- Dick (Nightwing) is the one who is relaxed and comfortable in his own skin. The one who comes closest to being a well adjusted person.
- Jason (Red Hood) is the angry one, the rebel without a cause. He communicates through sarcasm and provocations.
- Damian (Robin) is the one who pretends to be an entitled jerk but doesn’t want you to know that he’s just an adolescent boy.
- Bruce is the father figure and a man who is not comfortable in a fast food restaurant.
The dialogue sharpens the distinctions between the men (and boy), but you’d get it without reading a thing.
The four are meeting in a “Batman” themed fast food restaurant, which gives Finch the opportunity to add humorous elements in the background that lighten the tone of the story. There’s something extremely ironic about the panel in which the three proteges banter in front of a Joker themed wall decoration.
This was a fun read. I find that I appreciate superhero comics more when I read them the same way I did when I was a kid/adolescent – with enthusiasm and a sense of generosity.
I had a mixed response to the parts of the story focused on the conflict between Bane and Batman. I was intrigued by the broad strokes of the story, in which Batman is trying to defeat a foe who was not only stronger than him, but had successfully broken the body and mystique of Batman in the past. In the first two volumes, King and Finch explored the nature of Batman through stories exploring his role as a mentor to other heroes (who were not sidekick/surrogate child figures), a tactician and leader of a group of amoral adventurers and as a failed/tragic romantic figure in his relationship with Catwoman. In this volume, Finch and King use a physical conflict with a superior foe to help the reader understand a man who would dress up as a bat to fight crime. There’s a long buildup to the conflict in this volume. We see Batman prepare and Bane dispatch all of the other members of the cast (hero and villain alike) with ease.
The conflict takes up most of an issue and feels pretty anti climatic on the first read. Finch and King mix sequences of Bane beating Batman senseless (while the two verbally spar) with an imagined monologue delivered by a figure from Batman’s past that helpfully summarizes the plot and transforms the subtext into text. Finch intersperses panels of the fight with images complementing the monologue. The fight ends as one might expect (hint: we’re not reading the continued adventures of ‘Bane‘). I wanted a perfectly choreographed martial arts inspired battle between two skilled combatants and I got a brawl with a pretty implausible conclusion.
On a second read (with more sleep), I had a better sense of things. The story inverts Knightfall, the classic Batman story by an army of creators including Denny O’Neil, Chuck Dixon, Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle that introduced Bane. In Knightfall, Bane defeats Batman by pitting him against a gauntlet of his most dangerous foes (by staging a breakout at Arkham Asylum, the hostel for Batman villains) and viciously attacking him when he is at his weakest. Finch and King have Batman use the tools at his disposal (including his enemies) to drive Bane to mental exhaustion and use a ‘rope a dope’ strategy to further exhaust and distract him. Although the experience of reading the scene is still a tad unsatisfying – I would have preferred more visual cues hinting at the strategic planning behind the physical conflict – the final moment of the battle does feel more powerful.