The most well-known version of Batman is the vigilante hero who is a solo act. Though that has been largely true for most of his history we’ve seen over the last few years that changing. The change in Batman has been thanks to Bruce Wayne embracing the fact that he has grown to build his own family. This family has not been just his blood-related son Damian Wayne or cousin Kate Bishop. Also his proteges in Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Cassandra Cain, and Stephanie Brown have all become his family, especially in Alfred Pennyworth’s absence. But now Bruce Wayne has likely broken this family bond after what he did to Jason Todd in Batman #138.
KNIGHT TERRORS MADE BATMAN WORSE!
Before getting to what Bruce did to Jason in Batman #138 we need to take a step back. Because while I’ve had my fair share of complaints about Gotham War as a story, a lot centers around how rushed the crossover is, there is one long-running narrative this crossover event is continuing. That is the fact Bruce Wayne has been running on fumes. Which we see be the case with Batman unable to keep up with Catwoman’s trained thieves after waking up from his coma post-Knight Terrors.
This is not the case of Batman simply being affected by Deadman’s possession of him during Knight Terrors. This is something that has been built for the last five years. During this period Batman has been involved in City of Bane, The Joker War, Dark Knight: Death Metal, Fear State, Shadows Of The Bat, Shadow War, Dark Crisis On Infinite Earths, Lazarus Planet, Failsafe, Bat-Man of Gotham, and Knight Terrors.
Normally we would not see a connection between all these DC Universe events in terms of how characters are feeling mentally and physically. That has not been the case as we’ve seen Bruce Wayne reflect on himself slowing down. Most recently this has been brought up in Detective Comics #1062 and Batman/Catwoman: The Gotham War – Battle Lines #1. This all highlights how Batman’s experience during Knight Terrors, where Deadman possessed his body for a period, made Bruce’s current strain worse.
BATMAN ZUR-EN-ARRH INFLUENCE
With Bruce entering Gotham War in such a state it made his mind weaker than it’s ever been. There were already signs of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths and other prior events impacting him. That came from the Failsafe story arc, which takes place after Dark Crisis, as the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh persona Bruce created took over dominance for a period.
Now while Bruce was able to lock the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh persona back-up it was only temporary. With this persona getting new life combined Bruce exhaustion, made worse by the Knight Terrors event, Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is something that can’t be locked away. Which we see be the case as Gotham War started with Batman of Zur-En-Arrh speaking as vestige to Bruce while he was in a coma.
Though this time around, instead of completely taking over we have gotten various hints of Bruce’s actions being driven by Batman of Zur-En-Arrh persona. While there is no doubt that Bruce in his normal self would be against the way Selina Kyle has reformed crime in Gotham City it’s all other decisions that are left to question if he is in control. Because as we see him return to being more isolated and narrow focused he has a lot of dialogue with the tone Chip Zdarsky wrote for Batman of Zur-En-Arrh during Failsafe story arc.
That includes Bruce’s decision to simply abandon Damian Wayne after the fight with Nightwing and Robin. Bruce specifically being fine if all his proteges identities being revealed to the world are signs of Batman of Zur-En-Arrh influence being stronger.
WHAT DID BRUCE WAYNE DO TO JASON TODD?
Which brings us to the action that has led to Bruce Wayne making the ultimate heel turn by altering Jason Todd’s mind. Initially it appeared that Bruce was simply giving Jason a new life without being Red Hood, already a move against Jason’s will. But as it turns out the alteration was even more sinister that Bruce pitched it as to Jason. Because as we see when he is unable to allow himself to join Scandal Savage mission is completely left afraid of doing anything related to fighting or being a superhero. What’s worse is this doesn’t appear to be the extent of it as we don’t know everything Bruce did to Jason.
Simply put Bruce has crossed the line by doing the unthinkable to Jason. He completely took away Jason’s free will. Making this an even bigger hypocrite move is that this is something Bruce would never put up with. Which has been seen in the past with how he reacted to learning the truth about the Justice League wiping his memory in the past during Identity Crisis.
Even if this was Batman of Zur-En-Arrh influence on him, ultimately it was Bruce Wayne who did this to Jason. He has broken the trust of not just Jason but the entire Batman Family. While Bruce could attempt to get Jason back to his normal self, regaining the Batman Family’s trust won’t be easy. Bruce will learn that while trust is easily broken it is tough to regain.
What Bruce Wayne did to Jason Todd is just one of many developments that are going on in the Batman/Catwoman: Gotham War crossover. This is certainly the biggest game changer within the Batman Family as Bruce crossed the line that there is no going back from. While it could be explained by Batman of Zur-En-Arrh role in the story trust has been broken.
Where it leaves us is a family with a broken brother and father who has betrayed them. Nightwing, Batgirls, Robin, and the others will certainly do their best to help Jason out. But given his state there are a lot of questions if Jason can ever return to the Red Hood he was before. Even if he returns to being Red Hood it’ll be a character that’ll be different from before.
With Gotham War in its second half of the story there are still a lot left to be addressed. How Bruce Wayne’s actions are tackled and Jason is ultimately left are just two of those things to address.