Tom King’s run on Batman apparently lost some momentum after his “Batman has a bunch of dreams” storyarc. Even as someone reading the series in trade form, where I can get to numerous issues without having to wait for a monthly installment, it was mildly frustrating and didn’t seem to go anywhere until the end when the reason for it came out.
So, can Volume 11 of King’s run, subtitled The Fall and the Fallen, get back on track?
After waking up from the dream sequences caused by Scarecrow’s fear gas, Batman battles his way out of Arkham Asylum, going through the same bad guys Bane battled when he went through the same gauntlet back in Volume 3. However, the subtext here is Bruce Wayne has already lost this battle and Bane has broken him. During this and previous volumes, the reader sees Bane’s manipulations cutting Bruce off from all of Batman’s many allies by making it appear as if he’s lost his mind looking for a villain that either isn’t doing anything or doesn’t exist. Batman’s frustrations and his allies, often well-meaning, reactions don’t help much, and Bruce keeps lashing out in ways that really don’t help him.
So, bottom line, Bruce lost.
But there’s more to this volume than just piling more onto Batman. One major question mark for fans may be why the Flashpoint Batman, that timeline’s Thomas Wayne, a man just as much dedicated to fighting crime if only in a more brutal manner, is actively working to assist Bane in bringing down a man who is basically his own son. This volume manages to explain Thomas Wayne’s motivation as Bane solidifies his control of Gotham City. And he does in part by having Thomas outline Bane’s entire plan, something that has been running much longer than the reader might have assumed.
Likewise, what Thomas wants is spelled out as well. That involves taking an unconscious Bruce out to the middle of a desert and to look for something that Bruce had only heard rumors of, allowing the father and son to bond a bit while revealing what Bruce might have gotten from Thomas, and more importantly, what he got from his mother Martha.
By the by, anyone who has read Flashpoint knows what happened to the Martha Wayne of that timeline. I won’t say here, but the way Thomas dodges the question when Bruce asks him is a nice nod to that story and just how messed up that whole timeline was.
So, did King right the ship, so to speak, on his Batman run as he heads into what turned out to be a somewhat early conclusion? I’d say yes. I’m not quite convinced Bruce is as “broken” as the narrative claims he is, but Bane’s plan was actually rather extensive and demonstrated he was as much as a tactician as a musclebound brute. The nightmare arc may have taken away from what King was doing, but there is at least a hint of a grand narrative told over the (originally promised) 100 issues here. How well it works out will depend on how well it sticks the landing, but I’m still very much intrigued.
On the other hand, the final issue here is an Annual with a series of short stories about various bad guys who’ve appeared in King’s run, namely Joker, Riddler, Hugo Strange, Psycho Pirate, and of course Bane. They aren’t all that bad, but they don’t add anything to the overall narrative, and King didn’t write any of them.
8.5 out of 10 deep pit fistfights.