How do four (or five) Robins squeeze into a condensed DCU timeline?

Cosmic Book News snagged a copy of the DC Comics: The New 52 preview a day early -- street dates be damned! -- and uploaded scans of the opening pages of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League #1, the vanguard of DC's line-wide relaunch. It's an entertaining enough sequence, with Gotham City's finest pursuing Batman across rooftops as he, in turn, chases some sort of raggedy cyborg villain, only to come face to face with Green Lantern for the first time.

But it's the first panel, above, that captured my attention, as it establishes the events as unfolding "five years ago," "when the world didn't know what a super-hero was." That the first issue of Justice League takes place in the past isn't a surprise, but the time frame may be. It could also prove tricky for Batman's history.

Incoming Batman writer Scott Snyder, who's wrapping up a stint on Detective Comics, told Comic Book Resources last month that, while not "every piece of continuity will be the same" come the September relaunch, most of "the things you love about Batman" will remain intact. Tim Drake, Dick Grayson and Jason Todd still exist, and Damian Wayne continues as the current Robin. And therein lies the tricky part: If "five years ago" takes us back to a Year One or Year Two-type scenario, where superheroes are largely unknown and the Dark Knight exists somewhere between urban legend and Gotham's Most Wanted ... where, and how, do four Robins fit in? (I can't begin to fathom Stephanie Brown's place at this point.) What's more, where does a 10-year-old Damian, the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, enter the super-condensed timeline?

Sure, Snyder and other Batman Family writers can cover a multitude of sins by casually explaining that the Dark Knight operated in secret for some time. But that seems like one of those Crisis on Infinite Earths-style loose threads that can't be picked at too much.

The DC Comics: The New 52 preview will be available Wednesday at Comic-Con International in San Diego and comic stores nationwide. Justice League #1 will be released on Aug. 31.

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