Jesus, look at the teeth on the horrific David Finch cover! I'm not going to miss his art one bit.
(This is supposedly Finch's last hurrah on BATMAN. We can only hope.) My legendary dislike for the art of David Finch aside, BATMAN, VOL. 3: I AM BANE is another solid effort from author Tom King. This volume (Which collects BATMAN #'s 16-20, 23-24, and Annual #1), finds The Caped Crusader feeling the effects of his invasion of Santa Prisca in the last volume, as a mightily pissed-off Bane comes to Gotham to retrieve The Psycho-Pirate. I've been a huge fan of Bane ever since the one-shot that introduced him, but I haven't always loved how he was presented through the years. KNIGHTFALL was, and remains, the Bane gold standard....but this story comes in a close second. (Not too close, though. KNIGHTFALL is still in a class by itself.)
That's not to say that this is a perfect collection, though. The actual conclusion to the Batman/Bane physical conflict comes, and goes, way too quickly. It was fun to see Bane rampage through Gotham city, and run the gauntlet of Arkham Asylum inmates, but it would have been nice to see King pay a little more attention to what was going on between Psycho-Pirate and Gotham Girl, since that was the reason for all of the carnage and bloodshed that we were witnessing.
HappilyI remain fully on board with King's kinder and gentler Batman; Through the past three volumes, Bruce Wayne has smiled, said "Please" and "Thank you", asked for help, consoled victims of crime, helped friends in need, and, at the end of this volume, does something previously unthinkable. Thank you, Tom King, for making me like Batman again. The villains remain loathsome, the adventures remain grim and gritty, the fights are still brutal....but the hero has become so much more human. It's a simple fact, but one that has seemingly been forgotten by most BATMAN scribes since 1985: It's easier to care about a real, human character with flaws than it is to care about a complete, unrepentant asshole. Hopefully, this iteration of Batman will stick around for a while.
After the five-issue Bane throwdown, we skip the two issues devoted to THE BUTTON, and close out with a trio of done-in-one issues: The umpteenth introduction to Ace, The Bat-Hound, a romp through the rooftops with Catwoman, and a murder mystery team-up with Swamp Thing.
The Ace story is a wonderful little vignette that spotlights Alfred, and continues King's humanization of Bruce Wayne. THE BUTTON isn't a must-read story, in the context of this volume, but reading it will make Batman's actions with Catwoman a little easier to understand. The Swamp Thing team-up is titled "The Brave and the Mold", and that is really all you need to know. Someone get Tom King a job writing Swamp Thing. Please.
Oddly enough, the review copy DC provided swapped the placement of the Catwoman and Swamp Thing issues, which makes the finished product feature a massive, game-changing cliffhanger, only to include one more issue that provides no closure. Hopefully, the finished, printed book has the issues in their proper order.
Extras are few....just a gallery of the Tim Sale & Brennan Wagner variant covers.
I'm in for the long haul on this title...as long as Tom King is aboard, I will be too. BATMAN, VOL. 3: I AM BANE earns a massive nine out of ten steroid-enhanced, Batman-pummeling fists:
DC Comics provided a review copy.