On one side of Arkham Asylum Clocktower stands Bane, with Bronze Tiger, Catwoman, Duke and Commissioner Gordon tied up behind him as his captives.
On the other stands Batman, who has the one thing Bane wants: Psycho Pirate. Bane demands a trade. Batman’s answer? This tweet from DC Comics puts it best.
It’s Bane vs. Batman in “I Am Bane” Part Three. Who ya got?
Batman #18 (DC Comics)
If you’re an Atlanta Falcon fan, hear me out for a second. After reading Batman #18, I think I know how you feel. That’s because as a Batman fan, Batman #18 played out for me much like Superbowl LI did for you — extreme elation followed by commensurate agony.
It features an opening for the ages: a brilliant sequence of juxtaposed flashbacks starting from the moment the two boys’ mothers are murdered in front of them. The flashbacks, side by side shots of the two as they hunch over their mother’s moribund forms, paralyzed with grief and shock; and as they are torn away after calling for them one last time; and as they look back over their shoulders one last time with tear-filled-eyes at the lifeless bodies; and as they accustom themselves to life in their new surroundings without their mothers to care for them, punctuate the two’s brutal fight in the present day and cleverly add to the already considerable significance and build-up provided in Batman #17 and #16.
By the end of the arrangement, writer Tom King has not only accentuated the characters’ remarkable similarities, but also their underlying and crucial disparities. Although forged from the same fire, Batman and Bane ended up weapons of different molds and writer Tom King adroitly hammers that home in the issue’s overarching motif: yeah, Batman had it real tough following the death of his parents. But Bane had it even tougher.
Is it because of this that King so strongly favors Bane in the two’s fights twice in a row now? First in Batman #13 and now again in Batman #18? If you were expecting an evenly-matched spectacle between two master combatants, King’s outlook of how he thinks the fight would go down between Batman and Bane will likely disappoint casual fans more than Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. To say Bane gives Batman the business would be an understatement. To say he hands Batman his own ass would also be one.
I wanted to hate this aspect of the issue at first because it seemed uninspired. A squandering of what could have been an early contender for Comic Book Scrape of 2017. But the more I thought about it, the more the truly frightening reality became apparent: that’s exactly the way Tom King planned it. And more than likely he’s got an ace up his sleeve. That much is evident through a truly strange moment during the fight when Bane, in a mounted position on Batman, hambone-sized fist raised above his head, says “This is it, Batman. This is how you die.” Batman, with bloodied mouth and battered face, smiles and says “Bane. Shut up.” Since the flashbacks are the only real cerebral component of this fight, it’s a moment that makes the fight’s outcome even more perplexing, but nonetheless interesting and defies the usual tropes most comic fans are accustomed to as of late with Batman.
If this were a pro-wrestling match, you’d call this one a squash. You’d say Batman jobbed. But is King forgetting that Batman knows roughly 80 more fighting styles than Bane? Is supposed to be one of the smartest humans alive and has taken down foes more physically imposing than Bane before due to his tactical skills, preparation, obsessiveness to detail and extensive array of gadgets? Is this truly being done in the name of suspense or does King have a master plan? Or does he just want to really inflate Bane’s willpower levels? We don’t know yet, but despite the way everything played out in this issue, I’m still more than ready to see what happens next and to see whether these narrative choices will become more enjoyable during a re-read after the “I Am Bane” arc concludes.
The art in Batman #18 would be best described as formidable; the characters look larger than life and are full of such aggressive energy during the fight scene that you can’t help but stare and bask in the spectacle of it all. Artist David Finch always draws a bad-ass Batman, but his Bane in this issue is even more awesome, perfectly suiting King’s aggrandizement of the character; Finch’s exaggerated style makes Bane, who is back in full Venom-fueled, Luchador-mask wearing grandeur, look swoller than the lovechild of “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner and the Juggernaut on his best day — strong-enough-looking to topple buildings. This is some of Finch’s best stuff yet; art that truly adds to the issue’s grave, savage tone and made more impressive by the fact that he got it done in workhorse fashion, considering Batman #17 was released less than fifteen days ago.
Is It Good?
Since he first appeared in 1993’s Vengeance of Bane and proceeded to take over Gotham after “breaking the Bat” in the infamous Knightfall story arc, Bane has been one of Batman’s most formidable foes.
Batman #18 further reinforces that notion and leaves us once again on the edge of our seats, craving the next issue thanks to a discomfiting, yet intriguing narrative and larger than life art.