If there's one message that came across in this week's Batman Eternal #2, it's that the scope of this new weekly from DC is bigger than most fans realized.
Last week, Batman Eternal #1 established the beginning of the weekly's year-long story (as Jim Gordon was arrested), but it also showed the end of the story — the burning of Gotham City before the eyes of a captive Bruce Wayne.
But issue #2 revealed that the story isn't just about the police department and the expected street-level criminals of Gotham. While there's plenty of those grounded elements in the issue — including the return of mob boss Carmine Falcone — the story includes several other, more supernatural sub-plots, including a visit from the Spectre (God's own weapon of justice) and the re-introduction of a fan-favorite villain named Deacon Blackfire, a creepy yet relatively obscure character from the '80s mini-series, Batman: The Cult.
We talked to co-writer James Tynion IV about what happened this week in Batman Eternal and what's coming next week — plus we asked the writer about the new Grayson series and the one-shot Robin Rising: Omega that indicates Batman will be getting a Robin soon.
Newsarama: James, while we talked about last issue showing both the beginning and the end of the story you're telling in Batman Eternal, this one felt like it was beginning to show the scope of the story. Was that the intent?
James Tynion: Absolutely. The first issue, we had the inciting incident. And this is the issue where we see the effects of that spread out rapidly throughout all of Gotham and the entire Bat-family.
We get a sense of who are going to be the key players in this series. Even though the events in the train station with Gordon are where it begins, these are the players that are going to take everything to the next level.
And with the introduction of Carmine Falcone, we have our first key villain of the series.
So the intent of the issue is very much to widen the scope and show people, really, what the breadth of this series is going to look like.
Nrama: We already knew Catwoman was going to play a role, but this issue sets up their relationship as the story begins. He seems to really trust her now — or at least, for now.
Tynion: Yeah, I think we've seen that play out in the New 52 so far and the events of Forever Evil. Catwoman was on the Justice League of America. She's done the works.
We know where her story is going because of Batman #28, and there's going to be some very huge changes in her relationship with Batman over the course of this series.
But right now… she's never been a "member" of the Bat-family, but she's always been connected to the family. She's not quite a villain, but she's not quite a hero either. And living in that kind of gray space is kind of the purpose of the character.
The character of Carmine Falcone, in particular, and her history with the character — which won't necessarily be the same thing we've seen play out in continuity before — but she does have a pretty harrowing history with Carmine.
Nrama: She's shocked that he's back, and readers have noticed that he has the scars that were once attributed to Catwoman.
Tynion: Right, and that's the kind of visual signifier that made the look of the Roman so cool. I always loved those scars, so we wanted to play into that history.
But rather than create the moment where he gets the scars again [in the New 52], we wanted to start right out with that history intact.
Nrama: Let's talk about some of the other characters who showed up in this issue. Is that the Spectre? Is that Jim Corrigan?
Tynion: That is Jim Corrigan. He's going to play a key role in the course of this series.
We wanted to show people that, right as everyone's focusing on Gordon, the fact of the matter is that there's a lot more unfolding in Gotham City, and the scope of this is much bigger.
So yeah. There's going to be a key supernatural subplot running through the whole series. And Corrigan is going to play a big role in that.
Nrama: And Deacon Blackfire as well? What an obscure character for you guys to pull out of Batman history and put at the forefront of this weekly. He brings an element of supernatural, but can also lean toward horror.
Tynion: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I remember it was about a year ago now when we first started discussing, like, OK, so this is a comic that's going to cover all the different types of Batman stories.
So we're going to see things that get into science fiction, we're going to see things that dig into horror — but always with the spine of the real crime thriller that makes Batman stories great.
So this was the piece that we knew we wanted to dig into.
And Ray [Fawkes] has been playing a little bit with the idea of the Spectre for awhile, and what his role is in the New 52. So it's exciting to have a character of that scale come into play.
We're going to see that story really pick up starting in issue #6, I believe.
Nrama: I know he was in the Phantom Stranger series, and I remember that he was a Gotham City detective at the time. Is that part of the role he's playing here, because he's already interacted with a Gotham City police officer.
Tynion: Yes. The details of that have been shifted a bit, but he was a Gotham cop before his soul was bonded to the Spectre.
And we'll see that he also has a history with Batman.
Nrama: Interesting. OK, we've heard a couple of things this week about what's coming up in the Bat-books — announcements since the last time you and I talked. I don't know how much they tie into Batman Eternal, so let's just clarify that now. As you know, Nightwing is now going to be in a series called Grayson, but the Bat-family are going to be clueless about his survival. So are we right in assuming that Dick Grayson doesn't play a role in Eternal?
Tynion: That's correct. We really wanted to give Grayson the room to breathe and be something totally new and unexpected for that character.
The effect of the family thinking Nightwing's dead and not knowing where he is? We'll see that. The absence of Dick will definitely play a role in Eternal. But himself — he as a character will be off on his own adventures.
Nrama: Are you still writing the Nightwing #30 that comes out in late May?
Tynion: No, no, no. That's now going to be written by the team of the Grayson comic. They're going to create the bridge there. I was originally solicited, but yeah, now it's going to be Tim Seeley and Tom King.
Nrama: OK. We also got an announcement this week of a new one-shot called Robin Rising: Omega, and the revelation that there will be a Robin. Does that affect Batman Eternal at all?
Tynion: What I can say is, part of the idea of this year — and part of the idea of Grayson, Robin Rising, Eternal itself, and what Scott [Snyder] has planned after Zero Year [in Batman] — basically, we want this year, the 75th anniversary of Batman, to be full of the biggest, craziest, awesome Batman stories that are possible.
So while the events of each series will sort of play into each other, really, you can go get your crazy Robin Rising story, go get your crazy Grayson story, and go get your crazy Batman Eternal story — we just really wanted to give people a lot of really, really big story for the birthday of Batman.
Nrama: You're writing the first few issues of Batman Eternal with Scott, but then other people take over, right? How many issues is the Tynion/Snyder part of the story?
Tynion: The first three issues serve as sort of the pilot of the series and are co-written by Scott and myself. And then we'll have a series of one-shots that really set up all of the plots of the series moving forward and set the stage for the next run of issues.
Nrama: What can you tell us about what's coming up in the next issue?
Tynion: Well, we've seen the threats emerging. And we're seeing the scope of the story unveiling itself.
Next week, one thing that we've been hinting at for awhile, is we're finally going to see the introduction of Stephanie Brown. We've seen where her story is going in Batman #28, but this is the introduction of that character into the Bat-mythos.
And then we're also going to start seeing things go wrong. Things are going very, very wrong. This is where the final shift is going to happen that sets the stage to make Gotham as dangerous for Batman as its ever been. A more dangerous place, I should say. So yeah, next issue is really everything goes wrong that could possible go wrong.