This is it, the story that the last seventy-four issues of Batman have been building to- the City of Bane. What has happened to Gotham and its protectors in the time since last issue?
Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, Mitch Gerads, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles give us the first chapter of City of Bane.
Gotham City is a completely different place. The residents of Arkham Asylum has replaced the GCPD, patrolling the streets under the purview of Commissioner Hugo Strange. Thomas Wayne and Gotham Girl protect the city, enforcing the laws Bane has written. Bane himself is the ruler the city, seeking to legally transform the city into his private kingdom. Where is Batman, and what chance does he have to defeating his greatest foe?
King has created an alien Gotham so rich and fully realized that it’s actually kind of hard to believe this isn’t an alternate reality story. There is so much detail here, and it’s a frightening version of the most famous city in comics. Using the Joker and Riddler as the entry point characters is an especially good touch, as it gives us the perfect swerve into the unknown. King also is prepared with answers to all the “yeah but what about…?” questions we could ask, as it succinctly shows with the explanation for the absence of Batgirl, Robin et al.
The story also has a major highlight in the confrontation between Alfred and Thomas Wayne caps off the lead story. Readers who may have thought Alfred sold out Bruce will be glad to see that appearances weren’t what they seemed. In fact, Pennyworth might be the last beacon of hope for Gotham, except maybe the familiar face that comes to Bruce’s rescue at the end of the lead story.
Daniel and Morey as always are reliably good. This story has brought out the best in Daniel, with great storytelling and character work. He paces the reveal of the Joker and Riddler as cops over just a couple panels perfectly. He also breaks out of rigid layouts as the story calls for it, allowing for maximum impact of the story beats that he’s putting on the page. Morey adds to that, finding the perfect palette each time to emphasize what’s happening, sometimes with murky greys and blues, others with deep red and purple.
Gerads’ back up story is worth the price of admission for the entire issue though. Framed as the story’s entry into the “Year of the Villain” event, it’s a simple conversation between Bane and Lex Luthor. However, rather than showing us these two titans, Gerads gives us single panel glimpses into what this new Gotham is like for its citizens, with the villains running free and ruling the city. This ranges from the Joker and Riddler relaxing at their desks with their human dart board, Harvey Bullock, to my favorite- the poor driver who just got pulled over by Killer Croc. It’s effective and tells multiple horror stories in just about eight pages.
The City of Bane is not a place I’d want to live, but it’s definitely a place I’m looking forward to reading about for the next few issues.
Batman #75 is available now from DC Comics.