Most readers didn't expect the death of Robin earlier this year when Batman's son, Damian Wayne, was killed in February's Batman, Inc. #8.
But almost nine months later, comic book readers won't be surprised to find the role of Robin being filled, returning the "caped crusader" to his expected role as part of the "dynamic duo."
Speculation about who might be the new Robin started almost as soon as Damian took his last breath — and Newsarama was among the bunch, putting together our own list of candidates for the job less than a week after the kid was killed.
Now that we've had some time to digest the aftermath of Damian's death — and to see what story elements DC has introduced into its comics over the last few months — it's time to revisit the question:
Who will be the next Robin?
At the time of Damian's death, just about any character seemed like a possible replacement. After all, DC had some time to build even a brand new character into someone that could be accepted as Batman's sidekick.
But now, there are some early candidates that don't seem likely now. Pre-New 52 characters like Katrina Falcone, Beryl Squire and Cassandra Cain haven't gotten much — or any — screen time since Damian died.
Another long-shot candidate we included in our early list was someone from the Court of Owls, and that's still a possibility (particularly with the Court just getting its own September Villains issue). Yet there's been no hint of a Court character that could play the role of Robin, so it's looking like this isn't on DC's radar.
However, a few of the earliest guesses have ended up being even more likely...
At the time of Newsarama's list, there was one candidate we named who — we admit — we thought was a bit of a pipe dream. She was a character from Frank Miller's beloved graphic novel Dark Knight Returns — a Robin from the future named Carrie Kelley.
Lo and behold, two months later in April, DC did introduce a new Carrie Kelley, and they even put her into a Robin costume on the cover.
Although it turned out that Carrie was just wearing that Robin suit as part of a costume party, but it was enough of a tease that it thrust Carrie Kelley into the role of leading candidate for Robin.
And her appearance in April wasn't just a one-time thing. Carrie keeps showing up in the Batman and Robin title (renamed Batman and… since Damian's death) — and we expect that this is the title where a new Robin would be introduced.
When she appeared in Dark Knight Returns, which is set in an alternate future of the DCU, she was the first female Robin. It would make sense for DC to honor this new version with the same type of title.
So far, Carrie appears to have a lot of things going for her in the New 52 as a potential Robin — she's apparently a trained fighter, she's got a connection to Damian, and she seems to be liked by Alfred (who has hired her to help with Damian's dog).
But perhaps most telling is the solicitation for this week's issue of the series, Batman and Two-Face #25: "Who is Carrie Kelley, and how can her mysterious connection to Harvey Dent help Batman?"
Might this week seal the deal for Carrie Kelley to be the next Robin?
When a new, young female character named Harper Row first showed up in the DCU last year, Newsarama wondered what her role would be in Gotham City.
And while she is still in the running for the job of Robin, it's looking like her appearance in the DCU a few months before the death of Damian might have been a bit of a red herring.
Yes, she's been showing up in Batman and Detective Comics from time to time during the last year. She even (unknowingly) helped Batman recover from Damian's death just after the event.
If Harper doesn't end up being Robin, it seems obvious that (she's going to be part of the Bat-family in one way or another. (We were kind of hoping she was the Joker's daughter, but that seems kind of moot now with some other girl running around with his face.)
Right now, the main Batman title by Scott Snyder — who created her — is set in the past of the DCU. Maybe when it gets back to the present day, we'll see more of Harper Row and find out whether she's the new Robin… or something else.
Let's admit it — we all kind of miss Tim Drake being the Robin suit — a job he left only a few years ago when Batman's son took over.
But in the New 52, Tim has been less associated with the Bat-family — spending most of his time as one of the Teen Titans.
That will change in the spring, when Tim becomes one of the key characters in the new Batman: Eternal weekly series.
With that added spotlight, it's entirely possible that the former Robin might be the subject of a storyline that sees him coming back to his job as Bruce Wayne's sidekick. He wouldn't even have to change his name, because in the New 52 continuity, Tim apparently wore the title "Red Robin" even when he was working with Bruce in the Batcave.
It would also eliminate the problem of explaining why Bruce would get close to someone new — and why he'd put a new person in harm's way after his son died fighting crime. With Tim Drake, it's not a new person, and the dude is already putting himself at risk every day as a Titan.
In the pre-New 52 universe, Stephanie Brown served as a Robin for a short period of time and was the first in-continuity female Robin. That makes her ideal for the new job opening, because since the reboot, she hasn't shown up.
Over the last eight months, we've seen nothing of Stephanie, but that will change. In spring 2014, Stephanie will be introduced to the New 52 in the Batman: Eternal weekly series.
Might she be introduced in an effort to be the new Robin? It's certainly possible. And James Tynion IV, who is writing her introduction, has indicated that while she's be true to the core of her character (from former incarnations), she will have a new role in the New 52.
Before the boy's body was even buried, comic book fans were speculating about how he would come back to life. Would he be a clone, like so many other characters in the storyline where he died? Could he be resurrected through a Lazarus Pit or other magical device?
But a few things have gotten us thinking that DC might be setting up a resurrection for Damian Wayne. First, he's starring in a high-profile comic right now. Granted, it's an "alternate future" Damian Wayne, but it's him nonetheless.
Second, his body (along with that of his mother) is missing from its gravesite. In October's Batman and Two-Face #24, readers were reminded that the bodies are missing — the empty graves still unfilled. And Bruce Wayne swore he would go after Ra's Al Ghul for taking the bodies.
The aforementioned James Tynion has been giving Ra's a lot of attention lately, bringing him into his Red Hood and the Outlaws series, and spotlighting him in a September Villains Month issue.
Might DC be setting up a showdown between Bruce and Ra's that involves a resurrected young Damian? As the grandson of Ra's and the son of Bruce, Damian's loyalty was always a center theme of his appearances. Could the return of Ra's Al Ghul be part of an upcoming Batman event that invokes those missing bodies? It certainly seems so.
And if Damian returns — whether as a clone or a Lazarus Pit beneficiary — it's not beyond reason to think he could return to the role of Robin.