[Spoilers for Batman #43]
Bruce Wayne's memory and experiences as Batman are gone.
In this week's Batman #43, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo, readers found out that Bruce Wayne has completely lost any memory of losing his parents, training to be a vigilante, or ever being Batman.
"What happened is that he died," Alfred Pennyworth said to Clark Kent in Batman #43. "After his fight with the Joker, he was dead for hours. His heart stopped. His brain died. But then he was… healed."
The healing is assumed by Alfred and Clark to be the result of dionesium, which was present within the cave where he died. (In the "Endgame" storyline, the Joker claimed that the use of dionesium had kept him young for generations, making him virtually immortal — and the presence of dionesium was central to the plot of the final battle in the cave.)
In Batman #43, Alfred explains that he told Bruce about the death of his parents and his work at Wayne Enterprises, but before he got the chance to tell him about his life as Batman, Bruce said he'd "heard enough."
"I don't know what this accident did to me," Bruce told Alfred during a flashback in Batman #43, "but I'm not the person you're describing."
Bruce Wayne was presumed dead by readers after Batman #40, particularly when the title's creative team put someone new in the role of Batman — Jim Gordon, who wears a mechanized suit to fight crime as the all-new Batman.
Yet in #41 and #42, Bruce Wayne was shown to be alive, sporting a beard, working with underprivileged teens in a rec center, and in a relationship with Julie Madison.
Now, in Batman #43, it's been revealed that the reason for Bruce Wayne's new role as a plain-clothed, scruffy-looking do-gooder is because his memories were literally erased from his mind — confirmed by a brain scan viewed by Clark Kent and Alfred. As Alfred pointed out, that means "Bruce Wayne has no combat skills. No detection skills. Every bit of his 15 years of training and experience as Batman are gone."
Alfred tried to convince Clark that Bruce shouldn't be told about his role as Batman — that a Bruce Wayne free of Batman is a happier, freer Bruce Wayne. "You've seen his mind. He can never be Batman again. Leave him. The good he's already done at the Fox [recreation] center…you should see him. He's happy."
"Let him live, Mr. Kent," Alfred concluded to Clark. "Consign the rest to the furnace. Please…let someone else suffer for this cursed city."
On Monday, Snyder told Newsarama that although Jim Gordon is in the role of Batman during the current storyline, "the beating heart of it is also Bruce."
"At this point, having done the stuff that we've done on the book already," Snyder said, "when you come across an idea that's exciting to you but also hasn't been tried in the mythology, then you have to do it."
Batman #43 also forwarded Jim Gordon's investigation into the new villain Mr. Bloom, indicating that something from the past created the villain (probably the flashback story being told in the Snyder-Brian Azzarello-penned Batman #44).
At the end of the issue — after a scene with Gordon/Batman fighting bad guys and sharks (yes! sharks! with horns!) — things didn't look good for Jim Gordon. Not only was he trapped and about to burn to death, but Julia Pennyworth (who was assisting him) had been knocked out.
And Duke Thomas is now also involved in the mystery of Mr. Bloom. At the beginning of Batman #43, Jim Gordon gave bearded Bruce Wayne one of the seeds from Mr. Bloom — seeds that apparently give people superpowers when ingested. Jim was hoping Bruce would help him with the investigation — a conversation Duke seems to have overheard.
When Bruce puts the seed aside in his office and leaves the rec center that night, Duke sneaks into his office and takes the seed. Is Duke Thomas effectively playing the role of Robin within the Batman series, as well as his starring role in We Are Robin?
And does the rest of the Bat-family know about what's happened to Bruce? Apparently, they do. Snyder told Newsarama that he won't deal with those relationships in Batman, but they'll show up in "a run in Detective Comics coming" [which probably refers to Peter Tomasi's upcoming run], and scenes within Robin Son of Batman, Grayson and other Bat-books.
Readers of Batman #43 also got a good look — on the final page — at the creepy, weed-inspired design of Mr. Bloom, who isn't as innocent as his flowered mask would indicate. The final page had him easily killing all Penguin's henchmen with his own hands while also skewering Penguin himself.