By Daniel Vlasaty
Batman #17 is the second issue of the “I am Bane” storyline. Issue #16 had a light and comedic tone (except for the last page), and there is a definite tonal change from that issue to this one. Here it is back to business as usual as Batman continues to prepare for the coming of Bane.
Batman’s basically in panic mode as the issue opens. He’s placed the bodies of Dick, Jason, and Damian into stasis chambers and is bringing them to the Fortress of Solitude to ask/demand/beg Superman to watch them until the Bane situation is over. They’re alive, and Batman’s worried that if he wakes them up they’ll go after Bane. And he won’t allow that. He won’t allow anyone else to die around him. Because as he said, with this one, it’s either him or Bane. No one else.
It is a tense and action-packed issue and I am impressed with King’s writing here. I’ll be the first to call myself out. In my review of issue #15 I said that Tom King had never thrilled me with any of his writing. And he basically spit it back into my face with issue #16, which I thought was a great, fun set-up issue to this new story arc. And with this new issue he takes it up another notch.
Relying heavily on the tension and build up to the appearance of Bane, this issue is one non-stop hit after another. And most of them are to Batman’s ego. King is showing us a whole other side to Batman. One that we don’t get to see very often. He is letting just a little bit of the man behind the mask seep through. Batman doesn’t panic or worry. Batman is always in control. But now we are seeing genuine fear here.
In all honesty, I’m not super familiar with Bane as a character. I know the important things about him. I’m aware of the fact that he broke Batman’s back. But other than that, I’ve never read any of the key Batman/Bane stories. But I like what King is doing with him. The writing here reminds me of a true horror story. Where Bane is this force, this entity, that is mentioned but never seen. Batman knows he’s on his way to Gotham, he just doesn’t know the when or the what. And that tension and suspense leads to over-thinking and over-planning and missing things right in front of your face. Batman’s operating on nothing but animal instinct and fear. He’s so focused on his family, the Robins, that he left the rest of his team open and vulnerable. As shown in the last page reveal, when Bane makes his presence known.
David Finch’s art can be a bit much at times. It’s heavy and uber-detailed and dense. There are so many lines and everything is covered in shadowy cross-hatching, especially the faces. But it works for this book. This isn’t a light and fun story they’re telling here. This is some dark and deep shit.
I’m really excited to see where King takes this book next issue. I’m digging the psychological thriller vibe of it. The darkness of it. Don’t get me wrong, Batman’s usually pretty dark and brooding, but it’s nice to get a little bit of his human side too. To remind us that he’s just a man under that cape and cowl.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: DC Comics