Batman: Knight of Vengeance. It's difficult to type, never mind say, without assuming a Christian Bale growl. We're in the grim and gritty corner of Flashpoint here, have no doubt, as the Batman - Thomas Wayne - battles criminals in his own way. Not for him the shiny tech and clean fighting styles of his regular DC Universe son, Bruce. This chap gets down and dirty with pared-down Bat-suit, bruiser tactics and a bad attitude.
I fear he also has an ulcer. Look at this.
Those aren't the noises made by a well man, and as a physician Wayne should know better than to be flapping around the city in his condition. But he has kidnapped twins to find, the children of DA Harvey Dent, and if he doesn't locate them Harvey will crack down on Wayne's business interests. And the Batman needs his casinos, which are very popular with low-lives, to 'fund the control of crime'. Whatever that means.
The Penguin is also in here, as Wayne's casino manager, rather than a criminal mastermind (though I'd bet he's skimming). And Jim Gordon is the head of Gotham's private security force, and Batman's confidante. There's no direct tie-in to the main Flashpoint series, though an offhand comment to Gordon has me thinking this is set after Batman's meeting with Barry Allen.
A side-scenario has Batman stalking the sewers after homeless people go missing, and confronting a Killer Croc who's every bit as scary as his regular self, After meeting rough, tough Batman, he's rather more dead. And dissected, Wayne having remembered his medical school anatomy lessons.
This is a sharp little comic, with an economical script from Brian Azzarello. Gruntiness apart, he establishes Thomas Wayne's character well - a damaged, cynical soul, somehow hanging on to a belief that the world can be a better place. And the side characters suit the sprinkling of novelty afforded by the Flashpoint event.
Eduardo Risso, Aazzarello's 100 Bullets partner, produces some seriously good-looking art. Gotham has rarely seemed so dark - even in the daylight - but it's attractive, seductive. And individuals are full of character, none more so than the grizzled, powerful Wayne. My favourite page, though, hardly even features people: it's the 'camera' pulling back from Wayne and Gordon in a limo, showing the multi-leveled streets of Gotham. Just beautiful work.
Adding to the creative synergy are Patricia Mulvihill, with her superb colour compositions, and Clem Robins, with his energetic lettering. Dave Johnson's movie poster-style cover is pretty good too, though even he can't make Batman's coathanger shoulders look good.
Given the entertainment in this debut issue of three, I think I'll continue my visit to Flashpoint Gotham over the next two months. If only to see if Thomas Wayne gets that ulcer seen to.