Ah. Here's a comic I haven't read in quite some time... This is the issue where Jean Paul Valley officially takes over for Bruce Wayne and becomes Batman. Yes, he'd been running around dressed as Batman prior to this issue, but this was the issue when Jean Paul BECAME Batman. In retrospect, I can sit back and say that Jean Paul's Bat run was interesting, as it showed him continue to fall deeper and deeper into madness due to his inability to fill Bruce's impossibly large shoes. With that said though, I can only imagine how outraged the Batman fanboys must have been at the time this comic first saw print. Anyway, enough talking about it, let's give it a read!
Summary: Having failed to apprehend Bane during their initial encounter, Jean Paul heads to the Batcave to upgrade Batman's outfit since he found it lacking. Disturbed by Jean Paul's harsh treatment of criminals, Robin(Tim Drake at the time) heads to the Cave to confront Jean Paul. JP(yeah, I'm not typing “Jean Paul” out anymore...) pretty much tells Tim to take a hike, stating that he wouldn't be playing patty-cake with villains like Bruce did. With that Timmy storms off and JP continues redesigning the Bat-costume. Bane, annoyed that a new Batman popped up to replace the one he infamously broke, heads to downtown Gotham and puts a message on an electronic billboard demanding Batman's appearance so they could end things one way or the other. Having finished his “improvements” on the Bat-costume, JP dons his new outfit and heads out, meeting Bane in the streets of Gotham. The police cordon off the area and the two adversaries go at it. JP's improvements to the Bat-costume pay off as he's able to inflict more damage on Bane, while taking less damage in return. Bane pumps more Venom into his system to deal with JP, so JP slices the tubes that fed the Venom directly into Bane's system. Cut off from his source of power, Bane panics and runs off, managing to get aboard an elevated train. Bane tells the passengers to head to the next car, which they do, at which time Bane heads to the front car where he kills the train's conductor and speeds the train up as fast as it could go. By now JP has arrived on the scene and engages Bane in battle again, beating him around the empty train car. Robin also arrives and disconnects the other train cars from the lead car(where Bane and JP were battling), saving the passengers, but causing the lead train to careen out of control and off the tracks, where it wedges into a building. JP kicks the beaten, battered and bloody Bane out of the train car and hops outside to the street below. The Gotham police, Commissioner Gordon and Robin all wait and watch anxiously to see what JP does next as the broken Bane pleads with JP to kill him. JP cocks a fist back but ultimately lowers it, handing the defeated Bane over to the GCPD. With that Robin commends JP for his non-lethal actions towards Bane and JP heads off into the night as the new Batman... At least for a little while!
Thoughts: What can I say, I liked this issue. I enjoyed the entire Knightfall storyline though, so there's that too. I have no idea what DC's plans were for Bruce Wayne, Jean Paul, Batman or anything else back when this story first took place, but from sifting through the letter page of this issue you could already see the anger of the DC fanboys at Bruce's “retirement”. I tend to think that replacing Bruce wasn't going to be a permanent move, but who knows, they did pull the trigger and replace Barry Allen with Wally West as the Flash about a decade earlier than this comic... Of course the Flash isn't close to Batman in popularity, so I'd have to think Bruce's retirement was temporary, but who knows what the powers-that-be of DC at the time were thinking... Looking past all of the storyline possibilities and questions, this was a good, satisfying comic book. I found it kind of overly wordy at points, as JP REALLY liked thinking to himself, but overall this comic closed the circle that began when Bane broke Bruce. I did find it weird that it was Robin who ended up giving JP the seal of approval at the end of this issue considering the fact that Tim was still new to the role of Robin, but I guess somebody had to tell JP “good job!” and Robin was the only Bat-character on the scene to do it...
Score: 9 out of 10.Now THAT is an ass-kicking!