SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #957, by James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela and Carmen Carnero, on sale now, along with DC Comics' ongoing Rebirth mystery.
Stephanie Brown’s been on the outs with Batman's team in Detective Comics for a little while now. Since the “death” of Tim Drake, and the existential crisis brought by the team’s encounter with The Victim Syndicate, she’s been having a hard time sorting out where, exactly, she belongs in Gotham City’s vigilante scene, or, for that matter, if she even belongs there at all.
Detective Comics #957 brings Steph’s post-team methodology to the forefront after an arc’s worth of absence -- and she’s doing quite well for herself on her own, all things considered. But no one can sustain themselves completely alone for very long; even Batman knows that.
Luckily, there’s someone who wants to help Spoiler with her new mission, and his name might ring a few bells.
It’s time to welcome the infamous Anarky to Rebirth -- and time to talk about just how his appearance could foreshadow the return of Tim Drake.
Lonnie Machin, aka Anarky, actually started his life as a Batman villain back in the late '80s -- but there was a twist. Though in his costume he looked like a grown (somewhat oddly proportioned) adult, it was eventually revealed that Lonnie was actually a twelve year old boy with a genius intellect and a passion for social reform. He wore a harness on his shoulders beneath his robe-like original costume to make him seem like an adult.
After this reveal was made, linking him up to the newest Robin, Tim Drake, seemed virtually inevitable. For one thing, pitting Bruce against an underage super villain opened some awkward narrative avenues, but more importantly, Tim and Lonnie seemed to be functionally two sides of the same coin: prodigies who sought to enact radical social change. In fact, Anarky -- under a new pseudonym, Moneyspider -- played a major supporting role in Tim’s first ever official outing as Robin in the “Rite of Passage” story arc in Detective Comics.
A couple years later, the Robin ongoing actually kicked off (rather oddly) with an annual that featured Tim going up against Anarky yet again as a sort of coda to their initial “Rite of Passage” encounter. From there, though he would feature occasionally in stories from all corners of the DCU, Anarky became a looming on-again-off-again thorn in Tim Drake’s side.
So looming, that creative teams actually saw fit to end the Robin with an Anarky story, effectively book-ending Tim’s decade long solo series with Lonnie before it transitioned into Red Robin. However, the Robin finale came with a twist that would draw yet another familiar foe into the mix.
Here Comes the General
As Robin drew to a close, Lonnie’s fate became completely intertwined with Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, aka The General, thanks to Armstrong’s psychotic need for revenge on Robin for allowing his siblings to die in an accident. Armstrong trapped and held Lonnie hostage as he adopted the Anarky mantle for himself. He then used it to terrorize Gotham before Robin eventually intervened.
Unfortunately, Tim was too late to prevent Armstrong from leaving Lonnie in an induced coma before he managed to take him down. It was while he was in this coma -- hooked to machines that allowed him to manipulate and interact with technology from his hospital bed -- that Lonnie took up the name Moneyspider once more, this time as a friend rather than an antagonist.
Moneyspider became a sort of personal Oracle for Red Robin until the New 52 reset continuity.
Now, similar to Anarky, The General was one of Tim’s earliest recurring enemies in his ongoing series -- and what’s more? We’ve already seen in Rebirth as a member of The Colony under Jacob Kane. He has yet to officially adopt any sort of supervillain name or act independently of The Colony, so he’s been pretty easy to overlook so far. But it’s unlikely he’s been placed so inconspicuously in the background by accident.
It’s not a stretch to hazard a guess that there are plans involving The General in the works somewhere in the grand scheme of Detective Comics -- and now that Anarky’s in the mix, there are more possibilities on the table than ever.
Is the Anarky we met this week Lonnie Machin? Or is this Ulysses finally stepping into the spotlight? He certainly has enough pretense going up against the Detective Comics team to have some stakes in the Spoiler’s vigilantism…
However, it’s Lonnie with the history of being an ally rather than antagonist -- So if this new Anarky actually is “here to help” it might be a cut towards Lonnie’s past over Armstrong’s.
...Of course, it could be neither of them and we might be headed towards the introduction of a totally new character.
But perhaps more important than nailing down Anarky’s identity, there’s the fact that both front runners have unquestionable ties back to Tim Drake, and whoever is behind the mask is looking to work with Stephanie Brown, who also has unquestionable ties to Tim Drake.
Tim Drake, who is currently one of only a very small handful of characters we’ve seen being held by Mr. Oz.
At this point, with so many potential puzzle pieces floating around the board, it would seem odd to not transition this story into one that involves some sort of revelation about Tim’s “death,” either for Steph on her own or for the whole team. And if that revelation does come -- what will it mean for the rest of the Rebirth DCU? Tim’s return -- or a rescue effort staged to bring Tim back, successful or otherwise -- inevitably means that questions have to be answered about the nature of Mr. Oz’s project...and the nature of Rebirth at large.