WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Detective Comics #998 by Peter J. Tomasi, Jaime Mendoza, Doug Mahnke and Jae Lee, on sale now.
As Detective Comics inches closer to its milestone 1000th issue, Batman is in the midst of a strange and unsettling mystery. All of the people who helped transform him into a vigilante are being systematically attacked by a monster who can take the shape of Batman's greatest villains and allies -- at the same time. Next up on Dark Knight's check-in list is Jason Blood, the human host of the demon Etrigan, who taught Bruce Wayne what it means to instill fear in others.
With Blood already under attack, the Dark Knight has no choice but to rely on perhaps one of his most powerful -- and most taxing -- weapons: Hellbat armor. Since we haven't seen the armor in a few years, here's a refresher about what it can do and why it's so damn dangerous.
The Hellbat armor made its first appearance in 2014's Batman and Robin #33 by Peter J. Tomasi (the current writer of Detective Comics) and artist Patrick Gleason. At the time, DC was deep in its New 52 relaunch, and the current Robin, Bruce Wayne's son, Damian Wayne, had recently been killed. When Damian's body was taken by the forces of Darkseid to Apokolips, Bruce put on the Hellbat armor to travel to the evil New Gods' home planet and reclaim his son.
Intended to take on the biggest threats imaginable in the most dangerous of battle scenarios, the Hellbat armor was designed by Bruce Wayne and created by the entire Justice League roster. Superman forged its metals at the center of the sun, while Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg and Wonder Woman all charged it with their own special abilities to make it powerful, more durable and efficient in the most extreme of environments.
Equipped with a powerful A.I. system, the Hellbat has many properties. Not only does it give Batman enhanced strength, it can also turn invisible, fly with the use of its bat wings and shoot powerful blasts of energy. What's more, the armor's materials can even be shifted to change shape, like when it transformed into a swarm of bat-like projectiles.
The armor was powerful enough for Batman to take on the might of Apokolips' forces and stand toe to toe with Darkseid himself. However, wielding so much power takes its toll. When Bruce uses the Hellbat armor, it is fueled by his metabolism. He grows weaker the more he uses it, and there's a chance he could die from its draining effects if pushed too far.
While Bruce Wayne hasn't wielded the Hellbat armor since his confrontation with Darkseid in 2014, the suit itself did make an appearance three years ago at the start of DC's Rebirth when Lois Lane, finding herself on the moon's Batcave (yes, the moon has a Batcave), put on the armor to protect her son from the Eradicator.
Now, nearly five years after Bruce Wayne traveled to Apokolips to save his son, he is finally slipping back into the Hellbat armor to fight a different kind of hell. Before, it was the fires of Apokolips. Now, it will be the flames of the demon Etrigan.
Detective Comics #998 by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, David Baron and Rob Leigh is available in stores Feb. 13.