When looking at “City of Bane” as a whole it had such a good start and returned strong after the interlude story. Unfortunately “City of Bane” has fallen into a deeper than the hole Flashpoint Batman left Bruce Wayne in after their fight in the desert. With all that build up that fall has not been pretty. Now with only two issues left before Tom King wraps up there is still a lot that needs to be done to wrap up everything that has taken place in “City of Bane.” Can Batman #84 lead the march to a satisfying conclusion to “City of Bane”? Let’s find out with Batman #84.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Batman says he will fight Flashpoint Thomas Wayne “For Alfred.” They walk up to each other and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne is the first to throw a punch.
Sometime earlier Flashpoint Batman climbs out of the hole, leaving Bruce Wayne injured and alone in the hole. Flashpoint Batman states that by the spirits of his parents he will do everything he can to go to war against everything that causes Bruce pain.
Flashing back further Flashpoint Batman approaches Bane and asks how he can help him. Bane wonders if Flashpoint Batman is Bruce’s father. Flashpoint Batman says he is, which is why he knows what is best for Bruce.
Flashing back even further Flashpoint Batman finds Joker bleeding on the ground after his confrontation with Batman and Catwoman in a church. Flashpoint Batman wonders who told Joker that Batman and Catwoman were getting married. Joker laughs and says it was a banana.
Flashing back further than that Flashpoint Batman is shown watching Bruce and Selina going on a double date with Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
Earlier than that Flashpoint Batman is shown watching Bruce propose to Selina.
Before that happens Flashpoint Batman is shown confused on a rooftop. Reverse Flash reveals to get revenge for killing him he is showing Flashpoint Batman what happens when Bruce becomes him. Flashpoint Batman reaches out to Reverse Flash to not do this but Reverse Flash just smiles and runs off into the Speed Force.
Earlier than this Flashpoint Batman tells Bruce, who is with Flash (who is incorrectly colored to look like Reverse Flash) on the Cosmic Treadmill about to leave the Flashpoint Universe before it is wiped out, to leave the cape and cowl of Batman behind.
After Bruce and Flash leave Flashpoint Batman says that the “Wayne’s never stay down….WE RISE.”
Even before this Flashpoint Batman lies on the ground with Reverse Flash dead next to him as the original Flashpoint Universe is wiped out. As a white light consumes then it is then shown that the Flashpoint Universe survives much to Flashpoint Batman’s dismay.
Flashing back further Flashpoint Thomas speaks to the spirit of his dead son about how he told Flashpoint Martha Wayne (who became the Flashpoint Universe’s Joker) that in another world Bruce survived. Flashpoint Thomas states that Martha just laughed. After drinking some more Flashpoint Thomas says this world is useless to him, Martha, Selina and everyone else so he will kill it.
Before this Flashpoint Batman and Flashpoint Catwoman walk out of the Batcave. As they do Flashpoint Joker (Flashpoint Martha Wayne) shoots Catwoman in the gut.
Going back further in time Flashpoint Batman is shown working with Flashpoint Selina Kyle to fight crime together. During one of their adventures Flashpoint Catwoman states that they first met on a roof but Flashpoint Batman says it was a bank.
Much earlier than this Flashpoint Batman gets ready to shoot Flashpoint Catwoman in a bank. Flashpoint Catwoman tells Flashpoint Batman to shoot her but he can’t do it. He instead tells her about his son that died.
It is then shown how before this meeting Flashpoint Batman spent time defeating and killing all of his Gotham City’s worst criminals including Bane, Riddler and Mr. Freeze.
At some point Flashpoint Batman had Flashpoint Penguin surrender to him. Flashpoint Batman thanks Flashpoint Penguin and then kills him with his gun.
Even before this Flashpoint Thomas Wayne sits stunned as Flashpoint Joker has left Flashpoint Alfred Pennyworth dead in the Wayne Mansion. Flashpoint Joker says she did it because Flashpoint Alfred couldn’t find her pearls.
Before these events Flashpoint Thomas Wayne finds and beats the person who killed Flashpoint Bruce Wayne to death with a rock he found on the ground.
