Each week, MTV News is breaking down the big moments in DC Comics' "Batman Eternal," the weekly series that just dropped two major villain-bombs as it enters its second act.
This week, we chatted over the phone with writer James Tynion IV about the reveals, as well as what this means for Batman - and his trusty manservant, Alfred:
MTV News: Normally I'd go through the issue bit by bit, but let's just jump straight to the end, because dude! Jason Bard! What happened! He's been betraying us all along?
James Tynion IV: [Laughs] That was one of the twists, right at the beginning, that we knew we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to make the readers fall in love with a character who really seems to be on their side, and then we wanted to rip that out from under them, because we're jerks like that.
I will say that his story is far from over, and it's not a purely black and white story. Even though he's clearly working on some kind of agenda, that doesn't mean he doesn't believe in the agenda is a part of.
This has been a plan from the beginning, to get Jason Bard to the place he is right now, in order to usher in the next level of terror in Gotham City.
MTV: Now is he really Jason Bard? Is he someone else entirely? Is he wearing a false face? What else can you tell us about what's going on with him?
Tynion: That is Jason Bard, it's the Jason Bard we've been seeing in the story since the first few pages of "Batman Eternal #1." His story is very much the long story of "Batman Eternal," so you can bet that his story is not over at this point.
That doesn't mean his story is going to be particularly fun for Batman.
One thing I can point at is that back in "Batman #28," our little flash-forward issue, we saw a very militarized police state in Gotham City, and people can now imagine how that might happen.
MTV: The other huge villain reveal is that Hush is working with Jason Bard. I'm pretty sure this is his first appearance in the New 52, right?
Tynion: He's not appeared in the New 52, to my knowledge.
MTV: So who is he in the New 52?
Tynion: People should expect him to be the iconic version of the character. That is Tommy Elliott under the wrappings. This is the New 52, there might be tweaks to his story along the way, but this is a Hush that has been active in Gotham. We assume that a lot of these stories happened more or less the way they happened in the old continuity, and that's how we approached this.
Hush being involved is something we talked about from the beginning, making him one of the major villains of the series. You can see now one of our big goals was brining in these major bat villains, who we haven't seen before in the New 52, starting with Carmine Falcone, and now with Hush.
This issue is the transition into the second act of "Batman Eternal" in a big way, and the second act is going to be very tumultuous, and very dangerous for Batman and all of his allies.
MTV: You see Bard make that "Mother" comment to Hush…
Tynion: That points to the fact that over the course of the series you've seen Bard talking on the phone with his mother about what's going on, and his advancement in the police force… But that's been the cover the whole time. It's actually been Hush that he's reporting to, going back to that conversation in the first issue.
MTV: So Bard and Hush are behind this plan, but are they the final level? Is there some big boss beyond them?
Tynion: This is issue 21 or a 50 issue story, so there's definitely lots of twists and turns to come. Every issue is marching us closer and closer to the moment we saw on top of the Beacon Tower, the flashforward in the first issue. It's being set up very directly in the comic. I will point to the fact that the person on top of that roof did refer to Batman as Bruce, and Tommy is one of the only villains who knows his secret identity, so take that as you will.
MTV: Looking back on the first page, the scene with Vicki, it takes on a very noir feel once you read the end of the issue. Is she in on all of this too?
Tynion: No. She believes Jason is exactly who he says he is, and she believes that the stories she's running, and the exclusives she's getting through this relationship are a helpful thing. She thinks she has this perfect in on the police force that can advance her career. We're going to see a lot more of that in the next few weeks, and months.
MTV: How about Batman? We don't get a lot of his internal – or external – monologue here, but he can't be happy with these new developments.
Tynion: Clearly Hush is playing Bruce. He knows how to play with Bruce's expectations, since he's known him his entire life. We're going to really start breaking into how Batman is feeling, being so far behind, because at the beginning of it, it feels like a kind of victory. They finally have the evidence that can get Gordon out of prison, and prove his innocence, but now the person who was going to do that is under the thumb of one of his greatest villains.
It seems like it was a step forward, but it's a step back; and even though he thought he was close to figuring out the heart of the mystery, it's still massively out of his control. That's a position Batman hates to be in, and is dangerous not just for him, but for all of Gotham.
MTV: There's that amazing splash page of Hush injecting fear serum directly into Alfred's brain… We see what this does in the short term, but how about long term? Can Alfred recover from this?
Tynion: It's going to be something that's very hard for him to recover from. It's such a concentrated dose of something that's so dangerous even in its aerosol form. It's something he's going to have a very hard time coping with, and it's going to take him to some very dark places over the course of the series; and make it very hard for him to help Batman.
MTV: Does this mean Hush is working with Scarecrow?
Tynion: It means he was able to get his hands on the fear toxin.
MTV: Last bit, let's talk about The Architect, who is going to play in big next issue. Who is he, for those not familiar with the "Batman: Gates Of Gotham" series?
Tynion: He was created by Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins, and knowing that Kyle was coming on the book, it became clear the Architect would be perfect to bring back in this moment.
We're going to see the Architect story unfold over the next few issues in a major way, as he ties into the construction of the Beacon Tower.
In short, this is a man who's legacy is, his family built Gotham City, but Gotham has covered over that the Gates built as much as they did by the prominent families of Gotham. He has a huge grudge against Gotham. The longer he wears his suit, the more he's driven insane. He's been out of the suit long enough that lawyers have been able to get him out of Gotham, and into Blackgate. But now he's going to be back in the suit, and that doesn't bode well for anyone.