Writer: Tom King
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: John Romita Jr.
Editor: Jamie S. Rich
Publisher: DC Comics
The Dark Knight returns! … to Gotham City … from his “vacation” with Catwoman … after Bane and his dead father from the Flashpoint reality took over his city and tried to kill/break him. Yeah, it’s been a wild ride, and it gets wilder in Batman #80.
Alright, quick rundown time! City of Bane is in full swing, and Gotham is in one of its Gotham-esque catastrophes. Batman’s been MIA (recovering on a beach, sipping mai-tais with Catwoman), and Bane is in full charge of the city. There’s a controlled pandemonium running through the streets, and the villains are running amok. So naturally, Batman makes his triumphant return to take back his city and free the people from tyranny and oppression. They’re exactly the kind of threats you want Batman to tackle, and he doesn’t disappoint.
He’s a tank in this issue. He has purpose and focus. He steamrolls through a few fun encounters with some familiar faces all while showcasing the resolve that makes him the most feared crimefighter in Gotham. He’s ferocious, and it works. We’re given the no-nonsense Batman ready to do what it takes in order to win. It’s a beat-your-chest dominance that scoops you up and dumps you precisely at the hook for next issue. And what a hook it is! This issue ends on a very dastardly stinger that puts a certain character between a rock and a Venom-infused hard place. A choice will have to be made, and it all comes down to trust. That is, the trust that Batman has in people to do the right thing. It all plays perfectly into the themes that make up Batman #80: family, loyalty, trust, and motivation.
This issue adequately builds on the past few issues which have seen Batman in a training montage, Damian Wayne being captured, more misdeeds from the villains-turned-authorities, and the death of a long-time ally. The entire City of Bane storyline was carefully designed to exploit every theme, motif, and thread that Tom King’s been peppering into the previous 79 issues. We’re nearing the end of King’s planned 100-issue run on Batman (which will actually top out at 85 issues), and every domino he’s set up is starting to topple.
King continues his furious pace with sparse dialogue, allowing instead for the art to tell the story. King doesn’t mince words (he doesn’t really write enough to mince), which is a welcome deviation from some of the over-reliance on exposition that’s prevalent today. There’s some clever double entendre wordplay that gives the reader a slight grin and a running-gag response that immediately switches from corny to badass when it’s uttered by Batman in a specifically cool context. These kinds of things are a staple of King’s writing style. He always manages to squeeze in little nuggets of “ahh I get it” moments. and this issue is no exception. King’s established his voice and continues to roar with it.
Speaking of roar, the art definitely does its fair share of it. John Romita Jr. does exactly what you’d expect of John Romita Jr. His art is legendary, and he lends his unique style to Batman #80 in a natural way. It’s blocky, scratchy, and the panels are almost all sequential rectangles. That’s him, though. He doesn’t get fancy or experimental. He does what he does, and he does it well. Love him or hate him, he’s a visual force tinged with nostalgia. And it all works well. The grit and simplicity inherent to his style harmoniously sync with the hurried pace of the plot. The art ferries you along at a blistering pace, but it never feels rushed. You’re meant to get through it quickly, arriving at the last page as soon as possible.
Batman #80 is hard, fast, and smart — showing you precisely what you need to see in order to appreciate how it was built and where it’s going. Exactly like a tour of a city … Bane’s city.