When the New 52 launched in 2011, it seemed like one of the least-changed corners of the DC Universe was Gotham City. Yes, there were tweaks here and there (just ask Batgirl fans), but for the most part, the Bat-titles were keeping as much as possible from past stories, with characters maintaining their expected roles.
Two years later, that initial perception is being blown to bits, thanks in part to a teaser image from November and a "future peek" that readers were shown in February's Batman #28. While the character is currently getting a new origin in his self-titled comic — as Batman is still immersed in its "Zero Year" story — the new Batman: Eternal weekly promises to change the hero's world drastically beginning in April.
As writer Scott Snyder put it, "[Batman #28] is just the top of the iceberg — both in terms of the characters that are going to be introduced, and the characters that you know and love who are going to get new statuses."
So what are the biggest changes that readers can expect from the weekly series and the future of Batman? And what other mysteries are still hanging over Gotham City that could influence the future of the hero?
Newsarama takes a look at some of the biggest expectations and remaining mysteries about Batman's upcoming stories, with a few speculations about what the already-seen teasers might mean.
Probably the biggest change to the Bat-titles since the reboot is that Batman has no Robin, because his son/Robin Damian Wayne died early last year. There have also been a few changes to former Robins, as the first two (Dick and Jason) appear to have never been part of the Teen Titans. And the third (Tim) was never called Robin, opting instead to always go by the title, Red Robin.
Something is definitely happening that relates to Damian in the coming months. Not only have the solicitations for DC's Batman and… series been tiptoeing around the possibility of the character being revived by Ra's Al Ghul, but the "Happy Batsgiving" teaser will filled with Robin-esque images. Titus his dog was in the picture, and there was a Robin perched on the pup's back.
The resurrection of Damian doesn't necessarily have to happen for Batman to take on a new Robin. The addition of female characters to the New 52 like Harper Row and Carrie Kelley had a lot of fans wondering if one of these girls might be the new Robin.
We already know — from Batman #28 — that someone new is in the Batcave. The character looks to be a girl, although the top candidates for the person's identity appear to be Carrie Kelley or Cullen Row (see below).
"It definitely looks like a girl," Snyder told Newsarama. "I'll say that."
There's also a still-unanswered mystery about the unknown green-jacketed girl in the Batsgiving teaser, who Tynion said was a new character. With all these ladies running around Gotham, it's difficult to surmise that it's her in the Batcave, but at this point, it's a clue that can't be ignored.
And then there's a mystery running through the Forever Evil storyline about what will happen next to former Robin Dick Grayson, who's been captured — after his identity as Nightwing has been blown by a gang of nasty villains.
Nightwing's solo title has been canceled, so he's either dying or going through a major transformation. The "Happy Batsgiving" teaser indicated that he'll be changing his hair to blond, probably to change his secret identity (although, if he does die, that might be a blond character taking over his role…). Whatever the outcome of Nightwing's capture in Forever Evil, it's obvious there are big changes coming for the character. But we expect some version of Nightwing to play a role in Batman: Eternal.
Another former Robin — one whose existence was apparently wiped away by the New 52 — is coming back as a revamped character. Stephanie Brown, known as the hero Spoiler, will be part of the Batman: Eternal weekly series, as shown in the teaser image and in Batman #28. Her role, however, will be changed, and it looks like she'll hold the key to stopping some kind of epidemic that's going to be running through Gotham City.
"The idea of Spoiler, and why she's called Spoiler and all those things, are re-imagined a bit, while still hopefully keeping very true to what the core of the character is," Snyder said.
"There is a very specific role in the series that she was just absolutely perfect to fill," Eternal writer James Tynion IV said.
Ever since the character was introduced in early 2012, Harper Row has been a bit of a mystery. But now readers have been shown that she'll be a significant part of the Bat-family this year, fighting alongside Batman with the mantle Bluebird. Snyder also made sure that her brother, Cullen Row, was mentioned in the teaser issue, so chances are that he'll play an important role.
But the biggest "what's next" part of Harper Row just might be related to the identity of Harper's mother. "If you only knew who my mother was," the character said in Batman #28.
As we've been pointing out for many months now, the key to Harper and Cullen Row's story just might lie within this mystery about their mother.
And since Harper made mention of her mother in Batman #28, the revelation about that question might come in Batman: Eternal.
Alfred, Gordon Lock-Up
Besides the young men that have played superhero sidekick to Batman, only a few of the other people who surround Batman have been altered since the reboot. Most notably, two of Batman's closest allies, Jim Gordon and Alfred, have pretty much stuck to their pre-New 52 roles.
Alfred and Jim Gordon are notably absent from the teasers in Batman #28, and the Batsgiving teaser image made it look like they're going to be locked up. Snyder told Newsarama in January that "there are some shocking events having to do with people being locked away," and both characters weren't present in the future peeking Batman #28.
Batman's most notable girlfriend so far in the New 52 was introduced in the New 52's earliest issues, as Catwoman and Batman were shown in bed together in her title's #1 issue.
But her role is going to change quite a bit in 2014. Selina Kyle is no longer just a sultry thief. In Batman #28, she was revealed as the new Kingpin in Gotham City
The change to the character will take place Batman: Eternal and in Catwoman. "We're going to try to reconfigure her status in a way that I think people, hopefully, will really like. It's something that I think will give that character a new energy and a new sense of importance to Gotham," Snyder said.
In the future, she's going to have a grudge against Batman. At some point in the new few months, Batman is allegedly going to leave her "to die," according to what Catwoman said in the future peek. And she doesn't play nice anymore.
"Having [the Kingpin] be Selina brings all kinds of interesting layers to it," Snyder said.
As long as we're talking "family," it's impossible to ignore the first storyline in Scott Snyder's run on Batman, "The Court of Owls." A man named Lincoln March was the main villain behind that story, but the most shocking revelation was that March might actually be Bruce Wayne's older brother.
The character's claim that he's Thomas Wayne Jr. was rejected by Bruce Wayne at the time, but there was a lot of evidence that pointed toward it being true.
Will we see Lincoln March / Thomas Wayne Jr. again? Snyder surely has plans to use him again, but it may not be for awhile. "I wanted to create a villain for Batman who has a reason to come after Bruce," he told Newsarama when the character was first revealed. And that reason for coming after Bruce hasn't changed, so expect to see him again when we least expect it.
Then again, the "Batsgiving" teaser did have an owl in the trees. Most fans assumed that animal referred to the Court of Owls, but could it refer to Lincoln/Thomas, who was the main player behind the Owls story?