Overview: As the City of Bane arc nears its conclusion, Batman and Bane finally come face to face.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): The book opens with Bane and Batman agreeing to “no masks” before they face off. The book then cuts to Wayne Manor where the Ventriloquist gets smacked after asking Thomas Wayne if he requires anything, with Thomas respond that he “requires his boy” as he walks away.
Batman removes his belt and shirt as he tells Bane “No help”, saying that it is not Catwoman’s city or fight. Bane proceeds to remove the pump that feeds venom into his body. Meanwhile, Thomas and the Ventriloquist walk through Wayne Manor and into the Batcave and passed the unconscious bodies of the Bat-Family.
Bane winds up to throw a punch and finds that his wrist now has Catwoman’s bullwhip wrapped around it and Batman strike, with two Batarangs visibly taped to the small of his back, admitting to Bane that he lied about not having help. Batman then throws the two Batarangs which cut into Bane, with Catwoman explaining that Bane doesn’t use Gotham Girl’s “Super-Venom” because it would overload his system and that he would need to remove his venom pump to prevent him from regulating an injection from a Batarang coated in super-venom. The story then cuts to Thomas walking through the destroyed Batcave to an open Batmobile.
Batman stands over Bane, with Catwoman’s whip around Bane’s neck as she pulls him from behind. Batman tells Bane the venom will kill him but he can save him and ask Bane if they are done. Bane speaks about his youth growing up in prison before yelling that they are not done and launching himself at Batman.
Ventriloquist pilots the Batmobile as Thomas checks over his handgun.
Catwoman pounces on Bane, scratching at his face with her claws. Bane hurls her off of him, slamming Catwoman into a wall. Batman tackles Bane from behind, smashing his face repeatedly into the floor, telling Bane he could kill him for what he has done, but instead declares that he will “break his damn back” as he lifts Bane over his head as he readies to drive him down over his knee, which is interrupted as a pair of gunshots ring out, striking Batman in the stomach as he and Bane fall to the ground, with Thomas Wayne standing over him with a smoking gun. Bane tries to crawl towards Thomas and is met with another gunshot. The issue ends with Batman and Bane on the ground, bleeding, as Thomas tells Ventriloquist that they have come to the end and to fetch the pirate.
Analysis: One of the things I’ve found myself wondering as the story reaches its conclusion, is that in what ends up being an eighty-five issue run, the story hasn’t spent a lot of time with the apparent big bad of the series, Bane. There are little moments here and there, but the majority of the story has had Bane sitting menacingly on a thrown of skulls without delving much into his motivations. Bane is more of a force of nature in this story then a character. To paraphrase another work by Tom King: Bane is.
I think what is very telling is in the alternate cover for this issue by David Finch, with Thomas Wayne standing over a Bane who is strung up like a marionette, is that as the true villain of this story has been Thomas Wayne all along, which makes a lot of sense when you consider the story as a whole and how much time King has spent focusing on Thomas Wayne throughout his run. I’ve always thought it was a little strange that Thomas would agree, especially in the City of Bane arc, to essentially become Bane’s muscle, but as this story unfolds, it is becoming clear that Thomas has been biding his time and working towards his own endgame. I like this reveal, because while Bane is certainly a force to be reckoned with, I would argue that the twisted version of Bruce Wayne’s father is far more dangerous a threat. A brilliant former surgeon turned unscrupulous rage-filled tactician who knows all of Batman’s weaknesses.
I do have wonder about the gunshot wound that Bane receives in the story, as in the closing panels, it appears that Bane has been shot in the head, make Bane another character whose fate is left unclear. I have an easier time believing that King would be allowed to take Bane off the table then Alfred, but I still have my doubts that either character is being taken off the board permanently.
I think it’s also interesting that Psycho Pirate is again being factored into things as the story wraps up. While I would be the first to argue that King has leaned far too much on this character in his work over the last few years, I can see the temptation to have him factor into this ending. Thomas has been established as someone who is desperate to get back his family, and is willing to do horrible, monstrous things in order to achieve this end. Using Psycho Pirate to remake Bruce into what he wants him to be, after all the set up, makes sense and feels earned. I just hope that these next few issues are the last we see of Psycho Pirate for a very long time as I feel we’ve said everything we need to say about this character.
The Bat/Cat/Bane fight was well executed and highlights Batman’s willingness to cheat come out on top. I like how Batman relies on Bane assuming Batman’s hubris that he needs to defeat Batman in a one on one fight and how Batman turns this assumption into a weapon. The only issue I have with it is that King makes it pretty clear that this is where the fight is going to go so it comes as no surprise when Catwoman joins the fight. I think it would have been better if we didn’t see Catwoman up to this point in Batman’s return to Gotham which I think would give the moment more impact.
Mikel Janin continues to be one of my favorite artists working today and he handles the big fight, which is the centerpiece of this issue, with his usual flair. Janin has a good sense of anatomy and how the body is supposed to move that I think makes this fight especially brutal, which is what I think it calls for. I’m going to miss Janin’s work on this title and I hope that DC keeps him in Gotham when this run wraps up.
Final Thoughts: This was a tight issue with a well-executed fight that we have all been waiting for, but I think the more interesting part of the story is how clear it makes who the big bad of the title has been all along; in this case, the main character’s own father. I’ve long advocated that Thomas Wayne has the makings of becoming one of the true greats of Batman’s rogue’s gallery which I think is something we are seeing more evidence of as this story reaches it’s conclusion. I’m looking forward to where this is going.