Warning: Spoilers for Batman #77 ahead.
Bane runs Gotham, and Bruce Wayne is nowhere to be found! After seeing what Bane, Thomas Wayne, and Gotham Girl have done to the city, Damian Wayne has decided to take matters into his own hands and mount a one-man assault on the city. And across the Atlantic Ocean, Bruce Wayne wakes up. Continuing the structure of the last issue with the stories in Gotham and Paris running in tandem, Tom King, Mikel Janin, and Tony Daniel are leading the City of Bane into the climactic conflict that it is clearly heading towards.
The story in Gotham focuses on Damian Wayne as he takes the fight to the City of Bane. His first action once the city is breached is to take out Gotham Girl with a delightful callback to his words to Superman in Rules of Engagement. His path through the city continues as he takes out more and more of the “police force” before he reaches his goal – Thomas Wayne, the false Batman. King shows his mastery of Damian’s character through his exchange with Thomas, as he refuses to acknowledge Thomas as his own relative, and shows no respect to the man wearing his father’s mantle. Damian’s words with Thomas are cutting and cruel, and delightfully in character, and it’s incredibly fun to see him banter with Thomas and show just how much of his father he has in him. And just like in the previous arc, Damian’s defeat at the hands of Thomas is inevitable as he is handily dismantled and captured. Damian’s outing in this story is a failure, but it’s remarkably in character for him and a joy to read. King’s voice for the character is absolutely perfect from start to finish.
The story in Paris follows Bruce as he recovers from his defeat at the hands of his father, both physically and mentally. This segment of the story is fairly short, as one-page bits interspersed within the longer story of Damian in Gotham, yet it is emotionally resonant from its very beginning, as Bruce opens his eyes to Selina singing Habanera. As Selina stays by his side to support him, Bruce wrestles with what his defeat means, and what his direction forward has to be. King continues to bring his Batman story full circle, as Bruce echoes his sentiment at the end of the first issue: “It will be… a good death.” Through this, Selina’s love for Bruce is clearly depicted – this time he is not alone, facing his “good death” head-on. This time he has Selina there with him, ready, willing, and able to keep him alive. Bruce has finally woken up after being brought to his lowest, and is ready to fight back, with people right there at his side.
Both art teams on this issue do a phenomenal job with their parts of the story. Mikel Janin’s art has never looked better than with Jordie Bellaire coloring, which adds a different mood and tone to each scene. The opening scene with Damian defeating Gotham Girl has a background gradient of blue and red, a neutral tone that allows the characters to pop. The next scene with Damian beating up Scarecrow and Zsasz is covered in bright orange, keeping the tone light as Damian easily dispatches them. But the rest of his portion of the story is overwhelmed in darker hues, with his confrontation with Thomas saturated in greens and reds, conveying that Damian is well and truly outmatched just as well as the actual fight scene does. There’s no brightness in this scene, nothing that depicts Damian as able to actually defeat Thomas. Janin’s art portrays Thomas as overwhelmingly more powerful than Damian similarly, using scale and perspective. Thomas is far larger than Damian in near every panel that they both appear. In one, they are shown to be the same height when Thomas crouches, and in another later on when they’re actually fighting, Thomas engulfs Damian in mid air. Every scene with Damian is gorgeous and tonally consistent, as Janin and Bellaire put out some of their best work yet.
The scenes with Bruce and Selina in Paris are penciled by Tony Daniel, with inks by Daniel and Norm Rapmund, and Tomeu Morey on colors. This is a fairly short segment, with only five pages of the issue used for this story, but it is a meaningful continuation of Bruce’s journey after his defeat, and finally begins the upswing of his character arc. The art is an incredibly important part of this part of the story, as Daniel sells Bruce and Selina’s expressions and emotions throughout. There’s an excellent panel of Bruce brooding, with his eyes blacked out in shadow. the whole page never shows Bruce’s eyes, as he finally comes to terms with the fact that he has lost, and his expression for the whole page is one of resignation and acceptance. Even when he discusses going back to Gotham, he doesn’t look like his heart is truly in it. Bruce is ready to fight and die, and it is Selina, who is shown caring for him the entire time, who finally gets angry at the end. The final page is Selina, furious, offering Bruce revenge – and the art is what truly sells it.
As usual, King has written an issue that tells its own complete story within the larger narrative of the arc. The issue is an excellent character piece on Damian, Bruce, and Selina as King is putting out some of the best work of his career on this title. Daniel and Janin along with their inkers and colorists are stellar artists on this issue, bringing King’s story to life in an incredible way. It’s a satisfying complete product, and a meaningful step forward for the story as it heads towards its climax.
(Warning: Spoiler Alert) Robin made a grave mistake in Batman #77. Click the link to find out what he did.