With "BATMAN VS. BANE" slapped across the cover, you should have only one expectation going into this comic: a kick-ass fight between The Dark Knight and the man who once broke his back. Well, writer Peter J. Tomasi obviously gets that and a good chunk of this issue is dedicated to an absolutely brutal and relentless battle between these two characters. The fighting in ARKHAM WAR became a bit of a mess at times due to how many characters were involved, but this one on one is likely to be one of the best melees you'll read all week. Sure, this issue also marks the triumphant return of Batman to Gotham City after the events of Forever Evil (which is a swift and cool segment), but this one's all about punches to the face. Lots and lots of punches. In fact, there's almost 10 pages worthy of combat here. Thankfully, Tomasi doesn't take the beyond cliche "cut the venom tubes!" route with Bane, and even introduces a new method of him taking venom. Handling of the character has kind of been all over the place in the New 52, so hopefully this one approach sticks. If you're also an action junkie, then this is obviously worthy of your money.
Tomasi scripts a fast-paced slugfest and artist Scot Eaton and colorist Hi-Fi most definitely deliver. Watching these two iconic characters clash is a total blast and there's some seriously badass panels that fans of either character are absolutely going to love. Even when the fists aren't flying, the effort to bring every location and character to life is impressive and strikes a fitting style for the book's atmosphere. All in all, it's most definitely a good looking book.
The fight is a whopping 9 pages long, and, I know it may sound crazy, but I would have liked a little more from it other than blunt hits and batarangs. Bane's power level has been inconsistent in the New 52, and given his feats in the ARKHAM WAR limited series, it would have been cool to see Batman require a few more tactics or even some displays of advanced technique to eventually overcome the powerhouse. Don't get me wrong, it's certainly fun and I get Batman's beating him at his own game, but as far as Bane vs. Batman fights go, it doesn't take the top spot for me (Legacy has that honor) and a wee bit more variety would have been exciting, especially given Bane's power level in the New 52. Also, it's a little odd to have Batman seem totally fine after what he endured in the fight, but whatever, it's a minor complaint and there's no denying how awesome he appears in that moment, anyway.
Yes, the timing is odd since Forever Evil is still going on and this somewhat takes away from the excitement over the Caped Crusader's return, but it would be unfair to hold that against this issue since it was obviously created with the intention of coming out after the event.
If you saw the cover of the issue and exclaimed, "YES!" then odds are you'll be pretty pleased. Basically, Tomasi gives us exactly what we were expecting: Batman's return and a big brawl with Bane. It's not one of the most elaborate fights around, but it's straightforward, savage, and a damn good time. If you simply want to enjoy a slugfest and see Gotham slowly return to its status quo, it's safe to say you'll be happy with this one. Expect anything more than that and you'll probably finish the read feeling pretty mediocre about it. So, do yourself a favor: shut off your brain and enjoy the punches.