He’s tried to break the Batman before… but this time, Bane may have succeeded. Your Major Spoilers review of Batman #77 awaits!
Writer: Tom King
Penciler: Mikel Janin & Tony S. Daniel
Inker: Mikel Janin, Norm Rapmund & Tony S. Daniel
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire & Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: August 21, 2019
Previously in Batman: The last of the independent villains are on the run, leaving Gotham City in the complete control of Bane and his cronies, including Flashpoint Batman and Gotham Girl! This means a semblance of peace on the streets, but the iron grip of tyranny is squeezing all life out of Gotham. And with Bane’s machinations keeping other heroes out, the city really needs the Batman to return.
Is Bruce Wayne ready to face his father and the man who broke his back?
GOTHAM’S DARKEST HOUR
It’s a familiar scenario if you’ve seen ‘The Dark Knight Rises’: Gotham City is firmly in the control of Bane, to the point where his villains are patrolling the streets in place of the police and Bruce Wayne has been sent underground. With Batman gone and his allies exiled, only Robin remains to fight for justice. Unfortunately, the OTHER Batman has a sidekick of his own in the insane/super-powered Gotham Girl, who is ready to burn Robin to cinders and let the ashes blow away, only to find that Damian Wayne has resources of his own. (It’s actually a clever reveal, involving a magical bargain, though I hope that the moment isn’t without consequences, since the implication is that Robin just sold his soul to a devil.) Elsewhere, apparently in Paris, Batman recovers in the care of Catwoman, awakening with only one thing to say: “I lost.” The truth of that statement is brought to light as we find serial killer Zsasz and the fear-manipulating Scarecrow in the streets of Gotham, enforcing Bane’s “laws” and their inevitably fatal consequences. Though Robin takes them down, he is immediately confronted by the Flashpoint Batman, who tries to do a grim-and-gritty Bat-speech, only to get repeatedly interrupted by the defiant Boy Wonder. Damian’s refusal to let him finish is actually quite amusing, until the fight breaks out and we get the terrible spectacle of a boy falling in brutal combat to the man who claims to be his grandfather. After another moment with Batman and Catwoman (where Bruce admits he’s ready to die), we find Damian held hostage by Bane and Flashpoint Batman, who decide to teach him a lesson… by brutally murdering Alfred Pennyworth.
CRUSHINGLY BLEAK WITH A SHOCK ENDING
This issue covers a lot of narrative ground, which makes for an exciting and eventful read, but it also creates issues with story-telling clarity. Robin goes from fighting Zsasz on a street to confronting Grampa Bat on a rooftop, with only an unrelated transitional page between them, leaving readers in the dark about how he found Flashpoint Batman. An indeterminate amount of time passes for Batman and Catwoman in Europe during the issue, but it seems like much more than the few hours we see taking place for Robin in Gotham. Of course, those moments are easy to forget in the face of Robin’s triumphant magical defeat of Gotham Girl, Catwoman’s snarling encouragement that she can teach Batman the ways of vengeance, and of course, the execution of Alfred. Honestly, that moment is likely the only thing that anyone is going to remember about this issue, and it’s a visually stunning moment. We are shown a silent, imposing Bane silently snapping the neck of a pleading Alfred as Flashpoint Batman finally gets in his monologue, and while it’s a jarring moment, it’s also a memorable scene. (The effect is muted somewhat by worries of how it will be retconned, but that’s not a flaw of the issue so much as a recurring worry of modern comics.) Janin and Daniel use the shadows of Wayne Manor to great effect in the sequence, and the art throughout the issue is equally strong, which helps to overcome the utter hopelessness of Batman’s plight. King’s script delivers on some really nice “villain who only wants to teach you the truth of reality” moments from Thomas Wayne, but the defeat of Gotham Girl, Flashpoint Batman’s curbstomping of Robin and especially Batman’s return to uniform could have used more space in their presentation.
BOTTOM LINE: PULLS OUT ALL THE STOPS
I’m on record as not being a fan of the Nolan Batman films which inform this issue and I’m leery of how this issue’s big shocker will play out, but on the whole I was drawn in by King, Janin, Daniels and company’s work this issue. Batman #77 is moving at a pace I find too frenetic, but the use of the cast and the overwhelming sense that Batman has finally been defeated are successful, with art that makes a boy getting kicked in the face by his grandfather after dodging bullets from murderers entertaining and dynamic, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. There had better be follow up for a lot of things presented here (especially Damian’s casual selling of his soul), and I hope Alfred’s death doesn’t end up being just another trigger for a snarling Bat-rampage, but there’s the potential for a truly memorable story here.
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It's an okay issue that moves faster than I like and goes to some very dark places, but overall it's an entertaining read. (Of course, all anyone will remember is the high-profile casualty.)