In the world of Flashpoint, Harvey Dent’s twins have been kidnapped. Naturally the Batman, secretly Thomas Wayne, is called upon to save them–assuming he can get past a gigantic Killer Croc first!
Batman: Knight of Vengeance #1 (of three)
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Colorist: Patricia Mulvihill
Letterer: Clem Robins
Cover: Dave Johnson
Editors: Rex Ogle and Eddie Berganza
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Issue comes with promotional pin, depending on retailer
Previously in… In Flashpoint #1 it was revealed that in this reality it wasn’t Bruce Wayne’s parents who were gunned down that fateful night in Crime Alley–it was the young Bruce and his mother, Martha, leaving a grieving Thomas Wayne to wage a war on the cowardly and superstitious criminal lot.
Knight of Vengeance has been my most looked forward to Flashpoint tie-in. I have loved what little I’ve read of Brian Azzarello’s work (Joker and Luthor being the only two I’ve gotten around to), and the cover for this issue grabbed me from the first announcement. Azzarello has crafted an intriguing reality for Thomas Wayne; the basic premise being that Wayne Casinos is an elaborately crafted trap to lure the criminal element to Batman so he has some control and influence over them. Many Batman regulars are seen in this issue–both in new and familiar roles. Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, appears to be serving in some sort of a managerial position within Wayne Casinos, working with Thomas in his war on crime. Whether he will prove a loyal lackey or not is yet to be seen. Jim Gordon is Chief of a privatized police force: Gotham Security. Harvey Dent is a judge in Gotham City, and has twins whose kidnapping serves to drive the plot forward. Azzarello even made sure to put a dinosaur in Wayne’s Batcave, located in Wayne Casino’s tower.
The plot moves along at a brisk clip, introducing us to a lot of characters and setting things up for the next two issues. By being three issues, this pace should be kept up, and all the Flashpoint tie-ins ought to avoid decompression in their storytelling. DC may be on to something here, though it is probably more by happy accident than planning.
Another fun sidenote: Azzarello has given Thomas Wayne his own equivalent of Bruce’s “Hnnh”–an irritated “Mmmrrr.”
Eduardo Risso’s art is a source of consternation for me. He has managed to capture a dark and gritty Gotham beautifully–from what I’ve heard, a highlight quite typical of his 100 Bullets series with Azzarello. The layouts are all masterfully done, matching the pacing of the story very well. The change from detailed Gotham backgrounds and buildings to minimalist backgrounds and single-color dominated scenes is exquisitely done, and comes across as very natural. One element of the art that stood out to me was the attention to detail with angles in reflections. As Thomas and Oswald ride a mirrored elevator together, Cobblepot has a slight lean that is reflected realistically in the mirror, giving the art a depth that isn’t always seen in comic art.
As much as I love Risso’s layouts and backgrounds, the way he draws the characters of the story falls flat for me. Having been first introduced to Thomas Wayne Batman in Flashpoint, I am used to the thinner, less stocky Andy Kubert-drawn character. Risso’s clean-shaven, thick-lipped and stocky Wayne looks like as much of a thug as the men who frequent his casino–a sharp contrast to the Doctor Thomas Wayne of the regular universe, as well as to the regularly built, stubbly Knight of Vengeance we’ve seen in the Flashpoint ongoing. It seems like Risso completely ignored the fact that Thomas Wayne has to look like someone who could be the Batman that Andy Kubert designed.
Other characters are hit and miss–the Joker at the end seems promising, and the longer hair adds to his maniacal nature in a way I expect to like greatly. Jim Gordon is moderately well done, though the choice to have glare obscure his glasses in nearly every scene distracted me. I did enjoy the psychiatrist that interviewed Thomas at the beginning of the story; the cleanly drawn face style Risso uses for females in the issue is reminiscent at times of Kevin Maguire or Amanda Conner, particularly as Wayne is ending their meeting and she puffs her cheek in exasperation–the character is clearly in action, rather than being an action figure.
BOTTOM LINE: ALWAYS BET ON BATMAN
I would give the story a solid four and a half out of five for catching my imagination and allowing me to invest in some of the characters. The art I give a three because, while Risso’s layouts and detail to Gotham are impeccable, the inconsistency with the already established Kubert version of Thomas Wayne pulled me out of the story entirely a few times. Overall I believe the comic deserves a four out of five stars; very much worth reading, plus you get a nifty pin!