BATMAN #19 & #20

Please don't refrain from being vain, especially if you want to get rid of that pain in your vein. So go on, be like Bane and go insane by stamping your reign all over Spain. Or alternatively, disregard my inane rhyme and go divine on the following two stories with a glass of wine. They were created by Tom King and David Finch, and were published by DC Comics in April, 2017.

TO QUOTE Tom Wilson: 'About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you're fighting temptation'.

As some of you may recall, Bane made his first major comic book appearance during 1993s multi-part Knightfall story-line. Essentially this larger than life tale depicted a disheveled Batman having to fight his way through his Rogues Gallery, until he eventually came face to face with the big, bad, villain behind this mess; that villain obviously being the Bane-miester himself. By and large this was a pretty decent back-breaking story-line for its time. Not only did it signal the end of one era (so long Jim Aparo), but it also waved in a new era where super-villains would be able to beat their known opponents, albeit in a more open and darker fashion.

So with that said, can you imagine my surprise when I saw this story-line again within the pages of issue 19 of Batman?  Also known as part four of 'I Am Bane'! Although, in this instance, the actual story-line was far-far shorter in comparison; and Bane was the character who had to fight his way through Batman's Rogues Gallery, until he eventually came face to face with the big, bold, hero behind this mess; that hero obviously being a certain Dark Knight Detective.

Now to a certain degree I did enjoy the basic idea behind this concept, because it aesthetically perverted and condensed the original premise surrounding Knightfall. In addition to this, it was also nice to see Bane interacting with the different members of Batman's Rogues Gallery. This included him having to fight his way through such people as Maxie Zeus (who surmised a very appropriate soliloquy), Two-Face (who posed a very appropriate question), Solomon Grundy with Amygdala (who make a really weird double act), The Scarecrow (who delayed Bane, yet didn't provoke him), Mister Freeze (who's defeat seemed too contrived), plus Firefly, Black Spider, Flamingo, Man-Bat, Zsasz, Mad Hatter, Doctor Phosphorous, Hush, as well as Copperhead (all of which shared individual slaps but not comic book panels). This was finally finished off with two solo appearances' made by the Calendar Man and the Riddler (now those two were a real class act to follow).

My main problem with this narrative approach, however, is that Bane's individual fights appeared very one sided on the page, and sometimes the opponents he faced seemed to be present just to make up the numbers (mainly during those multi-battle scenes). I also wasn't too thrilled with the way this book portrayed its titular character. In my eyes Batman is a logical and very well versed person, and he isn't prone to wallowing in self pity or self doubt. So to see him in a scene, his only scene in the entire book, giving up hope, while giving in to Bane's eventual onslaught, well, this didn't sit well with me, and on that note, let me start talking about issue 20, also known as the last and fifth part of 'I Am Bane'.

Well, with it being a concluding chapter, I suppose this episode only had a few ways to go: Batman could win, Bane could win, or there could be a stalemate between the two of them, a tie, which, quite frankly, isn't really the most satisfying ending to finish on. So what this conclusion decides to do is to make sure that one of them wins outright, but not until it takes us on a merry journey through the last twenty issues of Batman, discounting the Rebirth special.  

You see, while Batman and Bane fight it out among themselves, another part of the book is dedicated to recounting everything that went on since Tom King started writing it. This recount begins when Gotham and Gotham Girl save Batman from dying in a plane crash (as seen in issue #1 of Batman), thus prompting him to look upon his saviors as possible successors to his legacy. After all, with that level of power behind them, it's quite likely they may be able to take on his life's work due to the fact that most of his progeny's normally end up dead, namely Jason, Dick, Tim, and Damien. But alas, this wasn't meant to be, because Gotham got killed by Doctor Hugo Strange while Gotham Girl got mind-shagged by the Psycho Pirate. So, to cure Gotham Girl of her ailments, Batman decides to recruit a team of villains to take back the Pirate from Bane's nefarious clutches, and when they eventually do this, Bane comes to Gotham to finally get his revenge.

All this, my friends, then leads to the here and now, and a fight, a very bloody fight, that never really 'did it' for me considering what we've seen before. On the whole this concluding chapter felt pretty disposable due to its novel approach, an approach that basically involves Bane fighting Batman to the death while an unseen narrator tells us about how we got here. But come on, how many times has Tom used this approach during his 'I Am' tenure? Quite a few, agreed? And if that wasn't bad enough, some of what the narrator surmises is discounted at the end of the book, plus the actual fight appeared very one sided, for the most part, until it all abruptly turned around within one single comic book panel. 

Now don't get me wrong, as I did enjoy reading a lot of this book, especially since it was complemented with some amazing artwork provided by David Finch (Can we have a couple of posters please?). But in the same breath, why turn Batman into a punching bag for Bane if we've seen him beat Bane quite a few times in the past? Why make things feel more desolate than they actually are? Why have a narrator say one thing only for it to be discounted by someone else at the end? And why has Batman become a pessimistic character when he's normally a fairly pro-active person?

To me, all of these factors made this conclusion come across as being a bit too one note by design, and it never felt right, relatable, particularly where Batman's character is concerned. Although, that said, it is an ending, and as endings go, I've seen worse, and it does resolve most of the story-line.   
If you want to know why I'm musically matching up these two issues with the theme tune heard in the arcade game, 'Final Fight', then I suggest that you check out the following section.

On a purely aesthetic level both of these episodes reminded me of a side-ways scrolling beat-em-up, similar to the aforementioned 'Final Fight' arcade game. So, if the cap fits, why not wear it?

On a side note, Bane is obviously Haggar.

At the very end of issue 20 either Batman or Bane wins their final fight. So, out of the following eight options, can you guess which man will win and how they finally do it?

  1. Could Batman get the upper hand by chopping off Bane's hand?
  2. Could Bane stamp his ground by stamping Batman into the ground?
  3. Could Bane win by injecting Batman with the drug, Venom?
  4. Could Batman knock out Bane by head-butting him?
  5. Could Bane get voted to stay in the fight via a public telephone vote?
  6. Could Batman kick Bane in the nuts and call him a pistachio?
  7. Could Bane French kiss Batman to death with a venom powered tongue?
  8. Could Batman shag Bane with his Bat... errrr?
Nuff said.

BATMAN #19 & #20 BATMAN #19 & #20 Reviewed by David Andrews on April 18, 2017 Rating: 5

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