Damian Wayne's body isn't even cold yet, and Batman writer Scott Snyder has introduced what seems to be a new Tim Drake for a new generation.
After months of watching Batman from the wings, our odds-on candidate to take over as Robin stepped in to act as his unofficial sidekick in today's Batman #18, using insight and technology to make herself valuable at a key moment.
Harper Row, the street-smart girl with the facial piercings and absent parents, threw on a cat suit this month and helped Batman take down a scumbag with a small army of Venom-infused fighting dogs.
Why make such an oddly-timed debut? Well, a couple of reasons.
First of all, it's not clear whether she knows (at first) about the death of Robin, although she did suss out that it was loss that has driven Batman to the brink...
...secondly, he was in pretty desperate need of help. After running round the clock for days following the events of Batman & Robin #18, Batman is slowing down, being injured, running himself into the ground not unlike the way he did during Knightfall. It's what made him vulnerable to Bane's attack and, even if Harper doesn't know that, she knows that she did something similar after the death of her mother, working herself nearly to death and avoiding the real issue. It brought her brother, who she takes care of, down with her and nearly tore their makeshift family unit apart.
In any event, her approach to Batman--the way she figures out that Robin has died, and the way she's concerned about the brutality with which he's operating and the non-stop wear-and-tear on his body--feels very Tim Drake-like, and certainly seems to lend some credence to the numerous people out there (including us) speculating that she could be the next Robin.
At the same time, she could be set up as a new iteration of a Jim Gordon-type character. She turns to Bruce Wayne to help Batman, creating a question as to whether she knows who he is in the minds of some readers, but maintains that she doesn't know, doesn't care and wouldn't want to know. Her idea of Batman is very much in the Christopher Nolan mold: Batman is an idea, something bigger than a person. People, she says, have always disappointed her and Batman can't do that. So she doesn't want to see under the mask, or it would ruin the trick.
That's certainly an interesting take...
It may be worth noting here that, in the mythology of the New 52, Tim Drake was never Robin. Why not? Because he intuited that the recent death of Jason Todd would "taint" the identity of Robin to Batman and that suiting up in that way would just be salt in a wound. Could Row be headed down a similar path?