Review: Batman Vol. 12: City of Bane Part 1 hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


Overall I've been enjoying Tom King's zany, experimental take on Batman, but with Batman Vol. 12: City of Bane Part 1, even I can see where this minimalist storytelling hits some difficulty. The trouble, I think, is in the name — I have a sense that the forthcoming Batman: City of Bane: The Complete Collection will be a much better read in that we'll get the introduction and denouement to this story, and not just the introduction.

City of Bane spends a while setting up the new status quo when the status quo is pretty clear, and from there it turns to Batman's recovery from injury, et al., which is not insignificant but in broad strokes we've seen this kind of thing before. There's two major events within the pages of this book, so it's not as though Part 1 doesn't move the story forward, but each has mitigating factors such to lessen one's full enjoyment of them. I tend to think all this could have happened faster and Part 2 come quicker, or again, maybe it'd be better to just read City of Bane all together.

[Review contains spoilers]

So in City of Bane, King has Bane kill Alfred Pennyworth. It's rather unceremonious for a character with a 70-plus year history; while Alfred does go down, at least, expressing concern for others, I can't say I feel like there's been a lot of choice Alfred content in this run (short of standing up as Bruce's best man) to make his death seem narratively inevitable. The whole sequence only spans two pages, and it seems especially grotesque that Alfred's death should be the fault of the already-encumbered, young Robin Damian.

Furthermore, I just don't believe it. Deaths of major multi-media DC characters don't tend to last as is, and with Andy Serkis set to play Alfred in a high-profile Batman movie coming soon, it's unlikely DC wants people to come to the comics (tough as that is anyway) and not find Alfred. He will assuredly be back. And if King means for Bruce and Selina to play house for a while without Alfred as mediator, that might be interesting, but I'm not enthusiastic for another set of "mourning Batman's lost control" stories after we just saw the same for 1) Nightwing having been shot, 2) Selina leaving Bruce at the altar, and 3) Damian's own death, before his rebirth. And while one had to expect Damian was going to dip into a Lazarus Pit eventually, any sort of semi-supernatural Alfred resurrection plot feels like the wrong supporting character in the wrong genre.

So while the second part of City of Bane will tell the real tale, I can't help see Alfred's death as a shock for shock's sake, especially since it's not as though Batman didn't have a lot of reasons to seek vengeance on Bane already. At least when Scott Snyder had the Joker chop off Alfred's hand, there was an outside chance that would stick, and that itself was reversed within an arc or so. But not unlike when Snyder earlier suggested for a page or two that the Joker might've cut all the Bat-family's faces off (!), at some point there are lines I'm just sure DC won't cross — at least not for long — and this is one of them.

(If Batman and Catwoman end up married, I'd also wonder what's reversed first, the marriage or Alfred's death.)

The other big event here is Bruce and Selina's reconciliation. The decidedly more superhero-esque artwork of Tony Daniel and Mikel Janin in the first three chapters of this book gives way to two romantic Bruce/Selina-centric issues drawn by Clay Mann. King and Mann do some of what they do best here; while aspects of this are as nonsensical as other parts of this series (Bruce is lounging on the beach while Bane has Alfred hostage), nowhere else can you see Bruce Wayne in a Tom Selleck mustache kayaking around with Catwoman.

And we get, finally, a resolution to Batman and Catwoman's "it was on a boat/it was on the street" debate with Bruce explaining that on the street, he was not yet Batman, whereas on the boat he was. It is perhaps counter-intuitive that this affirmation of Batman as Bruce's "truth" comes at the same time as Bruce admits that he thought he had to be alone to be Batman, thus driving Selina away from their engagement, whereas now he knows he can be Batman and have love. There is no talk of marriage, not to say that isn't coming, but that seems the wiser course (or at least less for other writers to undo later), that Batman and Catwoman should be committed, live together, fight crime together, but not necessarily call it marriage.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Batman Vol. 12: City of Bane Part 1

There are other shoes to drop, of course — whether it's Bane or Thomas Wayne who's truly in charge, what unseen figure is talking to the Ventriloquist, whether at any point we'll see the events described in Gotham Girl's future-diary come to fruition. So all is not told yet, and I'm eager for the follow-up to Batman Vol. 12: City of Bane Part 1 to see how it all works out. I hold no hope that Alfred's death is some ruse worked out between he and Penguin or such, not the least because DC's published a memorial special in the meantime, but again, neither would I hire new help at Wayne Manor just yet. Glad to see City of Bane Part 2's out in just a month or so.

[Includes original and variant covers, penciled and inked pages]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Batman Vol. 12: City of Bane Part 1
Author Rating
3.5 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. If I understood the industry scuttlebut at the time correclty, King intended for Alfred's death to not be real (there are a variety of ways, toxins, and mental powers that Bane could use to fool Damien). However, the editors at DC liked the online response to Alfred's death so they decided to make it 'real' after the issue came out.

  2. Some links.


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