Batman: Gotham Knights #33 (2002)

Batman: Gotham Knights #33 (November, 2002)
“Tabula Rase, Prologue: The Devil You Know…”
“The Monument”
Writers – Scott Beatty & Darwyn Cooke
Pencillers – Mike Collins & Bill Wray
Inker – Bill Sienkiewicz
Letterers – Bill Oakley & Rick Parker
Colorist – Gloria Vasquez
Separations – WildStorm FX
Assistant Editor – Valerie D’Orazio
Editors – Lysa Hawkins & Mike Chiarello
Cover Price: $2.75

I was considering turning this into a full-blown Devin Grayson week… and so, I started flipping through Gotham Knights, because she wrote a heckuva lot of this series.

As I flipped, I came across this issue… and I couldn’t resist.  Y’all remember that time where Bane and Batman were… brothers?!

Bane Wayne… are ya kiddin’ me?  He was my third favorite character on A Different World!

We open with a cinematic approach toward Wayne Manor… inside, Alfred, who is armed with a shotgun, is uncomfortably chatting up an uninvited house guest.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the man of the house is currently otherwise engaged, he’s off fighting a group of Gotham geeks.

Batman and Robin (and Nightwing via radio) make pretty quick work of Signal-Man, Corrosive Man, and everybody’s favorite… Kite-Man.  After cleaning up the streets, the trio of BatFriends share a fairly contentious chat.  This story occurs during the aftermath of Bruce Wayne: Fugitive/Murderer… and thus far, Batman’s been pretty tight-lipped on the whole ordeal… which isn’t out of character in the slightest, but is a bit difficult for Dick and Tim to deal with.

Back at the Manor, Alfred is still a captive audience to… whoever this is (ignore the cover please).  He taps a lamp which triggers a silent alarm to the Batmobile.  Our guest ain’t no dummy, and realizes exactly what Alfred just did… but doesn’t really mind, as he’s hoping to meet with Master Bruce.

Moments later, his wish is granted… and we learn that our house guest was… ignoring the cover… Bane!  I’m kinda getting a Darkseid lounging in Scott Free’s easy chair vibe from the sight of Bane sipping tea (from a full service) at Wayne Manor.

Bane requests a moment of Bruce’s time to discuss something he’d been working on.  This moment is begrudgingly granted… and the two retire to the Batcave.  Moments later, the rest of the Bat-team arrives, having responded to silent alarms of their own.  It’s probably worth mentioning that Gotham Knights was sort of a Batman Family book.  The big man comments that he’s never really had a family before… which, we’ll come back to.  Oh yeah, Alfred still has the shotgun trained on Bane, by the way.

Finally, we get down to the nitty-gritty.  Bane requires Batman’s aid in shutting down the various Lazarus Pits around the world.  There is one left that he cannot find… and is hopeful Batman’s skills of deduction might point him in the right direction.  Bruce’s all “What’s in it for me?”, to which Bane replies… “I will tell you something you need to know.”  Well, I’m intrigued!

Off to the side, the rest of the Bat-Family grumbles.  They don’t think any of this is kosher… but they realize there’s no stopping Bruce.  We also get a bit of backstory on Bane’s vendetta against Ra’s al Ghul.  Turns out, Bane was offered the spot as heir (after Batman turned it down, natch) but couldn’t quite cut the mustard.

We head back upstairs to Alfred answering a phone call from Leslie Thompkins… during which he speaks “in code” to inform her as to what’s currently going down at the Manor.  Please note the quotes around “in code”.

Just WHO could he be talking about???

We now shift to Batman and Bane’s Excellent Adventure, wherein they meet with Jason Blood to see if he might aid in pin-pointing the location of that last straggling Lazarus Pit.  In a neat bit, Blood asks that Bane remove his mask to show his true face… Bane hesitates, asking why Batman doesn’t need to remove his… to which, Blood says that the cowl is his true face.

Blood leads the Bat-buddies toward a flame, and tells them the story of Achilles… and boy howdy, it’s boring.  It does, however, point them in the right direction.  Before they leave, we do get an Etrigan cameo… because, of course we do.

Next, Batman checks in with the Fam… and lets them know that he’s heading off to ixnay the azaruspitLay.  The kids ain’t keen with that… but, really… whattadeygonnado?  Bane and Batman board a jet… but before they leave, Bruce needs to cancel a date.  It’s only two panels… but it’s awesome.  We see Batman put on a cheesy smile in order to affect his jovial playboy voice.  Don’t know why, but I really dig this!  So unnecessary… but adds so much!

Dick checks in with Oracle to keep her apprised of what’s going on… though, if she’s Oracle, she likely already knows.  He mentions that Tim believes Bruce’s outreach to Bane stems from his feelings of guilt vis-a-vis the whole Vesper Fairchild murder thing.  He also mentions that they lost radio contact with him… just as he and Bane are “whirly-batting” (love that!) onto a remote island.

