[Spoilers for Detective Comics #940.]
The ramifications of "Rebirth" just got real. Well, real to the characters of the DC Universe anyway - especially the Bat-characters, who now believe that Tim Drake (a.k.a. Red Robin) is dead.
In this week's Detective Comics #940, Tim Drake sacrificed himself to save hundreds of people in Gotham City, reprogramming a slew of missiles to aim directly at him (instead of the potentially-innocent people they'd originally been designed to kill - long story on why he had to do this, of course, but he did).
But - as the missiles impacted the teen hero - Tim was apparently whisked away by Mr. Oz, the recurring character who's been shown in "Rebirth" titles to have been watching DC characters.
Tim is now imprisoned by Mr. Oz in a cell that has some type of transparent door. And at the end of the Detective Comics #940, readers were shown that Tim is not the only person being imprisoned in this way.
Oz explains why he has grabbed Tim Drake out of the DC Universe and imprisoned him, saying:
"You were reconnecting threads that could not be reconnected. You're so loved, so deeply intertwined, it became crucial that we take you off the field. And that's where you are, Tim. Off the field."
After Tim tries to convince Oz that Batman will come for him, he yells, "This isn't over!"
Oz replies, "You're right, Mister Drake. This isn't close to over."
The surprise ending to Detective Comics #940 comes at the conclusion to a storyline that didn't seem connected to the greater "Rebirth" mysteries at all. However, this issue can be connected to other events in the DC Universe in a few ways, while offering clues of its own.
It's probably important that, when Mr. Oz said Tim was being removed from the DCU for a reason, he used the pronoun "we."
"It became crucial that we take you off the field."
Is the "we" simply a reference to his army of minions, who were previously shown in Action Comics? Or is he referring to a group of characters who are behind Mr. Oz's actions?
This may prove to be important if Mr. Oz is who many readers think he is. With the Watchmen tie-in to the DCU that was introduced in May's DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the leading theory behind Mr. Oz's identity is Ozymandias, one of the Watchmen characters. (See Newsarama's article from May to see an explanation of the theory and an examination of the earliest clues.)
If Mr. Oz is indeed Ozymandias, and if the giant hands shown manipulating the DCU's continuity during DC Universe: Rebirth #1 belong to Dr. Manhattan (as most people suspect), then the "we" in this comment could be referring either to Manhattan or some other group of Watchmen characters.
Simultaneous to the current storyline in Detective Comics, Oz was also grabbing a DC character over in Action Comics. In that, Mr. Oz's minions attempted to capture Doomsday, but it ended up being Superman that immobolized the giant - thrusting him into a portal he thought to the Phantom Zone, but instead to Mr. Oz's clutches.
So Tim doesn't appear to be the first character who Oz tried to take off the playing field, although the two characters' "captures" were very different - one seemingly instantaneous as Tim was hit by missiles and the other involving soldiers and a gate.
This isn't the first time we've been shown that Mr. Oz has a prisoner. Way back in Superman #34 during the "New 52," Mr. Oz talks to someone imprisoned behind a pair of doors. "If I let you out, I'm sure you'd offer an opinion," he says at one point to the doors.
And because readers were shown that Tim is in a prison - with multiple doors, no less - we've now discovered that there are probably other DC characters being held by Mr. Oz.
There were two doors that seemed to have shadowy figures behind them. Who else is being held inside the prison?
And if Tim Drake can be killed and removed from the DCU, who else might Mr. Oz similarly abduct (or has already abducted) in the DCU?
While we're on the subject of deaths, Tim Drake is not the first major DC hero to die in "Rebirth."
(Or rather, at least in Tim's case, he's not the first character to be presumed dead by the rest of the DCU.)
In addition to the various characters who died in DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the "New 52" Lois Lane (as Superman) was the actual first — dying in a manner similar to "New 52" Superman's demise on the eve of "Rebirth" (see our outline of the similarities in their deaths).
If Tim's death isn't final, could that mean that those deaths may not be final either?
Now, with proof that characters who are believed dead are actually being whisked away to a prison — doesn't this add more credence to the theory that the "New 52" Superman and Superwoman are still alive somewhere?
