Batman: What the Hell Does Detective Comics #998's Baffling Last Page Mean?

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Detective Comics #998, by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza, Mark Irwin, David Baron and Rob Leigh, on sale now.

The road to the monumental Detective Comics #1000 is nearly complete, and while this is certainly an exciting milestone for DC Comics and readers alike, it’s been anything but fun and games for the Caped Crusader himself.

Since Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke and company took over on the series, Batman has watched loved ones die and already dead loved ones return to haunt him. He even had to fight his way out of a shark-infested deathtrap! Still, despite all this, the final page of Detective Comics #998 is the most bizarre twist to date in his current adventure.

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After coming to the aid of Etrigan the Demon and his human host Jason Blood, Batman is transported to S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis. There, he greets yet another person who had a hand in Bruce Wayne becoming the Bat: Cyborg’s father, Dr. Silas Stone.

Thankfully, unlike Bruce’s other allies, Silas doesn’t appear to be in need of saving. Instead, the two reminisce over Batman’s iconic grappling gun, which was originally designed by Silas, then modified by Bruce to better suit his needs.

Before long, though, Silas turns the grappling gun on Batman, binding the brooding hero's arms together.

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“What do you fear, hmm?” Silas asks a surprised Batman. “What scares you?”

Not being Batman…” the Dark Knight replies. “Unable to help… Unable to make a difference…”

Meanwhile, Silas, his lab and the grappling gun begin to transform into Matrix-esque strands of binary code, and as Batman holds a pile of ones and zeroes in his hands, he suddenly finds himself staring into the eyes of what appears to be a young Bruce Wayne sporting an ill-fitting batsuit.

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“Well, we always knew that to wear the cape and cowl… we’d have to wage war on ourselves, Bruce,” the kid crusader says as the issue concludes.

At this point, if you were left scratching your head, you’re likely not alone. However, given the emphasis “Silas” placed on Batman’s fears, one can’t help but wonder if a certain fear-inducing rogue might have a hand in the events of the current arc. After all, in Tom King and Mikel Janin’s Batman #63, we learned Bane recruited Scarecrow to pump Batman full of fear toxin and induce a series of “Knightmares.”

Could these two seemingly separate storylines be on the verge of intertwining? If so, Detective Comics #1000 seems like the perfect place for them to collide, perhaps even in the story King and artist Tony S. Daniel are cooking up for the event issue.

Whatever the case, we'll discover more truths behind Batman's current mystery, including how the hell he's come face to face with a pre-teen Dark Knight, in Detective Comics #999, on sale Wednesday, Feb. 27.

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