After taking a two issue break from the intensity of Batman’s battle with Bane, Tom King is now ready to follow-up to “I Am Suicide.” With Bane now being extra motivated to not only go after Batman but everyone related to him “I Am Bane” should be even more intense than there recent battle. The addition of Bane being back on Venom should make him an even bigger threat since it has been a version of himself that we haven’t seen in a long time. Can Batman, Nightwing, Red Hood, Robin and Catwoman defeat a Venom enhanced Bane? Let’s find out with Batman #16.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Inker: Jordie Bellaire
Colorist: John Workman
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At the front gate of Arkham Asylum someone jumps the locked gate as lightning streaks across the sky of Gotham City.
Inside Arkham Asylum, Batman, Arkham and a guard approach the cell holding Psycho-Pirate. Before they can ask Psycho-Pirate, Bronze Tiger comes out of nowhere and kicks Batman into a cell window. The guard shoots Bronze Tiger and then suddenly shoots Arkham as well.
As he is about to shoot Batman, Bronze Tiger gets back up and punches him. The guard somehow overpowers Bronze Tiger. Batman recovers and knocks the guard down and notices he has “I AM BANE” written on his teeth, which Batman proceeds to knock out of his mouth.
Bronze Tiger ask Batman if Arkham is okay. Batman says the bullet only grazed Arkham’s head and he just fainted. Bronze Tiger then apologizes for attacking Batman. Batman says it’s his fault for letting Bane get so close and Bronze Tiger actually forced the guard to reveal his true self.
Bronze Tiger turns his attention to Psycho-Pirate and reveals he understands why he was so important to Bane. He goes on to say that the Venom he took is still in his system and he feels the need to let the pain go away and now Bane, feeling the same way, is coming after them.
Sometime later, Bruce and Duke place their orders at Batburger. Bruce isn’t pleased with the names of the food, especially the Jokerize fries. Duke is able to calm Bruce enough so they can place their order.
At a table in Batburger Damian Wayne express his anger over Dick Grayson ordering him the Bat-Mite kids meal, especially as it has a Red Hood action figure. Bruce and Duke joins Dick, Damian and Jason Todd, expressing that they should’ve met at the cave. Dick says that this is a good change of pace and they can eat something other than Alfred’s cucumber sandwiches.
Bruce brings up that he just stopped one of Bane’s men from getting to Psycho-Pirate. He then reveals that it is going to take five days to reverse what Psycho-Pirate did to Gotham Girl and that they can’t destroy Pirate’s mask before then. During this time Bane will do anything to get Psycho Pirate back.
As Jason and Damian argue with one another, Duke interrupts Bruce over how he eats his burger with a fork and knife. Dick mentions that it’s because Bruce was raised by Alfred that he eats like that.
Bruce quickly grows tired of all his kids shenanigans. Dick, Damian and Jason tell Bruce that none of them will die as they can defeat Bane together. Bruce says that after Tim’s death that the point is no one else is dying.
Bruce explains that he wants Damian, Dick, Duke and Jason to leave Gotham City while he deals with Bane, who is stronger than them and possibly himself. He will then take the five days to make sure Gotham Girl gets the treatment she needs. Bruce then leaves the boys to do as he ordered.
After Bruce is gone Damian, Dick and Jason all agree that they should fight Bane together. Duke doesn’t like that they want to ignore Batman’s orders. Dick mentions ignoring Batman is what a Robin does. Duke brings up that he is not a Robin and he will be following Batman’s orders so he doesn’t die.
Later that night Batman answers the GCPD’s call for him. As he reaches the GCPD rooftop he is approached by Catwoman, who is the one that actually turned on the Batsignal. Batman tells Catwoman that she should not be there. He mentions that Bane is coming after them, which Catwoman understands.
Before their conversation can progress Commissioner Gordon and some GCPD officers try to arrest Catwoman. Catwoman says her goodbyes to Batman and quickly makes a run for it.
Commissioner Gordon wonders why Batman didn’t help them arrest Catwoman. Batman doesn’t say why he didn’t help but says that Gordon was right about being able to help. He then swings off for his nightly patrol.
Later that night Bruce helps Gotham Girl walk to the car for her first session with Psycho-Pirate. Alfred asks Bruce if he needs help. Bruce says Alfred can come with them in the possibility that he may need his help.
