I am writing this now as a warning. If you have not yet read this issue, if you have avoided all spoilers or even if you have been engulfed in the hype surrounding this issue and have still not been enticed to read it, this is your chance. I want you to right now, stop what you are doing, go out and find a copy of Flashpoint: Batman-Knight of Vengeance #2 and read it. I am telling you this, because it is that good!
Perhaps you aren't interested in this because you haven't been reading Flashpoint, well, I can tell you know that that is not a valid reason. You do not have to have read any of Flashpoint to understand this, I would go so far as to say that you do not even have to have read the first issue of the series (although admittedly it does add to the experience) all you have to know, is that Batman is Thomas Wayne.
I am aware of the connotations that surround tie-in books, that they are simply money making scams, often of low quality that offer nothing to the event. But this is SO MUCH MORE! This isn't a tie-in book, it is a stand alone title. It is not overflowing with tired references to the event, it doesn't feel forced or created for a paycheck. It feels like a story that was meant to be told, in which its only connection with the Flashpoint Universe is that it's given it a Universe to exist in.
Think of this as an Elseworlds title, and again, not so that you can turn your noses up at it but so that you can see it in a different light. Sure this story doesn't 'matter'. Sure it doesn't play into continuity. And sure, it won't have an effect on the DC or even the Batman Universe. However, that is not the aim of this book. It doesn't have to be canon, it exists because it is a great story and on that basis alone does it deserve your attention! Just think of (arguably) the greatest comic series every written, The Dark Knight Returns, that story was not in continuity and that is, I'm sure, amongst many of your top 10 Batman stories. Now obviously, this is not in the same league as that but that is because of what that series did for the comic industry, however, when you look at the actual story, does it live up to the hype? I'm not saying that The Dark Knight Returns isn't a great comic in many aspects, what I am saying is that if you read this book, it certainly WILL live up to the hype.
I will say now that this issue is getting five out of five Batarangs, if you keep reading you will find out why. But, if you don't want to be spoiled, then do not follow the link and go out and find a copy of this book to read.
Ok, still here? Ok then, let's roll…
The issue opens up at Wayne Casino with Oswald Cobblepot on the phone to Jim Gordon. Jim is talking to Oswald about Thomas and how he's worried he is letting him down after Thomas had asked "If you could change the world would you do it?" This is of course a reference to Batman's role in 'Flashpoint' but Jim takes it to mean that he isn't doing enough in the fight against crime. Oswald reassures him; he is of course Thomas' best friend but to prove himself, Jim goes to visit Oracle without informing Thomas.
From the first sight of a cat we assume that this Oracle is not Barbara Gordon but Selina Kyle, and surprise, surprise we would be correct in our assumption when we are introduced to Selina, along with the uncomfortable line of expositional dialog "You never had kids, did you?". But back to the story, Oracle has a potential lead on the Joker. A pizza delivery boy was washed up on shore whose cause of death matched the Joker's M.O., Jim goes to investigate the delivery car for clues but whilst at the scene he receives a call from Thomas Wayne. Thomas questions Jim on the information he received from Oracle but he lies to make it sound unimportant, he also says he's at the morgue examining the body when in actual fact he is standing outside Wayne Manor. Not one to sit back and let other people do the work, Thomas says he'll meet Jim at the morgue where he believes he is, after vane attempts to deter him, Jim gives in and lets Thomas travel to the wrong destination.
We cut to inside the mansion where the Joker is standing over the two Dent children, intimidating them whilst he gags them with tape.
We then cut to a seedy bar where Batman is interrogating (and assaulting) a washed-up Harvey Bullock. In retaliation the Bar Maid, Renee Montoya, swings a bat (as in a baseball bat, no pun intended) at Batman who simply catches it but Renee takes him down to the cellar where they have an employee tied up. The Joker was in the pub several days ago, giving out pizza. Of course, most people knew better but one employee, a new guy, had a slice, this lead to him laughing maniacally under similar effects to modern Joker toxin. Apparently there is no cure for this in the Flashpoint Universe as, when questioned what they can do for him, Batman replies "There's nothing anybody can do… other than… blame me" before promptly breaking the man's neck.
In the Batmobile, Batman is discussing the case with Oracle who relieves the information that Jim received all of the intel hours ago. At this, Batman is worried at what Jim might do and when he tries to phone him, he realizes that his phone is switched off.
We then cut back to Jim, creeping through a seemingly abandoned Wayne Manor. Peering though a gap where a door was left ajar he spies the Joker standing over one of the Dent children with two guns aimed at his cowering head, bursting through the door, Jim fires. His aim is good as his bullet hits the young girl dressed up as the Joker square in the chest. Realizing what he has done, Jim looses all precaution as he rushes over to the young girl, praying that he hasn't done too much damage but as he tends to her lifeless body, a shining blade creeps round his neck. The young boy is showered with blood as the Joker slits Gordon's throat.
Back in the Batmobile, Oracle patches Batman into the security network where he is being shown a mobile phone video of the horrific scene accompanied by the maniacal laughter of the Joker. Bursting through the doors of Wayne Manor, Batman screams "What have you done this time– MARTHA!" As we see our first full body shot of the Joker, now revealed to be Martha Wayne.
To be concluded. Written by Brian Azzarello with art by Eduardo Risso.
You know what, I don't really need to give much of a review. That ending really does speak for itself! Sure, there are a few minor faults, like why is the Joker in Wayne Manor when Thomas is living there, why did Oracle have such advanced computers when an excellent joke in 'Flashpoint' #3 was that Batman only had one, very basic PC. But these can be forgotten, no, these ARE forgotten when you look at the issue as a whole.
My criticism on the podcast that we have Heath Ledger as a Joker was unjust and I am so happy for it, I now want to know absolutely everything I can about this world, these characters and how these circumstances came to be.
I'm actually going to stop my review here before I burst into a fit of passionate expletives, all I'm going to say that if you don't read this, you are seriously missing out!
Flashpoint: Batman-Knight of Vengeance #2:
Reviewed by Joe Jinks