SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #69 by Tom King, Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Tom King concludes the "Knightmares" arc in Batman #69 by King, Yannick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn, but the Dark Knight's emotional nightmares are far from over. In the conclusion, Batman again finds himself drawn to Selina Kyle in his dreams, as he has throughout the storyline. Like those previous dreams, its ending is no less tragic. And in his dream state, Batman not only figures out the reason for Selina's presence in these nightmares, but also learns a possible heartbreaking truth about himself.
The Real Nightmare is Just Beginning
In his latest dream, Bruce approaches Selina for a dance. His request is more of a demand, though, and she responds by telling him that he shouldn't be demanding. He should, instead, simply be asking. That seemingly trivial exchange is more than mere page filler, though. Bruce's resistance to asking the right question at the proper time becomes relevant later.
During their dance, Bruce reveals to Selina, and readers, he's deduced he's trapped in a perpetual nightmarish state. As many readers had speculated already, Batman is suffering the effects of Scarecrow's fear toxin. Scarecrow, of course, is working at the behest of Bane, who's already been shown manipulating events in Batman's life, including Selina backing off her planned marriage to Bruce.
Save for a brief reveal last issue, the last time Batman was seen in the waking world was in Batman #60, when his Flashpoint reality father got the drop on him. In his current dream, Bruce tells Selina he's also figured out his father is working for Bane, and it was, in fact, Flashpoint's Batman who captured him.
Bruce goes on to say that he's also figured a way out of his current state. He believes he can overload Scarecrow's toxin by discovering and confronting his worst fear. And that fear is one he would've come to realize sooner, had he just come to Selina after she left him and asked her why.
Bruce never asked Selina why she left him at the altar, and she reveals to him that omission is the key to his greatest fear, and, as she puts it, his simplest truth. He didn't ask that painful question, but not because he feared a truth that would come out about Selina. He instead feared that one would come out about himself.
That truth? That Bruce couldn't swear a vow of love to Selina, because he had already sworn another oath long ago -- his oath to wage war on criminals.
Selina Loves Bruce, But Does He Love Her?
That revelation differs from Selina's real reasons for not marrying Bruce, but that's not to say the actual scenario in the real world doesn't align with Bruce's nightmarish one. In her breakup note to Bruce, she cited that a happily married Bruce Wayne would ultimately spell the end of Batman, a loss she couldn't bear to cause. And as true as that might still be, it comes alongside a truth that Bruce has held onto for much longer.
Selina tells Bruce that he couldn't possibly love her, because he already has a true "love," and that's Bruce's greatest fear. It's the acknowledgement that he can't love Selina -- or anyone else, for that matter -- because his true passion isn't her, it's his career as Batman.
That acknowledgment largely cements an aspect of Bruce Wayne's character, that living the life of Batman precludes any hope of ever finding true love. King's development of Bruce and Selina's relationship is arguably the most significant modern attempt to undo that notion. But "Knightmares" has essentially proven that any kind of lasting relationship just isn't possible for Bruce.
So, while the hopeless romantics harbor hope that Bruce and Selina will repair their relationship once Batman overcomes Bane's far-reaching machinations, "Knightmares" painfully postulates the opposite.
Even if the couple ever achieves that elusive state of wedded bliss, Batman will always be that interloper forever threatening that relationship. While Selina fears their marriage would eventually put an end to the Batman, Bruce's own indicates just the opposite.
Batman's "Knightmares" might be over, but the real world predicament leading to them still remains. Batman #70 goes on sale May 1.