Review – Batman #76: Occupied Gotham

Batman #76 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Batman #76 – Tom King, Writer; Tony Daniel, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: No/Little Hope

Ray: Thus far, the oddest thing about “City of Bane” in Batman #75 & 76 has been just how little Bane there’s been in it. The man in charge has been largely MIA, and the story has been how his rule affects everyone around him – and especially his specially chosen Batman. This is Thomas Wayne’s city now, and it’s a dark and scary place – especially for villains. There are a lot of stories here, almost like an anthology, but the central plot is probably Kite-Man’s desperate attempt to stay one step ahead of the man. Crime has been outlawed – more than usual – and is answered with a brutal iron fist, so Kite-Man is ferrying around a few holdouts and trying to keep them safe in his makeshift lair. It goes about as well as you’d expect, but then the hapless nature of Kite-Man’s story is a big part of his appeal. King’s Scarecrow – a villain he’s barely used so far – is also nicely creepy and brings a twisted, surreal logic to the whole chase segment. But ultimately, Batman is waiting, and this will not end well.

The other stories are just as compelling, although the opening segment with Gotham Girl raises a lot of questions. I knew she was powerful when her restraint is off and she doesn’t care about preserving her lifespan, but the fact that she’s able to casually beat up Captain Atom takes this a lot further than I thought. There seems to be a distinct “No Man’s Land” vibe to this story, as the government has ceded control of the city to Bane and all heroes are banned from entering – with Captain Atom winding up under arrest after barely surviving. Catwoman tending to a catatonic Bruce Wayne, secretly within the city’s borders, will definitely please BatCat shippers. However, the best segment of the issue is probably the interaction between Tim and Damian as they see how bad things have gotten – with Alfred’s life hanging in the balance – and have to decide their next move. The relationship between the brothers – who even refer to Batman as their father here – has often been fraught, but King puts some nice nuance into it. There’s a LOT going on here, and it’s building into one of the most exciting stories of King’s run.

Batman #76 interior page
Last villains standing. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Whatever Ray sees in this Batman run is invisible to me. It’s like Tom King’s writing is on a wavelength that comes across as gibberish to me. Something is lost in translation.

I do appreciate the excellent artwork in Batman #76, and how it details the claustrophobia and fear rampant in Gotham, and how nicely the beginning sequence between Gotham Girl and Captain Atom focuses initially on the full confrontation, closes in on Gotham Girl’s fist, and then pulls back for a long shot of Captain Atom being knocked away.

The plot, however, seems to fall apart from lack of logic.

Far be it for me to start a Comic Book Rumbles discussion but Gotham Girl and Captain Atom should be, at the least, evenly matched, given what Atom is. He seems in this story just to be jobbed to show how powerful Gotham Girl has become but why? Especially when we know GG gets closer to death every time she uses her powers. I dunno, maybe Psycho Pirate and Bane want to kill her.

I also know that this devolution of Gotham Girl to somebody who is basically more unhinged than Harley Quinn is a depressing end to what initially seemed like a promising character. Meanwhile, instead of getting insight into what made GG this way, there’s another installment of Kite-Man being angsty because, I guess, the only people being harmed right now are the third-rate villains. Not once do we gain any insight into what the people of Gotham are experiencing or what their police force is doing. (King has not been big on using the GCPD save as cannon fodder in his run. To be fair, he treats the villains as cannon fodder too.)

Meanwhile, Selina is reduced to selling great artwork to make money to help Bruce instead of…maybe finding a doctor? Calling in Lois/Clark for help? And where is Duke Thomas, Barbara Gordon, Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown (since Tim is there), Harper Row, and Luke Fox?

The biggest logistical problem of King’s entire run is that Batman isn’t a loner with Selina his only hope for a normal life. Bruce has, like, FIVE kids. (He also has a father in Alfred.) So making Selina part of his life doesn’t destroy Batman’s ability to save Gotham, it probably enhances it, which was the problem with the turndown of the marriage.

None of this makes any sense to me for Bruce Wayne, as a character, nor does the logistics of the “City of Bane” work for me. I guess maybe the ending is to show Batman can be sane, with a family? But I already knew that.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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