Every week, MTV News is bringing you a break down of all the big moments in DC Comics' yearlong Batman comic book "Batman Eternal."
With the release of the fifth issue today (May 6), we've got writer James Tynion IV on tap to talk about whether the growing nanotech infection in Gotham City ties in with fellow weekly series "Future's End," how Tim Drake can solve mysteries even Batman can’t, and just what's going on with that monkey on the last page:
MTV News: Early in the issue there's these nanotech circuits that show up in Harper's brother's eye, and clearly there's some sort of viral infection afflicting the kids in the Narrows — leading to some crazy man versus machine battles by the end of the issue. What the heck is going on here?
James Tynion IV: These little issues right after the first three, which set up the scope of the entire series… Four, five and six set up the smaller threads that will then run through the core of the entire series.
With the introduction of the nanobots, we're seeding in one of the other major threats that's lurking beneath the surface of Gotham City. Something that might escape Batman's eye while he's focused on Carmine Falcone, and everything that's very much on the surface.
It's the perfect case for Tim Drake to come back into the fold in Gotham City, because this is a detective story, and it plays directly into his mastery of tech and his own intelligence.
MTV: I want to come back and talk about Tim in one second, but given the nanobots and the set-up here, is this tying into the other, just launched weekly series "Future's End?"
Tynion: Oh, no. This is very much our own story here. I can't say what it's connected to… Maybe I should have played it coy and said, "Yes, it's all connected!" One of the real goals of this series was to make sure it's a standalone, huge Batman epic, that if readers pick up every issue out of the 52 issues, they're going to get a complete story.
This is a story that will start, and end in the pages of "Batman Eternal."
MTV: Back to Tim, one of the big threads in this issue is Batman versus Red Robin. You mentioned this is because there's something escaping Batman's eye, but as readers we're used to Batman knowing everything, being a thousand steps ahead of everybody else. What's going on with Batman that he's starting to miss things?
Tynion: To be fair, Batman was aware enough about what's going on to check in on Tim in this issue, it's not something where Batman is completely in the dark. It's just a case where this seemed that the kids were in the ward recovering after being attacked by Professor Pyg. It did not seem to be a thread that needed to be followed.
But Tim Drake is the kind of detective that pours over the minutiae. He is the detective. I've always seen the Robins capture a certain essence of Batman. And the essence that you were just describing: the planner; the perfectionist; the person who pours over the small details to find the deeper meaner, that's Tim in full.
He's more of that than he is a fighter, or anything else. He is the intellect, and that's why it seems perfect to lean into the intellect here and show how he is separate from Batman. He has his own nests throughout Gotham City, but they're not linked into the Bat-computer, they're linked into his own computer network. He doesn't want Batman looking over his shoulder.
This is all coming out of the disconnect between the Bat-family members in the wake of "Death of the Family." We're seeing lots of the Bat family members separate at the beginning of this story, and we'll see them interact as the story moves forward. But Tim has had no interaction with Harper Row before, he's had no interaction with what's been going on in Gotham City for the past few months.
There's a coldness right now in their relationship that they'll have to overcome.
MTV: Vicki Vale, intrepid news reporter, shows up in this issue, and one moment in particular I wanted to focus on was when she walks up to a gang in the Narrows, bluntly asking questions with seemingly no plan. What does this say about her, and why was it important to introduce her in this way?
Tynion: She's been part of the Gazette now for years. We saw her in "Zero Year" covering the return of Bruce Wayne to Gotham City. She is a reporter, but she's not a crime reporter. She's trying to get out there and do the good work, but she needs to learn the ropes a little bit along the way.
She's also a very brash person. She's not afraid of walking right into danger to get the answers she wants, because she's determined to get those answers.
I can also guarantee that if Harper hadn't have stepped in, she would’ve been willing to kick a little ass herself.
MTV: I think it's made pretty clear in the issue, but what makes Vicki Vale different from Lois Lane?
Tynion: A lot of it is the difference between Gotham and Metropolis. Vicki couldn't be a Metropolis reporter, it's a very different type of city. She lives in Gotham, Gotham is her lifeblood. She's a bit more harder edged, she's had different circumstances growing up.
Lois is one of my favorite characters in comics, but what makes Vicki distinct is that a reporter like Lois would not thrive in Gotham City. She would work to thrive, but the way she operates, the comfort she has working with Perry, the comfort she has working with the full team… That doesn't exist here. That kind of adversity that doesn't exist in Metropolis, exists here.
MTV: Let's skip to the final page, where we see the return of Sergei and Maxwell from the back-up story in "Batman #22." How do they play into "Eternal," and why was it important to bring them back here?
Tynion: He clearly knows something about the nanotechnology that's operating right now. He's tracking its progress from where he's located in Tokyo.
But in terms of the decision to bring him in, that was something that we realized very early on, that we'd created all of these new characters that were part of training Batman. We had created all these new mentors for Bruce, who were a lot different than the characters we had seen before.
We didn't want to go with Batman being trained by ninjas again. We instead created these characters like Sergei and Maxwell that were so fun to write that we wanted to continue their story in "Batman Eternal."
As to what his role is in the story, that's something readers are going to have to find out over the next few months.
MTV: And of course you've got a monkey with a power glove, can't go wrong with that.
Tynion: Oh yeah. Anything with a monkey in it, I'm there. I still remember when I pitched the idea: "All right, Scott [Snyder], he's going to have a monkey, and it's going to have a cyborg arm." And Scott was like, "Great. Perfect, let's do it."
"Batman Eternal #5" is in stores now.