This week, we arrive at Batman #80, the true "beginning of the end" for Tom King's run as it's the issue that brings Batman and Catwoman back to Gotham prepared to take down Bane and save the city. That's the plan, the straight line of things; Batman and Catwoman will save Gotham from Bane. But, as is the case with nearly all of King's run, Batman #80 isn't about the straight line of things. At its heart, King's run has been about relationships of various sorts and that's especially true here. For Batman and other characters in this issue it is the relationships that are the heart of the story and it's something that serves the issue well.
Right away both readers and the villains have it made clear to them: Batman is back. We also right away get a sense for one of the two relationships that form the heart of this story: Thomas Wayne and Gotham Girl. Gotham Girl is, at the very least, in terrible shape and at worst, dying. It's enough to pull back a layer of Thomas Wayne, even if we don't really see much. We see his pain, his tenderness, his sadness as he looks at the weak young woman. But that also leads the story to another relationship—Batman and his son, Damian.
If you've been keeping up, you know that Damian was captured some issues back for entering Gotham, but you also know that was deliberate. Batman, as always, has some sort of long range plan. However, that plan has a potentially lethal outcome and it's one that sees Batman having put his trust in whatever plan he's come up with. Once again, Batman is playing things right up to the edge.
The final panels of the issue aren't a twist in the sense that you don't see it coming. You absolutely see this coming as Batman has woven a strange tale of fathers and sons over the 79 issues leading up to this one. But that doesn't make the story feel any less urgent or any less raw even if it is a bit strange to have the tables turned a bit, where it's Thomas that is in pain while it's Batman who seems to be mission-focused despite the high stakes. Maybe that's a deliberate move, and if so, it's one that works. There's a tangible shift in balance here and for the first time readers can believe that yes, Batman is back.
That said, like many of the issues of King's run, this one feels like it could have benefitted from being part of a larger set of stories rather than a single issue. At this point the shocking cliffhanger has been severely overdone in this story overall. What makes up for it is John Romita, Jr.'s art. As Batman artists go, Romita, Jr. isn't my favorite, but his work here is the exact right tone for Batman's return and the dangers that come with it.
Overall, Batman #80 is an excellent issue. It may not be the best of the run, but it certainly highlights the elements of the overall story that do work the best and it sets the stage for what feels like an epic last few issues. The end is not near, it's here, and this is a truly great start to it.
Published by DC Comics
On October 2, 2019
Written by Tom King
Art by John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson0comments
Colors by Tomeu Morey
Letters by Clayton Cowles