Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Next Batman: Second Son #1!
Conversely to what most fans may have believed, an inherent drive in Tim Fox was already molding him into becoming Gotham’s Dark Knight preceding his escapades in Future State: The Next Batman. Not only did it begin long before his time in Gotham, but it happened far away from Gotham. Taking place in Vietnam, the series sees Tim Fox undergo a mission to take down a crooked billionaire whose ostensible philanthropism in the public eye is just a cover up for a trafficking ring — or so Tim believes. Most notable about Tim’s endeavor is that his efforts show classic signs of nascent vigilantism, whereby he protects his identity by wearing a ski mask, a distinctly more rudimentary version of Batman’s technically enhanced and overall badass cowl he would later don.
More parallels exist in the debut issue of The Next Batman: Second Son written by John Ridley with art by Tony Akins, Travel Foreman and Mark Morales. The prologue to Future State’s The Next Batman reveals that Tim already possessed valuable experience that would prepare him for the mess that Gotham finds itself in with the Magistrate. Much like the Magistrate, Vietnam’s government doesn’t take too kindly to “extra-legal operators.” Luckily for Tim, his inherent nonchalantness for breaking rules for the betterment of society would help him most definitely when pursuing vigilantism in a city where mask-wearing heroes and villains are murdered on sight.
But later on in Second Son when his cover has just been blown, Tim’s thought process sheds light on an important characteristic about himself that proves he shares a similar opinion with Bruce on a crucial philosophy, though his reasoning couldn’t be more different. When confronted by the billionaire’s goons, Tim expresses approval, maybe even excitement, when it becomes quite apparent that the fight is about to get much more up close and personal: “Yah. Forget the guns. Get up in my grill.“
Batman obviously doesn’t like guns because their usage increases the likelihood that the confrontation will result in loss of life exponentially, a big no-no in Bruce Wayne’s book. But Tim’s internal monologue creates the impression that he doesn’t like guns because he prefers when his adversaries engage in hand-to-hand combat since he enjoys the intimacy of it. Despite their diverging philosophies, Tim is already well on his way to becoming the perfect successor to Bruce Wayne as he’s already used to fighting without guns. As Batman, him not using them will just take on another meaning entirely.
However, Tim possessing a proclivity for a form of combat that can easily escalate gratuitously opens the door to a more sinister possibility. Another character who has professed an affinity for a more intimate type of violence is the Joker, who made this chilling admission most effectively in The Dark Knight: “Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all the… little emotions. In… you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are.” Joker has always been obsessed with drawing correlations between himself and Batman. If and when he ever meets Tim Fox, Joker will undoubtedly savor their shared appreciation for intimacy in battle that he will most assuredly exploit to the best of his abilities.