It’s been a while since the last issue of Bane: Conquest hit the shelves so you’re forgiven for not remembering what’s going on (What’s that? You’re not reading this series? Well, I can’t really blame you). Fortunately, even if you (wisely) skipped a few issues, this is a straightforward one that you can jump into without any foreknowledge. It’s billed as ‘The Reaper: Part Three’ but really it’s Part One of a two-part finale centred around Bane’s invasion of the Kobra base with the intent to kidnap the infant Naja-Naja.
This means a welcome change of scenery and the beginning of the promised showdown we’ve been waiting for whilst enduring all those filler issues! The series hasn’t been short on action but here it finally feels like there’s some purpose behind it. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see henchmen terrified at the arrival of Bane and Zombie? This guy above looks like he seriously regrets joining the cult. Even though some of the fun and drive have belatedly returned to the series, it’s still plagued with logical problems; Bane leaves Kiang, an untrustworthy prisoner, to watch Dionysius, it doesn’t seem like the team are using any of the intelligence they gained last issue and KGBeast still seems to have both hands again without any explanation. I like that Bane speaks Spanish and Crow speaks French but it’s pretty confusing this issue when Bane starts speaking French as well! I guess details were never the appeal of writers like Dixon; he’s more into the broad strokes and crazy action. Miller, Ostrander, Wolfman and Adams have all brought their trademark styles back to DC recently, with varying levels of success. I think the key to getting a nostalgic book right is maintaining the quality the creator is known for. That’s where Dixon has fallen down this series; it’s not as fun as his older works because he’s spent too much time on one-dimensional world-building.
I’m left wondering whether 12 issues may be too many for a supervillain to front on their own (Harley doesn’t count- she’s not really a villain anymore). We’ve never been given a reason to root for Bane other than our familiarity with the character and mostly seeing the book from his perspective. Maybe it would have been better if Batman had featured more prominently, instead of making cameos in only a handful of issues, because then we’d identify with the hero. A villain-centric story can work (e.g. Avengers: Infinity War) but the consumer has to be made to care about what’s going on and Dixon has failed in that respect.
Nolan’s artwork is the usual mixed bag. A shot of Kobra’s headquarters looks more like the bare bones of a piece than finished artwork in a major publisher’s comic book. Detailed close-ups of faces still feature; Dionysius has benefitted the most from this throughout the series and does so here too. I can’t help but wonder whether this is because Nolan puts more effort into him to offset the simplicity of the digitally-inserted computer screen backgrounds he always appears against. One background that stood out for me was an explosive orange setting in which Bane breaks a back, presumably in homage to the famous instance in which he broke the Bat against a tangerine backdrop. There were two pieces of art I particularly liked this issue; one in which the motion lines cause you to really feel the impact when Bane jumps and lands hard against the side of a bridge, and the moody view below (a scene which proves superfluous in terms of story but nonetheless provides a great excuse to draw Gotham in the rain).
- You’re tuning in for the explosive finale.
- You want to see a quipping, poor man’s Suicide Squad attempt to infiltrate an icy fortress.
- You dig rain, Wayne, and an insane Bane dishing out the pain.
Overall: It’s been a long limp of a race but it feels like Bane: Conquest may have finally found some extra energy as it nears the finish line. Fun for the sight of Bane kicking ass, if little else.