NICIEZA Guides BATMAN's ROAD HOME & Next RED ROBIN Chapter

Beginning October 6th, Bruce Wayne's homecoming takes over the Bat-universe during The Road Home, an eight-issue event that ushers in a new era of two Batmen in the DCU.

Writer Fabian Nicieza kicks off the event with Bruce Wayne - The Road Home: Batman & Robin #1, which is followed throughout October by a series of one-shots about Bruce's return. It all leads up to the end of Bruce's journey in Batman: The Return #1, by writer Grant Morrison and penciler David Finch.

Nicieza writes three of the one-shots, then continues in November as writer on Red Robin, the series that first pursued the idea that Bruce Wayne might return. And as clever readers of the title have guessed, December's Red Robin #17 may see the return of yet another Bat-character: former Batgirl Cassandra Cain.

Newsarama talked with Nicieza about the one-shots he's writing and what's coming next for Red Robin, including a Teen Titans crossover.

Newsarama: Fabian, how did you get involved in The Road Home, and what was the original idea behind the event?

Fabian Nicieza: The Bat Gang, Mike Marts, Janelle Siegel and at that time, Michael Siglain, plied me with burgers and beers (OK, beer singular) during lunch and discussed their desire to have me structure an October one-shot event. I know that it's a good part of the overall publishing program to have these kinds of "one shot" months, and the Bat-family has used them very well to tell some good stories about secondary characters or villains, as well as giving a great opportunity for some new talent to hone their craft.

So, anyway, the basic idea was, Bruce is back but before he starts his own endeavor in Grant's new book, we want him to take stock of where many of the other characters are to see if they can fit into his plans.

Mike gave me the list of the titles/characters they wanted to spotlight, many of which were ongoing series titles, so even though the regular monthly was taking a break for October, their fans would still have a new book out featuring the characters. Bruce would reveal himself to some characters, or have had that revelation occur in story events Grant had planned, but he didn't have to "come out" to everyone in every issue. We played nicely with that, in that there are some coy acknowledgements between some characters or outright revelations to others.

We discussed different thoughts on the overall storyline, and knowing we all wanted to include the ongoing Vicki Vale subplot that had started in Gotham Gazette a year ago into the story flow, created a great opportunity for a solid story through-line that worked by starting off as a subplot and then becoming the main thrust of the action halfway through the month.

I took all my notes and hammered out an 8-issue outline, some issues far more heavily detailed then others (especially the ones I knew I would be writing). Then the other writers involved — Bryan Miller, Mike Barr, Adam Beechen, Derek Fridolfs, and Marc Andreyko — took those notes and had the hard jobs of making them work into good, self-contained stories that also serviced a larger, overall storyline. I think they all did a great job.

Nrama: There are two issues per week — is there a certain order to how these should be read?

Nicieza: If a reader wants to buy individual issues, they should feel free to do so, and hopefully enjoy a solid self-contained issue, but if they want to read all 8, then yes, there is definitely an order:

1) Batman & Robin

2) Red Robin

3) Outsiders

4) Batgirl

5) Catwoman

6) Gordon

7) Oracle

8) Ra's al Ghul

Nrama: What can you tell us about how the story unfolds over the eight issues that are part of The Road Home?

Nicieza: It begins as a routine surveillance operation for Bruce (with some unexpected twists for how he is conducting his observations when he's not Batman). An attempted murder of Mayor Hady in Gotham leads to a larger threat involving a mysterious assassination game taking place all over the world. This twisted tournament allows for some international travel, but when that mysterious threat ends as abruptly as it started, Bruce has to return to Gotham to both continue his surveillance and attend to the problem of Vicki Vale trying to find proof about the Bat-family's secret identities.

The assassination tournament is actually a storyline that will be picked back up again in Red Robin in a few months, so I thought because it's a competition with lulls between their activity, it was a great opportunity to introduce the concept into the story flow here so that when it crops back up in RR, the concept will have been established.

Nrama: What's Bruce Wayne's state of mind as these issues take place, and how is he approaching the return?

Nicieza: He is understandably a little uneasy. Maybe a bit more vulnerable (which for Bruce, means a very tiny crack in the armor). Bruce knows what he wants to do, he knows how he wants to do it, but he isn't sure who he wants to do it with and, to a certain extent, if they'll want to do it with him.

I think it's very natural for someone who has been away, as he has, to be both proud of how his "children" have stepped up and probably, secretly, a little jealous that they've done so well without him. Has the "job" passed him by? Have his children grown up? How different will their relationships be now? Lots of fun stuff to touch on, if not resolve, in anticipation of the next year's worth of Bat-family stories.

