Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Batman, Volume 3: I Am Bane Review (Tom King, David Finch)

Following his daring raid on Bane’s island home of Santa Prisca, Batman has taken the Psycho Pirate back to restore Gotham Girl’s shattered mind. But with Bane hot on his heels, will Batman be able to keep him occupied for five days - or will Bane break the Bat once and for all? 

After two solid Batman books, I was worried that this would be the one where Tom King drops the ball (it happens to everyone eventually); thankfully, I worried in vain as I Am Bane is yet another brilliant Batman volume! 

This one’s a pretty intense read - there’s a countdown timer with one issue per day, so it’s five issues for the arc - and I was surprised that things escalated as quickly as they did (that final page of the first chapter!). Before that though is an excellent scene between Batman and the Robins in a fast food joint called “Batburger”! I liked the change of scenery from the usual Wayne Manor/Batcave setting. 

The banter between Dick, Jason and Damian was unexpectedly funny (Damian making fun of Jason’s receding hairline!) though I don’t know how they can all be solemn over Tim Drake’s recent “death” when, in a postmodern way, they were joking about their own “deaths” moments earlier - maybe King’s just being ironic? 

The storyline is an inversion of Knightfall - instead of Batman having to go through a gauntlet of enemies to get to Bane, Bane must go through the gauntlet to get to Batman - and it’s a gripping read. I really enjoyed it, King writes it so well - the dialogue is suitably hard, the action is relentless and the story flows so smoothly. 

I’m not surprised though that King went for the classic Bane storyline because the character is quite limited in what you do with him, even if King tried - and he did - to flesh him out more. And even though a certain level of stupidity has to be accepted when reading superhero comics, the overall story still undeniably felt a bit simplistic and silly. The finale is also a bit abrupt. 

Still, that’s not to say that it lacks substance. King does a fine job in showing us just why Gotham Girl is so important to Batman, particularly in the epilogue where the two characters have an introspective and thoughtful talk about what it means to be a superhero. The theme of identity that’s been a part of all three books (the subtitle of all three being “I Am…”) comes together nicely as we see both Batman and Bane contrasted as two men who’ve led hard lives, striving for inner peace/happiness. 

Their motivations not only make sense but Batman’s also segues beautifully into THAT unexpected scene with Catwoman - Batman taking the conclusion of his chat with Gotham Girl to heart. That said, I don’t think it’ll stick, particularly if DC are consistent with their stance for their characters on this sort of thing in the past. Not to mention the subtitle of that chapter: “Every Epilogue is a Prelude” - King’s got something up his sleeve for these two and I’m not convinced it’ll be as straightforward as all that. 

I was delighted to see Ace the Bat-Hound make his Rebirth debut with an excellent origin. I also enjoyed noticing the little details King sprinkled throughout: naming parts of Arkham Asylum “Morrison Hall” and “McKean Clock Tower” (Grant Morrison and Dave McKean created the classic, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth), and “Nolan Alley”. David Finch draws yet more superb pages too - his work on this Batman is the best I’ve seen his art. 

The Batman/Swamp Thing team-up, The Brave and the Mold (heh), was a bit dull. Appropriately though, for a comic dedicated to Swampy’s co-creator Bernie Wrightson who recently died, the story is about Alec’s parentage.

If you’ve enjoyed Tom King’s Batman run as much as I have, I Am Bane won’t let you down - this title remains the jewel in DC’s Rebirth crown. It’s also the best Bane book I’ve ever read (though that’s not saying much!). I really enjoyed it - Tom King’s Batman continues to impress and thoroughly entertain.

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