Okay, folks, SPOILERS ARE ON. Do not read if you haven’t read Batman #28 or don’t want spoilers.
Batman fans have been hearing about it for months — this week's future-spoiler Batman issue that gives a glimpse of what's happening in Gotham City in about a year from now.
And wow, what's happening is markedly…. female.
Announced by Batman writer Scott Snyder as "a stand-alone issue that takes place in the near future and reveals all sorts of massive surprises coming to Gotham in the spring and summer of 2014," the issue gives readers a one-shot break in the comic's current "Zero Year" storyline.
Co-written by Snyder and James Tynion IV, the issue not only spoils some of what's coming in Batman, but also teases some of the changes that will happen during the weekly series Batman Eternal (of which both Snyder and Tynion are on the writing team), which begins in April. (The one-shot issue, which was drawn by Dustin Nguyen, also gave regular Batman artist Greg Capullo a head start on March's continuation of "Zero Year.")
After reading the issue, it's clear that Snyder wasn't over-selling Batman #28. The comic is filled with information about what's coming in the future of the Bat-universe… although many of them come with questions that are, quite frankly, fun to consider...
The most obvious revelation in Batman #28 is that the women in Batman's circle have a lot more power in the future.
A few of the ladies who showed up with expanded roles:
- Harper Row: She was first introduced to the Batman universe in March 2012 and hasn't shown up a lot since, but Harper plays the biggest role in this week's issue.
She's wearing a new costume, working in conjunction with Batman, and being called by a new name — "Bluebird."
Although we've recently seen that Harper Row has been practicing to be a superhero, this future glimpse of the teen shows that she's downright bad-ass — impressing even Batman, who notes that she's "been training."
Although she has not become Robin, as many readers had speculated, she does drop one line that indicates she's been training with some of Batman's former (and current?) Robins — blaming Batman's "sidekicks" for her new fighting skills.
Has Harper been taken into the fold by Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and/or Jason Todd?
Of course, that “sidekicks” crack could also be in reference to herself and another character teased – but more on that in a minute.
She's got a few cool, new toys to accompany her fighting skills, which we can only assume she got with Batman/Bruce Wayne's help (since Harper's poor). And her powers are still linked to her established knowledge of the electrical system in Gotham, as she knocks out the lights in one scene (with a nifty, pocket-sized gadget reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Deluminator) and carries a gun that shoots electric shock pellets.
Despite working side-by-side with Batman, Harper is still rebellious. Not only does she imply that her time with Batman's "sidekicks" wasn't authorized by him, but Batman scolds her for bringing something to the fight that he "specifically told [her] not to." And it makes sense that she wouldn't adopt the name "Robin" — she wouldn't be interested n being Robin, because she's going to still do things her own way. We think she was spot-on when she says to Catwoman in one scene, "I'll show you all kinds of feisty."
It is interesting to note that while Batman clearly doesn’t approve of everything in Harper’s approach, he is clearly allowing her to operate in Gotham, and does consider her an ally. After Harper begins her “assault” if you will, he tells her to “get dressed,” implying her costumed identity is one he helped create, or at least authorized.
And last, but not least, Snyder and Tynion drop one last hint about Harper, as she says, "If you only knew who my mother was." Yeah… who is Harper's mother?
- Girl in the Batcave: Harper isn't the only girl working with Batman. There's a small-looking girl in the Batcave who's also helping the new, female-heavy team.
The scene lasts less than half a page, and Snyder and Tynion give very few clues to her identity. As we mentioned, she seems small (next to the computer), she appears to have short hair (although long on top and possibly two-toned), and she calls herself "new at this."
If we want to get technical, she was never actually called female — so there's a chance the figure we see (in silhouette) is male. But we're betting that's a girl.
And quite frankly — although we're guessing here — Carrie Kelley would fit the description pretty well, and her current level of trust in the Wayne mansion would seem to be heading toward the Batcave.
Of course, her size begs the question — could she be the new Robin?
