After the big reveal at the end of Knight of Vengeance #2, I wasn't sure how Brian Azzarello was going to top that issue. In my less than humble opinion, he managed to tie it all up in the best way possible.
The issue opens with Batman storming in to the house, desperate to stop Martha. He sees the scene set before him, with one child cradling the other, neither really looking at Gordon as he lays dead on the floor. Batman growls and the supposedly dead child echoes the noise. When Batman realizes she's alive, he's instantly trying to help her. He cauterizes the wound and rips the tape off her mouth. He tries to comfort her, letting her know that it'll hurt, but the hurt means she's alive.
She whispers that she's cold and the scene becomes all too familiar for Batman. All of a sudden, it's no longer one of the Dent's children he's leaning over, it's Bruce in Crime Alley. He tells Martha to run for help, as she's curled up in shock. He tries to tell Bruce it's okay, but Bruce stops responding. He administers CPR to no avail. When Martha returns with a police officer, it's too late. Bruce lays dead and Thomas has blood smeared across his cheek from the attempt to resuscitate him.
The "No!" from Martha carries him back to the current situation. She comes at him with a hammer, asking how he dares to do this. He goes back into his memories, seeing how Martha turned into herself after the murder in Crime Alley. Therapy isn't helping because Martha refuses to accept Bruce being gone. He tells her they both miss him, and he's on the verge of suggesting something when he thinks of another memory.
As Martha continues to try to beat him with the hammer, he recalls paying someone to find out whom the mugger was, to find out where he is. Thomas pulls out a syringe, desperate to make Joe Chill pay. When he spots him, he drops the syringe and beats him to death with his bare hands. Returning home to deliver the news to Martha, she simply tells him she understands before turning around to reveal the bloody gashes in her cheeks.
She's hauled off and he returns to his present state of mind in time to stop Martha from injuring him further. They crash through a window and land on the lawn. She asks if he knows what a failure he is. Batman agrees and says he knows the blood on his hands doesn't change a thing. Martha says it's changed him.
As they runs through the grounds, rain spatters them both. She taunts him about old times and he catches her, asking if she really wants to go there. Batman tells her about a world that could be, where the two shots weren't absorbed by Bruce, but by them. When Thomas says he has the opportunity to make that reality real, he asks her if he should. Martha makes Thomas promise he will. In a tender moment, Martha asks about Bruce, what he does after they're dead. Thomas admits Bruce follows in his footsteps. Martha first believes that means Bruce becomes a doctor, and then she realizes the truth.
The revelation of Bruce's career tips her over the edge, causing her to flee and run around the grounds laughing. She doesn't know the grounds as well as Thomas does and falls down the abandoned well, releasing the bats, never finishing her sentence about what exactly the world is. The series ends with Thomas looking down on Martha, broken by the fall.
Reading the first issue, I wasn't sure I was going to like this series. I thought Thomas Wayne was an inarticulate character, and there wasn't enough to keep me hooked. That changed at the start of the second issue. This issue just drove it home. I loved the interweaving of past and present, showing the descent of Martha into madness.
I love the dialogue between Martha and Thomas at the end, the back and forth they seem to have and then Martha losing it when she realizes what happens to Bruce regardless.
I think the art is one thing that really helps this story along. I don't know how heavily scripted the panels were or if Brian Azzarello just let Eduardo Risso do his own thing, but I think the art was absolutely perfect for the story. One thing I noticed, particularly with the coloring in the memories, was the use of red tones. The times red washes or red splashes were used corresponded perfectly to what the story wanted you to feel, hope draining the way Bruce's blood does, rage building the way Thomas' does, pain finally exploding the way Martha's does.
This whole series has built upon itself, allowing it to be a fairly self-sufficient story, and is still probably one of the best tie-ins I've read to Flashpoint.
Flashpoint: Batman-Knight of Vengeance #3:
Reviewed by Melinda Hinman