No masks. No help. Batman has finally returned to Gotham and has taken the fight to the man who broke him and took his city: Bane. Now poised to take his city back and take down the man who has been tormenting him from the first emergence of Gotham and Gotham Girl, with his family safe, and with Catwoman by his side at last, Bruce is ready to be triumphant. The only thing standing in his way is Bane – someone Bruce knows he can beat.
This issue is mostly an extended fight sequence between Batman and Bane. This could easily feel decompressed or underwhelming, but King packs so much nuance and emotion into the brawl that it feels like a proper climax and culmination of King’s entire run up to this point. Batman, Catwoman, and Bane’s arcs all tie together in this battle, as King continues to connect the three of them together in ways seeded from the very beginning of his run. This fight goes on for the majority of the issue, until it is suddenly cut short by an unexpected (albeit well-led up to) arrival of the character who seems to be Bruce’s true antagonist.
King’s continuous repetition of dialogue serves its purpose incredibly well in this issue, making it clear that the parallel threads throughout his run were deliberate from the start. No phrase has made this more evident throughout the past few years than “I’m still here.” This line was first uttered by Bruce during I am Bane, and has been repeated throughout the run to signify the core of what makes Bruce Batman – not his money or his trauma, but his resilience. This issue the line is uttered by Bane, a character that King has done an excellent job depicting as a parallel to Batman. King did not spend very long depicting Bane’s origins and early years, but the few times he did are called back to with great effect this issue, as Bane proclaims “Seventeen years. Alone. Forgotten. And every night the tide came in…. And yet. I’m still here.”
Mikel Janin is equally important in how well this issue lands, as his art alongside Jordie Bellaire’s colors are what ensure that the issue-long fight scene feels like a satisfying climax rather than something padded out. Janin has always had a knack for fight scenes, with the ability to break up a single image into multiple panels but make it feel like there’s progression between each panel. Clayton Cowles’ letters also sell this effect, as the sound effects and word balloons are laid out in a way that helps to maintain this sense of motion. Bellaire’s colors are also incredible, with bright vibrant backgrounds that don’t divert attention away from the action taking place. The few pages that take place separate from this fight scene have far a darker palette, making them striking within the context of this issue.
City of Bane has been a fantastic conclusion to Tom King’s run of Batman, and this issue is no exception. With fantastic art and tight writing, this issue is a satisfying climax to a conflict that has been building for years, with an ending that changes the entire dynamic of the story in a meaningful way. As the run heads towards its conclusion, this issue serves as a bridge to the finale by tying together the themes of the run.