Being a Robin is illegal in Gotham City. Jim Gordon's robot Batman suit is trying to kill him. And Bruce Wayne? He's hitting criminals over the head with a baseball bat. But the biggest thing in this week's Bat-books is the apparent return of another major player.
Right now -- after the Joker killed thousands and a high-stakes battle between Batman and his mortal enemy left both out of commission -- the legacy of DC Comics' original Dark Knight scattered in lots of different directions. Bruce Wayne was presumed dead, only to resurface without the memories and trauma that allowed him to be Gotham's caped protector. Jim Gordon -- the guy who used to be the police commissioner -- is operating as a police-sanctioned Batman now, thanks to fancy training and a pointy-eared mech suit.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne's biological son and his predecessor are hardly in Gotham anymore. Damian Wayne is travelling the world trying to right old wrongs his did at the behest of villainous mother Talia and archfiend grandpa Ra's Al Ghul. Dick Grayson allowed the world to think he died and is now a super-spy with secret technology that disguises his true appearance. In their absence, hundreds of untrained teenagers have taken up the colours of Robin, attempting stop crimes with the help of social media networks and a mysterious benefactor.
In the past few months, there's been various encounters between the individuals and groups belong to the old and new Bat-families, with Bruce, Jim, Dick and the Justice League reckoning with the change in status quo. But things are heating up to a fever pitch now. A new crossover called Robin War kicked off last week, opening with one of the new Robins accidentally killing a Gotham City police officer. Other vigilantes were already outlaws in Gotham but new legislation has taken aim at the Robins, making them targets for police round-ups. Dick and Damien have returned to Gotham -- along with other Bat-partners Tim Drake/Red Robin and Jason Todd/Red Hood -- to help untangle the conflict.
Robin War's been a briskly paced story so far, stuffed with tense moments and clever character moments. The man who originated the Robin identity calls a massive meeting of all the new Boy and Girl Wonders...
which leads to scenes where each of the "Originals" starts to help trains the new kids...
only to have Dick's subterfuge clear the playing field.
With the exception of Grayson, the new Robins and the Originals get locked up in a new facility called The Cage. (Yeah, it's a little too cute.) Dick's plan is to safeguard the new kids and get the vets in position for breakout once he figures things out.
Dick's first meeting with Bat-Gordon happens soon after, and the former commissioner reveals who he is.
In the Batman title, Gordon's been tracking and fighting the city's newest alpha-villain Mr Bloom. The plant-based metamorph's been scheming to transform folks in Gotham into freaks like himself and their first face-to-face confrontation wound up with Bloom taking control of the new Bat-mech. As Batman fought Batsuit, Bruce Wayne was far away from the conflict, which has been the former billionaire's new normal.
Aside from a few brief run-ins with costumed types, Bruce Wayne's largely stayed away from any crimefighting drama. The partially amnesiac son of Thomas and Martha Wayne doesn't know that he was Batman and has been helping out in a neighbourhood youth center and living something close to a normal life. But, despite turning down an offer to help Gordon, the shadow of his cowled past still haunts him and this week, it comes into the light.
Bruce follows Duke Thomas -- one of the new Robins -- and bails him out of trouble.
But, instead of being grateful, Duke vents his frustrations to Bruce.
This is how Bruce Wayne learns he was Batman: through shock therapy from another young man who lost his parents thanks to crime in Gotham.
As he comes to grips with this, Bruce returns to the same bench where readers first learned that he was alive back in Batman #41. But this time, there's another person there.
These storylines have been high on dramatic revelations but they all seem to be pushing this new status quo to a breaking point, especially as regards secret identities. We're still dealing with a world where the entire world knows Nightwing was Dick Grayson, including Jim Gordon. Grayson now knows that Gordon is the new Batman and, like Tim Drake before him, Duke Thomas have figured out the superhero identities of both Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. I don't think there's anyway things continuing without Gordon learning -- or admitting he's known -- that Bruce Wayne was Batman. But, even if that happens, that's a lot of people running around knowing who's under what masks. It's a weird place for the Bat-books to be right now, one that makes the seemingly inevitable return of Bruce-as-Batman harder to guess at. But that's making all these storylines very fun.