The newest issue of Detective Comics seems to confirm that the pre-Flashpoint version of the DC Universe still exists, separate from the current “Rebirth” continuity.
Granted, this has already been more or less confirmed before―official word about the end of Convergence says that all comics are now canon in some alternate universe, and older versions of Conner Kent, Bart Allen and Cassie Sandsmark have appeared in a possible future. This time, however, it was Stephanie Brown/Spoiler and Cassandra Cain/Orphan’s turn to catch a glimpse of who they used to be (before never being them, or something).
In issue #980, Brother Eye shows the same alternate future that the above-mentioned characters, as well as Evil Batman Tim Drake, are from. Apparently, in that world they are both Batgirls, wearing the same costumes that they wore in the old continuity.
“You do not even realize what has been taken from you,” Brother Eye mocks. “What this timeline has stolen from your life.”
While Cassandra seems a bit awed by this, Steph has a more bold reaction. “The only thing you’ve told me is that no matter what timeline I’m in, I’m freaking amazing!”
All this seems to imply that the bad alternate future is actually the old DC Universe, which raises some interesting questions. Comic books are confusing sometimes.
The continuity in question―usually called “post-Crisis” or “pre-Flashpoint, from the big events that began and ended it―lasted from 1986 until 2011, and was replaced by the New 52. That period lasted five years and proved quite controversial, as its attempts to “modernize” the characters and stories were perceived by many as overly grim and threw out much of what made them beloved in the first place.
Because of this, DC Comics began “DC Rebirth” back in 2016. This undid many of the changes from the New 52, and has slowly revealed that many of them were caused by none other than Doctor Manhattan from Watchmen (a meta-commentary on that story’s effect on the industry). The new status quo is thus a mixture of old and new.
What does this foreshadow, then? Will more old elements return, or will the characters at least learn more about their sort-of pasts? For now fans will just have to wait and see what happens.