The release yesterday by Batman artist Greg Capullo of a sneak peek at the "Endgame" story that starts in Batman in October was incredibly revealing — and yet, it led to more questions than answers about the mysterious story arc.
Among the surprises:
- Batman is carrying a gun
To be fair, it looks less like an actual fire-a-bullet-type gun and more like Bluebird's electric/Taser gun, which was last seen in the future-peeking Batman #28. A Taser is very different from a gun.
And although fans like to cry out about Batman's refusal to use a gun, we've seen him use various grappling guns and other shooting tools that looked like guns, so this might be something similar.
Besides, the gun in his right hand shouldn't be half as worrisome as…
- Batman is missing his left hand
It's just a stump. Sure, there's a slim chance that it might be the effect of foreshortening, but everything else about this drawing indicates a badass Batman with a stump for an arm.
Even artist Rob Liefeld commented on Newsarama's Facebook page: "Where's the cybernetic arm and the shoulder pads??????"
And come to think of it, Batman's right hand looks kind of messed up too. Is it a cybernetic arm held on by some sort of bandage? Or is it just his normal arm, but bandaged at the joint? Only Capullo knows.
- Badass Bats
The reference by Liefeld to the shoulder pads and cybernetic arm probably refer to the '90s-looking costume that Batman is wearing. He's got some sort of armor on his chest, and his legs have bands that appear to hold pouches or even armor of some sort. It's not the usual Capullo Batman costume.
Is it possible that this is a peek into the future — something that Batman writer Scott Snyder has been doing quite a bit lately (not only in the aforementioned Batman #28, but also in the "Year 200" story from Detective Comics #27 and even the beginning of Batman Eternal)?
Snyder told Newsarama that in this week's Batman #34, "we're jumping to the end of Eternal's continuity… Endgame takes place in the same continuity as #34. They both take place, basically, right after the end of Eternal."
Batman #34 was released this week and Batman still had his left hand. And this was not his costume.
So we can't help thinking this is a glance into the future.
That said, Batman: Futures End #1 comes out in September, and is presumably set five years into Snyder's imagined future for Batman. And on the cover of that issue, it sure looks like Batman has two hands.
Come to think of it, Batman had two hands when the Futures End weekly showed him 35 years in the future — although, that and September's Batman are both only potential and not canon futures.
Another possibility? Snyder has already shown us in the "Year 200" story that Batman is going to somehow clone himself, so that there will be Batmen in Gotham City for as long as one is needed.
As Snyder told Newsarama earlier this year, there are parts of the "Year 200" story that are "Easter eggs" for upcoming stories. Could Endgame involve Bruce Wayne clones?
That seems a stretch, although the September issue's solicitation says, "It’s five years later and Bruce Wayne is using dangerous science to help him continue his war on crime." The cover shows a Batman who's got some type of cybernetic spine on the outside of his costume, and he's standing in front of multiple Batmen. So it seems like Snyder's making the "cloning" part of the "Year 200" story come true, at least in his vision for "five years later."
- Bluebird With Wings
Batman readers have gotten to know Harper Row and her brother Cullen pretty well over the last couple years. Right now, in Batman Eternal, Harper Row is becoming a legitimate Bat-family member thanks to her time with Tim Drake and Sergei Alexandrov, the techno-master who trained Bruce Wayne before he became Batman.
We've already seen in the future tease of Batman #28 that Harper Row eventually becomes Bluebird, so this sketch of the character fits in with that. But now, she has some type of wings on her costume, presumably to glide or soar, similar to how Red Robin uses his wings. With Red Robin being the one training her in Eternal, the costume addition makes sense.
- And then there's Lark
Snyder teased the existence of a character named "Lark" in his "Year 200" story. "There's actually a piece that says 'Bluebird' and one that says 'Lark' in the Detective [Comics] #27 short that I did with Sean Murphy," Snyder pointed out to Newsarama in February, after Bluebird first appeared. He was referring to a panel that showed costumes in the Batcave 200 years in the future — purporting to be "allies" from Batman's past.
