The DC announcement Monday of two new series appeared to spoil what's coming in the Batman universe — but the hint is only the latest in a series of revelations and teases of what's coming over the next year of Batman and Batman Eternal.
The story, which started in April, has been following an outline written by Batman scribe Scott Snyder and his frequent collaborator James Tynion IV, with scripts being co-written by Tim Seeley, Ray Fawkes, John Layman and Kyle Higgins.
But many of the comic's plot beats were hinted about all the way back in 2013, when DC released a teaser image called "Happy Batsgiving", and again in February, when the Batman title spent an entire issue revealing clues about what was coming in the upcoming weekly.
So far, readers have been presented with a multitude of mysteries in the series, but we decided that — 12 issues into the series (which in a monthly would represent a year worth of chapters) — it's time to take a look at the most pressing or biggest conundrums facing readers of Batman Eternal, as well as offering some theories about where they might lead.
[images from here on forward are previews pages from this week's Batman Eternal #13, via USA Today.]
Mystery: What's the deal with these nanobots that Tim Drake discovered, and how do they fit into the overall story?
Clues so far: Tim Drake noticed that the kids that Pyg abducted back in issue #1 were already sick before the villain got to them. They're all from one building in the Narrows, and sure enough, it's Harper Row’s building, and her brother Cullen has the infection.
Tim discovers that the infection is actually a nanbot swarm, and Bruce appears to recognize it. Readers are shown a man with a monkey who seems to responsible for the back-up — the man named Sergei who was shown training Bruce back in the Batman #22 back-up story.
Sneak peeks and hints: This is probably the plague that readers saw in Batman #28. Also, in the "Happy Batsgiving" teaser, we saw Tim Drake looking directly at Harper Row, and the editor at the time told Newsarama readers that it was significant who was looking at whom.
Theory: The nanobots are almost certainly linked to the overarching story with Carmine Falcone, since the plague was a big part of the Batman #28 teaser. Readers will remember that Harper Row said, in that hint-filled issue, that "people say" Catwoman can "make anything happen for the right price," implying that there might be a cure for this nanobot plague and the crime lords (which will include Catwoman soon) could control it. Also, when Batman noticed out loud in Batman #28 that Harper had "been training," Harper said, "you can yell at your sidekick's later." That statement, paired with the interest from Tim Drake so far in Batman Eternal, seems to indicate that Harper and Tim will be training together… or even more.
Daddies and Daughters
Mystery(ies): Who is Selina Kyle's father, will Batgirl free her father, what will happen to poor Stephanie Brown, and when will Alfred's daughter, Julia, come around?
Clues so far: Selina Kyle was seen at a gravesite, reading a letter from her father that indicates there's more to her heritage than meets the eye.
Batgirl is desperately searching for clues to free her father, who's on trial for having (allegedly) recklessly caused a train accident. (Concurrently, Gordon is being covertly supported by three officers in the Gotham City P.D., including Maggie Sawyer, Jason Bard and Harvey Bullock).
Stephanie Brown has discovered that her father is the Cluemaster, and she overheard him and other villains revealing the plans for Gotham City to be burned.
And Alfred's daughter, after having been discovered by Batman in Hong Kong, is now in Wayne Manor, and she's getting suspicious about her father's activities there.
Sneak peeks and hints: Julia is most certainly the mystery woman in the green jacket that we saw in the "Happy Batsgiving" teaser — and now it's obvious that she's looking straight at her dad in that picture.
The imprisonment of Gordon was also teased in that image, since he was shown with handcuffs, but it's encouraging that the image also implies Maggie Sawyer and Harvey Bullock have Gordon's back, which is supported by their current schemes.
And we already know (from Batman #28) that Stephanie Brown will not only become the costumed heroine Spoiler, but she's eventually going to meet (and, we hope, help) Batman and Harper Row as they try to win back Gotham City.
Theory: It's pretty obvious that the return of Carmine Falcone is linked to the events that led to Gordon's imprisonment, but with Batman busy in Gotham, Batgirl maybe the best person to find the necessary clues to free her father. That said, the appearance of Jim Jr. in the last issue could lead to old Jimmy Boy helping out — after all, he's been shown to be resourceful and would probably be a good match for any of Gordon's enemies.
Most online chatter points toward Carmine Falcone being Catwoman's father, which would explain why she becomes a mob boss (seen in Batman #28 and teased by Scott Snyder in our interview with him earlier this year). Before the New 52 relaunch, there were hints that Falcone was her father, though no confirmation. But there's always a chance that her dad is someone entirely different. Plus, her explanation for becoming the new kingpin of Gotham lies in a betrayal by Batman, which we haven't seen yet.
