SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #74 by Tom King, Mikel Janín, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
Tom King and Mikel Janín's Batman #74 concludes "The Fall and the Fallen," bringing resolution to Thomas Wayne's macabre plans to bring his long-dead wife Martha back to life. Thomas, of course, is Bruce's father from the Flashpoint reality, and is seeking to reunite the Wayne family by not only crossing dimensions, but by pulling Martha back from the afterlife.
Bruce has other ideas, though, and his conflict with his alternate-reality father this issue allows him to address some longstanding childhood issues. In doing so, Batman has reached a turning point that gives him newfound resolve in his ongoing struggles against Bane.
One Pit Leads to Another
Both Batmen face off against the leader of Ra's al Ghul's Death in the Desert -- guardians of the Nain Pit. The group's leader is defeated, but still alive, so the nature of the newly-revealed Nain Pit is clarified. Like the oft-seen Lazarus Pits, the Nain Pit has the capability to restore the dead back to life. Unlike the Lazarus Pits, though, the Nain Pit can resurrect those who have been dead for decades -- perhaps even longer. But to do so, the Nain Pit requires the sacrifice of another. The defeated leader is who Thomas intends to sacrifice so that Martha can return.
As Thomas and Bruce continue their journey towards the Nain Pit, Thomas reminds Bruce of another pit. The Animals and The Pit, a dark, real-life Russian folktale by Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasyev, was an odd favorite of Bruce's as a child, as revealed in Batman #57. In that tale, a group of innocent animals fall into a pit, only to eventually devour each other in the name of survival, with the fate of the final survivor left unknown. Thomas Wayne -- in both realities -- was confounded regarding young Bruce's fascination with the obscure story.
Bruce reveals that his fascination lies in his futile hopes that repeated readings of the story might somehow eventually yield a different outcome. Young Bruce held on to the belief that one of the animals would emerge from the pit, ending the ever-darkening story on a hopeful note. Hope that one could emerge from a pit of darkness, no matter how dark it became.
The Final Fate of Martha Wayne
Within the caverns of the Nain Pit, Bruce has revealed his lifelong fascination with another -- and then makes his move against Thomas. Like the final two animals in Afanasyev's tale, father and son fight for survival. Father battles son to reunite his family, and son battles father to free himself from his foe's machinations.
During their struggle, Martha's coffin is damaged and inadvertently opened. But it's not Martha's body that's inside. The coffin had merely been filled with rocks. The battle reveals another move by Bruce -- a covert one, long before they had descended into the pit. While Thomas slept, Bruce had secretly buried his mother in the desert, laying her to rest for a second time. Only then does Thomas realize he has been defeated, along with his dreams of a very unsettling family reunion.
The two emotionally traumatized men then continue their battle and, as rendered by Janín, further descend into the depths of the pit. Like Afanasyev's story, the two battle for survival, but whether either will survive is uncertain.
That is, until the issue's final panel, when a sole gloved hand is seen, crawling out of the pit.
A Fulfilled Childhood Wish Changes Everything
If only one Batman has emerged, it's a fair guess that's it's Bruce, since his story would otherwise come to a rather inglorious end. Bruce's emergence holds significance on multiple levels. Simply, it shows that he survived. It also shows that he has defeated his father, taking out Bane's most valuable ally in his war against The Bat. Most importantly, though, it symbolizes the hopeful ending of the dark fairy tale that he had longed for as a child. At long last, someone does emerge from the pit -- Bruce himself.
Bruce has conquered a seemingly futile childhood wish in a way that he never could have imagined as a child. With Thomas' help, Bane has sent Bruce into his own personal pit of darkness. But now, Bruce has climbed out of that pit, both literally and figuratively. A major psychological barrier has been broken -- but The Bat has not.
This could be the emotional boost that Batman needs to regroup and take the battle back to Bane. An emotionally rejuvenated Batman goes back up against his foe in Batman #75, the first chapter in King and Tony S. Daniel's "City of Bane" arc. The issue goes on sale July 17.