The new “I Am Bane” arc has been able to maintain a consistent tone to help set-up the new threat Bane possess to Batman now that the former is back on the Venom drug. This newly enhanced Bane feels more dangerous than ever, especially with how he effortlessly took down almost everyone related to the Bat-symbol. Now with Bane pushing Batman we have a big fight on our hands with Batman having to only really on his skills to defeat his foes. Will the lack of preparation for Bane be Batman’s downfall? Let’s find out with Batman #18.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Bane offers Batman the choice to hand over Psycho Pirate for the safety of Commissioner Gordon, Duke Thomas and Catwoman’s safety.
As they negotiate Batman and Bane think back to when their respective mother’s died. Both Bruce and Bane are taken away. For Bruce, Commissioner Gordon assures Bruce his mom will live on in his heart. Alfred eventually picks Bruce up at the GCPD station and welcomes him back to the Wayne Mansion.
For Bane the prison guard says that things happen and he won’t be there long. Eventually Bane is placed into a prison hole while he continues to mourn.
In the present, after Batman declines the offer Bane charges at Batman and tackles him into a wall. Bane tells Batman that he can’t run from him after coming to Bane’s home. As Batman tries to defend himself Bane continues his rant saying that Batman can’t hide in Gotham City or turn down his offer.
Flashing back to their respective childhood’s both Bruce and Bane still believe their moms are with them at Wayne Manor and the prison, respectively, and telling them not to be left alone in the dark. As time passes Bruce and Bane begin training while also speaking to their moms.
In the present, Bane pounds Batman into the ground while ranting about how he is not like all the other villains that Batman has fought. Bane picks up a bloody Batman over his head and says he is “not some rich boy playing dress-up!”
Flashing back to their respective youth’s Bruce begins traveling the world to train his body and mind. He eventually returns to Gotham City ready to fight the criminals of the city.
At the same time Bane trains his body in the prison hole he has been placed, continuously testing his strength. As he reaches adulthood Bane finally gains the strength to destroy the wall of his prison cell.
Back in the present Bane slams Batman down as he proclaims “I am Bane!” Bane then tells Batman to hand over Psycho Pirate. Batman once again says he won’t do it. Bane throws Batman in frustration.
Flashing back once again Bruce has become Batman and fights villains like the Joker. At the same time he begins building out his family to include Nightwing, Batgirl, Batwoman, Red Hood, Robin and Duke. One night Commissioner Gordon reveals that there is a person named Bane who is said he can’t be brought down because of what he survived in Santa Prisca. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that everyone can be taken down.
At the same time Bane rises to power in Santa Prisca with the help of the Venom drug. After taking over Santa Prisca one of Bane’s men tells him about Batman, who is said to be the best in the world and can’t be brought down. Bane sees this as an opportunity to see who’s will is stronger: Batman or his.
Back in the present Bane pounds Batman into the ground, intent on killing Batman. Batman tells Bane to shut up. Bane finally knocks Batman out and leaves him on the ground bleeding out.
While walking away Bane calls Bird to kill the hostages but does not get a response. Suddenly a woman responds to Bane’s call, telling him that Bane is unavailable. The woman said that Batman planned that while he fought Bane she would save Batman’s allies that did not leave the city
The woman reveals herself to be Catwoman, who has captured Bane’s men and has them hung inside a safe house with “I AM CAT” written on their bodies.
Bane heads to Arkham Asylum. As he makes it to the front entrance Catwoman says she had fun breaking Bane and she hopes she can do it again. She then hangs up on Bane.
Bane breaks down the door to Arkham Asylum and heads inside. End of issue.
The Good: If there is one thing that Tom King is hitting with the “I Am Bane” story arc is that is consistent. Right out of the gate there has been a high stakes level to everything that is going on with Batman’s latest clash with Bane. Finding a way to continue to add new wrinkles to how Batman is fighting Bane is what is keeping this new story arc at the same level that it started out. But as things move forward there is one problem that pops up during Batman #18 unfolds.
Even though we have seen Batman and Bane fight many times before with King’s “I Am Bane” story still feels fresh. That is where the strength of Batman #18 lies as King is able to convince us that what we are seeing unfold is something different between Batman and Bane. Unlike all the other times they have clashed, this isn’t just a conflict about who is better. While there are definitely seeds of that, King has made things personal between the two.
The sense of things being personal made the fight feel even more brutal than other fights Batman has been involved with. That brutality help get over how there seemed to be more to the fight than what we were led to believe. Having that thought in the background allowed how Bane was just pounding Batman to the ground be more than just a squash match.
It was also good to see what it is like to have a fight between Batman and Bane where there is nothing but the two characters fist to fight one another. It’s very rare to see a fight or conflict that Batman does not seem prepared for, which is how the previous arc turned out. Being unprepared really showed how outmatched Batman is against a Venom-powered Bane. This at least made you wonder how Batman can stop Bane from getting Psycho Pirate back.
All of this made the final reveal that Batman actually planned out the entire fight, including Bane capturing Batman’s allies, an even better reveal. Including Catwoman into this plan by Batman continues the connection between the two that King has been exploring. It also makes you wonder what else Batman may have planned out ahead of time that is yet to be revealed.
Additionally, I did like how off-script Catwoman seemed to go with the conversation that she had with Bane. While it was surely Batman’s plan to have Catwoman save his allies, the way she taunted Bane did not seem planned. This sense of improv helped to put over how Catwoman continues to be the wildcard in the ongoing conflict between Batman and Bane. With how things have gone so far it’ll be very interesting to see if Catwoman will play a big role in the ending of this arc.
David Finch is once again at home with the world of Batman. Given that Bane has returned to using Venom, Finch was able to go all out showing us how much of a hulking tower of a man Bane is compared to Batman. The brutality of how Bane beat Batman into the ground was well executed. That was nicely balanced out by how he was able to draw the growing determination Batman and Bane have shown over the course of their lives during the flashback scenes.
The Bad: As cool as it is to see how much Batman and Bane’s lives parallel one another all of the flashback sequences did take me out of the story. The biggest problem with the flashbacks was that it was all things we have seen from the histories of both characters. King even highlighted Bane’s past in the previous arc, “I Am Suicide.” Because of that, and in combination of how many times we have seen Batman’s origin, there was nothing new added to the story during these sequences. And the fact that the flashbacks took up about half of the issue I almost wish some of that page count could’ve been used to develop Catwoman’s role in the story.
Overall: Batman #18 maintains the high level of intensity that “I Am Bane” started with, adding further intrigue to the current conflict. Now with Batman out of commission and Catwoman pissing Bane off even more there is a greater sense of unpredictability into how things will turn out in the end. Unfortunately that is brought down by the rehash material of Batman and Bane’s origins, which takes up half of Batman #18’s page count. The fact that we don’t really learn anything new from all the flashback scenes does take away from the impact of what is otherwise a great issue.