Flashing back further Flashpoint Thomas Wayne desperately tries to save his son as Flashpoint Martha Wayne is left so stunned she can only worry about her pearls.
Before this happened, as a young Flashpoint Bruce Wayne is sleeping, Flashpoint Thomas Wayne swears to going to war against anything that could cause his son pain.
Back in the present Flashpoint Thomas Wayne has hit Batman hard enough to leave him bleeding and on one knee in pain. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne tells Batman to stay down. End of issue. End of issue
The Good: After all the time we have spent seeing Flashpoint Thomas Wayne dominate the final issues leading up to and the majority of “City of Bane” itself we final got the issue that the character long needed. There were so many holes that Tom King needed to fill in when it came to Flashpoint Thomas Wayne that Batman #84 accomplishes in filling. But while he accomplishes this King leaves us asking: Why? Why did it take King this long to get Flashpoint Thomas Wayne that it had to take up the entire penultimate chapter of “City of Bane” when there is so much story left to tell with one issue left in his run on Batman?
Before getting into all that what I will give Tom King props on is being able to condense the motivations of why Flashpoint Thomas Wayne has done what he has done to an alternate universe version of his son. This has been what has been missing since Flashpoint Thomas Wayne appeared next to Bane at the end of Batman #50. Answering that question is what was desperately needed to get a full picture of who the character is.
Honestly, if you take Batman #84 as a standalone issue that just the origin of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, King more than succeeds. You can feel how Flashpoint Thomas Wayne has been on an emotional rollercoaster since Flashpoint Bruce Wayne was born. To Flashpoint Thomas Wayne there is nothing more important than his son and for him to die in front of him was the worst thing that could ever happen to him. Which is why he feels the pain he does that a version of his son that survived in another reality ended up repeating his same cycle of becoming Batman. That makes things even more personal even though the main DC Universe Bruce Wayne is not technically his son.
There is definitely a tragic beauty when looking at it from that angle. It is something that makes Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s motivation to team up with Bane to break Bruce out of ever wanting to be Batman understandable. There is absolutely no excusing the actions Flashpoint Thomas Wayne has taken since Reverse Flash dropped him off in the main DCU. But understanding Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s motivation is key to turning him into a good villain to add to Batman’s Rogues Gallery.
Jorge Fornes returns and brings his excellent art style to help elevate the origin story of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne that King told throughout Batman #84. Fornes artwork is what really grabs your attention as we see how as we move further into Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory that the character changes. There are so many subtle things about Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s facial reactions that helps elevate the dialogue that King writes for the character. Fornes gets you to understand where Flashpoint Thomas Wayne is coming from with each decision we see him make.
Jordie Bellaire, who has colored the issues Fornes and Mikel Janin have worked out, also deserves a lot of credit for how strong the visual storytelling is in Batman #84. Even with Fornes and Janin having different art styles Bellaire is able to maintain a consistency between the two artists by the color palette she has given their issues of “City of Bane.” Having that consistency of color palette gives a lot more long-term consistency when going back to read Janin and Fornes drawn “City of Bane” chapters back-to-back.
The Bad: Every time I’ve read through Batman #84 rather than be hyped for the final chapter of “City of Bane” I am left with only one word running through my head: “Why”. I just can’t help but wonder why King would use the penultimate chapter of “City of Bane” to final give us Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory. If this was a standalone issue I would understand but it is not. Batman #84 begins and ends in exactly the same spot that Batman #83 left us on. There is nothing new that actually progresses “City of Bane” forward going into the final chapter.
What hurts most about this single word of “Why” that keeps going through my head when finishing Batman #84 is so upsetting is the timing. There were so many chances open to King to deliver Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory that could’ve added to the hype for “City of Bane.” For example, rather this chapter could’ve easily taken the place of one of the chapters in the “Knightmare” story arc that ran circles.
