Batman #18 review

Batman 18

I don’t like how King forces characters to fit into a mold they don’t belong in just so he can tell the story he wants to tell.  To be honest, I think it’s kind of lazy.  Instead of forming his stories around the characters, he comes up with a theme he wants to explore and forces that idea on them.  I just feel that he throws out way too many established character strictures in his explorations.  When one considers that characters are ultimately the sum of their experiences, changing those experiences changes the character.  I don’t know about you guys, but I’m here to read about Bane, not the Bane King wishes existed.

Right from the beginning of King’s Rebirth run, I felt serious misgivings about his ability to do the characters justice when I was confronted with his treatment of Calendar Man.  King turned Calendar Man into some supernatural freak that molted his skin and was reborn again and again into a younger version of himself.  The way I saw it, King didn’t know how to write the character the way he existed, so he simply changed him.  At that point I began to wonder, if that is what he wanted to do, why not just create a new character with those elements instead of tacking them on to an existing character.  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s similar to how movie executives are only interested in putting their money behind a recognized franchise since they know it will give them a return on their investment.  So, maybe King used Calendar Man because of the name recognition instead of making a new character that might have actually become something.

Ok…what did he do to Bane?  Well, nothing as drastic as what happened to poor Calendar Man.

Throughout the story, King draws parallels between Bane and Bruce.  There are 8 pages/50 panels in which we see Bruce do something and then Bane do something…similar.  I guess it’s meant to show how they both had tragedies that shaped their lives and how, even though they were presented with comparable challenges, they both ended up being very different despite these related aspects.

Here is the thing though, like I said in my opening paragraph, King is forcing similarities that don’t exist.  It would be different if King found hidden similarities within existing stories.  Then he would be drawing to light something that was always there, but that we simply never noticed.  That would be impressive.  As it stands, he’s just making up a bunch of stuff.  Which is technically what storytelling is, but King acts like his story exists in a void all to itself.  But it doesn’t.  It’s part of a massive tapestry that has been unfolding for decades.  If he has taken it upon himself to continue that story, the least he could do would be to acknowledge the previous chapters.  And not just offhandedly, but correctly.

Let’s look at some of the unnecessary changes he implements.

But first, for those of you who don’t know, Bane was forced to carry out the prison sentence that was imposed on his deceased Father.  At the time, he wasn’t even born yet.  He was born in prison, and his mother stayed with him to take care of him.

  • King shows Bane’s Mother getting killed in prison.  Supposedly murdered by another inmate.  In the original story, his Mother simply dies because she can no longer contend with the rigors of prison life.  This is an important change because King spends the whole rest of the story concentrating on Bruce and Bane’s Mother.  But the fact is, Bane didn’t really care all that much for his Mother.  If anything, he may have actually had contempt for her because she died.  Allowing prison life to kill her was a sign of weakness, and even at 6 years of age, Bane had no place in his heart for that.  In my opinion, trying to show that both characters have issues with lost parents is King’s first major misstep.  Doing this takes away some of Bane’s uniqueness.  He isn’t just a twisted reflection of Bruce.  He is his own person with his own set of particularly rare experiences.
  • King also glosses over the fact that Bane is placed in The Dark Hole because he murdered another inmate.  There is some dialogue that might be referencing this, but it’s very unclear.  In any case, what is clear is that King wants us to feel bad for Bane during this scene. But the original story is actually very disturbing. While Bane had justification for killing someone that had intentions to rape him, the enjoyment he takes out of killing the inmate was enough for me NOT to feel bad for him being put into solitary.
  • It’s also kind of weird that King shows another inmate making the decision to place Bane in The Hole.
  • Next, King has Bane showing fear and calling out for his mother.  What really happened was that Bane cast out his fear and instead became fear.  And it didn’t take him 18 years to get to that point either.  At 6, before Bruce even lost his parents, Bane was already hard.  Now this would have been a wonderful, yet different, similarity to highlight.  Both Bruce and Bane cast out their fears and became fear instead.  But King doesn’t go into that.

