This is it. After 84 issues, plus several annuals, we have finally reached the end of Tom King’s run on the main Batman series. After a promising start things have not gone as well with the issues of Batman released over 2019. Specifically when it comes to “City of Bane” there was a turn taken that made this story not be what was necessarily promised as Flashpoint Batman took over the entire story. There is no changing that or any other story decision that King has made this year. This is the story that King wanted to end his Batman run on. Let’s just hope things come together in a satisfying way for “City of Bane” with Batman #85.
Writer: Tom King (City of Bane); James Tynion (Epilogue)
Artist: Mikel Janin (City of Bane); Hugo Petrus (City of Bane); Guillem March (Epilogue)
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire (City of Bane); Tomeu Morey (Epilogue)
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: As Flashpoint Thomas Wayne tells him to stay down Batman calls out to Catwoman by saying “All right, Cat. Break him.” Catwoman then charges to attack Flashpoint Thomas Wayne much to his surprise.
At some unknown time Bruce is shown entering Porky’s Bar to watch the Gotham Knights game where the team is looking to finally pull of a big win. As he sits at the bar Bruce strikes up a conversation about the Knights with Chuck Brown (Kite Man). Bruce and Chuck cheer to the Knights and continue watching the game.
Back in the present Catwoman uses her whip to dropkick Flashpoint Thomas Wayne to the ground.
Flashing forward in time, Batman and Gotham Girl climb a tower (the same one they climbed in Batman #24). Gotham Girl asks Batman if he is finally going to marry Catwoman.
Rather than answering that Batman talks about how Bane controlled her and how much she has suffered. He asks how he can help her. Gotham Girl states she does not need help. She then turns it around and asks Batman what he needs.
After trying not to make it about him Batman admits that no one knows him like they think they do. Gotham Girl brings up how Catwoman does know him. Batman agrees so Gotham Girl tells him to marry Catwoman.
Back in the present Catwoman has Flashpoint Thomas Wayne pinned to the ground. She then reveals that she used Scarface to gain control of the Ventriloquist much to Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s shock. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne powers out of Catwoman’s grasp and angrily charges at Ventriloquist. Batman knocks and pins down Flashpoint Thomas Wayne before he reaches the Ventriloquist.
At some other point, Batman meets Flashpoint Thomas Wayne (who has gotten the full Hannibal Lecter treatment) at Arkham Asylum. Batman talks about how when he visits his parents he asks them questions every time including if they are proud of him. Batman then says that after asking his questions he just listens because people like both of them know what it means to spend the rest of their days trying to fill that silence.
In the present Flashpoint Thomas Wayne smirks saying he knew Bruce was a Wayne. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne then takes out a gun he was hiding and points it at Batman while saying “Waynes, we rise.”
At some point in the future Bruce is standing in front of Alfred Pennyworth’s gravesite. He talks about how he made tea and cucumber sandwiches today and that the boys came over. Bruce goes on to talk about how they all love and miss Alfred.
Selina shows up to check up on Bruce. Just then the Batsignal shines over the sky.
Later that night Batman and Catwoman fight and defeat various villains committing crime in Gotham City. After a long night Batman and Catwoman talk about if they should get officially married. Seeing that it is 4 a.m. Catwoman says they could get Judge Wolfman to marry them. Batman agrees.
As they swing through the city Batman notices Catwoman stop on a roof. He jumps back on the roof. Catwoman tells Batman she loves him and they kiss as the sun begins to rise.
In the present Flashpoint Thomas Wayne holds Batman at gunpoint. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne talks about how he tried to show Bruce how useless it is to be Batman so he could be happy without the mask. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne yells that he showed Bruce he is not Batman.
At some time in the future, Bruce and Selina wake up after a night together. Bruce realizes that because they spent so much time kissing that they forgot to find Judge Wolfman and get married. Selina says that it does not matter. She goes on to say that since they believe in something higher than the law that they don’t need a judge, dress or audience for them to know what they are.
Remembering all their time together as Batman and Catwoman, Bruce and Selina tell each other they love the other and kiss.
