WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Detective Comics #981
Tim Drake is on a new path in the world of Batman comics - one that may well make him DC's most important hero. Though Tim doesn't know it just yet, his latest case has him investigating the mysteries underpinning the entire DC "Rebirth." It's finally becoming clear just how much of a threat Red Robin truly is to DC's biggest, unseen villain.
Two years ago, DC Comics relaunched in the hugely successful "Rebirth" initiative. A one-shot by Geoff Johns revealed that a mysterious force had damaged the DC timeline, removing years' worth of time in the name of weakening the heroes for a presumed, surprise attack. All that was good, positive, and exciting was ripped away. Relationships were torn apart and friendships were severed - and it was Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen pulling the strings.
But now, the world's greatest detective is on his trail.
At the time of Rebirth, DC promised a two-year arc which is finally coming to a head. The latest issue of Detective Comics #981 concludes writer James Tynion IV's "Batman Eternal" arc, and it sets Tim Drake up to play a crucial role in the "Rebirth" narrative. Though Tim doesn't know it, he's investigating the mystery at the heart of "Rebirth." One sniff of the other timelines in DC's Multiverse, and the mystery is too fascinating for him to ignore.
As fans know, Red Robin is one of the greatest minds in the DC Comics Universe. It's because of that the death of Tim Drake was faked early on in the Rebirth, as Superman's no-longer-dead father Jor-El explained. Although Tim managed to escape, it was too late to hold the Bat-family together, and he was shaken by a glimpse of a dystopian future in which Batwoman eventually kills Batman. Detective Comics #981 brings a close to that story, and in the process gives Tim a glimpse of diverging timelines. The issue ends with Tim and his girlfriend Stephanie heading off into the sunset on a quest to discover the truth about these parallel realities.
There are three things that have made Red Robin a truly unique character in the "Rebirth" era. The first is his genius intellect, which frankly may be beyond even that of Batman (as Bruce Wayne has personally asserted). The second is his capacity to unite heroes, friends, and families alike; that was why Jor-El removed him from the timeline in the first place. That's exactly the kind of skill and ability the villains of "Rebirth" have tried to excise from the timeline, and with Tim Drake... they have failed.
The third, though, may be the most important: Tim Drake is beginning to understand the concepts of time and space that underpin the DC Multiverse. And if there is anyone in the DC Universe who can understand the forces at work, it's Tim. He's stepped out of the spotlight to solve this mystery for now, but when he returns... well, expect big things with Red Robin's name all over them.