Tom King’s “City of Bane” arc that’s been playing out in the pages of his current Batman run is a story about Bruce Wayne resisting villains who are attempting to crack his mind and take Gotham City for themselves. It’s the sort of fight Bruce’s become accustomed to during his years operating as the Dark Knight and under any other circumstances, it’s not something that would have him on the defensive. But Bane is a different kind of Batman foe.
He’s bested Batman before — broken him both physically and mentally, and he’s been prepared to do it all again and then some. So far, Bane’s scheme has been largely successful as he’s asserted his power over Gotham by turning some of the city’s villains into a new, brutal militarised police group that enforces a twisted kind of law and order with impunity.
The key to Bane’s success has been the fact that, depending on how one looks at Gotham, an argument can be made that he’s made the city a safer, more stable place. Bane does away with any villainous criminals he and his squad of goons find breaking the law, and the rest of the world’s superheroes have been warned to stay out of Gotham’s city limits lest they be dispatched.
For members of the Bat-Family in particular, Bane’s warning hits especially hard. Should any of them return to Gotham, Bane’s assured them that one of the people closest to them all will meet their end.
As if all of that wasn’t overwrought and melodramatic enough, “City of Bane” also has an added layer of psychological weirdness to it because Bane’s top enforcer is none other than Thomas Wayne, a dimension-displaced Batman who watched his son Bruce die, which drove his wife Martha to become a version of the Joker.
While Catwoman’s been off trying to figure out how to revive the real Batman and figure out what the hell they’re going to do about Bane taking Gotham and the rest of the country being like “eh, whatever,” Damian Wayne spent this week’s issue #77 taking matters into his own hands and tracking down his alternate-dimension grandfather. While most other heroes haven’t dared enter Gotham for fear of having their asses handed to them by either Thomas-Batman or his superpowered colleague Gotham Girl, Damian comes to Gotham prepared with a plan to knock out the heavy hitter before facing off against the old man.
After using a bit of tricky magic to subdue Gotham Girl, Damian gets right to fighting Thomas, and while he’s able to get a few good hits in against him, Thomas easily bests him, and takes him back to Wayne Manor to demonstrate how serious Bane’s warning to the rest of the Bat-Family was.
As Damian comes to in his father’s home, he’s horrified to realise that Bane intends to make him watch as he murders his hostage — Alfred Pennyworth — and there’s nothing the young hero can do to stop what happens next.
Though Thomas believes in his master’s vision, he too begs for Bane to at least snap Alfred’s neck somewhere away from Damian’s sight, but Bane wants nothing more than to relish in Damian’s anguish.
What’s most stomach-turning about the entire issue is that while Thomas feigns some semblance of concern for Damian’s emotional well-being, he also makes it clear that his would-be-grandson has now become Alfred’s replacement, suggesting that he’d gladly let Bane murder him as well should he decide to do so.
But given how the issue ends with Catwoman achieving her goal of waking Bruce up, one can safely assume that once they both hear about what’s happened, they’re going to make their way back to their hometown to exact their vengeance.
Will it all turn out to be an elaborate, very classicly comic book ruse or has the real Alfred been killed? Time will tell.