Bane: Conquest #10 is the third issue in a row in which a showdown is heralded but not delivered. I have low expectations for each issue but at the moment even these are not being met. It’s as if Dixon has too many issues to fill and has to come up with a dull, new obstacle to challenge Bane each month.

Anyone who buys the issue based solely on the cover will also be disappointed as it has no bearing on the story inside. Last issue, the cover was misleading; this time it’s practically clickbait. Instead of the team fallout promised, we’re instead presented with a filler mission centred around a laughably transparent ruse.

This water-treading plot would be almost forgivable if Dixon graced us with some worthwhile characterisation but there isn’t any of that either. Valentina has a rant which is almost identical to the one she had last issue and perplexingly refers to Kobra as a ‘cult,’ which is derogatory to the group she supposedly serves with such fervour. Meanwhile, Faraday is meant to be a devil-may-care spy but he makes a big fuss about entering a police state. Gunbunny takes the prize for being the most one-dimensional character, draped over Gunhawk last issue and paraded around for a lusty General this month; it’s disturbingly old-fashioned. KGBeast, a man not known for his subtlety, is now inveigled in the espionage side of the mission and there’s no explanation for why he seems to have grown back his missing left hand. Finally, two of the men Bane purportedly hired for their special talents last issue just have to wordlessly fire machine guns in issue #10.

Taking his place at the heart of the operation is a man named Kiang who Bane has apparently been keeping prisoner. He’s not the man interrogated last issue and I can’t remember anyone being captured by the gang before then so I was pretty confused when he took centre stage. My confusion didn’t end there; there’s a cryptic line from Gunhawk I kept re-reading, and a scene involving Zombie in which I still have no idea what’s happening. It’s not been a good series so far but outright mystifying the reader is a new low.

Spoiler


One indication that the creative team do know their characters at all this issue comes courtesy of this shot of Alfred dusting. The Diary of Dana Drye refers to Batman #14 in which legendary detective Drye is apparently murdered and Batman sets out to solve the case with Robin and a team of sleuths. It transpires that Drye committed suicide and staged the murder himself. As his diary reveals that Drye knew Batman’s identity, the dark knight decides to keep Drye’s secret and displays the diary in the Batcave as a mark of respect.

I believe the artwork is partly to blame for the bewildering Zombie scene but at least it’s pretty clear for the rest of the issue, even if it isn’t pretty. Valentina’s neck disappears, Alfred’s shoulder evaporates, the sea is drawn as a featureless, black mass and, as evidenced in the panels below, Nolan’s desolate background work reaches new levels of laziness.

Recommended if:
• Launch site operatives chatting and many other examples of filler material are what you like in your comics.
• You’ve had enough of reading good comics and want to try a bad one for a change.
• You’re looking for a read in which you don’t know or care what’s happening.

Overall: All the good will issue #9 generated by introducing a colourful new gang of villains has completely gone out the window. Dixon delivers a script rife with bland, meaningless dialogue, inconsistent characters and unnecessary complications designed to fill up pages and nothing else.

SCORE: 3.5/10