Even better the backstory of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne should been the prelude chapter to “City of Bane.” King even had the perfect set up for that very thing when we saw Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s hand as he climbed out of the hole he was in with Bruce Wayne at the end of Batman #74. This could’ve easily been Batman #75 and then ending with showing Flashpoint Thomas Wayne as the Batman that crawled out of the hole. It would’ve been the perfect lead into why Flashpoint Thomas Wayne dominated the early chapters of “City of Bane.”
Instead by placing it in the penultimate chapter of “City of Bane” Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory comes across as yet another example of King’s stalling tactics. Even understanding King’s intentions for Batman #84 happening it is tough to excuse the timing. Batman #84 should be all about building the maximum amount of hype going into the end of “City of Bane.” This is afterall the storyline that King has built his entire run on.
We are at a point in King’s run that it should not feel like we are left in the same place to where we started a chapter in the “City of Bane” story. Every chapter should have at least a perception of moving forward. Even an illusion of moving forward should be apparent. But that just never happens with Batman #84.
It is such a shame because having an issue like Batman #84 lead into the finale of “City of Bane” is just a reminder of how every character in this arc have been nothing more than plot devices. The biggest victim to being treated like a plot device is Gotham Girl. After spending the first three chapters of “City of Bane” showing us how Flashpoint Batman and Gotham Girl became the new Dynamic Duo the latter part of this partnership has been completely forgotten.
What makes how much of plot device Gotham Girl has become is the fact that King doesn’t even have shows her in a single panel of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory. For her to not even be slightly important to Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory or motivation for helping to break Bruce Wayne is such a waste of a character. In doing so it will be hard to see Gotham Girl appear again and not think about how much potential was wasted after how she has been completely forgotten at this point.
The same plot device feeling permeates through every other character that has been involved in some way “City of Bane.” Even the villain that the entire story arc and King’s run has been built around is shown to be nothing more than a footnote in Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory. After all this time that King has done a masterful job in building Bane up to be an endgame level villain that aura completely disappears. Seeing Bane in total of two panels that he appears in is just a reminder of how he has become a footnote in a story that was previously built around his rivalry with Batman.
The same goes for Catwoman, Joker, Reverse Flash, the Batman Family and every other character that has appeared in “City of Bane.” A good example of that is Holly Robinson, one of Selina Kyle’s closest friends. Remember how she played a key role in the cancelation of Bruce and Selina’s wedding? I wouldn’t blame you if you did because King never circles back around to her playing a role in Bane’s scheme even though she was one of his recruits. Just like everyone one else Holly was a plot device whose story was left in the wind so the story could morph into being about Flashpoint Thomas Wayne.
Which brings us to how Gotham City has ended up being used in “City of Bane.” There is no importance given to the city in what is tagged as “Battle For The Soul of Gotham!” on the cover of Batman #84. Unless you read that tagline you would not know that this is a “Battle For The Soul of Gotham!” All Batman #84 appears to be a fight between a son and an alternate universe version of his father.
Having an issue like Batman #84 also robs any sense of urgency you would think that Bruce Wayne would have to save Gotham City. The villains have taken over Gotham City to the point that the United States government has put regulations in place that make it illegal for any superhero, including members of the Justice League, to interfere. This is a massive deal that I would not blame any reader of “City of Bane” for forgetting at this point. King certainly has, even though that is a huge plot element that you would think would further motivate Batman to save the day.
Because of all the problems that Batman #84 gives the “City of Bane” storyline it makes it easier to spot other mistakes. One that turns out to be a very noticeable upon reading Batman #84 over again is how Barry Allen’s Flash is colored to look like Reverse Flash in the flashback to “The Button” crossover. It is a mistake that I did not initially catch but noticed when going back to read Batman #84 again.
Overall: If Batman #84 was a standalone comic than it would succeed in telling a summarized version of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s backstory leading into “City of Bane.” But that is not what Batman #84. This is the penultimate chapter for the story that Tom King has built his entire run on Batman around. For there to be this big of a stalling tactic applied going into the final issue for “City of Bane” is inexcusable. If it wasn’t for the strong artwork from Jorge Fornes and Jordie Bellaire this issue would’ve been an even bigger swing and miss than it turned out to be.
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