WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Batman #69 by Tom King, Yanick Paquette, Nathan Fairbairn and Clayton Cowles, on sale now.
A potential turning point in Batman's career occurred in Joshua Williamson, Tom King and Jason Fabok's Batman #22, the penultimate chapter of "The Button." That story arc mainly explored the mystery behind the appearance of the Comedian's infamous smiley face button in the DC Universe. But it also featured a momentous encounter between Batman and his "Flashpoint" counterpart, his alternate-reality father Thomas Wayne.
Just as Bruce had lost his father in the mainstream DCU, it was Thomas who lost his son in the world of "Flashpoint." So, their reality-crossing reunion was seemingly touching for both men. When the two had last seen each other, Thomas urged Bruce, "Don’t be Batman," and wished him to find happiness. King and Yanick Paquette's Batman #69, though, puts a different spin on Thomas' motives, and they're not as altruistic as they appeared in "The Button."
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He Just Wants the Best for His Son, Right?
Thomas' motives were called into question at the end of Batman #50, when he was first shown to be allied with Batman's greatest modern day enemy, Bane. His sinister move against Alfred in Batman #60 -- and Batman himself, as is officially divulged this issue -- cemented the notion that he's definitely one of the bad guys. Readers subsequently learn his desire for Bruce to hang up the cape isn't rooted in fatherly concern for his son. Instead, his reasons stem from pure selfishness. Thomas Wayne wants the mantle of the Bat all to himself.
Readers learn as much this issue, the conclusion of "Knightmares," as the elder Wayne spars against Bane. The two men are allies in Bane's far-reaching efforts against the Dark Knight because both want to see the end of the Batman. Their reasons are far different, however. Bane wants to see the Bat broken, but Thomas wants to be the Bat.
Just as Batman's common enemies get the upper hand at different moments of their Bane versus Wayne bout, so do each believe they have the upper hand in their alliance. Bane believes Thomas is just another Batman who can be crushed. Thomas, conversely, thinks Bane only succeeded because that Batman was weakened by the loss of his true father.
Flashpoint's Batman - Friend or Foe?
Curiously, neither wants to see Batman dead. If they had, either could have easily killed him at any point during the "Knightmares" arc. No, Bane just wants to see Batman emotionally destitute, while Thomas really doesn't seem concerned with Bruce's state, as long as he gives up his role as the Dark Knight. Their sparring session shows the two hardened villains have forged only a fragile alliance, at best. Whether they can agree on how to achieve their common goal might play a part in Batman's ultimate victory.
After all, Thomas Wayne already lost his son once. Could he bear to watch, and participate, in Bane's quest to emotionally break the adult son he never had? And even if Bane succeeded in his quest, would he simply allow Thomas Wayne to assume the same role of the man he just broke? Might Thomas figure out -- as the Penguin already has -- that Batman could be his greatest ally against Bane?
As most of Bane's foot soldiers have been traditional Batman villains, Thomas Wayne has arguably been Bane's most surprising ally. Because of that, he may be the most likely to ultimately turn against Bane. With the Penguin now on Batman's side -- at least for the time being -- perhaps Batman is passively amassing his own army against Bane's machinations.
"Knightmares" might be over, but Batman's struggle against Bane continues in Batman #70, on sale May 1.