Tom King’s recent “I Am Bane” arc reestablished Bane as one of Batman’s most formidable and bad-ass foes — perfect timing for the character’s creators, Chuck Dixon and Paul Nolan, to helm a twelve-issue mini-series that sees the Santa Priscan powerhouse ready to expand his dominion over the DCU.
Is it good?
Writer: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Paul Nolan
Publisher: DC Comics
Check out the official Bane: Conquest preview from DC.
Why does this book matter?
Bane’s a big guy. For you. Contrived movie jokes aside, Bane: Conquest is also a big deal, as it’s the first time he’s had his own title since ‘90s Batman backbones Paul Nolan and Chuck Dixon forged the character’s definitive backstory (and the impetus for Knightfall) in Batman: Vengeance of Bane twenty-four years ago. And what better jumping on point is there for new and old Bane fans alike than a brand-new series from the guys who know him best?
Bane: Conquest #1 starts hot out the gates with an opening that sees Bane and his loyal posse, Bird, Trogg and Zombie, commandeering a shady boat just outside of Gotham — one hauling nuclear warheads.
Veteran writer Chuck Dixon demonstrates why he’s been in the game so long with a tightly paced narrative, interesting dialogue and engaging, vicious action scenes — the latter of which focuses on Bane’s preferred means of investigation into who’s behind the ominous shipment: face stomping. And no shortage of it.
The violence is rendered in fine form by Paul Nolan (pencils), with sharp colors from Gregory Wright. Particular images that stood out include the amazing cover; the entire intro scene, with a pair of cigar-smoking international mobsters inspecting a green-screened sonar setup and Bane scaling the starboard railing of the boat in the pouring rain; and the montage of Bane doing his interrogation work, busting various criminals’ heads in an arrangement of various intercut panel-shapes.
Nolan brings his customary skillset: clean, thick linework; modest, easy to follow layouts and broad-shouldered, robust, tough-looking characters. And of course, Bane sporting some hairy ass shoulders. Just like the good ol’ days.
I mean, just look at those hirsute delts. So much testosterone.
What didn’t work?
And, uh, nose and mouth-holes in his luchador mask? This is new… and bothers me way more than it should. Sure, I want the guy to be able to breathe and talk better but overall it ends up making Bane look too silly. Yes, even for a roided-out luchador man-beast.
Bane’s appearance isn’t the only aspect of his character in this issue that’s disappointing, though. Compared to the Bane we saw over in Tom King’s Batman, a hulking demigod that kicked down steel walls and steamrolled through the likes of Two-Face, Man-Bat and Solomon Grundy (and Batman. Twice), Dixon and Nolan’s Bane seems almost… too modest. And less cerebral than we’ve seen Dixon portray him. It’s a bit of a nitpick for those approaching the series in singular fashion, but it’s likely that a lot of new fans were put on to Bane through the “I Am Suicide” arc — and this depiction of the character is much more tempered by comparison. This inconsistency can also be attributed to the enemies that Bane and crew face in Bane: Conquest #1 — mostly redshirts and lower tier hoodlums save a character Bane encounters at the very end. True, Dixon’s not going to give us any main event slobberknockers or tactical brilliance in the very first issue, but the lack of notoriety in the villains makes this issue feel a little too preliminary and Bane’s methodology pedestrian.
Coming back to the art, compared to his past work, most notably Vengeance of Bane, Nolan’s work also looks more cartoony than usual, especially when it comes to characters’ faces and their expressions; it’s not a huge detriment, as Bane: Conquest #1 evokes an effective “more adult version of Batman: The Animated Series vibe,” but the style makes scenes less brutal and impactful than say, Mikel Janin’s or David Finch’s rendition of the character, who made Bane’s every action seem like those of a hulking, indomitable demigod.
Finally, if you’re not already familiar with Bane and his crew, this issue doesn’t hold your hand in terms of defining them. For the uninitiated (but we are initiated, aren’t we Bruce?), I’d suggest reading Dixon and Nolan’s Batman: Vengeance of Bane and the first issue of King’s “I Am Suicide” arc for a better idea of Bane’s backstory, as this issue doesn’t give you the greatest sense of who Bane’s cohorts (Zombie, Trogg and Bird) are nor does it establish much reason to care about the villain that Bane squares off with at the cliffhanger ending.
Is It Good?
Bane: Conquest #1 won’t blow you out of the water, but it’s a solid setup issue for a character who has deserved his own series for some time now. If you’re here to see Bane stomp heads, spout badass one-liners and get some shine in the spotlight away from Batman, you won’t be disappointed. Just don’t expect the invincible force of nature you saw in “I Am Bane.”