Readers have just gotten their hands on the first issue of Peter Tomasi's self-described "uber-story," Robin Rises: Omega, and DC's publicity machine is already teasing a morbid return of the young former Robin, Damian Wayne.
In advertising that DC debuted on the internet today (including on Newsarama), the young Robin is shown as a hooded, costumed skeleton, with the tagline, "He's back … mostly."
The ad promotes the Robin Rises storyline that began this week with Omega, and seems to indicate that Batman's future Robin is a resurrected Damian Wayne.
The Omega issue also concentrated solely on Damian Wayne and his body – as well as Batman's desire to resurrect his son using technology from Darkseid's Apokolips — further supporting the theory that Damian Wayne is coming back to life.
The issue kicked off the Robin Rises storyline that will continue in Batman and Robin through the end of the year — with Tomasi promising he and artist Pat Gleason will "bring a Robin back" to DC continuity by the story's conclusion.
The issue also revealed a memory that is motivating Bruce to travel to Apokolips. The New God character Glorious Godfrey visited earth, looking for the Chaos Shard, which he said is a piece of a larger crystal — apparently the Chaos Crystal that was shattered in Batman/Superman #4.
In the Batman/Superman story, a New God trickster named Kaiyo said the Chaos Crystal was the key to defeating Darkseid, but the large Crystal ended up being shattered by the end of the storyline. Although Kaiyo wiped the minds of all characters involved in the Batman/Superman story, it looks like Batman now remembers the power of the Chaos Crystal.
Why is it important that Batman remembers the Crystal?
Because the Batman/Superman story also established that the Crystal can resurrect the dead. So when Omega ended with Godfrey taking the Shard and Damian's body to Apokolips, Batman is determined to travel to Apokolips to get back his son's body — and also to pursue the Apokolipsian ability to resurrect Damian.
Of course, this is all leading to the promise that the Robin Rises story will give Batman a Robin by the end of it — something Batman has been without ever since the former one died in February 2013, when Batman's son and sidekick Damian Wayne was skewered in the pages of Batman Inc.. Every time a young hero showed up in a Batman title — from Duke Thomas in Batman to Annie Aguila in Detective Comics — readers have wondered… is this the new Robin?
But with this week's Omega issue and today's advertising, it's being made obvious that DC wants readers to believe it's all about bringing Damian Wayne back to life.
Damian's Anticipated Return
So can this hint be believed?
Newsarama reached out to DC, hoping the company would clarify the meaning of the ad, but so far hasn't received any comment. But earlier this year, we pointed out a slew of motivations for DC to bring back the character (and several hints that they will).
Tomasi has been using language in interviews that tease the return of a Robin, saying specifically that he's "bringing back a Robin for Batman's 75th anniversary" this year.
Newsarama asked the writer in an interview last week if it was still accurate to say a Robin is coming "back", and Tomasi said:
"Hmm, let me play it just a little cryptic and simply say: Yes."
There are a lot of other reasons to believe Damian is coming back to life — including the fact that Andy Kubert, Damian's co-creator, is drawing the first and last issues of Robin Rises. There's also the inclusion of Damian's dog, Titus, on DC's "Happy Batsgiving" teaser image last year, with a Robin sitting on his back — providing further evidence that Damian is the Robin who's coming "back."
DC might also be motivated to get the character back into comics because also the company just released the Son of Batman original animated movie on DVD, which features Damian Wayne.
Tomasi has also defended the idea of bringing a character back from the dead — even listing past resurrection stories that he thought were well done.
Tomasi emphasized to Newsarama last week that there's a long road ahead in the Robin Rises story, with a lot of different players — from the Justice League to the New Gods. After this week's Omega, the story continues in Batman and Robin through December — and readers shouldn't expect the new Robin to be clarified until Kubert returns for the story's conclusion with another oversized one-shot, Robin Rises: Alpha #2.
So things could change quickly, to focus on a different Robin.
Just last week, Tomasi was avoiding the use of terminology that focused on Damian. And much of his interview made it sound like there could be a brand new Robin in Batman's future— particularly his emphasis on the story's conclusion being called Robin Rises: Alpha for a reason. "Our story is about a certain part of Batman's journey coming to a close until a Robin 'rises' and a new chapter of his life starts," Tomasi said.
So who's left besides Damian to fill the roll of Robin — a character who would be coming "back?"
The list is getting short:
There's Tim Drake, who's still part of the Teen Titans after that book's relaunch, and is wearing the Red Robin costume. Him coming "back" to the role of Robin wouldn't be unwelcome — he's been a popular character and has shown up in other media.
And then there's Stephanie Brown, who's currently part of the weekly Batman Eternal, wearing the moniker "Spoiler." She's been a Robin in past continuities, and if Batman and Robin takes place after Batman Eternal (like other Batman titles do in the coming months), then she could show up and become Robin.
But the best bet besides a resurrected Damian Wayne (who's obviously the numero uno, prime candidate right now) is Carrie Kelley. She was introduced into current DC continuity by Tomasi and Gleason in Batman and Robin #19, so they have dibs on the character. And another version of the character was a Robin in the The Dark Knight Returns, so she could, technically, be coming "back." Although she's been absent from Batman stories recently, there's still potential for her return in Robin Rises, and she's got that "first female Robin" thing going for her.
Sure there are other, less likely possibilities that could come from behind in this race. For example, to list a few, there's Harper Row, who's supposed to be calling herself Bluebird soon; the aforementioned Annie Aguila from Detective, who's looking like a long shot because of her drug use; and a few other kids that have shown up in Batman stories. (But Tomasi did shoot down the person shown in the Batcave in Batman #28, confirming that it's not the next Robin — and we're pretty sure that's Julia Pennyworth anyway.)
So… Damian's resurrection is not a given.
"He's back," the ad says, but also includes the cryptic word, "Mostly." What does that mean? Is skeletal Damian a promise for a fan-favorite charter's return (with skin, we hope)?
Or is skinless, skeleton Robin an omen of bad things to come if Bruce tries to create a "mostly" alive boy?
With DC naming this book Robin Rises, and touting an image of the dead Damian's skeleton in a Robin costume, it sure looks like the kid's resurrection is going to happen.
And at the end of Omega #1, Bruce Wayne was determined to get his son back from the dead.
That said, there's also the question of the chaos crystal we mentioned earlier. Glorious Godfrey said there was a "trace signature of the chaos shard coming from inside [Damian's] corpse." And as we've seen in Batman/Superman #4, the Chaos Crystal has the power to resurrect.
However, in Batman/Superman #4, when Superman used the Crystal to resurrect his dead parents, they were still decaying corpses, unhappy to be disturbed from death. Could a resurrection of Damian by the shard bring back a zombie form of the child — similar to the ad's skeletal form?
It's also important to note that, in Omega #1, Batman remembered everything about the crystal's past, and he said this line:
"Wait…something else…Damian…saves us all."
So perhaps the real question to ask is, if Bruce Wayne succeeds in resurrecting Damian, whether through the Chaos Shard or some other way, will the boy stay alive? Is he the key to saving "us all" from Darkseid? And if he doesn't stick around, who besides Damian would make sense to come "back" as Robin?