As the three head down into the Batcave Bruce mentions that the reason he didn’t tell Alfred to leave Gotham City too is because it won’t do any good.
As the elevator door opens Gotham Girl screams in horror at the sight of Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood’s hanging in the Batcave with “I AM BANE” written across their bodies. End of issue.
The Good: After a surprisingly strong two-issue focus on Batman and Catwoman, things are slowed down even more as Tom King provides some set-up for the current danger that Bane presents. In doing so we get an issue that is much more deliberate in its pace rather than breaking through walls right away. With a story of this scope of Bane’s revenge plan involving the entire Batman Family an issue like Batman #16 is necessary though it won’t wow many readers looking for an action packed story.
The good thing about this pace is that King is able to establish the main players of this new “I Am Bane” arc. Unlike “I Am Suicide,” which involved Batman assembling his own Suicide Squad, this issue makes things more personal by bringing in Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood. The addition of these three characters alone makes this latest story feel more personal than the one that preceded it. It certainly makes the threat Bane poses to Batman’s life much deeper as he is now targeting everyone related to the Bat symbol.
Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood’s involvement in Batman #16 also gives this new story a very different dynamic to work with compared to “I Am Bane.” With Batman’s Suicide Squad they were all working together in order to get something out of the mission that improves their lives. For Batman’s three former protégés we see how stopping Bane is something they were trained to do. As true as that is seeing Batman not think that way, especially after Tim Drake’s death, makes Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood act as three wild cards for “I Am Bane.”
In having Batman assemble all of his remaining protégés King was also able to explore how Duke is a very different character from the previous Robins that Batman has trained. Outside of making jokes here and there, Duke wants to prove that he belongs as a superhero by following what Batman tells him to do. Having Duke tell the others that he does not see himself a continuation of the Robin legacy drives home the difference in his approach to training under Batman.
The meeting of the Batman Family taking place in Batburger was a great nod to the superhero themed restaurant we saw back in Kingdom Come. Bruce’s annoyance over the inappropriate use of Joker’s name in the use for Batburger’s special fries was priceless. It is very rare to see Bruce act in such an angry fashion outside of the Batman costume. This setting also delivered on some rare bit comedy with Jason and Damian’s “fight” that, because of the nature of Batman, we don’t get to see King write very often.
Bronze Tiger appearance at the beginning of the issue helped push the priority Batman must take to help Gotham Girl. If someone like Bronze Tiger after only taking Venom once is reacting in such a way that he is seeking out Psycho-Pirate then we can only image what Bane’s current state of mind is. In adding this sense of tension King is able to highlight how important Batman guarding Gotham Girl and Psycho-Pirate during the next five days will be.
With Bane acting as psychological presence throughout Batman #16 David Finch was able to bring this part of King’s script to life with his artwork. Throughout this issue Finch is able to get over how tense Bruce Wayne was feeling in and out of his Batman costume. This was especially well done during Bruce’s lunch with Damian, Dick, Duke and Jason as there were several things going on at the same time. While that scene was lighter in tone Finch showed he can deliver darker moments as well with the chilling ending of Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood’s bodies hanging in the Batcave.
The Bad: As well done as Batman #16 was there was a bit too much by-the-books feel to having all the players of this new arc appearing in scenes with Batman. This is best highlighted by Catwoman’s inclusion in this issue. Unlike Batman’s meeting with his protégés Catwoman’s appearance did not add more to what we already knew coming into this issue.
Considering that we just ended a two-issue spotlight for Batman and Catwoman’s relationship it would have been better if we didn’t see the latter in this issue. It would have actually added more to the story to know that Batman understands that Bane is also after Catwoman but can’t find her to warn or update her. This would actually add to Catwoman’s role in the story if she stayed separate from Batman and the others when dealing with Bane until later on in the story, which is hopefully the direction King goes with her character.
Overall: Batman #16 is a solid set-up issue that introduces us to the major players of the Dark Knight’s latest clash with Bane. The interactions that Bruce Wayne has with Catwoman, Duke, Nightwing, Robin and Red Hood helped to establish how dangerous Bane is as Batman is going out of his way to warn those close to him to leave Gotham City. This allowed Bane to come off as a huge threat with having to have the villain appear at all in this issue. The ending further drove home what we should be expecting from the rest of Tom King’s latest Batman story in all the right ways.