In the past three years, superstar comic scribe Tom King has set himself apart from others who have tackled the Dark Knight’s main series mainly by focusing on Batman’s emotional vulnerabilities. This aspect of the Caped Crusader often gets passed over for the physical and mental trauma he often undergoes. King is known for his in-depth look at the psychology and emotional state of his characters, thinking back on his Vision and Mister Miracle run, which dealt with the heroes coming to terms with everyday human issues, while being a sentient android or New God.
However, Batman at his core is an emotional character, having based his life on the deaths of his parents which by all means constitutes as an emotional decision. And throughout his career, he has had to choose between his own personal happiness and the protection of his city and those around him. This is where Tom King saw an opportunity to flesh out how truly easy it can be to torture Batman using emotions alone.
The issue starts out and immediately tells you that some time has passed since last issue. It’s also obvious because we see a squad car respond to a double homicide and it’s not cops. No, it’s Riddler and Joker, which tells you that whatever takeover was to be expected, is long passed. This is the new norm, villians are running the city and it’s actually working somewhat well.
We see that not only has Bane beaten Batman, he’s also taken Gotham City from him as well (which to note, is not Bane’s first attempt at taking the city since he first did way back during “Forever Evil”). Bruce has lost the emotional battle, he barely survived the mental one and physically he was beaten and left behind by his father, Thomas Wayne/Batman from the Flashpoint universe. Now, Thomas is the Batman of Gotham and his job is to keep the villians in check if for any reason they step out of line.
Bane has done the one thing Batman could not: Control Gotham City. And as we see, it isn’t fear or hate or even oppression that is used to control the various villians. This time…..it’s love.
Bane has been keen on using Psycho Pirate since way back in King’s second arc, “I Am Suicide”. He used the pirate to take his dependency on Venom away, and now he’s using him to make the villians love him, which would give him the loyalty of anyone under the trance, fully and selflessly. Meanwhile, Bruce is seen elsewhere on a mountain, looking for someone that was mentioned back in Batman Annual #2, known as “The Memory of the Mountain”. However, its a trap and Bruce is left for dead when we see that someone has saved him. That particular person is none other than…
It would seem that the Bat and Cat are having their reunion at a time where Batman is at one of his lowest points. What King has planned for the rest of the story is sure to be a staple in Batman’s mythos for years to come. The final pages tie in with the overall “Year of the Villian” event and we see Lex Luthor make his pitch to Bane. Although what he offers is something more grandiose than any offer made yet. He’s offering to get Bane legal authority in Gotham City from the federal government themselves, and it something that would solidify Bane as the sole power in the city. Something Batman will have to take down systematically.
The issue is beautifully done as Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey put together a dark and atmospheric mood, while Mitch Gerads finishes up the last few pages that tie in with Lex Luthor, flexing his skills the way only he can. The final arc of Tom King’s Batman will determine once and for all, if he can change the character forever as he claimed the story would. We’ll see in the coming months.