So it appears that, now, we're getting a look at Lark. He rides a motorcycle, he uses some type of stick weapon (escrima sticks?), and he wears a costume and mask.
Because we know that issue #35 takes place after the story of Eternal, does that mean Lark might be introduced in the weekly series?
Whenever the character is introduced, the bigger question is, who's under that costume? A few possibilities:
Cullen Row: Harper Row's brother has taken a bit of a backseat to his sister in their appearances so far in the Bat-universe. But there are plenty of reasons that Cullen might end up in the Lark costume.
First, a brother-sister team would be a nice addition to the Bat-family, and would make them different from the plethora of other "birds" who surrounds Batman. Second, it would further DC's efforts at diversity (since we've been told that Cullen is gay), putting a male, homosexual superhero into the Bat-family.
There's potential in the current Eternal storyline for Cullen to get some type of powers, since he's been "infected" with nano technology.
And then, there's Snyder's indications that Cullen is an important character. "[The story of the Rows] became about feeling it out as it went, and trying to put the emphasis on her and her brother Cullen, as real and viable and, hopefully, exciting characters to readers, before anything else," Snyder told Newsarama. "So that was the most important to me, to make sure she was a character, and her brother was a character, that people responded to."
Duke Thomas: Remember the kid from Batman: Zero Year who was trying to make himself smarter so that he could challenge the Riddler? Although his dreams of saving Gotham City never came to fruition, his appearance in that storyline and his friendship with Bruce Wayne hint at a possible role within the Bat-family.
The boy rescued Bruce Wayne/Batman "off-screen," apparently nursing him back to health — something that was also part of Harper Row's origin story. The story hinted at the use of a motorcycle, since Batman was riding one when we first saw him interacting with Duke. And that story took place around six years ago, so the boy would be much bigger.
Dick Grayson: The use of the escrima sticks sure feels like a nod toward Nightwing. And we've already seen New 52 Nightwing spending time on a motorcycle.
Maybe, after being "outed" as Nightwing, Dick Grayson has to take on a new superhero identity, simply to hide his secret identity again?
It's also been hinted by Tim Seeley and Tom King, who are writing Dick Grayson's current role in Grayson, that his current status quo as a believed-dead spy will change pretty soon, which might mean he'll be a superhero.
Girl Power: There are a few other young ladies in Gotham City these days who could be under that costume.
There's Carrie Kelley (a character who's a nod toward Batman: The Dark Knight Rises), who showed up in Batman and Robin but never had much of a role after that.
There's Julia Pennyworth, who showed up in Batman: Eternal and proved that she's got the skills to fight crime. We've been guessing lately that Julia is the "new girl in the Batcave" that was teased in Batman #28, but that doesn't mean she couldn't eventually work in the field as "Lark."
Annie Aguila, the character who was part of the just-ended Detective Comics story arc, is not only an established motorcycle rider — she competes in motocross races — but 'Tec co-creators Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul just told Newsarama that we haven't seen the last of Annie, even though she left at the end of the story arc. Perhaps this is where we see Annie again?
Character Switch: There's also the chance that the Lark mantle is someone who's currently wearing some other name and costume. Stephanie Brown Spoiler could switch names to become Lark. Tim Drake could become Lark. Or… (dare we tease her fans this way?)… Cassandra Cain could be the new Lark.
Whatever the reasons for the new character, stump-armed Batman and costume changes, Capullo has sparked quite a debate among Batman fans. Could these be permanent changes to Batman that DC erases during the expected April event to mark the anniversary of Crisis on Infinite Earths?
Or is this another sketch from Capullo that is only a "possible" future (like the one Sean Murphy released of the African-American Robin who showed up in Snyder's "Year 200" story — a character who is only part of a potential future, but caused a lot of speculation from readers at the time).
Whatever the story, Snyder promised during our recent interview about "Endgame" that he and Capullo would go "big" in this story arc.