(W) Brian Azzarello (A) Eduardo Risso
I’ve spoken before that I was more of a trade guy for a number of years, but it was the DC event Flashpoint that cleared the decks (for better or worse depending on your point of view) and made it accessible for new readers to jump in feet first. Flashpoint was centred around the idea of Barry Allen going back in time to save him mother. However, the butterfly effect of that one action led to massive changes in the DC Universe. Suddenly it was Bruce Wayne who was shot and killed by Joe Chill, and his father Thomas Wayne became Batman and his mother, Martha, was driven mad with grief over losing her son and became The Joker.
That is where this titles comes in. It was originally published as a three issue tie-in miniseries to the main Flashpoint title, but has been collected into one edition here, as we prepare for the return of the Flashpoint Universe in Geoff John’s Flashpoint Beyond. It’s great to see that we’re returning to that world as it’s such a rich and epic re-interpretation of the Batman mythos.
In this oversized issue we take a look back at that origin story of Thomas Wayne’s alternate universe Batman in time for Flashpoint Beyond. In a different twist in the story to what we are usually told we follow a weathered Jim Gordon and Thomas Wayne as they take the battle to Gotham’s underworld.
The story takes a dark twist as the Joker kidnaps the District Attorney’ twin children so begins a race against time for the cowled hero, but it’s not the hero we know behind the cowl and that’s where it’s possibly even more tragic than the original Batman origin. It takes the pain of losing a child to extremes, and shows how that grief can manifest in different ways, whether it be anger and rage, or sorrow and madness. The DC universe (especially when dealing with Batman and Gotham) can often be accused to being dark. Well, this tale takes it up to 11.
The writing of Brian Azzarello is phenomenal, once you open the book you are taken on that dark journey and events from the book stick with you (especially from the third issue involving Gordon) and there’s tons of world building that you keep going over. His version of Batman is exceptional, and multi-layered.
Many of the traditional Batman trappings are completely absent from this story. When we visit Thomas’ “Batcave”, it’s almost empty, uncomfortably so. This is the complete opposite of the notion of ‘All of those wonderful toys.’ There’s no Batmobiles, no trophies from past cases, no hint of nostalgia. There’s just a giant computer. There is the silhouette of the iconic giant dinosaur, but it’s presence here is not a playful one I would venture. Probably just a symbol that is actually representative of Thomas Wayne as Batman – a lumbering old beast, that shouldn’t exist in this world. undoubtedly of more mundane origins than the one in Bruce’s possession.
It’s only in a stripped back story like this that we come to realise how many toys our traditional Bruce Wayne Batman really has. There is a wonderful confrontation with Killer Croc in this book. Perfect opportunity to use stealth or agility, mixed in with some Bat-a-rangs, knock out gas or his grappling hook to move around Croc right? Not this Batman I’m afraid. He likes to get up close and personal, so stabs a blade into Croc’s head instead.
On another occasion, when he comes across a victim of the Joker’s toxin, Thomas doesn’t attempt to cure him or take samples to better understand what has happened. He simply snaps the victims neck, and brushes it off as mercy. This version of Batman has much more in common with Miller’s take in the Dark Knight Returns as opposed to any traditional canon Batman.
Again, this has been re-released and presented as an origin story so it can remind you of the groundwork already laid for that upcoming miniseries, so I can’t wait to see what the creators build in this world.
The artwork is astonishing. I’ve always been a fan of Risso, particularly when it is in tandem with Azzarello, as in their crime epic 100 Bullets. His work is all long, terrifying shadows, vibrant, almost sleazy colours (the book is coloured by his long time colourist Patricia Mulvihill, who really does bring the best out of his work) and this of course suits this version of Gotham, which is all casinos, streetwalkers, bars and nightclubs. His characters are expressive and alluring, and his work is so rich and detailed.
As a three issue miniseries (as it was originally), this more than stands on its own. It achieves a heck of a lot in those three issues, in terms of characterisation and world building, and even manages to tell a three act story with a definitive ending. But it has always seemed a shame to leave it there. It may have taken over a decade but I am so looking forward to diving into this world again. Bring on Flashpoint Beyond!