Ever since the start of the “Knightmares” story arc Tom King’s Batman run has been on an odd wave of momentum. Over the course of these 13 issues there have been a few strong comics that match the high quality of the first 60 issues of King’s Batman run. Unfortunately those comics have not been able to outweigh all the questionable issues that have gone around in circles. There has been very little progression in this story of Bane breaking Batman. It still has not felt as though we’ve moved very far since Batman #60. That has been the case with this new arc involving Bruce Wayne spending time with the Flashpoint Thomas Wayne. Now that we’ve reached the final issue of this arc that leads into the big “City of Bane” event will things start to turn around? Let’s find out with Batman #74.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman and Flashpoint Batman work together to take down the League of Assassin’s Death squad and their leader, Shaddad the Unbroken. After defeating them Flashpoint Batman ties a knocked out Shaddad to one of their horses so they can bring him along for the ride.
While he does that Flashpoint Batman talks about a book, named Afanesyev, about animals stuck in a pit that he read to Bruce when he was a kid. (It’s the book that both Bruce Wayne and KGBeast where read to by their respective fathers as kids back in Batman #57.) Flashpoint Batman talks about how weird the book was and how Bruce kept asking to have it read to him over and over again even though the ending was never different.
As they ride through the desert Flashpoint Batman talks about how quiet and shy Bruce was as a kid. Bruce asks Flashpoint Thomas Wayne if he was disappointed in him. Flashpoint Thomas says he wasn’t as he wants Bruce to be his own man.
A little later during a quick break to drink water at an oasis Flashpoint Thomas talks about how Martha would never let Bruce just cry until he got tired. He mentions again how Bruce wanted to be read the story about the animals in the pit over and over again.
Once nightfall hits they reach a giant hole where the Nain Pit is at. Flashpoint Thomas reveals he discovered the Nain Pit’s location when the Ra’s Al Ghul of his universe used it to revive the daughter Flashpoint Batman killed. In the process Flashpoint Thomas reveals they will use Shaddad as a sacrifice to the Nain Pit to bring Martha back to life so they can be a family again.
While they climb down the to the pit Flashpoint Thomas once again states his annoyance with the story Bruce liked as a kid. He goes on to say that Martha wanted their son to see the horrors so he could dream of a better world.
When they reach the bottom where Nain Pit is Flashpoint Thomas apologizes for not taking away his attachment to the book. He relates that to Bruce’s addiction to being Batman and how he needed to be broken in order to heal. Flashpoint Thomas states now they can be a family that lives without the cape.
Bruce finally talks and says the reason he kept wanting to hear the story over and over again is because he couldn’t give up the hope that the ending would be different.
Bruce then punches Flashpoint Thomas to kick off a fight between the two Batmen. They fight all over the cave until Bruce gains the advantage and punches Flashpoint Thomas on top of Martha’s casket.
Flashpoint Thomas is shocked when he sees inside the now broken casket that it is now just filled with rocks. Bruce reveals that one night while Flashpoint Thomas was asleep he buried his mother somewhere in the desert where she won’t ever be found. Bruce admits he isn’t sure if he can beat Flashpoint Thomas but knows that he can fight to the point neither one of them leaves the pit.
Both Batmen continue fighting with Flashpoint Thomas saying that Bruce is broken and can’t be Batman anymore. At the same time, Bruce says that the truth is his parents are dead.
The next morning a hand of Batman appears to have appears to have climbed out of the pit. It is not shown which Batman climb out. End of issue.
The Good: Just like the “Knightmares” arc “The Fall and the Fallen” has been such a frustrating story arc to follow. It is just not clicking in the way it should this deep into Tom King’s run on Batman. Batman #74 attempts to fix some of the issues of these last two arcs. And to King’s credit he does some good things with this issue. Unfortunately they are not enough to overcome the problems that have plagued the last few months of storytelling in this series.
The one part in “The Fall and the Fallen” that King does well in executing was continuing the theme of the hope Bruce Wayne cannot let go off. Whether it is believing that he can be happy by marrying Selina Kyle or continue being Batman, Bruce cannot let go of his hope. That is a core piece of what makes Bruce the person he is. No matter how dark things get Bruce will always hope for a happy ending, even if it is not for himself.
