Batman’s villains have gotten more spotlights than virtually any other rogues gallery in superhero comics, and for good reason. They’re great villains. So tying into the City of Bane, the just launched “villains take over Gotham” arc was a bit of a no brainer for Batman: Secret Files #2.
This one shot features five stories from five creative teams: Joker by Andy Kubert, Amancay Nahuelpan, Trish Mulvihill, and Steve Wands; Psycho Pirate by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, Carlos D’Anda, Luis Guerrero, and Andworld Design; the Riddler by Mairghread Scott, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Tomeu Morey, and Clayton Cowles; Hugo Strange by Steve Orlando, Eduardo Risso, Dave Stewart, and John Workman, and Bane by Tim Seeley, Patrick Gleason, John Kalisz, and Tom Napolitano.
Right off the bat (pun not intended), the City of Bane tie-in is very loose. The characters featured are important to that story, but the stories themselves aren’t related to the arc. Don’t come in expecting a strong tie, however, each story provides a great vignette starring their spotlight villains.
The Joker story gives an unconventional twist on the classic Joker and Batman conflict. Nahuelpan and Mulvihill do some great things with the characters’ body language and character movement across the page. The Psycho Pirate story gives the villain a fun twist, with great art that’s full of emotion just as much as it’s full of action. The Riddler story is fun, has a puzzle to solve, and looks absolutely fantastic.
The two highlights of the issue are the last two stories though. The Hugo Strange story is a tense horror story in the vein of Saw. Risso depicts visceral psychological terror, and is paced extremely well. The twist at the end makes sense in retrospect, but is a perfect surprise in context. It’s scary and gives us terrifying insight into Strange.
The Bane story humanizes this take on the villain, taking a lot of cues from Tom King’s version of the character from the main series. However, it still shows how irredeemable Bane is, and the character’s cunning. Gleason, in perhaps his last DC story for the time being, goes all out for the story, making sure it shows Bane as the dominating presence he is, exploding across the page. He also uses a more quiet and introspective take on Batman himself, showing him more as a detective than man of action.
While not a totally perfect issue, this is still overall strong, with all the stories ranging in quality from good to great. It’s well worth picking up for any Batman fan.
Batman: Secret Files #2 is available now from DC Comics.