SYNOPSIS: “I AM BANE” part four! Batman is losing…Bane is going to break him for good this time. The Dark Knight must turn to a very unlikely weapon to beat Bane once and for all!
BATMAN #19 is a brawny blast that finds writer Tom King and David Finch's art team squeezing Bane into a giant bazooka and firing through Arkham Asylum on a rage – and venom – fueled rampage to get to Batman, who guards a fragile Gotham Girl, whose only hope for healing was Bane's prisoner, the Psycho Pirate, whom Batman liberated from Bane's island fortress of Santa Prisca.
I love how fresh it feels. Rather than Batman fighting his way into Arkham, he's already inside, waiting for another round of melee with one of his most unstoppable physical opponents. King has a ton of fun running Bane through the gauntlet of inmates, everyone from Maxi Zeus (who digs deeply into the classics to find thematically suitable narrations for the issue's big events) to the Riddler. Many of the face-offs involve a villain dishing out his best brand of business before being punched to sleep by Bane, but King adds lots of variety to the encounters, from humor to horror and even a little heart. I want to talk about all of them, but I'll leave you to discover them for yourself.
(My only problem is that I'm still confused about how Dick and Jason and Damien went from being hanged in the Batcave to frozen in the Fortress of Solitude, and Bruce's words on the matter to Alfred don't make it any clearer.)
Amid Bane's reign of terror runs a vein of tragedy, as he laments that Batman has forced him out of the peaceful existence he sought in Santa Prisca. Seeing Bane juice himself up with Venom still frustrates me, as I continue to wish that the non-Venom "thinking man's Bane" whom we met in the "I Am Suicide" arc would have arrived back in Gotham instead, using his brains to augment his still considerable brawn. But alas. There's nothing wrong with it as it is, I just think it might have been an opportunity to do something a little different.
And yet, there's a big thrill in seeing how Finch pencils Bane unleashed that it's getting harder to wish that Bane were anything else. Lots of awesome compositions abound, including two killer Two-Face pages, and Finch does something new with every fight Bane has in this book. (And he has a lot of them.) In addition to unsurpassed action, Finch does some of the best facial work I've ever seen him do in these pages, as the various villains attempt to taunt, trick, or tempt Bane. Skillful inks by Danny Miki, Trevor Scott, and Sandra Hope assist colorist Jordie Bellaire's effective contrast of the sterile fluorescent lights on Arkham's ceilings to the shadows their light doesn't quite reach, and several pages in the middle benefit greatly from a sickly green tint that's appropriate to the villain it accompanies.
There's been a lot of punching these last two issues, and this one ends with the promise of much more, but Finch brings so much vigor and variety to the proceedings that there's no danger of anything being repetitive. This is what happens when Bane comes to town. He just keeps coming until you finally put him down. King's script is superb, referencing previous bits of his own dialogue and pop-culture Bat-quotes we all know and love.
And as awesome and Finch's cover is, I'm totally in love yet again with the cool, kooky variant by Tim Sale and Brennan Wagner.
BATMAN #19 is one of King's team's strongest issues yet. It has a classic Batman feel while hitting the big beats from fresh, fun angles we haven't previously seen. Don't miss it! - John Bierly
John Bierly still can't believe he gets to write for BOF.
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