In this chapter of Batman, we get the return of naked Bane.
I’m going to try my best to prevent from sounding like a broken record here, but after weeks of providing commentary on “Knightmares,” it’s becoming more and more difficult to do so when I’m forced to critically discuss a story that does nothing but repeats the same themes without actually progressing the story. I mean, at this point, we’re essentially getting reimaginations of previous issues, and none of them add anything new or unique in the grand scheme of things. So, unlike Tom King, let’s see if I can do a better job of changing things up.
For those of you that haven’t been keeping up, King launched his Batman run with Rebirth, built a nice dynamic between Bruce and Selina, promised a wedding, failed to deliver, gave an even worse reason for the failed delivery, created an absurd conflict, and then put Batman in a sleep state where he’s been having nightmares for roughly seven issues now. The “Knightmares” have all started to meld together as they repeat the same themes and concepts from issue to issue, and now, finally, we’re on the final “Knightmare.” Unlike previous installments, this chapter actually brings Bruce and Selina together in his nightmare, and the two talk through the aftermath of the wedding-that-didn’t-happen. It’s both good and a complete waste at the same time. If you’re looking for a brief review of this issue, then just read the previous sentence again, then go on about your day. If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis, then I guess I can provide that to you. And as our anticipation scale states, no, “you don’t have to thank us.”
Stepping away from snark for a moment, I don’t want to take away from some of the character moments and dialogue we get from Bruce and Selina in this issue. Some of these exchanges are great, especially with Yanick Paquette’s art. But in this, every exchange we get here is something we’ve already received before. In fact, the “Knightmares” issues that featured Batman with Constantine and Selina with the Question pretty much cover everything that’s presented here. Really, the only difference is that this issue puts Bruce and Selina together to encounter the same realizations. So… Yeah, mostly a been-there, done that feeling, and I’d venture to say that this issue isn’t as effective as the previous issues I mentioned.
This isn’t King’s only example of repetition failing him though. He continues to use nostalgia as a gimmick and crutch. When he first introduced the “we were on a boat,” “we were in an alley” back and forth, I loved it. I thought it was clever, fresh, and a nice nod to the history of Batman in publication. We’ve also gotten various depictions and Batman and Catwoman throughout time in King’s run by showcasing the two in various incarnations of their costumes. That, too, was something that I initially loved. And then he did it again… And again… And again… And now he’s doing it again.
Since this is a dream, Bruce and Selina dance through various locations, their appearance changing with every turn of the page. Again, it’s nice and executed well, but the schtick has overstayed its welcome. It’s beginning to feel like King’s run has become so polarized, that he’s desperate for some type of approval from everyone that he keeps falling back on what worked before… but now it’s no longer working. The gimmicks are fading, and we’re ready for an actual narrative with plot progression.
I’d even go so far as to say that King is just phoning it in now. The repetition, lack of dialogue, one-word answers, and reinterpretations of previous scenes or stories all feel like padding. What’s worse, is he seems to be doing this without any sense of feeling like he owes fans an actual story… It’s a bit pretentious. I can’t be the only one left wondering, “Why am I reading this?” Right? King asked for an investment to stay in for 100+ issues for his run, but he’s been padding and stretching his story so much that I don’t see why I should. And to be clear, I’ve never questioned whether I should drop Batman until recently. Please understand the impact of that statement.
We do get a little insight into what’s going on outside of Bruce’s dreams here though. Naked Bane is back, and he’s training with Thomas Wayne. I’ve spent months wondering how King would explain Thomas’ alignment with Bane, and while we get an answer here, I can’t say that I like it… At all.
Basically, it’s broken down that Thomas Wayne doesn’t want his son to be Batman – for Bruce’s well-being, mind you – so he decides to align himself with a man who has not only broken his son, but is aiming to do so again, permanently… Because that makes a ton of sense.
I’m happy for even the slightest bit of progression, so that’s a plus, but it isn’t building my excitement for future issues. I just don’t buy anything that’s going on. The recent Gotham Girl arc was pointless. I don’t believe Thomas Wayne’s motivations. I still don’t fully get Banes situation or how he reached all of the people he’s recruited. And I don’t buy Bruce being as distraught as he is because Selina left him. Beyond that, I hate that King keeps insisting that this is the worst thing Bruce has ever encountered… His $%#!&@ kid was murdered in front of him. Being left at the alter doesn’t compare to that at all, but keep ignoring cannon and writing characters incorrectly for the convenience of your story.
The Art: Yanick Paquette covers the art here, and it’s quite good. I’ve always respected Paquette, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been his biggest fan, nor am I typically in love with his covers… But his work here is great! The pages and panels with Bruce and Selina are a masterclass. Has we not seen various incarnations of this multiple times before, it would have had even more impact. Regardless, it’s still beautiful work, and I found the use of music to be a nice touch.
The panels of Bane and Thomas Wayne weren’t as captivating for me though. They’re not bad by any means, but after the incredible work that was done with Bruce and Selina’s panels, the ones with Bane and Thomas just looked flat. Perhaps that was the intention since the colors used for these scenes were mostly grays and whites though. Whatever the intention, the art saved an issue of Batman yet again, so kudos to the art team.
- You’re a fan of the abuse of repetition.
- Naked Bane?
- Thomas Wayne siding with Bane is “explained?”
Overall: Finally! Finally, we can move on from “Knightmares” and get back to the story at hand. King has milked this concept for way too long, and it’s time for us to actually get some plot progression. This issue has some nice scenes, so I don’t want to take away from that, but none of it is new, fresh, or original. It’s felt like King has just been phoning this in for months now, and I desperately just want to move on.