SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #82 by Tom King, Mikel Janín, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Batman's ongoing battle with Bane is over, but his real war is just beginning. Over the past several months, the Dark Knight had seemingly been all but broken by Bane, but as Batman himself recently revealed, that was all part of his larger plan. And in Batman #82, Batman and Catwoman finally make their carefully calculated move against Bane, and it's a successful one.
The reunited duo succeeds in taking the villain down, but that victory only serves to unveil who the true villain has been all along. While Bane might've taken over Gotham, Batman's true foe has been Thomas Wayne, the Flashpoint Batman. However, Thomas hasn't been just serving Bane's needs this whole time -- in fact, it's been quite the opposite.
Batman Victorious -- But Which One?
Bruce and Selina's plan is remarkably simple: trick Bane into removing his venom-regulating apparatus, and instead inject him with the super venom used to power up Gotham Girl. The super venom would overload and kill the already venom-empowered Bane, unless he surrendered to Batman to receive treatment.
And Bane falls for it, at least initially. However, instead of overdosing on the venom, he finds renewed strength, at least momentarily, and refuses to surrender. Catwoman, in turn, goes feral on him, mauling his face, which enables her and Batman to gain the advantage. Selina is taken down shortly thereafter, but Bane is stunned enough for Batman to seize a long-awaited moment. Batman gives Bane a major beatdown, and with Bane now all but defeated, the enraged Bruce lifts the battered villain over his head, and like Bane first did long ago, readies himself to break Bane's spine.
However, Batman doesn't actually go through with it, because Batman gets shot and wounded by Thomas before he has the chance to follow through with the final blow.
However, that's not even the last shot to ring out -- the next one from Thomas' gun goes right into Bane's skull, presumably killing him.
Bane is Dead -- Long Live The Batman
Throughout Bane and Thomas' alliance, it's been clear that their relationship would only stand until either got what they wanted. In Bane's case, he never did -- while he took Batman's city, he never truly took down Batman, and knew he needed Thomas' help to do so. Thomas, however, never wanted to take his son down -- he's merely been using Bane to further his own goal of reuniting with Bruce, while retaining the mantle of The Bat.
Thomas believes he's now at the cusp of that goal, so he seizes the opportunity to kill Bane, knowing he no longer needs him for his plans. After killing Bane, Thomas calls for the aid of the emotion-manipulating Psycho Pirate at the issue's conclusion. Knowing his son won't willingly live at his side -- nor give up the role of Batman that Thomas highly covets – Thomas' plan now appears to be twisting Bruce's emotions in hopes of driving him to hang up the cape.
Despite his grievous actions against Bruce while allied with Bane, Thomas has long maintained he's wanted nothing but happiness for Bruce. Thomas has believed that happiness could come from Bruce giving up the role of Batman, which perfectly aligns with his own wishes of assuming the role exclusively. Bruce has recently come to understand, however, that happiness doesn't have to come in the absence of Batman. Thomas doesn't know that, though, so any plans to induce a happy state in Bruce's mind isn't going to result in him handing over the cowl to his father.
Never Mind, Son -- I'll Do It
Thomas shooting Bane makes sense, considering his own plans, but why would he also shoot his own son? Bruce was ready to take Bane out for good, so why not spare his son a bullet, and just put that extra slug in Bane's skull instead? Or, save the bullets entirely, and just let Bruce do his thing, and carry out his long-overdue revenge?
Thomas can't allow this, because in his mind, he's Batman. Despite Bruce's rage against his foe, there's a fair chance that he never would've been able to bring himself to so gravely and deliberately injure a foe, even one who's committed so many terrible acts against him. And, Batman clearly stated he wasn't going to kill Bane, and since Thomas wanted him dead, he was eventually going to have to kill him anyway.
For all his villainy, Thomas has demonstrated familial bonds with his extra-dimensional family. Despite being from another universe, Thomas has long seen Bruce as the adult son he never got to have in his own life. The pain he's caused Bruce has been rooted in his misguided desire to live the family life that was stolen from him. Thomas could have let Bruce cripple Bane, sure -- but why would a man who believes himself to be a loving father allow his son to commit such a ghastly deed?
In his own warped way, Thomas still wants his boy to live a happy life, and no happiness can truly come from an act of revenge. Rather than allow Bruce to follow though and potentially live a life of regret -- and potentially scar the happiness that Thomas wants his son to have -- he decided to spare him any future emotional agony. Thomas took out Bane so his son wouldn't have to, sparring him from the potential pain of that decision.
Of course, Bruce isn't going to be all that happy his father killed his foe right in front of him or shot him in the gut either, for that matter. But then, despite what Thomas thinks, he doesn't have Bruce's best interests in mind -- only his own.