It probably goes without saying that not every Caped Crusader fan has been pleased with some of King's storytelling decisions. The Knightmares story arc was divisive, to say the least, and City of Bane thus far has seen Bruce Wayne spend more time on the beach than in the streets. But there has been a method to the madness. What often felt like "filler issues" were really laying down the groundwork to break Batman psychologically -- which, isn't it usually the case with villains like this? Bane has proven he can do this physically, but crushing the Dark Knight's already shaky emotional foundation is somehow far more impressive.
Now, if those "filler issues" were not your thing, it's completely understandable, but let it be known, Batman #80 isn't filler. In fact, it's one of the stylistically coolest issues of Batman in quite some time. It's also the best chapter thus far in City of Bane. Sure it may sound a tad hyperbolic, but this is the issue we've been waiting for. The Bat and the Cat have come home, and in a sequence which hearkens back to the mob hit montage from The Godfather, they make their return well-known to the costumed criminals of Gotham. This issue is pure cinematic comic bliss. From big splash page reveals to Sergio Leone-esque standoffs, the high stakes of this issue are palpable and the scope of the action is vast.
Part of the reason this issue works so well is its distinct visual flair. With legends like John Romita Jr. And Klaus Janson on art duties, you're bound to get something compelling to look at as long as the action continues. Say what you will about some of Romita's character stylistic choices or how a lot of his male characters look like they've had their noses broken a dozen times (like a bunch of Owen Wilsons running around) when it comes to kinetic action, he never fails.
Romita applies the same gritty tone and a cinematic eye for implied movement in static images which made action pages in Kick-Ass and All-Star Batman so hypnotic to follow. And while conveying movement and action in a single image is the entire point of superhero comic books in terms of how they convey their visual language, Romita is an artist who eats, breathes, and lives it. Even when he's phoning it in, his sense of scope remains intact. Having Janson certainly gives a depth to the art that might have been missing otherwise. And of course, the always fantastic Tomeu Morey is doing great colorwork. The "gunslinger" scene in this issue is particularly striking in this regard.
Batman #80 might bridge the gap between current fans and readers who have fallen away from the book. With great pacing, bold action, and striking visuals, this issue will have readers begging for issue #81. As Tom King's run on Batman ends, it feels like he might be pushing the pedal to the floor to burn up that last bit of gas like a bat(man) out of hell.