The writer of Batman Eternal have promised that Stephanie plays a key role in the series, and we're betting that her knowledge of the plan helps bring the story to its conclusion. Although she apparently won't be successful in stopping the villains from burning Gotham, we can't help but hope she's instrumental (along with all the other kick-ass women who are populating the city) in eventually defeating the villain.
Julia, we think, is now the most likely candidate to be the girl we saw in the Batcave in Batman #28. She fits all the criteria — she's a girl, she's a Pennyworth, and she would be new at the job (as the tease revealed).
As far as how she gets there, it's likely that, after her father is exposed to fear toxin and subsequently locked up in Arkham Asylum (as teased in solicitations), Batman puts her in the role her father left vacant.
Mystery: What's happening with Arkham Asylum, what's the future of Wayne Manor, and how might it lead to the new series, Arkham Manor?
Clues so far: In the lowest depths of Arkham Asylum, several nasty occurrences are taking place, and the evil that lurks within has gotten the attention of Jim Corrigan, who's host of The Spectre in the New 52. Most recently, readers were shown that the villain known as Joker's Daughter is slaughtering Arkham inmates, and the Spectre has enlisted the help of Batwing, Luke Fox.
Sneak peeks and hints: The involvement of Batwing and Joker's Daughter explains their presence on the "Happy Batsgiving" poster, and Fawkes has promised a supernatural presence in the weekly comic (which has been evidences by some of the villains we've seen so far).
However, perhaps our biggest insight into what will happen with this part of the storyline came today, when DC announced a new comic series called Arkham Manor.
According to press release copy, "when catastrophe strikes Arkham Asylum, where will Gotham City house the world's most dangerous criminals?" Also, DC has confirmed that the series takes place in current New 52 continuity.
Theory: It seems pretty straight-forward — whatever is happening at Arkham Asylum now, with Joker's Daughter and other evil presences, will destroy the building. Will it happen while Alfred is an inmate (after he is exposed to fear toxin, as we've been told in teasers)? It seems that, after the building is no longer inhabitable, Wayne Manor becomes the new asylum. With Alfred gone, Bruce Wayne must be assumed dead. If the Batman #28 utilization of the Batcave is any indication, then perhaps the cave is safe, even after the Manor is taken over.
Man In Charge
Mystery: Who's behind it all?
Clues so far: In Batman Eternal #1, readers were shown one of the final scenes from the weekly that Batman is going to be tied to the Batsignal while Gotham City burns. It's someone Bruce knows, and he obviously knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, since he calls him by his first name.
The co-creator of the plot for Batman Eternal, James Tynion IV, told Newsarama that the "Gotham burning" scene is not a potential future or anything. It is coming.
The one villain behind it all has also been teased within the story so far, such as when Catwoman learns Carmine Falcone is answering to someone, and when an unseen figure in the shadows is shown talking.
Sneak peeks and hints: The burning was teased in the "Happy Batsgiving" teaser by all the smoke in the background of the image. We were also shown several villains in the teaser, but it's unlikely that any of them are the masterminds — we've seen them all in roles that would indicate they're aren't behind it.
However, there are a few other hints that could tease the big bad — there are many bones in the foreground, ivy on the house (indicating Poison Ivy plays a role) and there are a couple of not-too-cryptic visual hints, with an owl in a tree (indicating a Court of Owls involvement) and what appears to be a string of unwound material (implying, perhaps, the bandage-faced villain Hush).
Theory: Whoever is behind the whole thing isn't obvious yet. But we could see Hush being the mastermind, but that seems too similar to the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee storyline that introduced the character. Right now, it feels more like a Hush scheme, but we have 40 more issues to go.
Many are pointing toward the "Batsgiving" owl as an indication that the "Court of Owls" surprise villain is back — the man who purports to be Bruce's long, lost, angry brother Thomas Wayne Jr.
It would explain the villain's his most obvious shadowy appearance in Batman Eternal so far was accompanied by the words, "Who?" — because Thomas' final interaction with Bruce included him repeatedly asking, "Who am I?" And it would also explain how the villain knows Batman's secret identity is Bruce Wayne.
The alleged Thomas Wayne Jr. seems like the type that would have a long plan in place that evolves over the course of a year, destroying Gotham from the inside out. But what do you think?