In the present Bruce tells Flashpoint Thomas Wayne that back when his parents died he almost killed himself with a knife. Bruce goes on to say that instead of using the knife he decided to kill himself with a vow that he shaped him into Batman. Growing more serious, Bruce says he choose Selina, to be happy, to create a family and to be Batman.
Flashing back to the past, Thomas Wayne tells Martha Wayne that he read the story about the animals in the pit to Bruce again. Thomas says he worries about Bruce. Martha tells Thomas that Bruce will be okay.
Flashing forward to the future, Bane finds Flashpoint Thomas Wayne in his holding cell. Bane wastes no time in grabbing Flashpoint Thomas Wayne and smashing him with a backbreaker over his knee. As he does that, Bane tells Flashpoint Thomas Wayne “Time to die, Batman. This is the end of Batman.”
In the present, Flashpoint Thomas Wayne talks about how he killed a universe, burned down Gotham City and killed Alfred all for Bruce. Flashpoint Thomas Wayne lets go of Batman. He asks Bruce if he’ll finally listen to his father.
Flashing forward to the future, Batman shows Gotham Girl the Platinum Kryptonite he has been carrying. He says that it is a gift for Gotham Girl that will give her the powers she had without the side effects. Gotham Girl admits she is scared. Batman says he is to and wonders if she is going to make him say a specific thing. Gotham Girl says no and takes the Platinum Kryptonite.
The Platinum Kryptonite does as intended and gives Gotham Girl all her powers back. She then wonders what to do next. Batman says he learned from his father that there is no such thing as good deaths but there are good lives. He goes on to say they should both aim to live one of those good lives.
Back in the present, Batman tells Flashpoint Thomas Wayne to listen carefully so he understands what he is about to say. Batman punches Flashpoint Thomas Wayne and then says “You’re not my father.”
Flashing forward, Bruce and Chuck continue to watch the Gotham Knights game. Chuck starts getting down seeing how the Knights are playing and says it is the same story for the team like it has always been. Bruce disagrees because maybe the quarterback can take all his experience to turn things around.
Just as Bruce says that the quarterback for the Knights begins a play that completely amazes the announcers. Selina walks in just as the play is going down and sits to watch alongside Bruce and Chuck. End of main story.
Some time later members of Joker’s gang get a news alert about Superman revealing to the world he is Clark Kent. Joker shows up and takes the phone with the announcement on it. One of Joker’s men wonders how valuable it would be if they could discover Batman’s identity. Joker smashes the guys head on a table over and over again for his lack of understanding of a punch line since discovering Batman’s identity would be the end.
As he says that Joker suddenly realizes that it may actually sounds fun if they discover who Batman really is and reveal that to the world. Joker then starts laughing his maniacal laugh. End of issue.
The Good: Batman #85 certainly delivers an ending. How satisfying that ending is can be easily said to be disappointing. Even in the very few redeeming things about how Batman #85 ends “City of Bane” it is hard not to think of all the time wasted and potential lost as Tom King went with more of a limited direction for this ending.
The one thing I will give King credit for always writing well is the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle. It is tough to argue there being another person who has written a better relationship between Bruce and Selina than Tom King. Batman #85 once again showed how well he writes their relationship.
All of the flash forwards showed how Bruce and Selina, whether as Batman and Catwoman or in civilian clothing, understand each other like no one else. There is a certain magnetic quality to their attraction that is not like a normal relationship. Which added to how Selina told Bruce that they don’t need others to give them labels like husband and wife to solidify their love for each other.
The epilogue by James Tynion IV also does a great job teasing what the first big storyline he will be developing at the start of his run. Working in Superman’s reveal into Joker’s motivation to possibly discover Batman’s identity was well developed in the short time Tynion had to develop it.
What was most intriguing about Joker making this decision is if this version of the character is the same one we’ve seen since the New 52. More than ever we’ve seen how in the last few years Batman writers, particularly Scott Snyder, imply Joker knows who Batman is and just never cared about admitting it. But in Batman #85’s epilogue we see a Joker who wants to discover that identity and possibly reveal it to the world. That along with a different design given by Guillem March creates an interesting question as to which version of Joker we are now dealing with.
