Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mikel Janin
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Bane’s plan to break Batman again, this time on a more psychological level, has been playing out since issue #1. Finally the two meet again, there was an earlier Bane arc that did not seem to end too well for Bane, and there confrontation unfolds in this issue. Thomas Wayne, Flashpoint Batman, had previously taken out the Bat-Family and his place in the City of Bane is one of the few loose ends that could still come back to haunt Batman. The issue itself is a fairly straight forward climax to this arc, and Tom King’s run as a whole.
Batman vs Bane. That could have been the title for this comic and it would have been an apt description (mostly). The dialogue takes a backseat here, as the comic focuses mostly on action. Bane even removes venom from his system and takes Batman with no further help. He does this on the promise that Catwoman will not get involved in the fight. Without getting into spoilers on how the fight unfolds, there are some twists and turns both expected and unexpected that keep the battle intriguing. Thomas Wayne is a constant background threat in the comic and is often referenced. His impact is not felt until the end of the comic, that leads to a great cliffhanger, but the story easily builds his threat level.
This is a quick issue. Not much is said in this comic, but a lot is accomplished. Tom King is showing how well he can master his storytelling techniques when he can, give some conclusion to the Bane vs. Batman fight, develop Catwoman’s relationship and character further, and still make Thomas Wayne’s arc matter. Catwoman’s development is the real star of the show here. She takes ownership of Gotham that few have mentioned or attempted before. Bruce Wayne is rich and elite, his take on Gotham is vastly different than Selina’s. Selina actually grew up in the “real” Gotham and in many ways this is her city far more than someone who happens to “own” a good chunk of it. King’s explains this theme is exactly one page and sells exactly why her relationship with Bruce works so well. Batman has been the solo Dark Knight (Bat-Family notwithstanding) and is shown to be a better person with Catwoman by his side. She is not a sidekick, and Tom King understands this. King always introduces the theme of love in all of his work, and I was not a believer that it could work with Batman. I am more than happy to be proven wrong here.
Mikel Janin has been the artist on a number of issues, of this run. His work has always been welcome, and often he has shared duties. Thankfully, Janin is the sole artist from cover to cover and it really stands out. His style is more realistic than cartoonish, and for this battle it adds a lot of weight to each panel. The brutality on display all feels real. The way he draws Bane in particular, he looks massive but believable. A change from the way the character looked in the 90s. His layouts really help the fight feel fluid and move from panel to panel. The empty spaces between are easy to read and I could picture everything moving in real time. There is one panel with Catwoman that looked a little bit like it jumped off the screen from Batman returns, and it did take me out for a bit, but that was my only sticking point. Overall, the art here is fantastic and a real selling point of the comic.