ARKHAM WAR's premise had me absolutely stoked when it was first announced. I love me some Batman villains (who doesn't?), and out of all of them, Bane is without question my favorite. So, the concept of Bane essentially going to war with the other big bads in what remains of Gotham is beyond exciting. Sadly, Scarecrow and Bane's Villains Month issues left me disappointed (which were meant as teases for the event), delivering what were ultimately okay but forgettable reads. Naturally, this left me with a bit of hesitation going into the premiere issue of this story but thankfully, Peter J. Tomasi has kicked things off with a bang. As a big Bane fan, I'm honestly super pleased.
While Bane's initial takeover goes mostly as expected, it hardly feels as generic as it should because what unfolds is superbly badass. If you've been craving more of Bane in action, there's some seriously crowd-pleasing stuff to be found within this issue. Yes, a vast majority of this chapter is fairly predictable, however, Tomasi throws a major variable into the picture which is sure to be very interesting upon being fleshed out. It's just another piece on the board which is sure to make things notably thrilling as the conflict escalates.
Scot Eaton (pencils) and Andrew Dalhouse (colors) create a fine looking issue which is packed with more than a handful of praiseworthy images. Their work on Bane is most definitely worth admiring. As Tomasi shows off the villain's strategic mind, this duo makes it more than clear he's a physically formidable threat as well and is sporting a truly fearsome stature. It's also impressive just how many panels reveal scenes of chaos among various characters and there's never a standout lack of detail upon glancing through it. Even though there's three inkers, there isn't an especially noticeable or jarring change of quality during the experience.
Bane's forces assaulting districts which belong to interesting characters are glossed over in one panel each, failing to really give me the true impact of the madness which is unfolding. Despite such an explosive cover and plot premise, the scale so far isn't feeling quite as grand as it could. Hopefully Tomasi will be able to juggle this huge roster of individuals well and give each at least a decent amount of the spotlight as the storyline progresses. An unexpected character receives a fair amount of attention this time around (which will hopefully serve a greater purpose) and it'll be interesting to see how much space is allotted to the others.
Minor gripe: Scarecrow's appearance is somewhat inconsistent and, truth be told, his role feels rather minuscule in this issue. Unlike his solo issue, he hardly comes off as a character who has what it takes to lead -- or at the very least, manipulate -- a true challenge against Bane's forces. To be fair, though, this issue seemed to primarily focus on Bane and is apparently only in the very early stages of Crane's plan. At any rate, it's clear this issue is all about letting the reader know why Bane's such a large threat. Hopefully the next issue will give Scarecrow a similar treatment because right now it's tough to believe this will be a war instead of a total slaughter.
Bane's actions may not feel like a large-scale war yet (despite some great panels of battles), but the pressure is certainly building and this was a good way to kick things off. This issue almost comes off as a love letter to Bane, showcasing why he's indeed a threat who has what it takes to rule Gotham now that Batman isn't around. Toss in an intriguing factor and some solid artwork and you bet ARKHAM WAR has me curious to see what is thrown our way next.
And yes, you don't really need to read the previous Villains Month issues (Bane/Scarecrow) to get a proper hold of what's going on. This is totally a serviceable jumping on spot for the story and rightfully so.