WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Dark Nights: Metal #2 and Teen Titans #12, on sale now from DC Comics.
Just when we thought the grinning Batman Who Laughs, who arrived this week in Dark Nights: Metal #2 leading four feral Robins on chains, couldn't get any creepier, a chilling new detail emerges from the shadows.
It's about those Robins, who spring through a portal from the Dark Multiverse into the DC Universe ahead of the bat-demon Barbatos and the Evil Batmen, and immediately begin to feast on members of the Court of Owls. Dressed identically in a version of the original Robin costume, complete with pixie boots, these cannibalistic Boys Wonder have white skin, green hair and a ghoulish permanent smile, all in keeping with their mentor/master, who's of course a twisted combination of the Caped Crusader and The Joker.
As writer Scott Snyder explained to CBR, "The Batman Who Laughs is Bruce asking, ‘What if I killed the Joker and I found out that he has a toxin in his heart that essentially made whoever kills him the next Joker, and that’s why he’s always tried to get Batman to kill him?’ It’s one of the darkest stories that we could do."
It was widely assumed these four Robins were Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake and Damian Wayne from the Dark Multiverse. However, Teen Titans #12, by Benjamin Percy and Mirka Andolfo, revealed a fifth Robin, who's clearly the actual Damian doppelganger (he's even dressed in a hooded cloak). So, who are these other Robins?
The answer, deduced by Polygon's Susana Polo, lies in their repetition of "Crow"; it appears to be the only word they can speak, in contrast with Other-Damian, who can at least say, "Yes, fatherrrr." What initially seems little more than a somewhat-unnerving affectation snaps into focus in Metal #2, by Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, when the Batman Who Laughs calls the ravenous Robins off their bloody prey with a single word, "Bar."
That's not an obscure hunting term or a command used in obedience schools, but rather the second syllable of a word: crowbar, a tool with a twisted but prominent place in the history of the Bat-Family. It's what The Joker used in the infamous 1988-1989 storyline "A Death in the Family" to brutally beat Jason Todd before murdering him (the sidekick's fate was sealed by the readers, who cast their votes by calling a 1-900 phone number).
That means the four Robins are all Jason Todd, which explains why they wear the same costume. It also suggests the Batman Who Laughs has collected alternate versions of Jason from different realities across the Dark Multiverse. How else could there be four versions of the same Robin? We're left to wonder why he's assembled them, while fearing that the answer may have something to do with continuing the torment of one of the Caped Crusader's darkest hours.
"It’s one of the darkest stories that we could do," Snyder explained of the origins of the Batman Who Laughs. "What happens then, what happens to the family, all of that is in Batman: The Batman Who Laughs one-shot."
We'll be waiting, with a creeping sense of dread.
The Batman Who Laughs #1, by James T. Tynion IV and Riley Rossmo, goes on sale Nov. 15.