Review: BATMAN #84
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman #84: “City of Bane” chapter eleven! The end is near as one victory leads to another defeat. As Batman reclaims his city from Bane, can he regain his sense of family? More specifically, when a man who is your father from another dimension has torn everything down around you, what will it take to build it back up? Especially when that man is currently staring you in the face and threatening to punch it. The final battle for Gotham City…and the cowl of the Caped Crusader…starts here!
Batman #84 brings us to the penultimate chapter of “City of Bane” and of Tom King’s run on the title. Given the name of the current storyline, you might expect the final confrontation to be between Batman and Bane, but it turns out that the ultimate villain of the story arc is Thomas Wayne, the Batman of the Flashpoint timeline.
We found out that the Flashpoint Batman was somehow involved in Bane’s plan to bring down Batman, but we were left with a number of unanswered questions. Why did he side with Bane against Bruce? What role was he to play in Bane’s machincations? And how did he survive the destruction of the Flashpoint timeline?
Now, as the two Batmen are about to have their final confrontation, King fills us in on Thomas Wayne’s past, answering all of these questions and more.
To tell Thomas Wayne’s story in Batman #84, King uses a relatively uncommon, but powerful method. He tells the story backwards, showing vignettes starting with the present, and moving back to before his timeline’s Bruce was killed.
This device was used to great effect by Peter David in Star Trek Annual #3 (1988). In this story, David explored Scotty’s lifelong romance with Glynnis Campbell, starting with her death and working back through time to their fist meeting. In both stories, this device makes the reader more conscious of the passage of time during the story, and heightens the importance of the events depicted.
We see this Thomas Wayne, at his son’s bedside, swearing, “I swear by the spirit of my parents to protect your life. By spending the rest of my life warring against anything that might cause you pain.” This should sound familiar to longtime Batman readers, as this echoes the vow that the Bruce Wayne we know also made by his bedside, “I swear, by the spirits of my parents, to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.”
This is Thomas’ main motivation. He wants Bruce to “Take off the mask. Marry the girl. Settle into a life of warmth and peace.” Thomas believes that the question of whether one can be the Batman and be happy is a definite no. This is because his own experience of being the Batman has not given him the slightest bit of happiness, as this issue shows us.
I find it interesting that Thomas actually knew his timeline’s version of Selina quite well. He takes a paternal interest in her, and starts to refrain from killing criminals. He even starts to regain hope that he can be Batman and be happy. Until she is killed by his timeline’s Joker, Martha Wayne.
As to how he survived the erasure of the Flashpoint timeline and appeared in the main DC Universe timeline, this is due to Reverse Flash. In the aftermath of “The Button”, Eobard Thawne took his revenge on Thomas by saving him so that he would have to live out the rest of his days in a reality where his son has to bear the painful burden of being the Batman.
So now Bruce is faced with a choice. Lay down the burden of being Batman as his father demands, or accept that being the Batman is his first, best destiny as the man who raised him affirmed in his final message last issue. We are not shown his answer this issue, but is there any doubt what his decision will be?
I also have to say that I loved Jorge Fornes’ art this issue. His take on Batman reminds me of David Mazzucchelli’s work on Batman: Year One. The similarity to that classic story makes this story feel like it will similarly be a defining event in the Batman mythos.
This was a powerful and fascinating look into the character of the Flashpoint Batman. However, while I understand his motivation is to spare his son pain, I do still question that he would be able to help Bane cause Bruce pain. On the other hand, this could be indicative of an important difference between the father and his son. Thomas seems to fully believe that the ends justifies the means. However, there are some lines that even the pragmatic Bruce will never cross.
Tom King has given us a story that cuts to the heart of Batman’s motivations. Will Bruce give into the demands of the man in whose memory he became the Batman? Or will he instead heed the words of the man who raised him and helped him become the Batman?