It might be all kinds of ugly on the streets of Gotham for the people who live there, but for us, this chaotic course of events looks mighty fine. Artist Scot Eaton and colorist Andrew Dalhouse are doing an awesome job with all of the craziness writer Peter J. Tomasi is throwing their way. Each of the villains make their presence more than felt. Man-Bat is particularly frightening and seeing Two-Face firing away is a blast, but the true highlight is how they tackle Bane. Taking his signature pose from The Dark Knight Rises, the big man looks ridiculously formidable. Not every artist can pull off his look in The New 52, but this duo absolutely does and then some. With Tomasi showing off his intellect, the visuals more than convey why he's a physical threat, too.
As implied by the cover, this issue revolves around Bane's desire to get the Talons on his side. While the narrative doesn't take many big steps and throws two huge action pieces our way, the core of this issue is a meeting between Bane and Penguin (sorry, Scarecrow fans, he still gets no love). The man who broke the Bat's back comes off as a bit out of character, but it's still a compelling scene and by far the most interesting one in this issue. Is Penguin really playing it safe in the middle or does he have bigger plans? My love for these characters reeled me in, but Tomasi's sprinkling just enough intrigue to keep me around.
There's a lot of exposition thrown in here and it's definitely noticeable. Honestly, it would be so much easier to just have a recap page instead of forcing characters to tell loyal readers what we already know. Without the need to include that, the book could have maybe taken a few more strides with the overall narrative. Sure, this issue expands on Penguin's role and a bit with Bane, but it's mostly covering things we already knew and doesn't throw any particularly exciting developments our way. It's a minor gripe, but a couple of the transitions also came off as a bit abrupt as we jumped into the middle of a scene with characters who were also in the previous one.
While it looked great, it was also a letdown that the battle between so many villains never really had a standout moment. The splash page was good and filled with potential, but then we just had bits and pieces of material which never really delivered on how exciting the scene could have been.
The New 52 Bane has been a particularly brutal character. Heck, he struck a little girl just for touching him in his one-shot. So, to have him seem more compassionate while expressing his overall goal to Penguin and even standing down to him so quickly came off as somewhat odd to me. Additionally, I'm all for showing off Bane's intellect, but the ending came off as pretty abrupt.
It shouldn't come as a surprise by now, but no, the cover doesn't even come close to happening within the pages of this issue. We knew Bane wanted to utilize the Talons, but they likely won't be spotted until at least the next issue. Oh, and I imagine Scarecrow fans will continue to be disappointed by how Arkham's "leader" is faring.
Part Two of ARKHAM WAR is entertaining and looks good, but ultimately, it comes off as pure set-up for what's to come without ever really engrossing us in what's currently going down. It's not a bad issue, but it's one of those reads that'll definitely be better in a collection. There's a lot of potential here and Tomasi's doing a bit of a slow burn with the greater picture, so hopefully the narrative makes some game-changing developments in the next one and he's able to give characters other than Bane and Penguin more of the spotlight. And yes, I say that as someone who can never get enough of Bane.