WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash #65
Joshua Williamson and Rafa Sandoval have brought "The Price" crossover to an end with The Flash #65, and they may just have ended Bruce Wayne aka. Batman and Barry's partnership right along with it. What started as the detective duo racing against time to stop Gotham Girl from destroying herself and others has wound up creating an irreparable fissure in the age-old DC Comics friendship, primarily because Batman's mentorship of Gotham Girl hits too close to home for Flash in the wake of Heroes in Crisis.
For months now, Barry Allen has been struggling with his abilities as a teacher after fighting with the younger Wallace, who left town to join Teen Titans, and sending the older Wally to Sanctuary in order to recover from his demons. That insecurity was compounded into crushing grief when he and Iris learned that Wally had been killed in a massacre there, something that Barry understandably blamed himself for. Similarly, Bruce was experiencing his own crisis while dealing with one of the newest members of the Bat family, Claire Clover. After having lost countless friends and allies in the course of their crime-fighting duties, Batman felt the weight of Gotham Girl's life on his shoulders much like Flash felt haunted by his own protégé's death.
But despite being on the same page while trying to save Claire from the mysteriously gifted toxin she dosed herself with, a poison that already killed her brother in the crossover's previous issue, the success of their endeavor becomes the impetus for their break up in The Fash #65. Bruce immediately prepares to take Gotham Girl back to the Batcave to recover, but Iris steps in with a slap and a tragic reminder: "All you've done is create more danger. Put other kids in the line of fire." Barry isn't immune to her ire either, as she claims he's enabling Batman by letting him take Claire back to a life of attempted heroism.
Whether it is Iris' words that trigger Barry's self-reflection or else his own guilt over Wally's fate, he can no longer turn a blind eye to Bruce and his mission to help Gotham Girl become a hero in her own right. Introducing new sidekicks has been a staple of Bruce's life for as long as Batman has been around, and he never gives up regardless of the trauma both he and his extended family members suffer at the hands of villains. Claire, for example, was already warped by Psycho Pirate and grieving her brother Henry's death prior to his zombified resurrection and her own as-yet-unclear brainwashing in this crossover. So who is right? Bruce, who argues that the best thing he can do is guide someone who plans to become a hero with or without his help? Or Barry, who now believes they're saving lives at the expense of their own?
That's what "The Price" really comes down to: the price that heroes pay in order to protect their loved ones. But when their loved ones are paying the price too - either because they've been purposely brought into the world of capes and masks like Wally and Claire, or because they must carry the burden of loss as bystanders like Iris - then who is really winning? Though that's the question that's eating away at Barry internally, he chooses instead to redirect his pain outward and bring up all the resentment he's been withholding from Bruce. "The greatest trick the Batman ever pulled was making people think he always has a plan," the Scarlet Speedster spits out, obliquely referring to the detective's inability to prevent the massacre at Sanctuary or save any of their friends during Tom King's Heroes in Crisis.
Naturally, this argument devolves into a trading of insults and shortcomings between the two heroes. Their emotions are too raw from their recent losses for them to listen to reason, and they hit every possible weak point from dead Robins to Wally being forgotten after Flashpoint. Barry exits the premises before giving into the temptation to hit Bruce a hundred times before the other man could even get in one punch, but he does leave his ex-friend with one last zinger: "I'm not you."
Perhaps if they had battled things out physically, the emotional wounds from their words could have healed in the process. Instead, fans must wait to see how this vast divide will be handled in future issues of Batman and The Flash - not to mention what will happen when they cross paths in Justice League or during the next big event. The sudden loss of their partnership is sure to add to their burdens, especially when they also currently share the pain of crumbling romantic relationships due to their crime-fighting lifestyles. With such parallel stories, it's ironic that their worldviews are too different to allow for empathy.
The Flash #65 is available now from DC Comics.