Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
City of Bane “continues” here, but the narrative has left the main theme of that arc completely. In many ways the last issue could be seen as the start of Tom King’s final arc spinning out of City of Bane. Bane is no longer a threat and it was revealed that Thomas Wayne has been behind everything from the start. The last issue left promising a contest between Bruce and his father (from another timeline) after dealing with the emotional stress of Alfred’s death. The confrontation is only barely in this comic as the bulk of the focus in on explaining Thomas Wayne’s motivation.
If you have seen the movie Memento (one of Christopher Nolan’s earlier works and a great high concept of a film) then you are already familiar with the way the story is told here. Essentially the comic runs in reverse, aside from the intro and conclusion. Everything is covered about Thomas’ journey from his direct conflict with his son in the desert, to “The Button,” to his history and origin in the Flashpoint universe. As things travel backwards in time we learn about how Thomas handled the rogues, and more importantly how his relationship was with the Flashpoint version of Catwoman. His motivation has always been to stop Bruce from being Batman more than actually wanting to harm him. He wants his son to live a life of peace and the history told here is supposed to sell his reasoning for that. Getting too much into the details would spoil some interesting twists laid out, but Bruce is not the only Batman to be psychologically broken.
I am a sucker for a good high concept. Seeing the issue going in reverse was more than a gimmick and an effective form of storytelling. It was the only logical way to build up to the big reveals in Thomas Wayne’s past, and Tom King did an excellent job at the pacing of the issue. Every sequence was one page max, and often just a single panel. He was able to cover what many would do in a mini-series, in just a single issue. In adding some more interest and tactile reader interaction, you can also read the story from back to front (which I did). It is just a really fun issue to read, and there haven’t been many comics that allow this level of interaction. However, I still have a fairly big concern. Thomas Wayne’s motivation still doesn’t ring true to me. He loves his son and wants no harm to come to him, which is why he doesn’t want to be Batman. However, he is shown to have hated the rogues in his universe, yet had no problem working with them here. His relationship with Gotham Girl makes more sense now, after seeing how Flashpoint Catwoman played out, but other things are incongruous. Tom King created some really clear and believable goals but the journey towards them have made little sense.
Jorge Fornes comes back onto the title and he is a welcome change. I loved Janin but Fornes is more suited to the material here. His style works with the micro stories within the story. King packs a lot into a few words and Fornes can tell an entire issue in one panel. Like the writing there is nothing wasted here. Janin is great at building an entire issue out of one simple scene and Fornes can pack many issues into one scene. Often these two artists have worked together on the same issue, but DC made the right choice allowing them to have their own complete comics in this arc. This issue is drawn to perfection.