Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance

It’s a comment I’ve made to the point of labouring it that, often, with events in the comic world the stories that satellite around the central book often contain the most enjoyable and often compelling tales. We are as readers already engaged in these larger than life worlds, so when a tumultuous event occurs changing the universe we recognise. These spotlights on the effects of these changes are often gripping and compelling, in a manner somewhat more heightened than in the monthly books in which our heroes appear. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Knight of vengeance provides the perfect example, with a heartbreaking tale of a Husband and Wife and how their lives collapsed after the murder of their son.

Flashpoint the event, gives us a view of the DC universe altered almost beyond recognition by Flash’s arch enemy; the reverse Flash. War and destruction reign throughout the world, with Wonder Woman and Aquaman intent on kicking ten shades of silly out of each other, but in Gotham things are much the same as we would expect. It’s still watched over by the dark knight, who keeps the unruly elements of this universe from its borders, but despite the seeming familiarity, there are some fundamental changes that make it familiar and unrecognisable all at once.

In this reality, its not Thomas and Martha Wayne that were gunned down by Joe Chill in Crime Alley, but their young son Bruce. This story recounts the tale of how two otherwise well adjusted people see their life completely torn apart by grief and vengeance.  Thomas dons the cowl in an attempt to hunt down and bring justice to the man responsible for taking their son from them, and in doing so seems to follow the inevitable never ending path, attempting to rid Gotham of Chill and his like.

Meanwhile Martha is left to watch as her husband grows increasingly obsessed with his endless mission, and the distance that grows between them as they deal with their loss. Eventually the pain causes Martha to make an equally giant leap in an attempt to cope, as she becomes Flashpoint’s Joker.

Issue three of the series sees Thomas arrive to rescue the two kidnapped children, held in Wayne Manor. This however quickly becomes an aside. Martha turns her venom and bile upon Thomas, as we see wordless images from their destroyed lives play out in front of us. Risso’s art is pitch perfect, and gives a sense of suffocating sorrow that’s been visited upon these two characters. Switching between flashback (differentiated with a monochrome finish) and the battle between the two, the story telling is compelling throughout, and leaves the reader feeling as though they too have been part of the fight, such an exhausting emotional rollercoaster this book is.

The book ends with a decision that adds depth to the overall story arc, while still being oblique enough to make this a truly satisfying, story that more than stands on its own two feet. Azzarello has proven once again in this short, what a masterful story teller he is and has created a book that will collect beautifully, and a work that I can see me returning to reread for many years to come. This is a genuine must read.