This week’s Batman #77 saw the death of a major Batman family character, at the hands of one of his most formidable villains. The fault fell squarely on the shoulder of another major member of the Batfamily.
Or, at least, their apparent death, because this is comics, after all, and the work of Tom King and his collaborators has taken a decided turn towards the dream-like in these late-game Batman arcs. But let’s dig in to exactly what happened.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Batman #77.]
With #77, we’re fully in the swing of King’s final arc on the Batman series, “City of Bane,” in which the eponymous villain has teamed up with Thomas Wayne — that is, Bruce Wayne’s dad from a dead alternate universe in which Bruce was killed in the alley and his father became Batman and his mother became the Joker — to take control of Gotham City and rule it with an iron fist.
In order to keep pesky world-class vigilantes from trying to disrupt this operation, Bane and Thomas have a hostage that they’ve promised to kill if any superhero sets a single foot in Gotham. That is, the one character whose life no member of the Batfamily would toy with: Alfred.
At least, until Batman #77, when Bruce Wayne’s most stubborn and hot-headed child, Damian Wayne, decided that he would personally take the fight to Gotham’s new Batman on his own.
And, to make a long story short, Damian’s fight with his alternate universe grandpa doesn’t go as well as he’d hoped. Thomas Wayne captures Robin and takes him to Wayne Manor. Then, in some of the final pages of the issue, the villains force Damian to watch as Bane snaps Alfred’s neck, all while the Batfamily’s loyal surrogate father figure begs the villain to at least not do it in front of his youngest surrogate child.
As Thomas makes clear on the page following Alfred’s demise, Damian will now take his place as the hostage preventing the rest of the Batfamily from saving Gotham.
Where’s the real Batman in all of this? Physically and mentally recovering from having his own physical and mental deal rocked off its axis by his alternate universe dad. How will he react to the news of his son’s predicament and his surrogate father’s death? Is Alfred really dead, or is this all the machinations of one villain with a mind controller under his thumb and another who knows a bunch of Lazarus Pit locations?
We’ll find out in September, with the next few issues of Batman.