  • What?!?  I mean…what?  WHAT!!??!!  I don’t even…what…  For all the things that King altered, this is by far the most mind-boggling.  Look how forced Bane’s sentiment is in order to match up with Bruce’s.  It also doesn’t make any sense.  Bane doesn’t have some deep set desire to fight crime!?!  Really, Bane’s primary motivation is to conquer fear.  Fear is the only thing that stands in his way.  As Batman basically embodied fear, defeating him was the final physical hurdle Bane needed in order to prove to himself that he was without fear and banish that last shred of mental doubt.
  • Bane wanted to become a crime lord, so maybe one could say that you become master of other criminals by conquering them.  But the way it’s set up in King’s story, Bane is conquering them for…his parents?  Ok, that’s just goofy.
  •   According to King’s breakdown, this is when Bane escapes (I guess)…by kicking a hole in the wall.  A wall that was under sea-level!  But…isn’t that supposed to be the sky?  What’s going on?  Ok, so Bane escapes, then has experiments done on him…and then conquers the prison.  I…whatever.

I know that some people will say, “Well, it is King’s version, so none of that applies.”  And you are perfectly well within your rights to believe such a thing.  While I agree that a couple of those points were simply me objecting to alterations, other points are detrimental to the character’s core.  King’s approach is basically setting up Bane as another Anti-Batman.  We have dozens upon dozens of Anti-Batmen.  We don’t need another.  Turning Bane into that is jettisoning his uniqueness.  Let Bane be himself.  Forcing mommy issues on Bane was just painful for me to read, and even worse when I realized it was done to fulfill some arbitrary need King had.  It’s not done for a real reason like the natural evolution or progression of the character.  But simply because that’s what King wanted to do.  It’s just something different, because…why not.

I wish I could say those were my only problems with the story, but it doesn’t end there.  Take a look at this:

Bruce is talking to his Mother.  And not in a symbolic kind of way.  Like, the way it’s written, I can’t read it any other way than Bruce just went nuts and really thinks he is talking to his Mom.  It’s just so weird and off-putting.  Bane does the same thing in his King scenes, and while I know that in the original story Bane didn’t do that, I’m more forgiving seeing Bane do it than I am seeing Bruce do it.  Bane was shut up in that cell of his for 10 years.  He went a little bonkers.  The idea of him talking with people who aren’t there is a lot easier for me to swallow than the thought of Bruce Wayne doing it.

I think the only thing I actually liked about the plot was all the fighting, and Bane’s rant during their scuffle.  The fight isn’t at all over-the-top, and just shows two guys duking-it-out, which is all I think it really should be.  While it was very one-sided, which didn’t make me ecstatic, there is an unexpected twist that made it much more tolerable once revealed…to a certain point.

SHOW SPOILER ▼

While I wasn’t a huge fan of the story itself, the art was excellent.  In particular, I really enjoyed this:

A simple set of sequential panels.  First we have darkness, then a lightning bolt illuminates the area revealing Batman.  Back to darkness, and with a second lightning bolt, we see he is gone.  That is simply  beautiful visual storytelling.

Interesting Facts:

  • Batman: Year One.  The tree kicking scene.

Recommended if…

  • You want to see King’s take unnecessary modifications to Bane’s origin.
  • You enjoy David Finch’s artwork.
  • You like simple, yet engaging, fight scenes.

Overall:

King never ceases to amaze me, and I mean that in both senses of the phrase.  Two weeks ago, I was applauding him and this week I’m facepalming.  I seriously never know what to expect from the man.  The majority of my problems with this issue come from King trying to alter Bane’s origin (Remember, if it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it.)  But it gets a little more groan worthy as King attempts to force a parallel and connection between Bruce and Bane that is a stretch at best.  I can see how someone who hasn’t read Bane’s actual origin story would find this completely appropriate.  I also can’t deny that additional effort was obviously put forth to generate the composition of the parallels.  In that sense, I’d have to give the team an “A” for effort as they obviously put more thought into this story than some previous ones.  It’s also got some great art and a pretty grounded fight scene, but other than that, I found it severely lacking.  As long as I get a descent fight scene in the next two issues where both combatants actually participate, I’ll consider the “I AM BANE” arc worthwhile.  But as it currently stands, I can’t give this book a genuine recommendation.  Now, go read Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan’s “Batman: Vengeance of Bane”.

SCORE: 5.5 / 10 

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