SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #976, by James Tynion IV, Javier Fernandez, John Kalisz and Sal Cipriano, on sale now.
It was back in Detective Comics #940 that Tim Drake was seemingly killed in a sacrificial attempt to stop the Colony from wreaking havoc on Gotham City. As we quickly learned, though, just moments before his would-be death, Tim was transported to a secret, extra-dimensional prison by the enigmatic Mister Oz, who was later revealed to be Jor-El.
Nevertheless, despite being off the table for a number of months, no prison is capable of keeping arguably the smartest member of the Bat-family contained for long, and in “A Lonely Place of Living,” Tim finally returned to the fold. But ever since then, something hasn’t been quite right.
Tim’s chance encounter with the deadly future version of himself, whom he met in the aforementioned prison, has caused the young hero to kick into overdrive, pulling out all the stops in order to try to reclaim control over his destiny. It’s a fixation that’s beginning to border on obsession, though, as every aspect of Tim’s life has suddenly taken a back seat to his mission to turn the Gotham Knights into an all-encompassing emergency response unit.
In fact, even with the team’s status currently in a state of flux, we learn that he’s still working night and day to police the future of the city. However, when Batman pulls the plug on Tim’s plans in Detective Comics #976, the World’s Greatest Detective’s failure to recognize the severity of his protégé’s inner-turmoil may have inadvertently pushed him into bed with a dangerous ally.
While attempting to let out his frustration, a mysterious voice reaches out to Tim, spoon-feeding him everything he’d hoped to hear from the rest of the Bat-family. “You had it all right in your grasp,” the voice says. “You’re the only one smart enough to see the pieces moving into place for a dark, twisted future.”
Then, emerging from the shadows, we see the familiar face of Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong, who offers Tim all of the files he stole from the latter’s former self with the help of Brother Eye 3.0.
Since the start of Rebirth, Armstrong’s been showing up sporadically in the pages of Detective Comics, with each appearance typically serving to further his love/hate relationship with Tim. However, since gaining access to Bat-Tim’s Brother Eye, he could have just enough leverage to convince Tim to join him in whatever twisted scheme he’s cooking up, all under the guise of keeping Gotham safe.
After all, flawed as his methods may be, hasn’t he claimed that was his agenda all along?