In fact, could they be the two characters in those two doors shown in Mr. Oz's prison at the end of this week's Detective #940? When Lois was dying in Superwoman #1, she said she could see "New 52" Superman and called out to him (even though readers weren't shown what she was apparently seeing). Could that moment have occurred when she was transported somehow to a prison across from Clark, and able to see him through the glass doors?
Maybe that's a stretch, but something Superwoman writer Phil Jimenez told Newsarama in an interview earlier this week makes us think there might be something to it the idea of "New 52" Lois and Clark returning:
"What I like to keep saying, and it's really obnoxious, but I believe that it's true, is that Lois' story isn't over yet. Certainly Lois' story in Superwoman is hardly over. But there are links back to the death of the 'New 52' Superman. That stuff will come out for a while, in multiple Superman books, including mine... And even though the first issue is kind of a big thing - 'Oh my God, it's shocking!' - my intention is for this story to play out over the first two arcs of Superwoman, which will take us, I believe, to issue #6 or #7. My hope is that anyone that was interested in the first issue - shocked by it, angered by it, etcetera - will just check back in here and there, hopefully reading it full-time, but if not throughout the arc to see how it ultimately plays out."
We should remind readers here - as we discuss clues that might be related to this week's events - that several "Rebirth"-era DC titles have pointed out that there is new technology in the DCU, and it turns out that Detective Comics is no different. The Flash showed that Barry Allen was encountering technology he'd never seen before, and Superman said something similar in Action Comics when he was dealing with Mr. Oz's army.
Looking back now at the storyline in Detective Comics, the same type of moment appears. When Batman first shows Batwoman a high-tech drone, they both agree that it's technology that's far beyond what the DCU has seen before. The villains in the story also mention that they're using "alien technology," but there's no indication of where they got the technology, or from what aliens they were taken.
Is it a coincidence that all this new, never-seen-before-by-so-many-characters technology keeps showing up? Newsarama asked Josh Williamson about all the different issues referring to this tech, and The Flash writer simply replied, "There's a very big story being told in the DC Universe. That's all I can tell you."
All these clues bring us back to Tim Drake being taken off the playing field.
If Mr. Oz is indeed on the side of some group of Watchmen characters who meddled with the DC Universe, then he is presumably trying to keep the DC characters from figuring out that the DCU's timeline is off-kilter a bit, and that a character (or group of characters) from Watchmen are behind it all.
So wouldn't it make more sense to take Batman, Barry Allen, or the older Wally West off the playing field, since they are knowledgeable about the timeline problems, and are specifically investigating the mystery of the missing years (as shown in The Flash: Rebirth #1 - see our recap for details)?
Or wouldn't it make sense to take some of the characters from Titans, including Dick Grayson, who are being flooded with memories of their post-Crisis existence?
Maybe it's related to the aforementioned technology that keeps showing up. In Detective Comics, it was emphasized that Tim Drake hacked into his enemy's computer and was able to hack into those "alien-technology" missiles that were being aimed at him. It was also pointed out several times over Detective Comics' first "Rebirth"-era issues that Tim Drake is a genius.
Perhaps he was taken off the playing field because he was able to hack into too much information.
Additionally, Mr. Oz points out that Tim Drake is "loved" and very "intertwined" with different characters.
This could relate to the sudden re-establishment (in Detective Comics) of Tim Drake's romance with Stephanie Brown. There was little lead-up to the relationship in the current timeline, so readers can only assume it's one of those post-Crisis relationships that are being re-established for the "Rebirth" era (like Green Arrow and Black Canary, or various Titans characters — similarly, Detective Comics re-established that Batwoman and Batman are cousins).
Or maybe it's more related to Tim's ability to interact with a wide variety of characters, from Dick Grayson and his Titans to the Birds of Prey to Batman and Robin and the Teen Titans.
Or maybe it's that Tim's death would have ruined things somehow. Maybe he's a handy hostage for later events. Maybe he's being taken off the playing field, but only for the time being.
Whatever the reason, the question now is, how long will it take Batman to figure out Tim's not really dead? In Batman, he's going to be trying to capture Psycho Pirate - a character that series writer Tom King acknowledges remembers previous continuities, and would presumably be aware of the Watchmen-related tampering with continuity. Will Bruce put two and two together?
Or will Tim find a way to escape from Mr. Oz's prison, through his own genius and/or with the help his fellow prisoners, and start to break this whole Watchmen thing wide open?