This summer's Rebirth event gives DC the opportunity to change its comic book universe, and it's expected that what emerges will not only showcase the characters and concepts at their "core," but will combine the best of the present universe, the pre-"New 52" universe as well as the film and TV universes.
That means the end of the current universe to some degree, which launched less than five years in a line-wide renumbering and relaunching of all DC's titles in September 2011 — the "New 52."
As we remember the bright and dark spots of the "New 52" timeline and say goodbye to the current status quo, Newsarama is looking at the key characters from within the "New 52", with our next spotlight directed toward Batman.
What If You Missed the "New 52"?
If you missed the "New 52," you would have missed the de-aging of Batman that happened when DC abandoned its high numbering on Detective Comics and Batman to relaunch both titles in 2011.
In the early issues of those two titles, readers found out that the "New 52" Batman was fairly new in his role as Batman, only acting as the costumed hero for five or six years. He has also been part of the Justice League for approximately five years at the time of the "New 52" debut.
Although Dick Grayson had filled in for Bruce as Batman for awhile in the past, Bruce Wayne returned to the role of Batman with the launch of the "New 52." He vowed to revitalize Gotham City and continue fighting crime.
"I think the idea is that Bruce's time as the devil-may-care playboy who has no investment in the city beyond it being a kind of playground feels a little bit dated to most of us in the Bat-world," said Scott Snyder, who launched Batman #1. "I think it's OK now to make him a bit more civic-minded and invested in Gotham, and invested in the idea that he has a responsibility as someone who cares about making it a better place both in and outside the mask."
Allies New and Old
Batman has worked with four Robins in his past in the "New 52:" Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and his artificially-aged son, Damian Wayne -- whom he fathered with Talia Al Ghul. Over the course of the "New 52," Damian has evolved from a fairly spoiled boy who believed in killing villains to a young man who respects his father and the Batman heritage.
In the midst of the "New 52" timeline, Damian died in a battle with Talia and her followers (including clones of Damian himself). One of the Damian clones, known as Heretic, killed Damian, and the boy's death left Bruce devastated. But — because Batman can do anything if he sets his mind to it, right? — the Batman figured out a way to revive the kid by utilizing technology from Apokolips. Damian lives! (Cue cheers.)
Batman has a few other young allies in the "New 52" that are worth mentioning, because they'll probably stick around: Harper Row, a clever girl who once saved Batman's life and eventually fights by his side as "Bluebird," Stephanie Brown, the daughter of a villain who fights for good as "Spoiler," a former assassin named Cassandra Cain (whose story is currently evolving in the weekly Batman and Robin Eternal) and Duke Thomas, who helped Batman fight the Riddler in one of Batman's earliest challenges.
Speaking of Duke, he and several other teenagers have joined together to form an organization of Robins in recent comic book stories. Utilizing social media and digital technology — and working with a keeping-himself-secret Alfred Pennyworth — the Robins fight crime throughout Gotham.
Other familiar Bat-characters are also part of the "New 52" Batman world, including Alfred Pennyworth (Batman's butler), Jim Gordon (the police detective), Catwoman (who has been Bruce's lover), Batgirl (who is now Barbara Gordon, the no-longer-paralyzed daughter of Jim Gordon) and others.
Court of Owls
In the "New 52" world of Batman, there's this nasty organization in Gotham City called the Court of Owls. They're basically these old families who think they can run the place (because, well, they always have) and don't like Batman mucking things up.
Plus, it turns out that one of the Court's recruits was supposed to be Dick Grayson. Batman mucked that up.
And oh yeah, another member of the Court of Owls is a a nmanmed Lincoln March who claims to be Bruce's long-lost brother Thomas Wayne Jr. According to Lincoln's story, he was placed in a hospital as a boy and everyone forgot about him when Martha and Thomas Wayne died. He blames Bruce.
Eventually, in the recent "Robin War" storyline, it's revealed that the Court of Owls is much bigger than just Gotham City. And to appease the organization (and prevent any more "war"), Dick Grayson secretly agrees to fulfill the Court's original intent and he joins the Court of Owls (or at least pretends to join them).
In the "New 52" continuity, the earliest mention of the Joker comes in the Detective Comics #1, when the villain's face was removed by a carving-happy character called the Dollmaker, and the skin ends up being preserved and hung in the Gotham Police Department.
Although Joker is not seen again for awhile, it's later revealed that the faceless villain has been plotting against Batman the whole time. He retrieves the skin from his face and straps it to the front of his head, then systematically begins terrorizing members of the Bat-family. It's revealed that the Joker had the chance to learn Batman's secret identity — and therefore, the identity of all his allies — something Bruce suspected but failed to mention to his friends and family.
At the end of the "Death of the Family" story, Joker seems to fall to his death, but there's no body, so not only did Batman not trust it, but comic book readers knew the dude was definitely still alive.
Aaaaaand…. he was. It turns out he was hiding in plain sight, with a new face, working at Arkham Asylum as an orderly named Eric Border. This time, the villain reveals that he's actually immortal — or at least he claims to be, thanks to a chemical called dionesium.
He attacks many of Bruce's allies again, this time succeeding in chopping off Alfred's hand.
(Oh yeah, we should have probably mentioned that sooner. In the "New 52," Alfred Pennyworth has no hand. Not kidding.)
After Joker uses an airborne pathogen to infect all of Gotham City, the villain fights Batman in a brutal hand-to-hand battle in an underground chamber rich with liquid dionesium.
But the chamber collapses, and Batman (and the Joker) are presumed dead.
That's right — Batman dies. Allegedly.
Two months after Batman's assumed death, Gotham City has an "all-new Batman" — the mech-wearing, bulked-up Jim Gordon.
However, Bruce Wayne is actually alive — he just doesn't remember anything from his life before crawling out of that underground chamber.
His memory and experiences as Batman are gone. Because Bruce died for hours, but then was resurrected by the dionesium in the cave where he was killed, his brain was somehow rebuilt without the scars and experiences of his past.
Buuuut…. of course, as any comic book fan would expect (did we mentioned earlier that Batman can do anything if he sets his mind to it?),Bruce finds a way to get his memories back. It's kind of complicated, but involves Bruce becoming brain-dead in the Batcave, then implanting the memories again.
It's probably worth noting that, besides the mech-wearing Jim Gordon version of Batman, there have been a couple other versions of the character in the "New 52." DC launched an Earth 2 title that introduced readers to the "New 52" version of Earth 2 Batman. And there's also Earth 3 versions of the Justice League characters in the "New 52," including Owlman. (The Earth 3 characters are part of the current Justice League storyline, "Darkseid War," and may play a role in moving the New 52 toward its Rebirth refinement.)
By the time the "New 52" concludes this spring, Batman will be back in the cowl again. But the creative team that has driven many of the "New 52" stories for Batman — Snyder and artist Greg Capullo on Batman — will no longer be on that title when Rebirth begins.
However, there are indications that Snyder will still be playing in Gotham City. So although the "New 52" may be coming to an end — or at least a point of morphing into something new — we expect that Batman's future won't look too unfamiliar to fans of his New 52 world.