“All it is, is a matter of will. Who has the stronger will? Who will give in first? Him or me?”

Tom King has regained his footing with [easyazon_link identifier=”B01MQWERMF” locale=”US” tag=”bounintocomi-20″]Batman #18[/easyazon_link]. This is his best Batman issue since concluding his first arc, “I Am Gotham.” Bane is a ruthless maniac hell-bent on Batman’s physical and mental destruction. Though he’s able to manhandle Bruce with ease our favorite cape still manages to surprise his nemesis, seemingly staying ahead of his foe every step of the way.

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King is incredibly clever in juxtaposing our favorite silver-spooned Gothamite and the Spanish gutter-rat who came to be known as Bane. By crafting the gorgeous symmetrical storylines he’s able to tell compelling backstories while providing some meaty imagery for artist David Finch to handle. Finch is more than up to the task. Once again the series co-artist proves himself worthy of the Batman mantle, creating a fluid and yet linear approach that still has plenty of the modern visual flourishes that entrance every reader. With one of the best creative teams in comics Batman #18 is a must-read for any DC fan of the past, present, or future.

Batman #18

It seemed too easy. At the end of Batman #17, Batman came face to face with the recently re-costumed Bane. The smackdown King has been setting up since the beginning of his run is fairly one-sided. Bane easily tosses Bruce around like a ragdoll, showing off his venom-enhanced strength. It’s hard to see Batman so battered and beaten, but to no one’s surprised he clearly has a card or two up his sleeve. Catwoman also has a brief but entertaining cameo in this issue. Though many doubted King’s handling of the character some 6-7 issues ago, he’s doing right by Selina with some great dialogue and another redeeming save. Another success of King’s is that every issue can still manage to take an unexpected turn despite having a fairly straightforward set-up. Batman has yet to win one of these 1-on-1 exchanges with Bane. But it seems that he was just waiting to take the fight to his own turf.

One of the more divisive aspects of Tom King’s run on Batman has been the lack of the caped crusader’s famous inner-monologue. Many doubted how effective a Batman story could be without the insight and thoughts of the lead character. Here, King proves he knows just what he’s doing. By keeping Bruce’s thoughts to himself, King has managed to keep a thin veil over a part of Batman’s story that we’ve always had spoiled for us. Up to the very last page we’re left to wonder what Batman has planned for his massive enemy.

Batman #18

It’s good to see a Batman writer spend so much time with one villain. One of the detriments to the size of Batman’s Rogue Gallery is that very few writers have sought to tell lengthy stories about any villain other than the Joker. Thankfully, King seems to have a few things in mind for the newly-established Bane. We’re still unsure of what the conclusion to “I Am Bane” will be, but thanks to some clever writing it’s sure to be exciting and rewarding.

Very little can be said about artist David Finch’s contributions to the series that haven’t already been said. Thanks to inker Danny Miki and colorist Jordie Bellaire, this is some of the best work of his career. Every page has a great mix of Greg Capullo’s bravado with Tim Sale’s intricate linework. Every panel could be a poster, with even the simplest of figures somehow matching the gothic and grand city in which they take place. The rain cascading down Bane’s massive, lumbering frame; Batman’s bloody smile breaking through it’s pained expression. Finch captures every emotion and action with the ease of a true Batman master.

Batman #18

THE VERDICT

Tom King made a few surprise choices with the beginning of his Batman: Rebirth run. He introduced new characters, focused on old villains, and ditched some of the tropes that have defined the character for ages. It certainly makes for some unique choices. Luckily, the Gotham’s proved to have a heartwarming yet tragic story behind them. Bane’s menacing presence has proven more than enough to warrant several storylines and arcs which continues in [easyazon_link identifier=”B01MQWERMF” locale=”US” tag=”bounintocomi-20″]Batman #18[/easyazon_link]. And not knowing everything Bruce is up to is proving to be a great way to keep both the villains and the readers in the dark. With the massive critical appeal of Omega Men and Grayson under his belt, it’s a wonder why we ever thought King might not be up to the task of managing the greatest comic book character ever created. To everyone’s surprise, except maybe Tom King himself, we were wrong.

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Comic Book Review: Batman #18
Pros
  • Compelling Story
  • Engaging Comparisons between Bane and Batman
  • Captivating Visuals delivered by Finch, Miki, and Bellaire
Cons
  • 2 Weeks until Baman #19
10Overall Score
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