Nrama: You're starting out with tie-ins to Batman & Robin and Red Robin. What can you tell us about each of those issues?

Nicieza: A failed attempt on Mayor Hady's life has the assassins on the run. Batman and Robin after them, but a mystery man is watching their actions — to gauge their skills or to interrupt their mission? How Batman and Robin cope with this mystery man and how they deal with nabbing the assassins form the body of the Batman & Robin issue.

Events from that story flow into Red Robin who is in Amsterdam to track down aspects of the assassination tournament, coming into conflict with characters from the Council of Spiders he's faced in the past and the return of a tenuous ally from his first year.

Nrama: Tim believed all along that Bruce was alive. How does that make Tim's role in this event unique?

Nicieza: Well, one aspect that makes it unique is that Tim knows Bruce is back, so they are very open with each other in their interactions during the opening arc of the storyline. I think Tim is in a very good place right now overall and I think you'll see a very comfortable, very mature relationship between Tim and Bruce. Doesn't mean the two of them won't still do some things that are "secretive and questionable as usual" in nature, but overall, there is a real comfort level between them now.

Nrama: You'll also be exploring Ra's Al Ghul's reaction. What can you tell us about the story in that issue? Will we see that story continue (and if so, where?)?

Nicieza: I can tell you that Scott McDaniel's art is so freakin' awesome — kinetic action, car chases, rooftop fight scenes, emotional moments, Ra's dressed in a super-cool kick-ass ceremonial "killing attire" — you can tell Scott is glad to be back in Gotham City and I'm real happy to have him!

I think the Ra's issue came out very well. I think, and the reaction from those who read it has been positive, that the issue does a strong job of wrapping up the storyline in an exciting, dramatic fashion, while really helping to build the character triangle at play in the issue: Bruce - Vicki - Ra's. I think we dig into Ra's and his relationship to Bruce in an interesting way and we also bring Vicki's story full-circle in a conclusion I think will be satisfying for the readers.

Nrama: We've seen the upcoming solicitations for Red Robin, and the announcement that the comic will have a surprise guest star when Tim's in Hong Kong in Issue #17. Anything you can tell us about who he's meeting?

Nicieza: Someone he knows in Hong Kong.

Nrama: Very funny.

Nicieza: Seriously, it's not too big a secret or surprise if you've read the book — the character's name was listed on one of Tim's computer screens, but because of who this character is and what's gone right and wrong for this character the last few years, we want it to be a quiet reintroduction into the family of titles through a no-pressure opening scene. I think it's a really good scene the character appears in, and Marcus To absolutely knocked the scene — and the entire issue — out of the park. I mean, a moon shot who gave this kid steroids knocking it out of the park!

I have plans to bring this oh-so-mysterious character back to the book again a few months from now, but for now, let's just let it play itself out in print rather than on message boards (for a change of pace).

Nrama: Anything you can tell us about the status of Red Robin going forward?

Nicieza: Only that as long as I have Marcus doing what he's doing, we have the greatest unsung secret in the DC Universe, namely, one heck of a book!

I love writing Tim Drake and we have a lot of really fun, unexpected storylines coming up in the next year, including:

- will Tim release a gang leader from prison because she might be an undercover cop — but he's not sure yet if she is telling the truth or not?

- Tim goes on a trip to Moscow that turns into a trip to another realm where the villains' dreams all come true

- a crossover coming up with the Teen Titans!

- a worldwide assassination tournament where the new competition involves killing corporate CEOs — which includes Tim, Bruce and Lucius Fox among its members to a surprise shift midstream where new targets are chosen for the contestants

- lots of guest stars including the return of a character we sort of haven't seen in 10 years

- lots of ridiculously complicated planning by a lead character who is sometimes too smart for his own good - (certainly for mine, since writing his stories takes me almost twice as long as a regular comic does)

- and an absurdly convoluted romantic life that seems to juggle lots of women but provides no romance!

Phew!

Nrama: Wow. Yeah, that's quite a bit of information. Then to finish up, anything else you want to tell Batman fans about "The Road Home?"

Nicieza: Just two things:

Expect to be pleasantly surprised.

And after reading the excellent Gordon one-shot today, I sure am glad I have Szymon Kudranski drawing my Ragman co-feature in the Streets of Gotham book starting in November. Wow, that's some moody cool film noir stuff!

 

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