Mikel Janine once again delivers strong artwork that at least delivers on all the emotional highs and lows various characters have throughout Batman #85. From Batman’s determination to Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s anger to Catwoman confidence, Janin knocked it out of the park. Even the brief moments of action have all the impact you want to see from a comic book. It makes you wish we got more of an extended action sequence for Janin to draw.
The Bad: Even with how disappointing many issues of “City of Bane,” including Batman #84, have been there was still a lot of potential for Tom King to deliver a strong ending to his run on this series. Unfortunately that just never happens as King instead tries to going down the poetic route that what made his run so special was completely lost in the process.
One of the biggest downfalls of Batman #85 is the structure that King went for his this final issue. King immediately kills any sense of tension by revealing that Batman has already locked up Flashpoint Thomas Wayne in Arkham Asylum. Doing this and all the other flash forwards after every few pages of the battle between Batman and Catwoman vs Flashpoint Thomas Wayne killed all momentum this fight had.
That is a massive disappointment given how much time King spent building Flashpoint Thomas Wayne to be the big endboss for “City of Bane.” Even before “City of Bane” King spent several issues from his “Knightmares” arc trying to put over Flashpoint Thomas Wayne as a major threat. But at no point in Batman #85 does how unique King wants us to believe Flashpoint Thomas Wayne to be it just never happens. Everything the character does and says comes across as a villain who did not have a full plan formed.
Which goes completely against what made all the build up to “City of Bane” from the start of King’s run with Batman: Rebirth to now. From the beginning King developed a run around a villain in Bane who was is this massive game of chess against Batman. Even when Batman was able to win a battle there was never a point that it felt like Bane lost the war, and vice versa. That was part of what made “City of Bane” such a highly anticipated storyline.
But with Batman #85 King has Flashpoint Thomas Wayne throw the chess board over like a child who knows he lost the game. Even when Flashpoint Thomas Wayne pulls out the gun there is never a feeling that Batman is not in control. Given how we just came off an issue in Batman #84 that explained Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s motivation there should’ve been a greater struggle shown from both sides of this conflict.
Which is so incredibly unfortunate because King not only sacrificed Bane to build Flashpoint Thomas Wayne up in the way he was but also the entire Batman Family. Just recently in Batman #81 we saw Flashpoint Thomas Wayne take a brutal beating from Robin, Batgirl, Red Robin, Batwoman, Orphan, Huntress and Signal. Not only was the beating brutal but right afterwards Flashpoint Thomas Wayne someone was able to power through his injuries and defeat the Batman Family in superhuman-like performance.
For King to give us that type of extended showcase of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s skills and pain threshold it made it hard to believe that he would be so easily defeated by Batman and Catwoman. All told Batman and Catwoman get about three shots on Flashpoint Thomas Wayne and he is taken down. It would be one thing if King implied through dialogue or how he asked Janin to draw Flashpoint Thomas Wayne to explain that the character was suffering from his injuries. But that never happens and instead it just appears that Flashpoint Thomas Wayne had a glass jaw at the end.
What makes this poor showing of Flashpoint Thomas Wayne’s character is the fact that King hardly deals with the true impact of the events in “City of Bane.” Because it is totally understandable to have a big storyline come down to a fight between one or two heroes and villains. That is to be expected when building up the final battle.
What is not acceptable is that a writer forgets the stakes at hand. Those stakes for “City of Bane” included the fact that Batman’s villains had complete control of Gotham City in his absence. That is something that King completely forgot about since Batman #81. Forgetting about this key plot point steals the sense of urgency you expect Batman, Catwoman and other characters to have. Our heroes forgetting about the city they vowed to protect and save actually makes them unlikable because all they care about is some family squabble when all is said and done.
