Of all the grave injuries Batman has endured over the years in his constant vigilance defending Gotham City and the DC Universe, his most infamous injury is still the time the supervillain Bane fractured the Dark Knight’s back. Bound to a wheelchair for a time following the injury, the infamous “Knightfall” crossover saw Bruce Wayne replaced as Gotham’s defender by the zealous warrior Azrael before eventually reclaiming the mantle of Batman from his unstable successor and resuming his never-ending crusade against crime.
But while the story of Batman’s broken back is relatively well known, the story of his unusual recovery from such a grievous injury is not.
In the months leading up to their fateful fight, Bane had systematically worn Batman down by freeing the inmates of Arkham Asylum all at once, and Batman pushed himself beyond his normal limits to subdue them all once again. Quietly observing the Dark Knight for weeks, Bane deduced his foe’s true identity and confronted Batman when he was absolutely exhausted back in Wayne Manor, culminating in a one-sided fight within the Batcave. In 1993’s Batman #497 by Doug Moench, Jim Aparo and Dick Giordano, Bane emerged triumphant by smashing Batman across his knee and breaking his spine before discarding him on the streets of Gotham to proclaim himself its new ruler.
Miraculously, Bruce survived the injury and was recovered by Alfred Pennyworth and Tim Drake. After Bruce appointed Azrale his successor, he and Alfred left Gotham, with Bruce falling in love with his physical therapist Doctor Shondra Kinsolving.
Bruce met Shondra shortly before “Knightall” in 1992’s Batman #488, by Moench and Aparo, where he sought her out when he was starting to feel the physical toll of Bane’s relentless attack. Wayne grew quite close to her, and the pair even had a brief romance.
After Shondra is kidnapped by her evil brother Asp to use her secret telekinetic powers to embark on a killing spree, Bruce and Alfred set out on a globe-trotting mission to find her and Tim’s father Jack Drake. The search leads them to the United Kingdom, where Asp has Shondra controlled by drugs which also augment her powers. In the resulting confrontation, Shondra defeats her brother and manages to heal Bruce’s spine but at the cost of her own mind, resulting in a heartbroken Bruce putting her in a mental institution.
Following his physical recovery, Bruce relearns how to move without the use of a wheelchair and decides to retrain himself to become Batman again after an increasingly unstable Azrael warns him never to return to Gotham again. Bruce travels to Asia and trains under the martial arts assassin Lady Shiva, which concludes with a battle against a series of expert martial artists. Victorious, Bruce secretly returns to Gotham and reunites with Robin and Nightwing to take down Azrael for good, using his instability against him in a battle spanning the entire city before its conclusion in the Batcave as a direct parallel to Batman’s previous defeat at the hands of Bane.
Even within the bounds of superhero comic books, the idea of Bruce Wayne’s physical therapist conveniently harboring powerful telekinetic abilities and an evil brother wanting to use them for himself does require a significant suspension of disbelief. However, in the end, it did provide an efficient way for Bruce to get back in action as Batman fairly quickly.
Since then, Shondra Kinsolving has since largely been forgotten, though a passing reference from Oracle during Batman: Hush storyline indicates that the physical therapist had since recovered from her mental trauma, though her current whereabouts and activities — and whether she remembers Bruce Wayne is Batman — are unknown.
The story of Bane breaking Batman's back is one of DC's most famous fights, but the way that the Dark Knight recovered is much stranger.