This issue does make a pair of important contributions to the larger narrative of the series. It addresses one of the few unresolved mysteries remaining after Batman #72, establishes where exactly Thomas’ loyalties rest and why he would choose to align himself with Bane against his own son. It also introduces an unexpected twist that further highlights Thomas’ motivations and may play into the franchise-altering plot twist King has been teasing these past few weeks.
Beyond those elements, however, there’s not much depth to this latest chapter of “The Fall and the Fallen.” Too much of the story is dedicated to Thomas escorting his comatose son through the desert, singing to himself and fighting ninjas. It makes for a very repetitive reading experience without the haunting prose or strong mood that powers so many issues of the series. At times, King almost seems to be parodying his own writing style. Thomas’ choice of songs (including “Home on the Range”) would be more appropriate for a group of elementary schoolers on a field trip than a psychologically bleak superhero Western.
Even the fact that Batman #73 is the first issue in quite a while to be fully illustrated by Mikel Janin isn’t quite the selling point it should be. Blame the desert setting, which results in page after page of figures standing against empty, indistinct environments. It’s not a setting that really plays to Janin’s storytelling strengths. The good news is that Janin brings the appropriately emotional range to the conversations between father and son. It should also be noted that colorist Jordie Bellaire helps heighten the surreal atmosphere of the story. Janin’s Batman always seems somewhat out of place in broad daylight, but Bellaire is able to mitigate that problem in a way Janin’s other coloring partner, June Chung, wasn’t during “The War of Jokes and Riddles.”