"City of Bane" kicks off in Batman #75, by writer Tom King, and artists Tony S. Daniel and Mitch Gerads, marking the beginning of the end of King's run on the series. It's the culmination of three years of world-building that promises to change the Dark Knight.
"It's something that's going to change the character for a generation, or maybe more. Maybe forever," King told The Hollywood Reporter. "If you've been reading Batman all this time, God bless you, but I've been torturing you for the last six months to a year. We've reached the low point, now it's time for Batman to come back and show you why he's Batman. Maybe that won't be in the traditional way, but it'll show you why Batman matters."
When King talks about torturing the readers, that's nothing compared to what he's done to the Dark Knight. From the Gotham Girl saga, to Selina Kyle ditching him at the altar, to Flashpoint Batman turning his world upside down and all of Bane's mind games and manipulations, this is one arc that's left many scars -- both physical and emotional -- on the hero.
Even so, Batman #75 feels oddly familiar. The opening pages of the criminals running riot and controlling the police force, as well as the comeback that Batman must embark on, are immediate callbacks to the "City of Bane" in the third act of director Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
If you think back to 2012, and the conclusion to Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, Bane manipulated and broke the Bat to take control of Gotham City. He proved he knew how to get inside Bruce Wayne's head and delivered a crushing blow to his body and mind. Ultimately, Batman had to find his way back from a broken body and ego, and place his trust in those around him, to defeat the rogue and his goons.
Of course, The Dark Knight Rises borrowed certain elements from the Knightfall storyline, but it still morphed into its own unique take. In much the same way, "City of Bane" is combining all the best pieces of those two narratives into a definitive Bane-vs.-Batman tale.
Yet, it's superior on every level due to the colossal 75-issue setup that has seen Batman suffer trials and tribulations like no other. He's been betrayed by his father (albeit from a different timeline), lost the love of his life, and almost lost Dick Grayson. Even though the Caped Crusader prides himself on being tough and emotionless, these are serious blows that would devastate any person. And that's not including everything else that's happened around him in that time.
In crafting this story, King dissected the mind of Bane and dug deeper into how he'd react after so many losses to the Caped Crusader. Bane understands he can't defeat Batman in a physical fight, so he took it to another plane. He broke the Bat on a psychological and paralyzing level, ensuring he'll suffer through trauma he's never experienced before.
At the same time, King humanized the Dark Knight through this storyline. He's shown that any person can be affected by emotional turmoil, no matter how strong the exterior or repression of emotions. This is the ultimate comeback story, as the hero needs to find strength from within to carry on. It's what Batman symbolizes the most: The refusal to give up even when everything seems hopeless.
It's taken a long time -- years, in fact -- but all the pieces of King's puzzle are finally coming together in "City of Bane." The story has pushed Batman to the limit and the lowest lows. Now, it's time to see the Dark Knight rise.