Batman: Rebirth #74
Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Mikel Janin (artist), Tom King (writer)
July 10th 2019
The lead-up to Batman #74 has been a roller coaster of realizations, from Dick Grayson’s brain injury at the hands of KGBeast, to the wedding that never was, to Bane’s slow-burn takeover of Gotham. Possibly the most shocking revelation is that it was Thomas Wayne who concocted the entire charade.
Introducing Thomas Wayne as a villain was something that I found surprising, but a nice change of pace. He is a villain who would leave Bruce deeply conflicted. After all, he became Batman to deal with the trauma from witnessing the deaths of his parents. Throughout the Rebirth run, Bruce regularly thinks back on his parents: would they be proud, or disappointed? There are even callbacks to Flashpoint when Barry Allen receives the letter from Thomas to Bruce.
This is all why I found it not only surprising, but deeply disappointing, that the revelation of Thomas being a villain—and the ensuing fight—only lasted two issues.
In concept, the creative decisions made by writer Tom King seem sound. Thomas wants to take Bruce, and the body of his wife—Bruce’s mother—to the Nain Pit, a Lazarus Pit that will take one life for another. Thomas hopes that by stripping Batman down, making him admit he’s lost everything, he can build their family anew. Thomas’ wish is as much to rebuild and crawl out of the shadow of the Batman himself as it is for his son.
There’s a dynamic that had so much room to be explored, so many questions and conflicts that could be addressed. With Bruce’s experiences with the Al Ghuls and the Lazarus Pit, does he not have concern for his mother? What about the conflict of getting the family he has always wanted? What about Thomas’ motivations, his guilt? A plethora of creative choices get left at the wayside in an effort to fast-track readers to “City Of Bane,” and it feels like a creative waste.
As a reader, my biggest frustration was not seeing Bruce be conflicted about his choice. When Thomas gets to the pit, Bruce turns against him. He reveals he buried his mother out in the desert where his father will never find her, and then they fight, and the final panel is a gloved hand crawling out of the pit. King’s usual flare for internal motivations and deep monologues gets left behind in favor of a fight we don’t get to see.
The best Batman arcs know how to pace the action, how to give the reader enough of Batman’s inner motivations to feel conflicted, unsure; to understand his wants, his needs, what he has to do because it’s right. The entire conflict gets left in the dust here, and Bruce doesn’t even hesitate over the choice to bring his parents back. Considering how long he’s marinated in the trauma of their death, I have a hard time believing that he wouldn’t want to try to bring them both back, and an even harder time accepting a single-issue conclusion to a relationship that could have been a real page-turner.
It’s also disappointing that this issue comes on the heels of Tom King stating that he was wrapping up his Batman arc fifteen issues early, ending it on issue #85 instead of #100 as originally planned. Especially when it feels like this should have had at least three to four issues to let the story breathe.
Batman: Rebirth #74 feels rushed, the emotional weight never sticks, and the payoff is lackluster. It’s juxtaposed with issue #57, when Bruce recalls the story he made his father read to him: his upbringing is countered with that of KGBeast before their brutal beatdown in the snow, a repayment for KGBeast attempting to kill Dick Grayson. The desperation of a father trying to save his son never settles in this issue, and the weight of the story of the woodland creatures doesn’t hit as hard as it did in issue #57. The pacing doesn’t have the same weight, and too many storylines and motivations are trying to be tied up without a real payoff for the effort.
As always, the art is gorgeous, and Mikel Janin keeps pace with beautiful, cinematic splash pages and rich, lively panels. It’s the art and colors I’ve come to expect for this Batman run, and while I’m always excited to see new artists breathe fresh air into a story, I’ll be sad to see Janin’s iconic style take a back seat when “City Of Bane” comes out. But I look forward to seeing Tony S. Daniel take the reins.
Overall, Batman: Rebirth #74 concludes a loose end, but feels rushed and out of place. It doesn’t deliver the emotional beats that I would have expected for Batman finally being reunited with his father. It feels like the emotional weight of the arc was put on the back burner to rush into “City Of Bane” for Batman #75. The final battle between Batman and Bane begins in the next issue, and I just hope it can continue to deliver the punches, because Batman #74 certainly felt like a misstep.