Keeping this a consistent part of Bruce’s arc even as everyone around him is telling him to stop or is trying to break him is the right move. Heading into “City of Bane” Bruce will need to keep this sense of hope as he is back to being a solo hero. There won’t be a Batman Family to have his back at the beginning of the story. It will just be him against the army Bane has assembled. That creates intrigue in how Batman will rally as “City of Bane” will be an intense story.
It was also good to see how Bruce was able to show that he cannot be easily manipulated by an alternate version of his father. Even though there will always be a part of Bruce that wants his parents back he knows that there is no going back. Bruce admitting this made the moment where he revealed that he was just biding his time a better payoff for his character. He knew he was at a complete disadvantage against Flashpoint Batman that one wrong move would mean the end for him. By waiting for the perfect moment to strike we see that Bruce is starting to make decisions with a clear mind.
Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire once again delivered artwork that lifted up the entire story. The pencils, inking and coloring for Batman #74 captured the tone of the setting that both Bruce and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne were in. This wasn’t the typical style we expect from a Janin drawn book. The adjustments made for a much more intimate issue as we were spending time with just Bruce and Flashpoint Thomas. This matched the tone for what King was trying to accomplish with his story.
The Bad: The biggest problem for Batman #74 continues to be the way Flashpoint Thomas Wayne is portrayed. Everything about the arc Flashpoint Batman is does not feel deserved. This is not the payoff that King has been building towards for the character. The fact is there has been no building towards this goal of Flashpoint Batman trying to reunite his family.
This is extremely disappointing because there was a simple addition King could’ve made to Flashpoint Batman’s character arc that would’ve explained everything. That missing explanation is how Flashpoint Batman ended up in the main DC Universe. If King had Flashpoint Batman explain how when Flashpoint Universe was wiped out at the end of “The Button” and he appeared in this DC Universe where his son was alive changed his goal. That explanation would’ve been all that was needed to fully understand why Flashpoint Batman teamed up with Bane to break Bruce.
But the fact is that we don’t get that explanation at all. Instead the connection King tries to draw is with the story that Bruce had his father read to him to him as a child. This call back to this fairytale we saw unfold in Batman #57 does nothing to add to the story we are seeing unfold. The particular problem with choosing to call back to that fairytale was the fact King just beat us over the head with how important this story was throughout Batman #74. It got to the point that you just want the two versions of Batman to fight just so we don’t have to get told about the fairytale again.
This overuse of the fairytale is the summary of how King has spent way too many of the last fourteen issues going around in circles. Because of that King has had to make up for it by hotshotting the character arc for Flashpoint Batman. That is at least how the entire “The Fall and the Fallen” has read up to this point. In the process King just makes Flashpoint Batman come across as an unnecessary character in this war between Batman and Bane. Much of the story leading us into “City of Bane” could’ve gone down the same without Flashpoint Batman’s involvement. The failure in making the character come across as important makes this arc have a filler tone to it.
It also does not help that King does absolutely nothing to make the League of Assassins newly introduced Death squad come across as a major threat. Batman #74’s opening is a perfect summary of how the League of Assassins were just throw away characters. The only use they had to the story is to give something for Batman to punch between all the dialogue heavy scenes in the middle of the desert.
This is such a shame because King could’ve added to this story by making Shaddad the Unbroken as a final boss level threat. He should’ve been the guy guarding the Nain Pit that both Bruce and Flashpoint Thomas had to team-up to defeat before their final battle against each other. At least then there would’ve been a perception that it was incredibly tough for Batman to reach the Nain Pit. Instead King just made Ra’s Al Ghul look like a negligent leader for leaving an important location highly unprotected and the League of Assassins nothing more than useless grunts.
Overall: Batman #74 was a summary of all the problems that “The Fall and the Fallen” had with giving “The City of Bane” event a strong lead. All those problems center around how Flashpoint Batman’s character arc went. Tom King just never made the direction he took Flashpoint Batman on something that was rewarding. Fortunately Bruce Wayne’s part in this story along with Mikel Janin and Jordie Bellaire’s artwork lifted the story up enough so Batman #74 didn’t completely drop the ball as we enter “The City of Bane.”
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