Bat and Bane head into some ruins, and run into some baddies… who they beat up.  Batman is adamant that there is no killing… and Bane begrudgingly complies.  After the dust settles, Batman pours some Waynetech Microorganisms into the Lazarus Pit to purify it.  While Bane would rather just destroy it, Bruce feels just cleaning it up would add insult to injury for the al Ghuls.

With a job well done, they climb back on board the jet… and it’s time for Bane to pay the piper.  Turns out he wasn’t bluffing when he said he had information for our main man… he retrieves a photograph of Thomas Wayne from his belt pouch…

… and reveals that Bane and Bruce Wayne are… brothers?!

I’d love to move on to our discussion part… but we’ve got a Batman Black & White backup to trudge through.  It opens with Gotham philanthropist Alexander Goodwin erecting a monument to Batman in Robinson Park… ya see, the Batman just rescued Goodwin’s daughter Justine.

Turns out Batman ain’t entirely pleased with being immortalized in stone… go figure!  Anyhoo, over the next week, the monument plays home to all sorts of activity… graffiti-artists… a cult of worshipers… protesters… yadda yadda yadda.  Oh yeah, Hugo Strange is seen hanging out there every day too.

Hugo than kidnaps reporter Summer Gleason… and plans to blow up the Batman “idol” with her strapped to it!  Ya see, he wants the people of Gotham to worship him instead of Batman… which sounds totally reasonable!

Shock of shocks, Batman is able to rescue Ms. Gleason… and it looks like everything will be hunky dory, until…

… the monument blows up anyway!

Of course… we wrap up with the reveal that Batman himself blew up the statue once Summer was free.

Now, despite the reveal being spoiled by the cover… I thought this was a fantastic issue.  From the early pacing, to the caper, to the concerns of the cast… and into the cliffhanger (as silly an idea as it might be to some)… this was pretty awesome!

It felt like just so much happened during this story… we had multiple settings… multiple action scenes… and multiple conversational bits.  If this were to come out today, it would take four months!

I love the idea of Bane and Batman having an uneasy alliance against a common enemy.  There’s definitely no love lost between them… but there is this weird respect… and even trust that they share.  Bane says it himself… I beat you, and you beat me… we’re even now.  So weird… but also, feels so right.  I think all of the dialogue between Bruce and Bane were masterfully written.

Let’s talk the opening… and our Bane’s point of view.  I thought this was really neat… if only it wasn’t spoiled by the cover (and probably the solicit… I’d have to dig through my Previews archives though).  There was a real feeling of tension there… it’s probably worth mentioning here that Mike Collins’ art here was pretty excellent.  There’s this fear… tinged with anger on Alfred’s face.  Very well done!

Speaking of Alfred though… dude, your “talking in code” game needs a little help.  I mean, your code word for Bane is… “Bane”?  C’mon man…

The Bat-Family feeling a bit left out… is nothing new, but is handled quite well.  I dig the idea of them being sort of a peanut gallery… where they have each other to kvetch at and bounce ideas off.  It really makes them feel like a “family” and not just a loosely assembled team.

Then… the big reveal.  Bane and Bruce are… brothers?!  Sure, this doesn’t last all that long, and is kind of silly… but imagine the possibilities!  Bane should have had the same posh upbringing as Bruce, however, he was in an horrid orphanage/prison in Whereverthehell, South America.  Hell, maybe if Bane were raised in Gotham, the Waynes wouldn’t have been murdered?  Maybe there’d be no Batman?  It’s a lot of fun to theorize… though I recall it not being received all that well online at the time.

The backup… ehhh.  I gotta say, it’s not too often where I get a whole lot out of a backup.  I mean, outside of silly Bronze-Age stuff like Mr. and Mrs. Superman and The Private Life of Clark Kent, I don’t really have much use for them… they often just feel like page-filler, and worse yet… they often take away from the impact the main story tries to make.

I hate to besmirch the writings of Darwyn Cooke, but this story felt… I dunno, perhaps a bit to pleased with itself?  Like, the shallowest sort of deep?  I dunno… my most visceral reaction to it is a halfhearted sigh… maybe a shrug.  The art was neat… though, Batman did look fairly horrid in a few of the panels.  It’s like Wray was sort of evoking Frank Miller… but couldn’t quite stick the landing.  The back-up was skippable is all I’m saying.

I understand giving people value for their dollar… and I get that Batman Black & White was kind of “the hotness” back ’round the turn of the century… but I’d have been just fine without it.  I really feel like it robbed from the impact of the “Bane is Batman’s brother” reveal.

Overall… had a ton of fun with this… more than I expected.  If you’re following the blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’m revisiting a lot of 2000’s stuff right now… it’s hard to believe that we’re already almost two decades into ’em… and it’s been almost that long since I’ve read many/most of these issues!  Anyhoo… this one is worth checking out.  It is available digitally… and, if you’re still on the fence about Gotham Knights, DC has the first issue available FOR FREE.  Give it a gander!

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