Following “City of Bane,” Gotham is a very different place. And, following the tragedies and triumphs during the celebrated 85-issue Batman run by writer Tom King, the Dark Knight himself has changed.

Batman #86 marks a new era for the series and a new day for Gotham City, with writer James Tynion IV and artist Tony S. Daniel (artists Guillem March and Jorge Jimenez also join the series in subsequent issues) joining forces as Batman—without the help of the recently murdered Alfred—takes on Deathstroke and a horde of assassins.

DC Nation caught up with Tynion to hear more about his plans for the series, which starts with a massive nine-issue story arc titled “Their Dark Designs.”

James, you’re clearly familiar with Gotham City and the Dark Knight, but taking on the Batman title is a new experience in itself. What are you exploring here that you haven’t gotten a chance to in past Bat-books? 

I think folks who have read my work in Gotham know how much I love the Batman Family, the entire Gotham City supporting cast. Whether it was Detective Comics in Rebirth, the backup stories on the (Scott) Snyder/(Greg) Capullo Batman run, Batman Eternal or its sequel, my focus has always been on the world that surrounds Bruce Wayne.

The funny thing is, in all of that, I have never really written a Batman comic. A big story that puts Bruce right at the center and examines him in the same way I’ve examined the world around him. That’s what I’m most excited to do here, and why taking the reins of this title feels so radically different from everything I’ve done before in Gotham City. Every day I work on the book, I feel like I discover more of Bruce.

You’re joined by several artists including another Batman vet, Tony S. Daniel. What’s it been like collaborating with him?

I had the pleasure of working with Tony before on Batman & Robin Eternal and have been dying to do something more substantial with him ever since. It’s honestly intimidating! Tony has been so crucial to the last three major Batman eras, working with each of the great writers on the title, as well as helming it himself as a writer and artist simultaneously. But from the moment we started talking about this book, we’ve been in lock-step about our vision.

We’ve talked a lot about the tone we’re hoping to bring to Batman. I keep using the words “action-horror” and I think that’s going to drive a lot of what we’re doing. Batman has always been a frightening character, and he uses his villains’ fear as a weapon to help him do his job. There are ways we’re going to push that and bring it into the world he’s helping rebuild around him after the last year.

Following “City of Bane,” Batman has certainly been through a lot. What can you share about the state he’s in at the start of your run? 

Batman lost Gotham City. More than that, he’s lost his core support system. Alfred Pennyworth is dead. Jim Gordon is off the table… So, even back in the cave and getting back to work, these next stories are all breaking new ground. He can’t operate in Gotham like he has before. He needs to rebuild all his systems from scratch.

And he’s doing all of that without Alfred, which I really can’t overstate. Alfred Pennyworth has always been Bruce’s closest confidante, his father figure and his friend…but beyond that, he’s also the man who makes sure Bruce eats something between missions, and gets a little bit of sleep every now and then. He’s the one who makes sure the brutal dark avenger of the night stays in the cape and cowl and doesn’t walk into the boardroom. He’s been Bruce’s safety brakes for all this time, and now Bruce is operating with no brakes. He’s going to push himself like he’s never pushed before. His new mission is shaped by the absence of Alfred, but it’s going to change how he operates in Gotham City forever.

Deathstroke is in your opening story. What inspired using him at the start of your run? And what brings Slade to Gotham? 

There aren’t a lot of characters in the DC Universe Batman might lose to in a fight, and Slade Wilson is one of them. He is quite simply, one of the most dangerous men on the planet. His brain enhancements mean that he can outthink virtually any opponent, even Batman. His presence in Gotham City is deeply unsettling to Bruce, because it indicates the shape of a larger plan. Anyone who could have convinced Deathstroke to take a job that would pit him face to face with Batman would have to have promised Slade something really dangerous. Something that could destabilize many, many lives. His arrival in Gotham is only the beginning of a larger story.

What other familiar characters play into your story early on? 

Deathstroke isn’t alone in Gotham City. He’s leading a cadre of assassins there to perform a very specific and very dangerous job. Cheshire is working with him, along with Merlyn, the Dark Archer, and two brand-new assassin characters.

Beyond the immediate threats, this run is going to bring out some of my favorite classic Batman rogues in ways I can’t even begin to hint at. But beside the villains of the series, and the very palpable absence of Alfred Pennyworth, I’m also excited to bring Lucius Fox and Selina Kyle into Batman’s day-to-day operations in Gotham. With Alfred gone, they are some of the only stabilizing forces he has left, but will they be enough? You’ll have to wait and see.

How much will Batman connect to the other ongoing Bat-Family titles? 

This one I can’t reveal much of yet, but you’ll be seeing all the Bat-Family titles reflecting each other closely in 2020. We’re building some tremendously huge stories here that will reshape Gotham City and everyone who lives inside of it. Stay tuned. Same Bat-Time. Same Bat-Channel. 

Batman #86 by James Tynion IV and Tony S. Daniel is on sale Wednesday, January 8 in print and as a digital download.