know. There’s this guy. Who seems to think he’s in charge. Dresses like Robin Hood. Uses a bow. It’s adorable.”

“And you want us to humor him?” Donna surmises.

“He is fronting the money for the team. Well, most of it.”

“What is it with you and soothing the ego of underachieving billionaires?” she asks.

“Wait. What rich dude do you humor? Does Dick know somebody famous?”

She sighs. “You really are slow, Wally.”