What is Batman's Secret?
Tom King’s highly anticipated arc on Batman, The War Of Jokes And Riddles, is finally underway. The story is framed through a conversation between Bruce Wayne and his fiancee, Selina Kyle, as he divulges to her his greatest secret.
King has advertised this arc as a prelude to the biggest book of his career, implying that this secret will end up having major ramifications going forward, and that it will possibly influence the greater Rebirth storyline.
Given some hints and clues from previous issues of Batman, there are a few possibilities for what exactly the titular hero could have been hiding from everyone for so long. Read on, and sound off in the comments with your own guesses!
*Note: I left off the theory that would be most obvious, that Batman has something to do with the three Jokers storyline, for two reasons:
Bruce didn’t know about the three Jokers until years later, and still doesn’t know what’s going on. Additionally, Scott Snyder and Tom King have both said Geoff Johns himself will be the one to tie up the that story. Thus, it seems highly unlikely that the two storylines are interconnected.
That aside, let’s get to speculation.
Batman killed one of his villains
This one seems like the easiest answer. Whatever the secret is, Bruce describes it as, “What I had to do...during the war of jokes and riddles.” Some kind of drastic action was taken, and it’s a fair bet that it had to do with ending the carnage across Gotham.
We’re dealing with a younger, less experienced Bruce in this time, and it’s entirely possible the no killing rule wasn’t entirely solidified that early in his career. Perhaps the toll of taking a life is actually what inspired the famous dedication Batman sports for his “one rule”?
The big question with this theory is exactly who Bruce would have taken out. The two major players, Joker and Riddler, are clearly alive well into the current timeline. Maybe there’s a third foe pulling the strings, a la Batman Eternal or Hush. Whoever it is, Batman taking a life would definitely carry the kind of weight King has been hinting at, and could set up a huge story if the truth leaks out or the deceased somehow returns.
He tampered with Riddler’s mind
There’s less evidence for this, but hear me out. The Riddler has historically been a less malevolent villain, preferring gags and games to murderous schemes. However, in The War Of Jokes and Riddles, he’s a decidedly more sinister foe, slaughtering a police officer almost as soon as he hits the page.
Edward Nygma is an intimidating force not unlike the Joker, which stands in stark contrast to his history as a goofier, more relaxed, cartoonish villain. Perhaps to bring an end to the war, Batman lobotomized him, or at least significantly changed the way he thinks.
If Identity Crisis has shown anything, it’s that characters in the DCU don’t respond well to mental manipulation, and maybe the biggest book of King’s career will show what happens when Riddler solves the greatest riddle of all: what Batman did to his own mind.
He directly helped either Joker or Riddler
For this one, I tried to think of the thing that would make Batman the guiltiest. Killing was the obvious answer, but what if it was the complete opposite? What if, somehow, he was roped into actually fighting for one side, instead of against both?
This could make Bruce not only complicit in multiple deaths, but responsible for them, assuming his actions furthered Joker or Riddler’s plans, or even let one of them go.
The big question left is what could persuade him to side with one of his worst allies? My guess is that in order to save Catwoman’s life, without her knowledge, Batman had to fight for either Joker or Riddler, at Gotham’s expense.
Making that decision would definitely haunt him for the rest of his life, but it also works with what has been established of the “Bat/Cat” relationship in Rebirth.
Bruce has always tried to help Selina, no matter what, and there’s incredible story potential in Bruce sacrificing his morals not for justice, but for love. Countless stories have him cross lines for the greater good, but a more personal and morally ambiguous decision is the exact kind of story that would both fit King’s writing style and make for innovative, challenging storytelling.
Time will only tell what Batman's secret really is. Leave your guesses in the comments down below.