A Batman by any other name...

I didn’t particularly enjoy Flashpoint, the crossover story arc DC Comics introduced in May ahead of the reboot of the entire DC Universe, beginning, as it were, from scratch. I will not get into the subject of the reboot except to say that the first issue of JLA was a disappointment, the first issue of Swamp Thing rocked, and the first issue of Superman was very, very intriguing.

What I do want to get into, however, is Flashpoint itself, a sort of parallel and changed DC Universe which was significantly different from the one we are all familiar with. Suffice it to say that this happened because of some time travel by one of the characters, Barry Allen aka Flash.

Much like one would expect from an altered reality arc, Flashpoint is complex, convoluted, and, at times, laboured.

Flashpoint: Bruce Wayne’s parents become superhero—and supervillain. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

For after this point, beware, there will be spoilers.

Bruce Wayne is dead in this version of Batman, murdered by mugger Joe Chill as he is walking home with his parents. His parents react to the tragedy differently. Thomas Wayne gives up his medical practice and runs Wayne Casinos, approaching crime-fighting more from the perspective of organizing and controlling crime than the one preferred by Bruce Wayne in the unaltered reality. Oswald Chester Cobblepot (the Penguin in the unaltered reality) is Thomas Wayne’s assistant. James Gordon heads his security detail. And, lest I forget, Wayne has an alter ego: Batman.

Martha Wayne channels her grief differently. She withdraws into a shell, loses her mind, and around the same time her husband extracts bloody vengeance on Chill, she flips and becomes the Joker.

Whoa, there!

The story, told over three issues, is perhaps the finest Batman comic series I have seen in a long time and comes not long after I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t encountered good Batman writing in some time. Azzarello and Risso are at their gritty best; the characters are as well fleshed out as they could have been in a miniseries; the book has a surfeit of the darkness that is an essential ingredient of all Batman classics; and both the writing and the drawings have a jagged edge to them. As much as I didn’t like Flashpoint, by the time I finished the three Batman comics, I wanted more. Thomas Wayne makes a dashed good Batman.

R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.

Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com