While Bane took over Gotham and turned the city into a dystopic state run by Batman’s enemies, Batman recovered and rekindled his relationship with Catwoman over the past two issues of the series. Now, Batman has struck a blow to Bane’s supply of Venom, and has finally returned to Gotham to mount a resistance against the forces of Bane and Thomas Wayne. This issue continues Bruce’s climb from the lowest he had ever been brought in the previous arc, “The Fall And The Fallen,” and marks a homecoming of sorts for Batman and Catwoman.
The story boils down to Bruce and Selina announcing their return to Gotham by taking down the villains who have taken over the city. Beginning with Batman stopping Professor Pyg and Two-Face, this issue almost feels like a victory tour as Batman and Catwoman begin marking their territory, striking fear into the hearts of criminals – a noted superstitious and cowardly lot. While Batman and Catwoman are making their way through Gotham, the issue also follows Thomas Wayne as he realizes that his son has returned to Gotham, despite all the warnings Bane has given the heroes. Thomas visits Gotham Girl, who it is very clear that he has come to care for immensely. This issue establishes a familial relationship that Thomas Wayne and Gotham Girl have built in the time they’ve been working together, and while they are still the villains, it adds a layer of sympathy for the two of them that was really missing.
This issue’s story makes sense, but it feels off from what has come prior. The relationship established between Thomas and Gotham Girl, despite serving a purpose to make the characters more sympathetic, feels like it comes out of nowhere. King has tended to do a great job with issues centered around giving several villains short cameo scenes, such as Batman #19, giving each villain fun little bits that show their unique personalities. Yet this issue is missing that. Aside from a fun interaction with Kite Man, there’s almost nothing differentiating any of these villains from any of the others in the script. Aside from a single “onk” from Professor Pyg, not a single villain stands out at all. It’s a weird step down for King, who is normally excellent with these little villain features.
The legendary John Romita Jr. does the pencils for this issue, with Klaus Janson inking and Tomeu Morey on colors. Romita’s style is quite different from pretty much any style the book has had in the past, and his blockier pencils feel jarring compared to the style of Tony Daniel or Clay Mann, the previous artists on this arc. The layouts and colors in the issue are spectacular, and the intent of the panels that Romita lays out is clear, but Romita’s execution of these layouts reduces the effect. The action scenes don’t feel dynamic, rather the panels feel very static. Morey’s colors add a life and style to the art that keeps it from being wholly unappealing, but after Daniel and Mann’s takes on the City of Bane, this issue’s just does not live up.