The choices that negatively impact King’s final story does not end at the state of Gotham City or the Batman Family and Bane being sacrificed, Gotham Girl is also a victim in all this. King tries to make it seem like Gotham Girl was a big part of the story with how she was brought back into the fold in Batman #85. The reality when it comes to Gotham Girl’s development is that King failed to properly develop her arc. Because when we last saw Gotham Girl she was on her death bed as the Super-Venom poison was killing her. It was even made clear that she either needed a cure or more Super-Venom in order to survive.
That was literally the last we saw or got mention of her. At no point since Flashpoint Thomas Wayne placed her in bed was Batman or Catwoman in a rush to save her. She was left to die as Bruce fought an alternate universe version of his father. Just showing her struggling in bed while Batman and Catwoman fought Flashpoint Thomas Wayne would’ve added tension to the finale. But that just never happens.
The weak way Flashpoint Thomas Wayne was defeated just went to hurt Bane’s involvement with the ending. There was nothing about Bane breaking Flashpoint Thomas Wayne that came across as feeling like the proper payoff of the character being. All King accomplished with this scene is position Bane back into being nothing more than a muscle head brute whose only real ability is to be physically imposing. It just throws away all the truly great character development Bane got from King entering “City of Bane” that was thrown into the garbage during this story.
As poorly treated as Bane is in “City of Bane” things were even worse for Gotham Girl. By giving Gotham Girl the resolution of the Platinum Kryptonite giving her powers back without the negative side effects King confirmed that there was nothing to worry about from her character. She was just another throw away character who was just a plot device to explain why the Justice League did not interfere with what was going in Gotham City.
That is such a massive disappointment after all the time we spent getting to know Gotham Girl through all her ups and downs during the course of King’s run. Like so many other characters, Gotham Girl deserved better than being a plot device for the fight between Bruce Wayne and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne. Especially with her strong connection between Bruce and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne it would’ve made the story much better if Gotham Girl played some role, even if it was emotionally, in their fight.
All the scenes between Bruce and Chuck Brown, Kite Man’s civilian identity, at Porky’s bar added absolutely nothing to how Batman #85 ended things. The entire back-and-forth read like one big philosophical conversation King wanted to write so he could speak directly to the readers through Bruce. With how there were so many other sub-plots that deserved at least a panel of attention that was was instead dedicated to these scenes at Porky’s bar that served very little purpose.
This was also a poor use of Kite Man, who is obviously one of King’s favorite characters to write. If King really wanted to give Kite Man a proper send off it would’ve been better if this interaction was done with Batman. Sometime like Batman confronting Kite Man and telling him the real reason he sucks as villain is because he is a good man at heart would’ve been better. Even if it did not mean that Kite Man was inducted into the Batman Family, giving Kite Man a different path would’ve been a better place to leave the character on after how often King wrote him into his stories.
Also, for as much as the writing of Batman and Catwoman’s relationship has been the consistent strength of King’s run it was not perfect in this ending. Something that has been disappointing about their relationship is that King kept them in the shadows. Even with how open they were about their love for one another it felt disingenuous that they were committed to each other and would not appear in public. It would’ve been cool if we saw Bruce and Selina interact out in the open, without costume. Even if people did not react it would’ve added to how strong of a relationship they have now by seeing them walking in public through the city.
While Janin’s artwork was great throughout his portion of Batman #85 I wish he was able to draw the entire main story. Though Hugo Petrus artwork is not bad it does not match Janin’s art style at all. As soon as we get the Hannibal Lector scene between Batman and Flashpoint Thomas Wayne you are taken out of the scene because of the change in art styles. The scene was short enough that I wish Janin was given more time to draw this scene as well to keep the consistency from a visual standpoint going.
Overall: If there is one word to describe Batman #85 it would be “lackluster.” There is never a point in Batman #85 that comes across as a true wrap up to a long-term creative run. Every conclusion that Tom King presents to specific characters comes across as incomplete. There is so much missing that makes what was sacrificed in the lead up to Batman #85 hurt even more. After enjoying the majority of his epic run it is a shame that King ended his time on the main Batman series with a story in “City of Bane” that was a giant disappointment.
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