Fans rejoiced when it was first revealed that Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman in his celebrated animated series from 1992, was playing the live-action version of the character for the CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event. But Conroy's heel turn as Bruce Wyne has left fans shocked and disoriented. Spoilers ahead.
During the second episode of the five-part ArrowVerse storyline, the Monitor sends Kara and Kate Kane to Earth-99, to seek out the Batman, in an apparent bid to recruit one of seven major 'Paragons' from the multiverse who can help undo the damage wreaked on the multiverse by the Anti-monitor.
They find Bruce Wayne as an old man who needs the help of an exoskeleton to get around. Fans thought he was meant to be the Batman from the cartoon show, arguably the most popular incarnation of the character in any medium, which is why it is all the more shocking to learn that this Bruce has become a killer, who has not only murdered many of his enemies, but also his world's Superman.
Following a brief tussle, Bruce is electrocuted to death, the shock of his betrayal fueling Kate's character development and allowing her to become the Paragon in place of Bruce. And so ends the arc for Kevin Conroy's Bruce Wayne, who was always held up as the gold standard for how to portray the character.
Naturally, fans are more than a little ticked. After years of having Batman teased in the Arrowverse, to have Conroy reprise his iconic role, only to turn him into villain fodder for Batwoman's personal journey feels particularly unfair to the legacy of the character.
For Conroy, playing this version of Bruce meant playing a Dark Knight that has spent his whole life giving of himself to his city and the world, but who never found love in return. Bereft of personal relationships, his mind ventured into dark and dangerous territories, transforming him into the evil version of the character viewers got to see.
And so fans are left with a version of Bruce Wayne who is like the aged version of the Batman we got to see in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Someone who has gone so far off the deep end that he feels no compunction in killing, and has even taken the lives of other heroes in the pursuit of his twisted goals.
It remains to be seen whether Conroy will make another appearance in the Crisis arc, perhaps as a Bruce Wayne who is reborn as a more heroic version of the character once the crisis is averted. For now, Kate Kane has definitely replaced Bruce as the Dark Knight of the Arrowverse, the hero Gotham needs and deserves.
But shocking as the fate of the Arrowverse's Batman is, it is only a footnote in the larger narrative unfolding across the DC shows on CW. The Anti-monitor is still on his path of destruction, cutting a swathe across infinite Earths in a bid to destroy all of existence and establish the anti-matter universe instead. The only ones who can stop him are his brother the Monitor, and the team of heroes he assembles from across the multiverse to stop the impending cataclysm. This story originated at ComicBook.com.