So far, writer Tom King‘s run on “Batman” has been a bit uneven. For every triumphant moment, for me there’s been some baffling ones as well. The “I Am Suicide” arc, for instance, left me cold as I felt it blew a fantastic set up by disappearing into introspection and a simplistic plot. Thankfully, Batman #16, the first part of the “I Am Bane” arc, has renewed my faith. King and artist David Finch deliver a perfectly structured issue that manages to be atmospheric and foreboding in regards to the threat on the horizon, even as it’s one of the funniest and warmest issues of Batman in a good while in how it examines the Bat-Family as a whole. Batman #16 is a great opening chapter to what I hope will be an equally entertaining arc.
The issue opens with Batman trying to draw out Bane’s attempts to recapture the Psycho Pirate, who Batman had abducted from Bane in the “I Am Suicide” arc. But the Pirate is the only hope to helping Gotham Girl, so Batman has to find a way to stop a Bane more determined with breaking Batman than ever before. The bulk of the issue deals with Bruce’s decision to gather all his proteges, from newest addition Duke, to Jason Todd, Dick Grayson and son Damian Wayne, in an effort to convince his partners to get out of Gotham and out of Bane’s sights.
And this is where King and Finch deliver the goods. We’ve seen the Robins together many times, and in many configurations. We’ve seen them bicker, we’ve seen them as a family unit, we’ve seen them in conflict, we’ve seen them as an army. But in this issue King shows them acting as brothers in an extremely truthful way. Namely, they spend the issue taking the piss out of each other. Set in a Bat-Burger fast food joint that seems like Bruce Wayne’s worst nightmare, the discussion between Bruce and his boys is among one of the funniest, most subtly real scenes these characters have ever shared. I won’t ruin any of the terrific jokes of the issue, but all of them land, and King creates a family bond between the characters is much more effortless way than most writers do with earnest “heart-to-heart” scenes. The issue then ends with an effective cliffhanger, though I’d argue that I’m certain it doesn’t mean what it first appears to me.
Finch’s art is superb on this book. He’s not know for capturing intentional humor in his work, but does a solid job here with some wickedly funny moments, including some choice facial expressions. The three Robins looks a bit similar, true, but that’s by design, and Finch does a great job of making each look individual enough to retain their own characters.
In the final analysis, Batman #16 is a terrific book, one that effortlessly moves between action and thrills and a feeling of dread into a lighter tone without ever losing a sense of jeopardy and foreboding. The structure of the issue doesn’t ever cause the narrative to lose momentum, and King and Finch never forget how many subplots and different strands they’ve got going. This is certainly is among my favorite issues of this creative team’s run thus far. 8.5/10.