The “Thrilla in Santa Prisca,” Batman vs. Bane, (and Catwoman?) reaches its final round in Batman #13.
Who will win? Who will be in most dire need of a post-fight chiropractor? And can Bane please put on a pair of pants?
Batman #13 (DC Comics)
- Looks like Batman #13 is our first Justice League vs. Suicide Squad tie-in. I’m a little disappointed that Amanda Waller is just strolling into the Bat-Cave like she found the extra set of (Bat)keys under the welcome mat, but at the same time, it’s the character’s egregiously confident disposition that makes her so damn fun.
- The scene is a fun little showdown between Waller and Pennyworth, but part of me is kinda pissed Alfred didn’t rip some old-fashioned, walnut-stock waterfowl hunting gun off the wall and wave it at Waller while making snide, British-colloquialism-tinged remarks at her the entire time. Even if that wouldn’t have ended well for him.
- It’s official: Mikel Janin is such a fantastic artist that he can make even the title page look like a million dollars. I love the panel structure here, the close-ups on each character’s face in the boxes to the right gift the scene with such wonderful urgency.
- Alright, so Punch and Jewelee are still alive. What’s more surprising than that though is their remarkably durable throats. (How have they not already bled out?)
- So pretty much we could have replaced Bronze Tiger with Carl from The Walking Dead and this mission would still have had the same success rate? That is, King really didn’t give Bronze Tiger shit to do.
- Apparently Bane’s been watching a lot of old Summerslam tapes. While naked, of course. The form on that suplex would’ve made Curt Hennig toss his towel with zeal.
- If that’s all it took break Bane’s back, why couldn’t they have done that without all the circuitous soldier fighting and blatant disregard for one’s own health?
Is It Good?
To reiterate, Mikel Janin (pencils/inks) and June Chung (colors) are godsends on art. We might not get any visual porn like the M.C. Escherian entanglement of sewer pipes that Catwoman and Wesker must navigate in Batman #11 or the page-spanning, guerilla-congested gauntlet from Batman #12, but Janin is still able to flex his muscle in more subdued fashion.
The ambiance of Bane’s Santa Priscan stronghold is perfect. Here the stone granite walls are soaked in dingy, yellow light; everyone seems to be mantled by a thin layer of must. It gives everything a foreboding, perilous air, including the battle between Batman and Bane; the fight itself might be underwhelming, much like the overall plot, but there’s no denying the brutality and epic nature with which Janin is able to gift the scene. Bane, even when he’s suplexing Batman like a bare-assed Zangief or just hulking there atop his throne of human skulls looks like malevolence personified. A bald-headed, preternatural giant that exudes the air of some conflation of Xerxes from 300, Judge Holden from Blood Meridian and an Engineer from Prometheus.
His Batman is no slouch either; this scene, where’s he’s crouched like a gargoyle at Bane’s feet, glowering up at him, particularly struck me. That’s just some menacing shit:
And of course, his Catwoman is equally striking; she looks limber, agile, dancer-like. I’m still not the biggest fan of the goggles on Catwoman for some reason, but Janin gives her plenty of personality in her posture and facial expressions. That scene where she whip-swings and jump kicks Bane’s back looks very, very painful too. “For you…”
There’s a brief scene in the Bat-Cave, with its steel-blue framework and cold, white lighting that looks fantastic as well. Janin’s establishing shot, replete with a semicircle of Batmobiles and of course, giant T-Rex and penny replicas, gifts it with the perfect sense of size and scope — like it was hewn from the innards of a cutting-edge airship hangar.
It’s a shame that King’s writing throughout “I Am Suicide” has been much more hit-or-miss than the art though, especially in the plot and dialogue departments. On the one hand, he’s crafted the most provocative and thorough triptych of Batman, Catwoman and Bane that I’ve ever seen; each face connecting the three as orphans who were forced to reinvent themselves in order to endure their harrowing circumstances. The way he punctuated certain issues with flashbacks and letters was masterful and showed he has a deep understanding of the three psyches.
On the other hand, we, much like our dissonant trinity, had to endure much hardship to get to where we are. Namely, Batman’s plan to spring Psycho Pirate from Bane’s Santa Priscan stronghold — which, after all is said and done, ends up being one of the most convoluted and illogical of the Dark Knight’s in recent memory. I’m fine with King proving Bruce Wayne’s childhood and the decisions he made on his way to becoming Batman aren’t inviolable, like when he revealed in Batman #12 that Bruce tried to kill himself when he was ten-years-old.
But when you reduce Batman — crime-fighting genius, master tactician, prep-time virtuoso, and smartest member of the Justice League — to bush league shit like leaping headlong into battalions of commandos in broad daylight, I take umbrage, “I Am Suicide” mindset notwithstanding.
To recap, here’s a brief recap of Batman’s plan to spring Psycho Pirate:
Crash Bat-Jet on the beach, get kidnapped, repeat phrases like “Break your damn back” ad nauseum like a malfunctioning droid, get back broken by Bane, get tossed in prison, fix own back with a limbo dance move, get betrayed by Catwoman and barely involve other team members in the mission to the point where they seem superfluous. (The Wesker scene was pretty enjoyable, though, and actually makes him a prudent choice for the mission.)
If I never hear Batman talking about breaking backs again, I’m cool with it.
Hardly the cerebral chess match I have come to expect from Batman and Bane. In fact, Batman’s dialogue and modus operandi in “I Am Suicide” seemed so atypic of the Dark Knight that I was salivating for a twist. I mean, the major seeds were there: Batman’s repetition of phrases and relative ease popping his own spine back into alignment suggesting he might be a decoy devised by one of the other group members.
The twist in the conclusion of “I Am Suicide” however is… that there is no twist. It’s revealed that everything went according to Batman’s plan, and a win is a win, but how ingenious can a plan really be if it includes you being physically beaten within an inch of your life for 90 percent of it?
Brandon Mulholland sums up my thoughts pretty well on the matters in his review of Batman #10, “In a perfect Batman story, Batman would break in on his own under the cover of darkness and steal Psycho Pirate and be out before anyone knew what was going on,” and “[Batman’s reckless behavior] may have been a misdirection, but with a level of risk that Batman would never condone. Batman puts himself at risk every time he goes out to fight crime, but he always stacks the odds completely in his favor.”
Because of this Batman’s victory in this doesn’t feel earned, nor does it even feel like the entire plot thread on Santa Prisca was necessary, besides Catwoman’s characterization and three panels from Wesker.
Even still, there’s hope moving forward. Despite the enigmatic air surrounding Catwoman’s alleged murder-spree (a narrative choice that has had Selina Kyle fans the world over clamoring the phrase “character assassination”), King has handled her quite well; he’s treating her like a big-time character, giving her some shine and this is the most capricious and dangerous I can remember her ever being. I look forward to some great synergy between she and Batman in upcoming issues.