Batman has been such an odd title as of late. Tom King has had an incredible run that has included some truly memorable moments. As we learned the further we get into King’s run it has become more and more clear all those moments have been part of Bane’s plans to break Batman mentally and physically. That clarity has been fully confirmed with how Bane literally broke Batman in their latest face-to-face confrontation inside the Wayne Mansion. Unfortunately the way King executed the story fell flat in many ways. Not the least of which is the narrative choice King decided to take with how this latest story arc has gone down. Now I’m hoping these last few issues have just been a case of experimentation that did not work as intended. Let’s find out how things go now that Bruce Wayne has been left broken by Bane with Batman #73.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In the middle of a desert Flashpoint Batman is riding a horse with Bruce Wayne’s unconscious body is tied on as cargo and a casket being dragged as well. While riding through the desert Flashpoint Batman is signing a song.
Eventually Flashpoint Batman stops and builds a campfire to sleep for the night.
The next morning Flashpoint Batman is woken up by League of Assassin ninjas. Flashpoint Batman, while continuing to sing the song from last night, easily defeats all the League of Assassin ninjas.
Sometime later Flashpoint Batman continues to ride through the desert with Bruce and the casket carried as cargo. He does that until it gets dark.
Later in the night Bruce suddenly wakes up screaming “BANE!” When Bruce reacts by fighting him, Flashpoint Batman tells Bruce to calm down and remember what he taught him about it being okay to be scared. Flashpoint Batman eventually knocks Bruce down with a punch.
Flashpoint Batman then reveals that Bruce was defeated and had his body and soul broken by Bane. He continues to say that it is now time for Bruce to rebuild himself. Flashpoint Batman then hugs Bruce and says “My little boy, you don’t have to worry anymore. About anything. Your father’s got you.”
The next morning, while traveling through the desert, Flashpoint Batman tells Bruce that he did his best to put Bruce’s spine back together. Flashpoint Batman says that Bruce is still not fully capable of thinking or walking since he is still suffering from the drugs used during surgery. He then says that Bruce will understand everything, including why they have a coffin with them, once the drugs effects wear off.
When they final rest for the night Bruce wants to talk about why Flashpoint Batman stood to the side while Bane broke him. Flashpoint Batman asks Bruce if he wants to punch him. Bruce says he does, which is an answer Flashpoint Batman likes.
The next morning Bruce wakes up to Flashpoint Batman already having defeated several League of Assassin ninjas.
As they ride through the desert Bruce finally understands they are in Khadym where it is rumored that the Nain Pit is located. Bruce further figures out that Ra’s has sent the Death ninjas of the League of Assassins to stop them from getting their. He then realizes the coffin contains the remains of his mother. Flashpoint Batman says they’ve both been through a lot and deserve to go home as a family.
Bruce asks Flashpoint Batman where “it” is. Flashpoint Batman say “it” is in the saddlebag. Bruce reaches into the saddlebag and pulls out his Batman cowl.
After putting on his Batman cowl Bruce admits that he forsook his life and surrendered himself to a vow. When he questions where that led him Flashpoint Batman that Bruce is a good person and it is time for his pain to end. End of issue.
The Good: Much like previous issues Batman #73 just does not quite hit the mark Tom King is looking to connect with. There are particular narrative choices that King makes that would’ve been much better if prior development led into how Flashpoint Batman acted. But since we didn’t those narrative choices fall flat not because there wasn’t time to develop it. Instead it is because of how much time was wasted in recent issues that the payoff in Batman #73 fails to deliver.
Not everything about Batman #73 is bad. There are actually some strong plot points that King hits that helps drive the narrative forward. In particular, everything that King does with Bruce Wayne is well handled. At this point Bruce’s mental, physical and soul have been broken by Bane. Seeing how Bruce has gotten to this point thanks to Bane has been the strength of King’s overarching narrative.
That is best seen with how Bruce acts throughout the course of Batman #73. Seeing Bruce lash out at Flashpoint Batman made it clear that the point he woke up he felt he wasn’t done fighting. In Bruce’s mind he was still in the same fight with Bane at Wayne Manor. This gave greater impact when Flashpoint Batman knocked Bruce on his ass to get him to calm down. It is exactly what Bruce needed to get him out of the state of fighting for his life that he was in during the fight with Bane. It was all an effective way to show the state of mind Bruce was in during his fight with Bane all in one page.
