Batman #73 – Tom King, Writer; Mikel Janin, Artist; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Corrina: Thomas Wayne Is Cray-Cray
Ray: Over the last six months, Tom King’s Batman run has felt less like a cohesive run and more like a narrative experiment – with each issue dramatically shifting locations and themes to the point it often became confusing and frustrating. When it doesn’t work, it feels annoyingly literate. When it does work, like this issue, it’s fascinating. This issue is essentially a two-man play between Batmen – Bruce Wayne, and his dimension-hopping father Thomas. Thomas Wayne was a hero in the Flashpoint universe and seemed to die one in both that event and in “The Button,” but you can’t keep a Batman down and what’s come back is distinctly less stable. Thomas has made a pact with Bane with the understanding that he can save Bruce from the life he’s chosen, and now Thomas drags Bruce and a mysterious coffin through the desert. This issue does make some things a lot clearer, including which parts of the last few issues were real, and as a two-person play, it works very well.
Mikel Janin’s art is brilliant, shedding the dark alleyways of Gotham for a wide-open desert where release from the heat is rarely found. Thomas barely talks for the first half of the issue, singing cowboy songs and beating up some of Ra’s Al Ghul’s deadliest assassins. When Bruce finally wakes up, drug-addled and traumatized, the conversation between him and Thomas is fascinating. Thomas comes off like a cult leader, a true believer in the insane goal he’s chasing. Bruce only sees the madman who kidnapped him and is twisting his father’s memory, but he has few opportunities to resist. The reveal of exactly who is in the coffin is a bit predictable, but it makes perfect thematic sense – Thomas Wayne has been chasing twisted coping mechanisms ever since he lost his son and then his wife, and he still believes he can repair what he lost. In many ways, Thomas is a twisted reflection of what Bruce would have become if he never found his second family. It’s one of the best spotlight issues of the run.
Corrina: An alternate universe Thomas Wayne dragging Bruce Wayne through the desert while singing cowboy songs and fighting off R’as Al Ghul’s assassins is a unique choice for a Batman story, especially since the whole point is so Thomas can resurrect Martha Wayne and recreate his original family.
So, maybe if you ever enjoyed the alternate universe Thomas Wayne, you might like this. Or you could buy this for Janin’s art (and I could never fault you for that).
But this whole arc is the last thing I care about reading in a Batman story. It also cuts out the rest of the Batman family (remember that slap a few issues ago?), so the whole tale can be boiled down to Bruce and Thomas, while Damian, Duke, Tim, Babs, Jason (maybe), Cassandra, and Harper Row/Bluebird are out there already as part of Bruce’s extended family. (I gather getting Dick out of the family for this story was the reason he was shot in the head.)
Maybe they’ll all show up at the end and prove to Bruce he already has a family, and Thomas can see the fool that he was. But this has been a very long way to go to show what is patently obvious already to anyone who’s been following Batman for the last decade.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.