Is plotting the murder of your friends ok as long as you don't really intend to do it? (Batman, all the time)
Quick note, Patreon poll takers choose this as the top subject, which is great and a little worrying at the same time.
The specific example of this comes from the Mark Waid story the Tower of Babel (JLA #43-46) published back in 2000. To summarize, Ra's Al Ghul steals Batman's pre-emptive plans on how to take out other heroes. For the past few years Grant Morrison had pushed the characterization of Batman's need to always be prepared for any eventuality, and Waid set up some reasoning with the Silver Age event where all the heroes had their bodies switched with various villains.
By the end of the story the heroes overcame and won, but the team was split 50/50 on if they should allow Batman to stay on as a member. While some felt betrayed, others understood the logic. So this leaves us with the question, how would you feel if one of your friends actively planned how to kill you 'just in case'?
One of my biggest issues with the original story is why in the hell would Batman have even bothered to write this shit down. Seriously, as one of the smartest people on the planet who has memorized entire libraries worth of knowledge because he never knows when the Riddler or Joker will create a death trap based on useless facts, would it have been entirely too difficult to remember to freeze Plastic Man with liquid nitrogen? Well, we wouldn't have a good story for Tower of Babel then would we.
I guess since we have to accept that all of this had to be written down so that a villain could steal it for the sake of the story, then I think the real issue is that of secrecy and consent. Because even though Wonder Woman voted Batman off the team due to the breach in trust, I think as a tactician she would have seen the value of knowing how to take down a mind controlled Superman. Or you can just trust that that won't ever happen again in say just 5 years time.
So the real issue is trust and consent. Cause I mean honestly, if I had a friend who said, "Yo, I love ya bra but you do have a lot of enemies and like at least six of them are telepaths, so mind if I figure out ways to incapacitate ya?", then I'd be pretty down with it. There's nothing wrong with being properly prepared, as long as you're just not a douche about it. Also, I'd be a little flattered about it. Like oh damn, you think I'm that hardcore? I guess I would be a little intimidated if I was you as well, so yeah, let's think of some fun ways to take me out.
Now granted, at this point in time in DC continuity we knew Batman was pretty squirrly as his mind had been manipulated by Zatanna (Identity Crisis) plus all the other background issues to make him understandably paranoid. Plus y'know, editorial was dead set on having most of the heroes be adversarial towards each other at this point, so having any stories that dealt with trust and consent were pretty much out the window. But seriously, a lot could have been avoided if whenever a new hero was inducted into the Justice League and they just had a little meeting with them and said, "Hey, this is kinda weird, but we're going to need to let Batman figure out how to kill you for security reasons. Cool? Cool." At which point you can opt out, but at least you know what's up. But it also would really make Batman feel useful and it would mean a lot to him.
So in conclusion, I would have to say that as long as it was a consensual plotting of your friends deaths, then we're all good. Be inclusive, have a good time with it, and let them know that while it's slightly disturbing that you've taken the time to program a legion of nanites to set their flesh on fire, that you're doing it with much respect because it's really really hard to kill martians otherwise.
Next up we'll tackle the ethical ambiguity of mutant reincarnation (HoX/PoX)!