The nightmare comes to an end. After a story arc that suffered from interruptions and seriously dragging on, the final issue of the arc arrives and actually delivers a good story. However, what it could mean for the future may not be so great.
We begin in Wayne Manor. As Bruce moves across the property, he extends his hand out and asks for a dance. Selina gladly accepts the invitation. Elsewhere, Bane and Thomas Wayne are training by beating each other senseless. As Thomas attempts to leave to head into Gotham, Bane refuses to let him leave and attacks. This backfires, and Thomas quickly takes the advantage. Back in Bruce’s head, he tells Selina about the nightmares he has been going through. The two of them discuss that Bruce knows he’s trapped because in the past, he exposed himself to every variation of Scarecrow’s fear toxin to get familiar with how each of them feels. When Bruce tells her about his father working with Bane, Selina rejects the idea as nonsense. He tells her that they must be working together for the same reason: to stop Batman.
Meanwhile, with Bane and Thomas, their training takes a turn. As Thomas taunts Bane, the supervillain takes a cheap shot. This sets Thomas off, who begins brutally beating Bane. “You think you broke the bat? All you’ve done, all you ever do, is play a game with a little boy. A child who needs his father. Who needs to know…as you need to know…that I…I’m Batman.” In his mind, Bruce tells Selina that he was using her to help him get through the fog of the toxin, but as he began to get free, the villains must have increased the dosage. However, Bruce remembered her and made his way back to her. In Gotham, despite his vicious assault, Thomas did not put Bane down. As he walks away, Bane grabs his ankle and pulls him to the ground. Bane then wraps his massive hands around Thomas’ neck and says, “I have…tolerated you…as it fit my plans. But you must know…Thomas…you must understand…You…all of you…are nothing. And I am Bane.” Thomas then draws a gun and puts it directly under Bane’s jaw. As Bane declares that Thomas cheats, he replies, “No…I win….As I said before. Gotham awaits.”
As Bruce and Selina continue their dance, Bruce tells her that he knows how to escape his trap. If he admits his greatest fear, it will overwhelm his brain to the point that the toxin will become useless. However, this fear may be the one thing that can truly break him. He asks Selina why she left him, but her reply cuts deeper than he could have ever imagined. “Isn’t it obvious? Can’t you see? It’s your vow, Bruce…In that moment, you foreswore love. You chose war. You can’t love anyone, anything…Darling, your greatest fear is your simplest truth. You don’t love me.” As Bruce pleads with her that he does love her, she walks away and tells him that it’s finally time to wake up.
This may have been the best issue to come out of this entire arc. While I did enjoy the back and forth between Bane and Thomas, I have to give the focus to Bruce and Selina. I loved that as they danced, their clothes changed to reflect their journey together, leading up to the wedding. However, as much as I liked this issue, I think it may have set a bad precedent. Having Batman basically admit in his own mind that he doesn’t love Selina doesn’t really bode well for the two of them reuniting at the end of King’s run. To be honest, I never really cared for Batman and Catwoman together outside of a few sparse examples before Tom King wrote the series leading up to the wedding. Despite that, after reading his buildup to the wedding, I think they need each other. He was able to put their relationship under a different light, and that resulted in more people truly wanting them to be together. The idea that Batman can’t be happy and be Batman at the same time is ridiculous. If you don’t believe me, look at his interactions with the Bat Family. Bruce CAN be happy. So let him be. We saw the “Batman and Catwoman are together, but a villain gets in the way” scenario play out at the end of Hush over a decade ago. It’s time to do something different. Let Batman be happy with Catwoman. It’s past time.