Since his debut, part of what has made Batman so popular is that readers can relate to him. Not only does the hero accomplish so much without any powers, but he continually struggles with his mortality and his limitations as a human being. Though Batman’s situation is definitely unique, the character refuses to let obstacles beat him down.
Granted, over the years, Batman has faced a lot of obstacles and taken a lot of beatings, some of which have been painful in ways that aren’t just physical. While the Dark Knight almost always emerges victorious, there have definitely been a few times where he has failed.
Alfred has barely been dead for a month and his passing is easily going to be one of the most impactful events in Batman’s history. Alfred has been a solid parental figure in Bruce’s life for years. Despite his disapproval of some of Bruce’s methods, he is always incredibly loyal, doing whatever he can to help Bruce on his crusade.
With recent events from the “City of Bane” storyline, Alfred sacrificed himself in order to help Bruce take down Bane. Though Alfred was able to give Bruce the advantage he needed, it is now clear that he will remain dead following the arc, and that Bruce isn’t being tricked. While it is entirely plausible that Alfred will return at some point, his death will undoubtedly continue to haunt the Dark Knight.
Despite being a lesser-known Batman storyline, “Venom” continues to have an effect on Batman’s mythos today. After failing to save a young girl, Batman begins taking a smaller dosage of the drug that gives Bane his strength. However, Batman becomes more and more reliant on the performance enhancer to the point where he is clearly an addict.
Not only does this story serve as a prelude to Bane, but it also shows Batman overcome a very unique challenge. One could easily argue that the Batman that emerges from the end of this story is still the same determined, headstrong Dark Knight that is around today.
During the ever-so-popular “Knightfall” storylines, Batman suffers from one of his greatest defeats ever. After weeks of tracking down many escaped Arkham inmates, Batman is finally confronted by Bane in the Batcave. Exhausted from the weeks prior, Bane was easily able to break Batman’s back, paralyzing him from the waist down.
After the mantle of Batman was passed to Jean-Paul Valley, a man who became a much darker version of Batman, Bruce Wayne made a miraculous recovery and was able to take the title back. Though he overcame this defeat, the events of this story still get mentioned on occasion, making it one of the most important defeats Batman has ever suffered.
After Joker enacted one of his deadliest plots against Gotham ever, both he and Batman were presumed dead, as both were missing in the aftermath of “Endgame.” In one of the most brutal brawls between the two yet seen, Batman and Joker actually did succeed in killing each other, only to be resurrected shortly afterward.
While this event had immediate repercussions in things like Jim Gordon becoming Batman, the story has still had some lasting effects to this day. Not only did it set up the current Rebirth era for the character, but it remains one of the most devastating attacks on the city yet seen.
The death of Damian Wayne was one of the most impactful events of the New 52 era for DC Comics. After disobeying Batman and joining the fight against his mother, Damian is stabbed by a clone of himself. While the young Robin wasn’t dead for long, the fact that he is Batman’s son made the tragedy all the greater.
Before being resurrected, Batman went down one of his darkest paths yet. Seeing the character in that way was heartbreaking. Since Damian’s return, his relationship with his father has actually been improving (for the most part). However, Damian’s death still has some effects on both him and his father in regards to their actions and decisions.
Towards the end of the first arc of Detective Comics in the Rebirth era, Tim Drake made the ultimate sacrifice by facing off against an army of weaponized drones. As Batman and other members of the Bat-Family raced to help him, Tim did everything he could to fight until the very end. Though it was revealed almost immediately that Tim had actually survived the encounter, it has continued to haunt the Batman titles.
Since making his return, Tim has undergone costume and name changes and has also tried to distance himself from the rest of the family. Though he is back as one of Batman’s most trusted allies, Tim’s supposed death was one of the worst things to happen at the time, especially following so closely to Damian's death.
Like the other Robins, Dick Grayson met a tragic end. During the Forever Evil event, Lex Luthor killed Nightwing in order to stop a bomb from going off. However, Luthor then revived the hero almost immediately. Because of everything that happened though, Dick had to quit being Nightwing and went undercover as an agent of Spyral.
Even after making a return to the Nightwing suit, Dick Grayson would be hit by yet another tragedy after suffering a bullet to the head from KGBeast. Now going by “Ric,” Grayson continues to fight crime, but without his memories of who he was before. While the character is set to assume the Nightwing role once again in January, there’s no denying the impact of his past on Batman.
3 Final Crisis
In one of the biggest losses of Batman’s career yet, he himself met a tragic end at the hands of Darkseid towards the end of Final Crisis. Later, it is revealed that Batman was actually blasted back in time, but Dick Grayson actually assumed the mantle during Bruce’s absence. For years after it seemed as though this event were behind him.
That is, until Dark Nights: Metal began to come out. Pulling heavily from the Grant Morrison run on Batman, Dark Nights: Metal proved just how impactful the events of Final Crisis truly were. Furthermore, since Metal continues to have a major effect on the DC universe, it is safe to say that this story continues to haunt the Dark Knight.
2 Jason Todd
Batman himself has often noted that he considers Jason todd’s death to be his greatest failure. Thanks to the young man’s impulsive and reckless nature, Jason met a tragic end at the hands of the Joker during the “A Death in the Family” storyline. Jason’s death meant so much that Bruce himself became an incredibly darker version of Batman, only getting better after Tim was introduced into his life.
Even after Jason returned as Red Hood, Batman chose to have his tattered Robin suit remain in the Batcave noting that, “This doesn’t change anything.” effectively, Jason’s death was such a loss that even his return couldn’t make up for Bruce’s failure. Though the two are on relatively good terms from time to time, this is still one of the biggest losses Batman has ever endured.
1 His Parents
Obviously, the biggest loss that haunts Batman to this day is the loss of his parents. Ever since he was a child, this has been the single greatest loss Bruce Wayne has ever suffered, motivating him for his entire adult life. Virtually every decision Bruce has made as Batman is in reaction to the vow he made to his parents.
While that vow often gets in the way of his personal life, Bruce has become one of the best heroes in the DC universe, as well as all of comics. Furthermore, as many times as Bruce has been beaten down and broken, this is the one loss that he has never truly recovered from. For all that Batman has endured over the years, the loss of Thomas and Martha Wayne is easily the greatest.