Review: Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3

Thomas Wayne is Batman.  Martha Wayne is Joker.  This Flashpoint world is messed up.  No wonder Batman wants to wipe it away.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Batman: Knight of Vengeance #3

Batman Knight Of Vengeance #3, the final chapter in the Flashpointless Batman run, is a solid finish to a great story if just a bit anti-climactic. The fault for that can’t be placed on writer Brian Azzarello, but more on what needed to happen to push Flashpointless along in the actual series. I’ve said since the get go that the misery befallen the Flashpoint Batman, aka Thomas Wayne, is driven to show us why he would even think of helping Flash put the current timeline back to the way it used to be. Thomas Wayne loses everything by the end of Knight Of Vengeance and so his choices in Flashpoint make more sense.

Issue 3 is the final confrontation between Batman and the Joker, who in this reality is Martha Wayne driven crazy after the death of her son Bruce. Azzarello weaves two separate tales here, the one in the present and a past story explaining Martha’s fall into madness. In lesser hands, that story might seem like a simple rehash of events, but Azzarello’s spectacular use of noir and thriller give it a much-needed boost, even bringing out some gothic elements. Martha’s story helps to explain the Joker but it’s the final confrontation that shows Azzarello at his best. Not just because of the violence and action, but also the emotional upheaval between Thomas and Martha Wayne. The hate, the love, the blame, the tragedy and the loss, all of it comes out as they wage war on each other.

Where the story loses punch is the last page because it just suddenly involves Flashpoint. It’s clear Azzarello was having a good time creating his own Batman Universe and wanted as little of Flashpoint involved as possible. Batman confesses to Joker that he has a chance to change history and, in a moment of lucidity, Martha makes him promise he will. Thomas has lost his wife, son, and best friend (Flashpoint Jim Gordon had his throat slit by the Joker) so the idea of changing everything is almost too good to pass up. That allows Flashpoint’s story to make more sense, though it would have been nice to know this before Flash met the new Batman. Azzarello‘s smart – he manages to get a final word in just after the confession. It’s Martha’s reaction to finding out that Bruce becomes Batman. It’s too much for her to bear and she loses sanity yet again. It’s a nice dramatic exclamation point from Azzarello.

Looking back on the three issues, and playing Devil’s advocate, there is one thing in the Martha-as-the-Joker story I would have changed. I wouldn’t have had her called the Joker and I might have changed her look. Why she’s scarred into a smile is well explained by Azzarello, but why she dresses up like a clown and calls herself the Joker is left to the “it has to be Batman but different” idea, which is beneath the strength of this tale. Martha could have kept the scars but had another costume and name. Readers would have understand who Martha was supposed to represent but the nagging question of why she chose this style of dress and this name would vanish. Granted I’m being picky, but after issue #2, and my rave of the idea, it started bugging me and I had to come clean.

Eduardo Risso’s art is again so gorgeous that it almost steals the spotlight. I love his use of minimalism in the backgrounds, his Batman: Year One style of penciling characters, all of it. What he does gels so well with the writing that it saddens me Risso won’t be involved with Azzarello’s Wonder Woman. It’s going to be hard staring at Cliff Chiang’s rather unappealing work when you know Russo would have sent Wonder Woman right over the top. As the Flashpoint tie ins wind down, Knight Of Vengeance stands out as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dull and predictable line of books.