Before we get started, it’s necessary to warn you that this review is not spoiler free. It’s impossible to appreciate what writer Scott Snyder has done with the character in his incredible run without digging into exactly what he’s doing.
When Snyder first killed Bruce and brought Jim Gordon in to succeed him, it seemed like the death he wanted for Batman was literal. But in the ensuing year and in this 50th issue of the New 52 Batman, it’s clear that the death he intended was always figurative.
Jim Gordon’s struggle to take up the Dark Knight’s mantle has been about questioning what Batman means. Much like the mysterious Mr. Bloom intended with Gotham itself, Snyder burns it all down here. Every seeming victory for Bruce or Jim is also accompanied by the knowledge that what they do means nothing, that it will destroy them. When Bruce makes his triumphant return and saves Jim, it’s immediately followed by the story of young Robin, Duke Thomas’s realization that everything he does to save the city destroys his real life. When the mere sight of the real Batman’s return causes the corrupted citizens of Gotham to remove Bloom’s seeds, Jim follows that moment of inspiration by saying that Batman is a fantasy. And when the issue ends with both Batmen agreeing that their true meaning lies in inspiring normal Gothamites to save themselves, they know that providing that service means Bruce Wayne must repeatedly sacrifice everything to the cause, because in truth he died the same day as his parents.
In short, Snyder makes him mean everything and nothing in order to force the reader to ask why the Batman myth matters so much. Because the only way Batman can continue is for Bruce Wayne to repeatedly kill himself.
It’s unclear what he’s going to do now after his latest figurative/kind of literal suicide and, unfortunately, Snyder won’t be writing his next chapter. When the new arc starts in May’s 52nd issue, James Tynion IV will take over as Snyder moves onto one of the other Batman titles. While Tynion has co-written sections of Snyder’s run (including Zero Year and Endgame), it can’t help but feel like this may be the end of one of the book’s greatest eras. But maybe not. After all, if there’s anything Batman is as good at as death, it’s rebirth.