WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #80 by Tom King, John Romita Jr. Klaus Janson, Tomeu Morey and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
The last time a member of the Bat-family set foot inside the Bane-controlled Gotham, the move appeared to cost Alfred Pennyworth his life. That was Damian Wayne, who actually was sent to Wayne Manor by Batman himself. Alfred, as it turned out, had been slipped away to a secure location, but Damian, in turn, was taken hostage by Bane. Now, Damian is at the mercy of Thomas Wayne, the Flashpoint incarnation of Batman, who seems ready to kill him.
Can Thomas actually kill the grandson he never had? Batman #80 tests the limits of Thomas' loyalties to his alternate-reality family.
Having recovered his strength and devised a plan, Batman returns to Gotham this issue, with Catwoman at his side. After Batman first encounters, and easily defeats, Professor Pyg and Two-Face, Thomas surmises that Batman has returned. Making good on his warning, Bane now orders Thomas to kill Damian.
Thomas makes his way to the Batcave where Damian’s imprisoned and puts his gun to Damian's head as the issue concludes. Damian's demise appears to be imminent. But Batman meanwhile offers some insight on his pseudo-father that gives hope Thomas might not be able to follow through.
In fact, Batman's counting on it, because that's Damian's only hope. Batman knows full well that Damian's been in danger since being captured, and also knows word of his return could mean nothing short of Damian's death. Bruce's understanding of Thomas' mindset, though, enables him to know how Thomas will react to Batman's actions, as well as Bane's orders. As Bruce predicts, Thomas goes into the Batcave to execute Damian, but also adds that Thomas will have to decide if he lacks enough compassion to go through with it.
CAN GRANDPA BE TRUSTED?
Bruce is gambling with his own son's life. He clearly holds a 100% level of confidence that Thomas will not kill his pseudo-grandson, or he wouldn't have dared return to Gotham without a different plan. Batman knows he cannot save Damian himself, so he instead must count on his own villainous father. After all, Thomas has previously professed that he wants nothing more than for Bruce to be happy, and killing Damian would hardly serve as a means to that end.
But it's more than just a simple matter of Thomas not wanting to upset his son -- he demonstrates what appears to be nothing less than genuine fatherly concern. Not to Damian necessarily, but instead to Claire Clover, aka Gotham Girl. Claire clearly still isn't well, and her powers continue to be a danger to herself. Rather than send her into battle against Batman and Catwoman, Thomas instead takes her home to rest.
Once there, Thomas continues to show concern for her well-being, not to mention an associated, and secretive, resentment towards Bane for what the villain has done to her. Thomas and Claire have almost formed an emotional bond -- not just as partners, but also as family, not unlike that of Batman and his previous Robins.
BAT-DAD IS STILL A DAD
For all of Thomas Wayne's villainy, the issue shows his soft side and reminds readers he's still a father. A fatherly kind of bond with Claire indicates the possibility of a similar and perhaps even stronger bond with Damian, although he has yet to truly demonstrate it. While Thomas has helped Bane break his own son, his motives were rooted in his best -- albeit twisted -- wishes for Bruce. He's never shown any desire to kill him, however. And those feelings may very well extend to his grandson, as well. And the fact that Damian is a child just might be tugging at Thomas' paternal heartstrings.
Batman is counting on that very paternal instinct to save Damian's life -- even as Thomas holds a gun to Damian's head. For all of Thomas' seemingly heartless actions against Bruce, and his other villainous deeds at Bane's behest, Thomas is still a father -- and one who never got to become a grandfather on his own world.
Bruce might know his father better than his father knows himself -- and all Thomas has to do is come to the same realization before pulling the trigger.
It's decision time for Thomas Wayne next issue.
"City of Bane" continues in Batman #81, on sale Oct. 16.
KEEP READING: Tom King's Batman Isn't Done With 'The Button' Yet