The back half of Tom King’s run on Batman has hinged on the reemergence of a character created by Geoff Johns to whom few people expected a significant return. Thomas Wayne, the Flashpoint Batman, made his first meaningful appearance since Flashpoint in Batman #22 before his shocking full return in the cliffhanger ending to the controversial Batman #50. While King has done a good job explaining his motivations for plotting against his own son, the actual means of Thomas’s return has been a long-running mystery within the series for over a year. Finally in the penultimate issue of his run on Batman, King has revealed how the Batman of Flashpoint has come to Earth-0, and what made him the way he is.
The main focus of this issue is to create a throughline from Thomas Wayne’s origin story all the way to his appearance in City of Bane. The issue goes backwards in time, beginning with the immediate aftermath of the previous issue, with each scene going further and further back. We see alternate angles of memorable scenes and stories prior in the run. Thomas watches Bruce propose to Catwoman in Batman #24, he watches the double date with Superman and Lois Lane from Batman #37, and he watches Selina get her wedding dress in Batman #44. The issue reveals the reason Thomas came to Bruce’s universe from the events of the Button, in what may be the best usage of Eobard Thawne since Flashpoint itself. Everything after this revelation uncovers more and more of Thomas Wayne’s backstory before the events of Flashpoint, culminating in his beginning – the moment he made a vow to war against anything that would cause his son pain.
Something I really have to credit King for here is turning Flashpoint Batman, who always felt like an overly grimdark take on Batman, into a character with far more depth and interesting character beats. Flashpoint wasn’t bad but a lot of the ideas within it were half-baked, and the majority of them remained that way to this day. Flashpoint Batman, on the other hand, exits this issue with a far more nuanced concept. He’s still an inversion of Batman, but at a far deeper level than just having Bruce be Joe Chill’s victim instead of his parents. King introduces Selina Kyle as Thomas’s own sidekick, and shows how she was able to change him and make him a less cynical, angry person – and how her death sent him careening over the edge once more. King provides further depth to scenes we’d seen in the past, from Bruce’s death to Thomas killing Reverse Flash during the climax of Flashpoint. It even includes his discovery of Bane’s plan and his decision to join Bane’s quest to break the Bat.
Jorge Fornés continues to be an absolutely phenomenal addition to this Batman run, as he provides a style to the issue that makes all the flashbacks feel immediately familiar despite the variety of artists who’ve worked on the book. There have been comparisons drawn between Fornés and the legendary David Mazzucchelli before, and this issue continues to show the parallels in their styles. Every page feels almost retro, and the origin scenes carry shades of Batman: Year One. Jordie Bellaire changes the palettes of every scene to make it very clear that they’re different scenes, a stylistic flourish that works to great effect. Visually, this issue is distinct from the rest of City of Bane, but it fits its own story incredibly well.
While this issue basically pauses the ongoing story in the middle of the climax to provide exposition, the exposition it gives is essential to understanding the story as a whole. This long awaited mystery pays off fairly well in this issue, but the best part is how King is able to connect his story for Thomas to his overall arc for Bruce. With the last major question of the run finally answered, the finale of Tom King’s run on Batman in 2 weeks is as exciting as it can possibly get.