Bane: Conquest is a 12 issue maxi-series bringing back Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan to tell the further adventures of the character they helped create, BANE!  And let me tell you, when I first heard about this, I was excited beyond belief.  Dixon has had his fingerprints all over the Batverse.  If you look back through the 90s and even into the 2000s, you’ll see that he was prolific beyond belief, writing more than 700 different stories throughout that time.  He had his turn at Batman, Detective Comics, Legends of the Dark Knight, Nightwing, Robin, The Huntress, Catwoman, Batgirl, and The Birds of Prey.  There was pretty much no corner of the Batverse he didn’t venture.  With that many stories written, there were some clunkers in there too, but I basically have nothing but fond memories of his storytelling.

Given all that, I’m sure some of you are expecting this review to be influenced by starry-eyed nostalgia as I gush over a writer and artist who are superstars of the Batverse.  But fear not, my past love for them will not abide by current shortcomings.  And trust me, this story has some shortcomings…

If I had to pick the weakest link present in this particular story, it’s that we aren’t given any reason to care.  No time is spent examining the character of Bane; how he feels, why he does what he does, what is at stake if he loses.  The entire comic is essential one long string of events.  So there is plenty for Bane to do, and lots for us to see, but ultimately I just don’t care about this journey he is going on because no time was spent establishing Bane’s motivation or why I should care about him.  Granted, if you are reading “Bane: Conquest”, it’s probably because you are already familiar with the character and don’t require further probing into his psyche.  But that doesn’t really excuse the fact that this story is basically void of feeling.

While the plot is straightforward and pretty standard, I’d be hard pressed to extrapolate on any of the other basic storytelling elements.  Is there a theme?  I’m not really sure.  Is there a morale to all this?  I don’t know.  What is Bane’s motivation?  Conguest???  Again, not really sure.  And what of the characters?  Are they relatable and do we find ourselves sympathetic to their undertaking?  Can’t say that I did.

Now, some people might say that it’s hard to relate to a villain, but I say that’s hogswallop.  I site “Batman: Vengeance of Bane” #1+2 (1993+1995) as my proof.  “Vengeance of Bane” is the story that introduced us to Bane.  When “Vengeance of Bane” came out, DC advertising had been hammering home the fact that this Bane guy was going to be a big deal and break the Bat in a way no villain had ever done before.  Given that, Bane was a character that we should have been hating on.  He’s this guy that’s going to contest our hero.  We should want him to fail.  But over the course of “Vengeance of Bane”, Dixon had me rooting for Bane.  Then, after the events of “Knightfall”, Dixon came out with “Batman: Vengeance of Bane II : The Redemption”.  Now, this was the guy who had just physically decimated Bruce.  We should all be hating on this guy at this point and hoping he gets his butt kicked in prison.  This was a person I had every reason to hate and want to see fail, but Dixon once again somehow managed to make me root for Bane.

This right here is exactly what this story is so severely lacking.  A reason to root for the main character and care about the journey that he is going on.  And while that is just one criticism, it colors every aspect of the entire story.  While there is plenty of stuff that happens, if we aren’t given a reason to care about it, it makes even the coolest scenes seem humdrum.  So basically, I was just going through the motions, entirely void of feeling.

While I said that the story is straightforward, that doesn’t mean it isn’t without some head-scratchers.  As the story starts out, Bane and his cohorts are heading out to sea to intercept a vessel that is bound for Bane’s “city”.  At this point in the story, I pretty much assumed they were talking about Pena Duro on Santa Prisca.  But really, they’ve been talking about Gotham.  It’s weird, because Bane keeps referring to Gotham as his and says he needs to stop people from taking what is his.  But the only time I ever saw Gotham as his was towards the end of “Knightfall”.  It just seems very odd to hear Bane saying he has to protect what is his, when currently, Gotham isn’t his.

Much in the same way that detachment from the characters colors the rest of the story for me, this disconnect between what Bane thinks and what really is has me questioning why he would be doing what he’s doing.  The boat was carrying weapons for Gotham, but too much for street sale.  They had to be intended for some terrorist cell hellbent on starting a war in Gotham.  So basically, the rest of the story is about Bane hunting down the people that are responsible for this attempt on …. “his city”.  In a weird kind of way, Bane almost acts as a placeholder for Batman in this story; Bane roughs up people to get info and essentially fights criminals to protect “his city”.  It’s just weird.

Art for this issue is handled by the great Graham Nolan.  Flipping through this issue, the renderings are unmistakably his, but there is something about them that is just off to me.  And it’s not that I’m remembering his work differently in my mind.  I opened some older issues and compared.  This issue simply doesn’t sport the same polish and cleanliness that his older work has.  It’s just rougher around the edges.  And really, I can say that about any Batman artist over time.  When I look at Neal Adams or Jim Aparo’s stuff from their heyday (which was awesome) and compare it to their later works, their styles got loose and somewhat apathetic.  This may be a somewhat unfair judgement on my part.  It would be like asking a gold-winning-Olympian to win another gold 25 years after their initial win.  Just like athletes, drawing is a physical endeavor.  So, style does tend to degrade with age.  That’s not to say I’m not thrilled to be looking at Nolan’s pencils again, but they just aren’t the same as they used to be.

It’s worth noting that this issue will run you $3.99, but it’s only 20 pages long.  That’s not cool.  I guess we are paying the extra dollar because it’s Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan, and I wouldn’t have a problem with it if this story was up to their usual standards, but it’s not.

Recommended if…

  • You were a huge Chuck Dixon/Graham Nolan fan and want to support these two powerhouses in their most recent endeavor.
  • You like Bane.

Overall:

I love Chuck Dixon, so it genuinely pains me to have to give something he wrote such meager reception, but his many successes from the past will not excuse a misstep in the present.  The biggest problem with this story is that we aren’t given a reason to care about Bane, root for him, or become invested in his journey.  The plot is also very basic without a hint of suspense.  On top of that, Bane’s motivation is somewhat unclear.  Being that this is the first of 12 issues, there is plenty of time to improve.  At the same time, we’re off to a real rocky start, and I shudder to think that all we have to look forward to is 11 more issues of the same.

SCORE: 4.5 / 10