By Alex Batts — Batman #75 set the stage for the story arc City of Bane, and this week’s Batman #76 is all about highlighting the stakes and dire situations Gotham and the Caped Crusader are facing. The creative team of Tom King, Tony S. Daniel, and Tomeu Morey continue to escalate the desolation inside Gotham, where Bane is ruling virtually uncontested. There are two main narratives in this issue, with another short third narrative that shows the stakes and helplessness the rest of the Bat-Family feels.
The first narrative takes place inside Gotham, as the Thomas Wayne Flashpoint Batman and Gotham Girl continue to patrol the city in service of Bane. Batman is again tasked with hunting down any and all criminals not already under the control of Bane. In this issue, that happens to be Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, Kite-Man, and Scarecrow. With this we get some of the best action in the issue and some amazing artwork from Daniel and Morey. The chase scene is exhilarating and the shots of Batman are as menacing as can be. Morey’s colors highlight the already stellar linework by Daniel, bringing the pages to life.
While Scarecrow and Kite-Man are able to momentarily escape Batman and hideaway in Kite-Man’s “Kitequarters,” they don’t remain out of the firing line for very long. The character work King continues to do with Kite-Man is great. He’s turned a C-list (maybe even D-list) villain into an integral and recurring component of his run, giving a previously unseen depth to this character. After all, the audience knows what Kite-Man has been through, and because of this the quiet moments of desperation he feels are all the more heartbreaking.
While I said there was one narrative in Gotham, it’s actually broken up into two distinct segments: above Gotham, and below in the streets. I just described some of the action that takes place in the streets with Batman chasing after infamous supervillains, yet above in the skies Gotham Girl is combating a hero, actually one of the strongest meta-humans in the DCU, Captain Atom. After the events of the last issue, the president has declared Gotham a no hero zone, ordering everyone to steer clear. Captain Atom isn’t on board with this plan. He, rightfully so, doubts that things in Gotham have somehow straightened out, reasoning that Gotham needs help now more than ever and so help has arrived.
Thomas Wayne Batman is tasked with dealing with any villains in Gotham, and Gotham Girl is tasked with disposing of any heroes that approach the city. Captain Atom almost laughs at her standing up to him, but he doesn’t remain cheerful for very long. Just as we saw last issue, Gotham Girl is extremely capable, and she effectively wipes the floor with Captain Atom. After beating him, she asks Batman if he’s sure they don’t want to give him the (Psycho) Pirate treatment, to which he laughs and says, “No. That’s not the deal we negotiated. Villains go down. Heroes go out.” Gotham Girl promptly launches Captain Atom miles outside of Gotham. The contrast in Gotham Girl patrolling the air and Batman patrolling the streets is strong, and the two are doing a scarily-efficient job at keeping the streets of Gotham “orderly”.
The second main narrative of the issue takes place in Paris as we see Catwoman entering a loft where a severely injured Bruce Wayne is being housed. She’s just stolen the Lacemaker Vermeer, one of the most expensive paintings in the world, and jokes that she knows Bruce wouldn’t approve. She did this, however, to fund housing where she could heal him. The scenes with the two are shockingly intimate, considering one of the pair is lying unconscious the entire time. Catwoman’s playful conversation with herself (and sort of Bruce) has an undertone of sadness, because he’s not awake to banter back with her. She’s doing all she can for him and just wishes he would wake.
Daniel’s rendition of Selina is nothing short of beautiful, and the moments with her and Bruce are colored in a soft and tender fashion. The two are finally together again, but one of them is broken like we haven’t seen before. At the end of the scene we even see a single tear fall from Selina’s eye as she wishes for Bruce to wake up, highlighting a desperate sadness she’s trying to keep under control.
The small third narrative I mentioned at the start sees Tim Drake at the hospital bed of Captain Atom as he describes being attacked by Gotham Girl. He says it’s like nothing he’s ever faced before, and he seems utterly defeated. After this we see Tim and Damian Wayne on a rooftop discussing the fate of Gotham. Damian argues that they have to go in, to do something, but Tim reasons that they have no hope against Gotham Girl, and that the enemy still has Alfred as a hostage. The two get into quite the heated debate and it showcases the frustration and helplessness Batman’s closest allies feel with the situation Bane has orchestrated.
From the beginning Bane has operated ten moves ahead of Batman and his allies and now his plans have come to fruition. It’s terrifying and oddly satisfying to see such a grand scheme pulled off with flying colors. King has been playing the definition of a long game, and it’s paying off in full. Daniel — inked by Sandu Florea and Norm Rapmund — and Morey are putting out some of the best art that’s been on this title, which is a very high bar. The first issue of this arc started out incredibly strong, and this issue carried and built upon that momentum
Overall: Batman #76 continues to highlight the complete control Bane has over Gotham while showcasing the desperation Batman and his allies feel. With career best work from the artists and King at the height of his run, this arc is a must-read. 9.5/10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Tony S. Daniel
Inkers: Daniel, Sandu Florea, and Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
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Alex Batts is from Texas. A lifelong comic book enthusiast and movie lover, if he’s not talking about comics, he’s probably not talking. You can find him on Twitter by following @BatmanFiles