By Alex Batts — “The Fall and The Fallen” story arc continues in this week’s issue of Batman, and while at first glance it might not seem like that much is going on, the developments seem likely to have gigantic implications for the final chapters of writer Tom King’s run on the title. Batman #72 saw Batman beaten and broken (again) at the hands of Bane, while his father Thomas stood idle, brooding. This issue picks up with the Wayne duo in the desert, Bruce unconscious and being secured to the back of a horse, while Thomas nonchalantly sings the classic American West folksong, “Home on The Range”, a tune he continues to recite throughout the issue.
Mikel Janín and Jordie Bellaire handle art duties. The pair are no strangers to working on Batman with King, and their work here is as stunning as ever. Aside from a notably badass action sequence with Thomas (more on that in a moment), the art primarily highlights beautifully stark desert landscapes during the day and night. The art team also does a great job at contrasting Thomas in his Batsuit and Bruce in regular clothing. It’s not very often that we see someone other than Bruce wearing the Batman cowl while Bruce is still on the page, and it stands out in just the right ways.
The narrative meat of this story comes from the interactions between Bruce and Thomas. Once Bruce comes to, he is all shock and anger, shouting for Bane. Thomas responds with force and recites one of my favorite lines from King’s run, “It’s okay to be scared. Everyone gets scared. It just means you get to fight that fear.” Before knocking his son out cold. This callback to Bruce’s words in the “I Am Gotham” story arc gave me chills, reminding me why I love long-form storytelling.
The next time Bruce wakes up, he naturally has questions. Thomas is there to comfort his son, reassuring him that things will be alright. This is where I find the issue most interesting. You want to believe Thomas, but can we? After everything we’ve seen, is this just another trap? Are Thomas’ intentions really what’s best for Bruce? And what the bloody hell is in that coffin he’s lugging through the desert?
Bruce is skeptical of his father as well given all that he’s been through. The pair share a few conversations by campfire, which are beautifully illustrated by Janín and Bellaire, and it’s in these scenes that you can read so much meaning depending on the angle through which you choose to interpret Thomas’ lines. As they trek across the desert Bruce asks about where they’re going and what the deal with the coffin is, to which Thomas explains that he’ll figure it out when the drugs he’d been given to heal his back wear off.
That badass action sequence I previously mentioned featured a group of men called “The Death in the Desert”, servants of Ra’s Al Ghul (a hint about the pair’s ultimate destination), and is brutally rendered by Janín and Bellaire. There’s something oddly satisfying about watching Thomas Wayne pummel a group of ninjas while singing “Home on the Range” in the desert. A second group shows up later in the issue, allowing Bruce to put the pieces of Thomas’ plan together. It’s safe to say that Thomas plans to bring someone back to life, as to who that is… well, I’ll let you read the issue and find out, but it’s going to be absolutely world changing for Batman if it happens.
Overall: This stunning trek through the desert presents brilliant bonding and discomfort for father and son as writer Tom King plays with a relationship Bat-fans never thought we’d see explored further. 9.4/10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janín
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
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Alex Batts is from Texas. A lifelong comic book enthusiast and movie lover, if he’s not talking about comics, he’s probably not talking. You can find him on Twitter by following @BatmanFiles