The latest round of The New 52 brings us Batman and Robin #1, with cameo appearances of the Dark Knight at the end of Batwoman #1 and in a flashback in Suicide Squad #1. This column will be examining continuity and mythology elements we learn from the books where Batman appears.
SPOILER WARNING: This column assumes full knowledge of all books published this week.
Batman and Robin #1 gives us our second reference to Batman Incorporated, without actually mentioning the concept by name. Batwing, as a character, was introduced pre-Flashpoint as the African representative of the group. In this issue now, we see the Russian representative. Sadly, this character, who has a great look, gets no name or any info about him before he's captured by Mr. NoBody and presumably killed right after the final scene of the book. NoBody does make a reference to "this new global circus act of HIS", which I take as a reference to Batman Incorporated, though I think it's interesting they refuse to name the group, either in Batwing or here. Was it for the sake of first-issue simplicity? Are they trying to incorporate (pun intended) the concept into the current mythology without making it a big deal before Morrison returns to that storyline in 2012? And how much will the concept have changed in the post-Flashpoint mythology? We just don't know yet.
The book spends a great deal of time revisiting Batman's origin as Bruce Wayne decides that it is time to make a change in how he honors his parents' memory. Though we learn a couple of new details, that they died at 10:48 PM and that it was in September, it seems that nothing has been changed of the Batman origin we know and love. It's also still The Mark of Zorro that they saw that night, in the new continuity. Batman will now stop visiting Crime Alley every year in September to dwell on his parents' death, but instead will be doing something each year to honor his parents' anniversary and celebrate their life. He refers to a future bulldozing of Crime Alley. Is this general cynicism regarding the future or an upcoming story point?
On a side note, Tony Daniel stated on his blog that Batman's career has a six-year span to it in the new continuity, same as the Joker. It would still be nice to see this on the page, but until then, we have the next best thing with words from the writer's mouth. Also, is it possible that the details of the events surrounding Batman's first donning of the costume and going on the prowl are wrapped up in the Joker's first murders, or is the similar timing just a coincidence?
Speaking of information I got from creators, my controversial Alfred question last week has been answered by both Mike Marts and Dan DiDio in response to my own personal inquiries. There is hologram system in place for when Alfred needs to be in more than one place at a time, but Alfred is still a really real boy. (And everyone breathes a sigh of relief…) When reading this issue, I thought it a bit odd that he was just in the cave standing at attention when they got downstairs, but that's innocuous enough for me to ignore. And certainly, if this had been the first book I read, nothing in it would make me think that this Alfred was a hologram. So while we may see holoAlfred again from time to time, we'll just assume it's a projection he can use while he's dusting the Batdishes and talking through a Bluebat headset or something.
Speaking of the Batcave, Detective Comics #1 described it as being a half mile from Wayne Manor, but in this issue, they pole right down to it. Maybe it's just really frikkin' huge? I mean, caves usually are. It's not outside the realm of probability that he parks the Batmobile and has a computer system at one end, and also has costumes and other vehicles in another location.
This issue doesn't really address Damian at all. Batman says he's behaving like a ten-year-old boy, which implies that he IS a ten-year-old boy, but Tomasi says he will be looking more at Damian's background, particularly next month after this issue's attention to Bruce's history. The relationship between Bruce and Damian is very tense. It's nice to have on-the-page confirmation that Dick, Jason, and Tim all spent time as Robin. But now, Damian wants to be Batman's partner like they were; instead, Batman is treating him like a recalcitrant son. It's also good to see confirmation of Bruce's recent absence and Dick's temporary assumption of the Batmantle.
NoBody says at the end that he intends to visit Bruce Wayne. He seems to imply that he knows Bruce is Batman, but this could just be a writing tease that intentionally implies something that turns out not to be true.
And the last bit from Batman and Robin #1 is that the Flashpoint woman appears in the swimming pool area before Batman busts a hole in its bottom.
Batwoman #1 includes Cameron Chase, an agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations. When she is given a new assignment, she hopes that it's not another investigation of Batman. Her skull-faced superior says no, that they've "identity-dived" him plenty of times and that he's a dead end. At the end of the issue, we have an actual appearance from Batman, at the scene of a little girl's murder, where he tells Batwoman he has a proposition for her. Not much, but I'm sure I'll be revisiting this issue in a month.
In Suicide Squad #1, Batman figures into the back stories of two of the team members. Each was captured and imprisoned before becoming a part of the team. Deadshot was on a roof, drawing a bead on a senator, when Batman interrupted his assassination attempt. And tying in to last week's Detective Comics issue, Harley Quinn thinks that the Joker has left her out of rejection, not knowing he was apprehended by the Batman, and she's wallowing in misery when arrested by Black Canary. Both Deadshot and Harley Quinn ended up on death row at Belle Reve before being liberated to join the Suicide Squad. And with the several weeks of training the team got before their current mission, we can know that Suicide Squad #1 must take place at least that much time after Detective Comics #1.
As far as references in the rest of the DCU, we just have one. In the first issue of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Father Time mentions Batman in passing when ranting about how times are changing, and how scientific ethics need to change to accommodate, continuing to remind us that, in this post-Flashpoint continuity, super-heroes are newer than tablet PCs.
Next week: Batman #1
Next month: Batman and Robin #2: Bad blood!
Posted by Jon Wilson