While the name "Robin" is never uttered in the issue, and the character isn't fighting beside him, Batman does trust this person to access his Batcave computer and communicate with him in the field. In this scene, she's acting more like a replacement for Alfred than she is Damian – but any young, small person who works with Batman is going to look like a Robin, right? Of course her role in the Batcave is one that young Robins have played before. Both Tim Drake and Damian Wayne got their start as “mission coordinators” working in the cave, so it wouldn’t be out of character for Batman to start off a new Robin this way.
- Catwoman (or rather, Selina Kyle):
In this glimpse at Gotham's future, Selina Kyle is no longer just a sultry thief. She's the new Kingpin in Gotham City, and she's got a grudge against Batman.
At some point in the past (of this issue), Batman "left her to die." He tries to explain what happened, as if he "didn't mean" it, but Selina is clearly holding a grudge.
There does seem to be a bit of a change in Catwoman's persona, as she rules over the Gotham underworld with a more cool and calm (and uncostumed) head than we've usually seen from her in the New 52. But as soon as she pulls her whip out in this issue, the Selina we know comes clawing out, with even a reference to her own cat, although she's still got a cruel edge.
But none of these ladies were quite as surprising as the last one in the issue….
Stephanie Brown gets her introduction to the New 52, already in costume, and it's sure good to see her.
Although her scene is one page long (and the character, who's apparently tied up, doesn't utter a sound), we find out that she's already calling herself "Spoiler," and she's very important to the storyline. Scott Snyder’s tease of this being a “Spoiler issue” sure takes on a new meaning with that final page, doesn’t it?
Stephanie Brown is the key to stopping "what's coming next."
Although it's good to see all these ladies in the Bat-universe, it's weird to read a Batman story without Alfred, Jim Gordon or any of the other usual cast.
But their absence is attached to this idea that Batman has lost almost everything. Catwoman says to him, "you look better than I would have expected. You've lost so much already… the police… your friends... the city."
We've already gotten a few clues about what happens to the other players in Batman's life. In the Happy Batsgiving teaser released by DC in November, Alfred was wearing a straight jacket and Jim Gordon appeared to be wearing handcuffs.
"There are some shocking events having to do with people being locked away and freed and everything in between next year," Snyder told Newsarama recently.
Harper's reference to "sidekicks" means that some of the known characters in Batman's life are probably still around, but just not showing up in this scene. Nightwing, on the other hand, is expected to experience some major changes after the conclusion of Forever Evil (as we've detailed elsewhere), so it's not surprising to see him missing from this glimpse into the future, if for no other reason than the publisher's understandable desire for some things to stay a mystery.
Gotham's Gone Bad
People in Gotham are catching some type of infection. Batman talks at one point about how "bad it is out there." Harper says her brother (Cullen, whom we've met in past issues) is infected, which would make her situation particularly desperate.
Gotham also has an enforced 8 p.m. curfew for citizens, and they enforce it brutally, utilizing street cameras, blockades and well-armed police. While the lockdown may be the result of the obvious power that the new Kingpin has been given, it's also possible that the curfew and blockades are related to the infection — perhaps a quarantine?
The police are also notably corrupt in this issue, which means Batman no longer has allies in power on the Gotham City Police Department. The few police officers shown in this issue are willing to beat up a young girl just because she's on the streets.
Snyder told Newsarama that the story shown in Batman #28 will play out during the events of both Batman: Eternal and the regular Batman series in 2014. He also detailed that the issue takes place between Batman: Eternal #39 and #40, saying, "If this was an issue of Batman: Eternal, it'd be issue 39.5." So don’t look for follow-up to this issue anytime soon, as it’s more like a year out, hitting about ten months into Batman: Eternal, which doesn't launch until April 2014.
"You'll see certain characters playing brand new roles," he said. "You'll see the return of characters that we haven't seen so far in the Batman series. Characters will be taking on roles that I think you'll see right away, when you read the issues, you'll be like, 'How is this going to play out?'"