Published by DC Comics in 1989, The Fatal Wish is a standalone story which originally appeared in issue #430 of Batman. Written by Jim Starlin and illustrated by Jim Aparo, the story sees the Caped Crusader attempt to apprehend a gunman who is killing Gotham citizens.
During the course of the story, Bruce Wayne recalls the events that led up to the death of his parents. He also remembers a ‘wish’ he made, which continues to haunt him all these years later.
What happens in Batman: The Fatal Wish?
Tim Conrad is fired from his job at a banking firm. In retaliation, an unhinged Conrad takes a rifle to the roof of his former employer and begins shooting Gotham citizens at random.
Five people are killed, three are injured and one woman is trapped – fearful of getting shot. So, the Batman is called in to aid the police in disabling the shooter.
Batman enters the building, to apprehend Conrad. As he makes his way towards the roof, he recalls the events surrounding his parents’ death – a time when his father was under similar stress to Conrad.
He remembers the pressure his father was under at the time – when it seemed as if the Waynes could lose their fortune – and how that pressure caused his father to lash out, striking Bruce in the process. Batman also recalls how he responded, by telling his mother he ‘wished’ his father was dead.
As Batman continues to make his way to the roof, his memories play out further. He remembers his dad’s apology, followed by a family trip to the cinema.
As Batman reaches the roof, his mind revisits the moment the Wayne family left the cinema. He remembers what happened next, as he watched his parents gunned down in the street.
Snapping back to the present moment, and keen not to see anyone else die in such a senseless way, Batman is spurred on to disarm Conrad. The pair fight, and it appears as if Batman may have succeeded in his task.
But when Conrad moves into open space, a police officer seizes the opportunity to take him out for good. As Batman watches on, Conrad is killed, leaving the Caped Crusader feeling helpless.
It is clear Batman feels immense guilt over Conrad’s death and the death of his own parents. If only he hadn’t made a wish… perhaps they would still be alive.
Is Batman: The Fatal Wish worth a read?
The death of the Waynes has been told and re-told many times over the years. As a general rule of thumb the outcome remains the same, but there are slight variations and embellishments here and there.
What makes The Fatal Wish interesting is that it sets up two ways in which Bruce/Batman blames himself for their death.
The first is down to Bruce uttering the phrase “I wish he was dead”. Although the reader knows Bruce didn’t actually wish death on his father, it is clear these words have come back to haunt him time and time again. And they are words that everyone can understand.
How many times have you said something you regretted? How many times have you wished you could take it back?
The story plays into the idea that we should all choose our words more carefully. If we don’t, we might live to regret them.
The second way in which The Fatal Wish handles guilt, is connected to the cinema trip.
Bruce’s father felt bad about lashing out at his son, so suggested a family night out to the movies. He knew that Bruce wanted to watch a specific film, and that seeing it would help smooth over his apology.
It was his father’s suggestion they watch the film, but Bruce doesn’t see it that way. He knows that going to the cinema was his dad’s way of making Bruce happy, so he blames himself for his family being in the city that fateful night.
So, is this story worth a read? Heck, yes.
All of the above is packed into a tale which also finds time to cram in plenty of action. All in all, that’s pretty good going for a story that only runs a mere 22 pages in length!
The Fatal Wish is a classic Batman tale which manages to add something to the mythology. The writing is strong, the artwork is gorgeous – in short, what’s not to like?
Has Batman: The Fatal Wish been adapted for film?
The Fatal Wish has not been adapted for film, however, the events surrounding the death of the Waynes has appeared in multiple live-action and animated adaptations.
If you want to watch the Waynes die (because you’re morbid like that) then check out Batman Begins (2005), which features the death of the Waynes AND also sees Bruce blame himself for the incident.
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