(Spoiler) Has Arrived in "Batman & Robin: Eternal" -- But Why?

The following article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for "Batman & Robin Eternal" #1.

Since DC Comics relaunched its superhero line in late 2011 with the New 52, fans have been treated to the first new-era appearances of dozens of heroes and villains. For four years, every month seems to bring with it the modern-continuity debut of this character or that, until the current DCU feels nearly as full as its predecessor.

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But there have been holdouts -- a number of characters with loyal, vocal fanbases who weren't part of the first, second or even third wave of New 52 reveals. Wally West, Donna Troy and Stephanie Brown were at the top of the "where are they now" list, each one arriving in the new DCU, albeit somewhat late in the game.

With the release today of "Batman & Robin Eternal" #1, fans can cross one more name off of their wish list as Cassandra Cain makes her first appearance in current continuity. Like many of her compatriots, her look is both fresh and familiar: Artists Tony S. Daniel and Sandu Florea have certainly updated the one-time assassin turned Batgirl, but she remains immediately recognizable. As the pages below show, one thing's for certain -- she's as skilled and deadly as her previous incarnation.

Created by Kelley Puckett and Damion Scott, Cassandra Cain debuted in 1999's "Batman" #567, before headlining 73 issues of a "Batgirl" solo series from 2000 to 2006, and a six-issue series in 2008. The character later took the identity of Black Bat, but has mostly been in limbo since the dawn of the New 52 in fall 2011.

But why is she here, now? Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV's weekly story involves a deep, dark secret Batman kept hidden from his Robins for years, and with Bruce Wayne now an amnesiac billionaire rather than a masked vigilante, that secret is coming to light. As for Cain's involvement in the proceedings, the issue reveals that while she's a new character in the current DCU, she's not a newcomer to its criminal underbelly. In fact, she's been working for either the Dark Knight or the spy agency Spyral in a still-unknown capacity, but she appears to have details about the newly emerging villain that is stepping out from the shadows in the wake of Batman's disappearance. And with Batman gone, it's her responsibility to reveal the truth to Dick Grayson, the first Robin and current Spyral agent -- who has been marked for death by his own people.

The secret (Spoiler Warning #2) is a pretty simple one: Someone, known only as Mother, is responsible for the deaths of the parents of everyone who has worn the Robin costume. And while that's pretty surprising in and of itself, the real shock is that Batman appears to have been the one to actually commit the murders at Mother's behest.

Of course, this is only the first chapter of a 26-issue series, so there's plenty of time to unravel what's really going on with Batman, and how Cassandra Cain, referred to as Orphan, is involved. But for longtime fans of the character, this return to the DCU is off to a strong start, boding well for the character's future.

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