This Batman article contains spoilers.
Tom King and Tony S. Daniel’s ambitious Batman time travel romp featuring Booster Gold comes to an end today with issue #47. Indeed, “The Gift” gives us a three-year slice of a timeline in which Bruce Wayne never became Batman, thanks to an incredibly ill-informed wedding gift from Booster. (In case you missed it, Batman and Catwoman are getting married!)
The zany time traveler from the 25th century decides to one-up all other gifts by going to the past and saving Bruce’s parents. We never see this happen in the actual story, but we can assume Booster stopped the Waynes from ever running into Joe Chill. (This is important and we’ll return to it in a bit.)
As you might expect, this completely changes the course of history. Alternate Bruce lives happily with his parents in Wayne Manor while Gotham City’s crime-infested streets continue to rot. Booster’s gift affects all of the other DC characters, too: Dick Grayson has become a more violent, gun-toting Dark Knight who regularly kills his enemies; a Jokerized Green Lantern commits suicide; Catwoman is a serial killer who doesn’t speak beyond the occasional “meow”; and the world is basically run by Ra’s al Ghul (this last bit ends up being a bit of a hanging plot thread).
Basically, things are terrible and only Booster can change things back. He hatches a plan to persuade Bruce to become Batman again by first telling him about the REAL timeline (this doesn’t go very well) and then by orchestrating a meet-cute between Bruce and Selina. Their meeting results in a bloodbath inside of Wayne Manor that forces Bruce to experience a whole new trauma that effectively turns him into a villain. Thomas and Martha Wayne, Catwoman, and Batman (Dick Grayson) all die in the disastrous encounter.
This week’s issue picks up a year later. Bruce has hatched his own plan to travel back in time and save his parents from the massacre in Wayne Manor. But he needs Booster Gold, whom he’s kept chained up in a cave below the house, to help him, though.
Booster manages to trick Bruce into going back to the fateful night in Crime Alley that he disrupted in the first place. Booster and Bruce land on a rooftop just as the Waynes are leaving a movie theater after a showing of The Mark of Zorro.
Alternate Bruce threatens to kill Booster for tricking him, as the Waynes walk towards their imminent doom below. Just as Bruce is about to pull the trigger on the time traveler, Booster Gold from the past (the one who saved Bruce’s parents in the first place) shows up and saves future Booster. Bruce shoots at Past Booster and the shots ring out in the night. This is where things get REALLY messed up and timey wimey. (Bear with me while I make sense of all this!)
It’s the sound of the gunshots that persuades the Waynes to take a shortcut through an alleyway, where Joe Chill is waiting. So King and Daniel, Gotham’s cruel puppeteers, set the infamous origin of Batman in motion while adding a tragic new detail: an alternate Bruce Wayne from the future — one who had everything, including the love of his parents — indirectly causes the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne and the birth of the Dark Knight in the past.
To make matters worse, Alternate Bruce is forced to watch from a rooftop as his parents are murdered in cold blood, this time in the correct timeline. The trauma is too much for Bruce, who turns a gun on himself and commits suicide. In the end, all of this blood is on a traumatized Booster Gold’s hands.
The final page of the issue shows a remorseful Booster recounting his adventure to Batman and Catwoman (the REAL Bat and Cat this time). Booster tells the Dark Knight all about the alternate timeline where Bruce Wayne was happy and surrounded by the love and warmth of the parents he cherished.
Masquerading as a lighthearted romp through time — the tone of this story is BRILLIANT — “The Gift” turns out to be one of the darkest versions of Batman’s origin ever put on the page. If you’ve not been following King’s run for the last 47 issues, this story is also pretty new reader friendly and basically standalone. Pick up issues #45-47 while they’re still available at your local comic book store!