Detective Comics #966 delivers on the promised appearance of Conner Kent, but doesn't bring the hero back, instead taking readers on a wild ride into a possible future for the Bat-family.
In the midst of the story, the gun-wielding, "Titans Tomorrow" version of Batman that showed up last issue - a future version of Tim Drake - not only mentions Conner Kent, but uses the hero's absence to decide to change his own past…in the present.
Confused? Well, let's explain it from the start...
The issue begins by showing what happened to "Titans Tomorrow" Tim Drake/Batman just before he was grabbed from his timeline and imprisoned. It reveals details about a possible future of the DCU.
After a discussion with Anarky that implies Tim was looking for someone female, future Tim/Batman disabled the character's tech and shot him, apparently killing him.
In this future, Renee Montoya is police commissioner in an area of Gotham City designated as 'Free Gotham.' This area doesn't allow "bats," she tells Batman, but he escapes capture.
At the Batcave, the Bat-computer - which appears to be powered by Brother Eye - tells future-Tim that he has a "priority call" waiting for him.
It's Conner Kent from the same "Titans Tomorrow" future - as evidenced by his use of the word "Touchdown" to describe the character's signature move. (See our separate story about this moment for more details on this character's importance.)
But future-Tim deletes Conner's call. He instead looks at a recording of a conversation Anarky had with Stephanie Brown. Anarky says that he set Tim's jaded future into motion, hinting about something happening to Clayface that set off Tim's journey toward pessimism.
Steph appears to be the female character for whom Tim is searching, but in the recording, Steph says that "whatever that lonely creature is, it sure as hell isn't Tim Drake. Not anymore."
Poor future-Tim. Sad face.
Just then, future-Tim is engulfed in blue light and whisked away, presumably to Oz's prison.
What About Doomsday?
The next scene brings readers back to present day. It shows what happened after last issue's cliffhanger, when present-Tim had met future-Tim within the corridors of Oz's prison and the two were about to fight Doomsday.
The two characters win the fight, believe it or not, but the success is temporary. How did they win? Future-Tim used "synthetic Kryptonite." He says it can "break its skin, but it will heal in moments."
As the two characters run away from Doomsday (as he heals), they discuss how future-Tim knew what would work against the creature. This future, gun-wielding Batman reveals that he gave up trying to perfect his fighting skills and instead started using his brains - having formulated a way to beat every foe.
Future-Tim reveals that he remembers meeting himself when he was younger, but it was an "echo" of the conversation they're currently having.
He reveals that no matter what young Tim does to try to prevent the future, he will become Batman after Bruce dies.
How Tim Becomes Batman
OK, so here's the story of "Titans Tomorrow" - the possible (or probable?) future of the DCU post-Batman, according to this issue anyway.
Tim gets away to Ivy University, but after a few months, "it all started falling apart," the future-Tim says.
Eventually Bruce dies, and Tim doesn't want to be Batman. Dick wears the cowl for a while, but Dick being Dick, he creates a family and moves away. Tim starts searching for Jason and finds him disabled by a fight with mystic assassins, in no shape to continue being a vigilante.
And while Tim was out searching for Jason, Damian went all 666 Batman and nearly burnt Gotham to the ground. What did he do to Damian, Tim asks his older self? Well, he doesn't say, but it's implied that he had to kill him.
When Tim asks about Batwoman, the future-Tim warns his younger self not to trust her. "Batwoman isn't the person you think she is, Tim."
This future-Tim says he tried to alter the past and change things, but no matter how much he tried, the future was set. The past could not be altered.
Theory on Tim's Imprisonment
After the two Tims find a way to deal with Doomsday again, future-Tim shares his theory for why they were chosen for Oz's prison. (Or, according to what Oz said last issue, the prison created and filled by some other powerful being.)
Future-Tim says: "A cosmic being of untold power and origin pulled both of us from our timelines. Does an Ivy University student warrant that kind of interference? No. It wasn't your present it was after. It was your future, your potential.
"Clearly it suspected that we might put together piece we shouldn't before it could act," future-Tim continues. "Same reason it took the fifth-dimensional imp. It didn't want to be observed."
"The only reason it would let us free, then…." young Tim says.
"…would be if whatever it was planning was about to happen, yes," future-Tim says. "Sounds like a good reason to get back to our Gothams, doesn't it?"
This future-Tim Baman then uses some type of teleport system that's built into his suit's computer to follow Mr. Oz's signature to the present-day DCU.
One More Thing
Oh yeah, remember how we wondered after seeing the preview for this issue if Conner Kent would show up again?
Well he does. Sort of. It's actually just a mention.
As future-Tim-Batman is about to leave the present-day DCU and return to his own time, he tells young-Tim to tell Conner Kent he's sorry and mend the friendship.
Young-Tim absorbs this advice, but he replies:
"Conner? Who the hell is Conner?"
Future-Tim is shocked. He asks his Brother/Bat-Computer to access the current timeline. He realizes the past has been altered.
Future-Tim Gone Wild
Future-Tim-Batman uses his Brother Eye Bat-computer to send a paralytic shock into young-Tim and says:
"I'm sorry, Timothy, but somehow, it's not set anymore. The future is mutable … I can free you from ever having to be me, starting with the person responsible for setting my life in motion. The one responsible for the fall of the Batmen.
"I need to kill Batwoman."
As pointed out earlier this week, this Batman's future was also just shown in Batwoman #6.
The story continues in October 27's Detective Comics #967, when present-Tim will struggle to stop his future self, as Tynion told Newsarama in a recent interview.
"We're going to see this future Tim dash out into the streets of present-day Gotham realizing that he might be able to free himself of the future, of his dark future, but only if he can change the past," the writer said. "So we're going to see our young Tim having to struggle. He doesn't want to become this dark version of himself, but what the future Tim is going to try to do in the present timeline is something that he can't allow to happen. So he might have to actually protect the timeline that leads him down this horrendously dark path in order to stay true to himself. It puts him in a very tricky position."