What’s In The Box?
Joker’s got something up his sleeve. Or more accurately, under his serving tray. Teased at the endings of the most recent issues of Batman, Batman & Robin, and Batgirl, all we know about Mr. J’s prepared dish is that it’s bloody, and causes a visceral reaction from Riddler, Penguin, and Two-Face. So, to quote Brad Pitt in Se7en, “What’s in the box?”
Many people coming into Jetpack and online alike seem to have come to the logical conclusion that it’s Alfred, or some piece of him. It’s already been established that Joker has not only attacked the faithful Wayne butler, but also has him held captive (and presumably blinded). While this is a fair assumption, if there’s one thing that can poke a hole in that theory, it’s this: The Joker is extremely unpredictable, and Alfred’s head (or other appendage) being the big surprise at the end of this plan would be exactly what would be expected of him. That, and the fact that Two-Face, Penguin, and Riddler don’t know who Alfred is and why he’s so important to the bat-family. Sure, one could argue that the act of brutality on Joker’s part would be enough to justify their reactions, but it read to me like they actually knew who (or what) was under the tray.
Keeping with the Alfred theory, killing Pennyworth wouldn’t really justify Joker’s plan to destroy the “family”. Alfred is, arguably, the heartbeat of Bruce Wayne’s life, and is a major player in every member of Batman’s allies. Killing him would only unify the “bat-family” in their grief, and compel them to team together to take on Joker. Killing Alfred wouldn’t destroy the relationship between Batman and his protégés, it would make it stronger.
So, if it’s not Pennyworth, who is it? I’m starting to lean more with Rich’s theory that it’s Commissioner Gordon. As much as it pains me to say it, Gordon is well known enough to illicit the reaction from Penguin and co., and would deal a pretty big blow to the Bat-family, especially Batgirl. But again, one can argue that Gordon’s death would also inspire the family to work together and defeat the Joker, and not cause an irreparable rift between them. So, while it could be Gordon, it may not either.
For my money, I’m placing my bets on the character that I had an inkling wouldn’t be around after this storyline from the start: Tim Drake, Red Robin. Yes, he’s got a huge fan following, but think about it. Red Robin is the only member of the Batman family that doesn’t have his own monthly title. Nightwing has one, Batgirl has one, and Damien arguably has two (Batman & Robin and Batman, Inc.). Even Jason Todd has his own book. That leaves Tim Drake, who stars alongside other sidekicks in Teen Titans, a book that could conceivably continue on without Red Robin (and may give that series the shot in the arm it desperately needs). Tim being the reveal would not only be unexpected, but could also cause Batman to push his friends away again (much like what happened the last time a Robin died).
Of course, this could end up being me being proved wrong again, which I hope is the case. One of the Scott Snyder’s strengths as a writer is his ability to completely surprise me with his superhero writing, and his confidence in trying out new ideas (and DC’s seeming willingness to let him mess around with their top character). Regardless of who ends up under Joker’s tray, we can all agree that will cap off one of the best Batman stories in a very long time.