This development was made better by how King did not stick to one character beat for too long. Scenes in Batman #73 were between one to three pages. Keeping scenes short allowed this time Bruce was spending with Flashpoint Batman was an actual journey. Having that passage of time is always important in these type of stories where characters are traveling to a place that is supposed to be a secret from the entire world.
Having that passage of time made how Bruce allowed himself to be led to the Nain Pit by Flashpoint Batman an interesting character move. Through his reactions to how their conversation went Bruce clearly understands he is not in a position of power. Flashpoint Batman holds all the cards right now and Bruce can only keep moving on to the Nain Pit in order to buy himself time. In doing so, King is able to subtly spotlight Bruce’s acting chops as he needs to play along at the moment.
All of this character work for Bruce Wayne was made better by how Mikel Janin drew the entire issue. It was great to have Janin draw an entire issue instead of sharing the page count with another artist. This gave Janin full control to have a clear flow in his artwork as we see Bruce’s attitude change throughout the issue. He also did an effective job balancing how Flashpoint Batman switched from badass fighter against the League of Assassins to caring father when talking with Bruce.
The desert setting also help give Batman #73 a different tone that Janin and Jordie Bellaire used effectively to give a different color palette. The color palette helped further how Bruce was in a no escape scenario that he needed to turn around.
The Bad: Where Batman #73 falls apart is with how Flashpoint Thomas Wayne was used. This issue does nothing to payoff the development that King has given Flashpoint Batman. Flashpoint Batman has been such an enigma since being shown to be part of Bane’s plot to break Bruce that we don’t really understand the character yet. Even when King tries to give Flashpoint Batman a meaningful piece of dialogue or action it does not work with what we have seen of the character thus far.
This all falls on the fact that Flashpoint Batman has been mostly a background character up until Batman #73. The only issue where King actually spent some time developing Flashpoint Batman was in Batman #69, when the “Knightmares” arc wrapped up. Not having more time spent developing Flashpoint Batman and what his own plans in teaming up with Bane make him a mysterious character just to have a mysterious character in play.
This made the whole reveal that Flashpoint Batman is taking Bruce to resurrect Martha Wayne fall completely flat. There was never a hint that Flashpoint Batman was motivated to reunite his family. The only thing we ever learned was, in Batman #69, that Flashpoint Thomas Wayne wanted Bruce to stop being Batman. He wanted his son to move on from that. There was never a hint in that dialogue that he also wanted to resurrect Martha.
Even in the Flashpoint continuity we never saw this version of Thomas Wayne motivated by bringing his family back. Once Flashpoint Thomas became Batman he understood there was no looking back. That is a message that Flashpoint Thomas Wayne tried to get across to his son during “The Button” crossover.
What makes this even more disappointing is the fact that this plot point doesn’t fall flat because King didn’t have time to develop this sub-plot. King has had more than enough time since Flashpoint Batman appeared in Batman #50 to develop the character to make this a satisfying reveal. But since King wasted so much time going around in circles during the “Knightmares” arc he caused himself to run out of valuable page space that should’ve been dedicated to slowly develop Flashpoint Batman’s character arc.
And much like the inner monologue featured in Batman #72, it felt like a completely out of character choice to have Flashpoint Batman break out in song while riding through the desert. Having the character suddenly start singing for portions of Batman #73 came across as out of character. There was never a hint that this version of Thomas Wayne was music oriented or held a specific song close to his heart. It’s just an out of left field narrative choice that did nothing to add to who Flashpoint Batman was.
The inclusion of the League of Assassins was another disappointing part in this issue. King has yet to make Ra’s Al Ghul or the League of Assassins a key part of his run. With Flashpoint Batman going after one of League of Assassins secret pits this was a chance to give Ra’s so strong character development. Even quick panels showing Ra’s unhappiness with how close Bruce and Flashpoint Batman were to the Nain Pit would’ve added tension to the journey both characters are on. But instead of adding tension King just treats the League of Assassins as nothing more than cannon fodder to give Batman #73 an occasional action scene in between all the talking.
Overall: Batman #73 was an improvement over recent issues in Tom King’s run. Unfortunately the strong character work for Bruce Wayne was overshadowed by how poorly Flashpoint Batman has been developed. The revelation that closed out Batman #73 only further detracts from what King is trying to accomplish with this “The Fall and the Fallen” arc. Luckily King had Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire’s fantastic artwork to lift up the quality of the story in this issue.
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