“I am Bane.”
— Tom King, Batman (Volume 3) I Am Bane
I really wanted to love this volume. I thought this would be the moment where Tom King finally has a decent grasp on how to write a Batman story arc through a bi-weekly 25-page-long comic issue business structure. With the way things have been getting better (yet always flawed), I thought volume 3, I Am Bane, would be a game-changer. In fact, the way Bane was introduced in volume 2, I Am Suicide, I could only imagine that the Bane-centric story to come would blow things out of the water, or in this case, out of Gotham.
I guess I was wrong.
This volume contains issues #16 to 20 as well as #23 and #24.
I Am Bane (which includes issues #16 to 20 as well as #23 and #24) starts off extremely promising. The Bat Family meets up in the most unexpected place and have the most genuine and intimate moment around the table. Bruce warns them all to stay safe and away from an inevitable fight with Bane, a showdown that should be only his problem, and no one else’s. From that moment on, shit hits the fan and everything seems to go downhill for Batman. An unexpected and highly tragic moment hits us like a hurricane. This brings Bruce to call up one his most trusted friend for a favor that will give him the necessary mindset and space to settle things once and for all with Bane.
This is when a five day mission to keep Psycho Pirate away from Bane—enough time for Bruce and Alfred to fix Gotham Girl up from her mental breakdown—is revealed. As you might recall in volume 2, I Am Suicide, Batman steals Psycho Pirate away from Bane, disrupting the peace that existed between these two individuals. While Psycho Pirate’s special mask is a cure to Gotham Girl’s predicament, he is also the cure to Bane’s sanity. As much as you want to love Batman for doing all this in order to save Gotham Girl, too much felt at stake. For someone who broke into Bane’s sanctuary with an insane plan in the previous volume, this story arc showed us an even more chaotic and risky strategy.
The story then shifts into showing Bane’s plan to use a couple of Batman’s “allies” for blackmailing purposes. There was a couple twists here and then that really caught my eye and had me excited and pumped, but then there were plot holes and incomprehensible moments that just didn’t work for me. Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «Could someone explain to me how Serena Kyle gets captured in a civilian outfit only to be seen afterwards tied up in her Catwoman suit? Did Bane force her to strip and suit up for theatrical purposes? Could someone also tell me why they never thought it would be a good idea to show us how Catwoman escaped and how it was all part of the plan to get Bane chasing after Batman?».
Tom King tried really hard to make Batman and Bane similar on a psychological level. In fact, he tried to exhibit a side of Batman that has never really been done before, one where Batman suffers from discrete psychosis and isn’t as sane as we wish he was. In fact, it felt like Tom King wanted us to wonder if an individual like Bruce Wayne could actually be sane enough to be doing all the things he’s done in his life. It felt like this Batman-Bane comparison had the ultimate purpose of reminding us that a guy who dresses up like a bat and who’s done really insane things—and survived them—isn’t a person who hasn’t suffered immensely or who could live a day mentally stable. Maybe this arc had that very purpose, but I couldn’t bring myself to embrace such a depiction of Batman. It just seemed too out the blue to get me to truly appreciate and acknowledge such a vision.
The final two issues are probably the ones that really left me in awe and left me greatly unsatisfied by the story we got. As volume 2, I Am Suicide, might have already indicated, Tom King draws inspiration from the original Knightfall by Doug Moench story arc to deliver his Bane story. This time around, things are flipped upside down. Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «Instead of having Bane unleash all of Batman’s villain to assault him in their own devious ways, Batman is now the one who bargains with an arsenal of villains to slow down and tire down Bane. This story arc could’ve easily been called Banefall, but clearly they didn’t want us to see too much into the inspiration.» As interesting as the idea was, it really felt uninspiring and unoriginal to me. While the panel-to-panel punching and kicking scenes were powerful and chilling (due essentially to the fantastic artwork by David Finch and Mikel Janin), it didn’t make any sense to me that you could pummel through all these characters while delivering a continuous speech on how unstoppable you are.
Through an “unknown” narrator, the last issue served as a huge wrap-up of what has been going on so far in the story arc. It’s the revelation of this narrator that made me realize the whole new Batman persona that Tom King was trying to bring life to (with all the deranged theme going on). As I mentioned earlier, the revelation that Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «Bruce Wayne still talked to his deceased mom» just didn’t stick with me. I also really hated how the whole Batman vs. Bane battle went down. Spoiler (Highlight To See) : «A heavily injured Batman, one that took more beating than a good omelette, comes out victorious by screaming: “I AM BATMAN!” and giving a solid headbutt to a Bane who couldn’t stop saying: “I AM BANE!” was just highly disappointing.». Tom King’s repetitive writing style also wasn’t my cup of tea. After testing it out a couple times in the previous volumes, hasn’t anyone tried to tell him that it wasn’t appealing? Man… It just doesn’t seem to work for me.
Volume 3 also awkwardly includes issues #23 and #24 at the end. Issue #23 offers a little off-story team-up with Batman and one of the most beloved swamp creature in the DC universe. The issue was absolutely unrelated to anything that happened so far to Batman (I am Bane or The Button storyarcs). It had some really interesting ideas conveyed, but, for the most part, was really stagnant. The story is also divided in super short chapters that had the vintage black and white silent movie chapter panels that always featured a title that was also a piece of the dialogue that would appear in the next panel immediately. In fact, speaking of repetition, you can expect to see some more of that throughout the issues as a song is kept on repeat throughout the story. Issue #24 was much more related to I am Bane, but came out super boring in the end. The conversation between Batman and Gotham Girl seemed to be on a loop that never really caught my attention. It also ended with a huge plot twist, something that you’ve never seen happen in the past (canon story). I wasn’t too amazed by this move by Tom King though. The whole “in fear, we say and do crazy things” was stretched to the max in this one.
I’m not sure if a re-read would help or worsen the case, but I can see why this storyarc is able to please a lot of other fans. There are some really brilliant moments sprinkled throughout the story arc, but the consistency wasn’t there. This could’ve been phenomenal, but things thoroughly went downhill towards the end. Now I shall remain optimistic even if everything has been telling me that Tom King’s Batman stories don’t want to impress me. I’ll be waiting for the 4-part DC event crossover with Batman and the Flash to come out and, hopefully, this “The Button” story arc will bring back joy in me regarding this Rebirth Batman series.
Did you read Batman (Volume 3): I Am Bane yet? What did you think about it?
You haven’t read it, you say?
Let’s fix that right away!
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/