This latest “I Am Bane” arc has driven up the intensity of Batman and Bane’s rivalry. This arc in particularly has done a lot of interesting things to explore the rivalry beyond just being a battle of hero vs. villain. The last issue especially did a fantastic job showcasing how powerful Bane is, something we already knew with how he has easily defeated Batman and his allies in fights. Now after months of battling one another, Batman’s conflict with Bane comes to a dramatic conclusion. Will anyone be left standing to help Flash out in investigating the bloody button? Let’s find out with Batman #20.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Inker: Danny Miki and Trevor Scott
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: Batman faces off with Bane, whose face is bloodied after fighting all the villains in Arkham. Bane states “This is the end, Batman” and punches Batman so hard in the gut he spits up blood.
At that moment Batman thinks back to when he was trying to save the plane that almost crashed in Gotham City months ago. Batman thinks about how his power was to think of every scenario and in that moment he believe his death was upon him.
Back in the present Batman picks himself up. He tells Bane that he is not the first one to tell Batman that today will be his last or that he’ll die. He says that he hears that every night and gets in a fighting stance as Bane charges at him.
As that happen Batman thinks back to when he was saved by Gotham and Gotham Girl. After that, while witnessing Gotham and Gotham Girl save the day he believed he found two good kids who couldn’t get killed like his other proteges. This caused Batman for the first time to smile like he was ten years old again and believe the war on crime could be won. Unfortunately that smile disappeared as Batman came to see how Gotham was crushed under the weight of the carnage Gotham City had to offer.
Batman continues to fight Bane, doing his best to avoid all of Bane’s strikes. Bane’s anger increases and finally connects with some blows on Batman. As Bane does this he states that after killing Batman he will find everyone connected to Batman and kill them one by one.
Batman then thinks about how saving Clair Clover (Gotham Girl) was his only consolation in the recent situation, and still sees her as someone that can win the war on crime. To do that he recruited criminals to invade Santa Prisca in order to save Clair. Even though he knew Bane could beat him, Batman let Bane defeat him twice all to get Psycho Pirate back as saving Clair was his salvation.
Batman is finally able to land some blows on Bane. Bane continues to state how he will kill everyone Batman knows. He continues to say that he will then proceed to set Gotham City on fire while standing on one of Batman’s gargoyles while watching people scream for help and only seeing Bane.
Batman and Bane continue to go back and forth in their fight. All the while Batman continues to think about all that he has sacrificed to save Clair. As Bane is pushing him into a corner Batman suddenly hears his mother’s voice calling him home and reminding him about how he always gets up in the hope for victory in the war on crime.
At the same time Bane is pummeling Batman on the ground and continues to yell “I Am Bane” at Batman’s face. Batman recovers and headbutts Bane, reminding Bane that he forgot “I’m Batman.” The headbutt knocks Bane out.
Inside Bruce’s mind Bruce tells his mother that everything he did in his battle against Bane was not to win the war on crime, save the city, almost dying on the crashing plane or his parents. Bruce states it was all about helping Clair. Martha grabs Bruce’s hand and states that Bruce does not need a good death for her to be proud of him.
As Batman, Bruce states out loud “Yes Mother. I know.” End of issue.
The Good: As many “Martha” jokes that I initially wanted to make thanks to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Tom King is able to add a level of importance to Bruce Wayne’s relationship with his mother that to take it seriously. Throughout this “I Am Bane” arc King was able to explore the rarely shown relationship between Bruce and his mother to add further context in Bruce’s present as Batman. And with Batman #20 we see how that relationship makes Bruce push through everything to accomplish what he sets out to do every night as Batman.
King does a very good job using Batman #20 to finally reveal what has been going on in Bruce Wayne’s head since the first issue of this series. Using Bane’s beating as a trigger to remind Bruce why as Batman he will not stay down no matter all the pain he was suffering was an effective visual. It’s a reminder of what separates Batman from the rest of the Batman Family is not his fighting or detective skills but his will to push through all the physical and mental pain. That ability to fight through the pain all circles back to why Bruce became Batman in the first place.
It also worked to further highlight how the appearance of Gotham and Gotham Girl was the first time in Bruce’s war on crime that he had hope things would truly be better. And as Bruce states in his inner monologue, even though Gotham City ended up breaking the new hero pair he still has hope he can save Clair. That hope alone makes him continue to fight through everything Bane did to him.
Making all this work even more is the fact that Batman turned Bane’s entire statement of killing Batman around on him. Seeing Batman actually throw Bane’s statement in his face as something Batman hears every night was one of those moments when you think “That’s awesome” when reading it. It all made Batman finally knocking Bane out a much sweeter moment.
While Bane did finally get defeated in this issue it does not mean he went out looking like a chump. If anything, this arc proved how much of a match Bane is for Batman after all he did. Seeing how, up until the end, Bane was absolutely squashing Batman after fighting all the villains in Arkham Asylum helped to elevate him as a threat. Now with this loss King leaves you wondering what Bane will do the next he shows up in one of the Batman comic books.
As with his work throughout the “I Am Bane” arc, David Finch once again showed why his artwork is perfectly at home in the Batman Universe. Finch elevates how brutal the fight between Batman and Bane was throughout the issue, especially when it was so one sided for a good while. At the same time, Finch is able to get out the emotion both fighters are feeling throughout their fight. Finch’s artwork is especially helpful with how often Batman flashes back to previous events and his final talk between Bruce and his mother.
The Bad: Though Batman #20 was an enjoyable issue it did not feel like a true conclusion to the “I Am Bane” arc. With how many members of the core and extended Batman Family were involved in Batman’s conflict with Bane, there exclusion in this final issue hurt the overall ending. Catwoman’s lack of resolution is especially questionable as King clearly built her to play a bigger part in the conflict with how involved she has been in Batman’s plans. So for her to suddenly disappear just left an empty feeling to the conclusion of the story arc.
It also does not help that Gotham Girl and Psycho Pirate did not appear in this issue outside of Batman’s flashbacks. With protecting the two being such a big part in Batman’s reason for pushing through all of the pain it would’ve added to the tension to see what they were up to behind closed doors. It all made the story lack the importance since we didn’t see how close Psycho Pirate really was to helping Gotham Girl recover from her mental pain.
This all circles back to highlight how unnecessary how much of a focus on Batman and Bane’s history was. Far too often, King relied on the similarities and differences in Batman and Bane’s past to get over how personal the conflict was for both characters. And since we already saw a lot, in terms of character flashbacks, by this point in the “I Am Bane” arc it felt unnecessary to have Batman once again think about past events. Some of the attention paid to the many flashbacks should’ve been used to flesh out the things mentioned above to add depth to what was going around Batman and Bane. But since we didn’t get that, the focus of this arc felt very narrow as Batman’s final knockout headbutt connected.
Overall: Batman #20 was not the cleanest of endings to an arc that started out strong. There was a constant feeling that for as strong as Batman and Bane’s development were, that there was something missing around them to make “I Am Bane” a memorable story arc. That thing that was missing hurts the strengths this ending has from a story and artwork front.