Batman #76: Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

Batman #76

Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tony Salvador Daniel (artist), Sandu Florea (inker), Tom King (writer), Tomeu Morey (colorist), Norm Rapmund (inker)
DC Comics
August 7, 2019

Where have all the heroes gone? That’s the question that Batman #76 sets out to answer, as Gotham under Bane appears to be a police state run by none other than the Rogues Gallery, with Bane as its newly appointed dictator.

Cover for Batman #76 - Clayton Cowles (letterer), Tony Salvador Daniel (artist), Sandu Florea (inker), Tom King (writer), Tomeu Morey (colorist), Norm Rapmund (inker) DC Comics August 7, 2019 - Bane lifts Batman overhead in two hands, Batman helplessly facing up
One question that always plagues storylines about Gotham being in deep peril, with Batman missing, is that there is an entire world of super-powered meta-humans out there that could solve the problem. Not to mention the sprawling Bat-family that should also be coming to Gotham’s defense. Batman #76 makes quick work of explaining exactly where the heroes, the government, and the Bat-family stand.

Captain Atom appears in the second page to come to Gotham’s defense. He’s met by Gotham Girl, wearing a tunic that looks rather Robin-esque, minus the inverted color palette (blues and greys instead of reds and greens), complete with a stylized “G” on the chest. Gotham Girl makes quick work of Atom, working on her witty banter the way she has since she was introduced in Batman #1. An almost-Robin turned to dark side. Through Atom’s defeat, we learn one of the rules of Bane’s Gotham. Villains go down, heroes go out.

Then Gotham Girl literally throws Atom out of Gotham.

At the same time, we’re reintroduced to Kite-Man, a D-list villain that’s been used to tell the tale of a rogue slowly trying to do right. He’s trying to save Scarecrow, Tweedledee, and Tweedledum from the gun-toting Thomas Wayne—a Batman bent on killing the villains of Gotham, seemingly with Bane’s blessing.

The entire sequence—Kite-Man admitting not being good enough to hide from Batman, not being good enough to really be a villain—is the entire point of this run of Batman. What makes a hero? What makes a villain? Is killing the ultimate line to true villainy, is rehabilitation possible? Everything from Batman’s romance with Catwoman to Kite-Man’s change of heart to the revelation of Thomas Wayne seems to be begging the question. What makes a hero, and what makes a villain?

The comic doesn’t take many steps to answer that question, and while these big narrative opportunities appear, they seem to be largely left for the reader to dissect. Tom King does a good job of holding up a funhouse mirror to the current state of the world. From Killer Croc donning a cop outfit and terrifying a Gotham citizen during a routine traffic stop, to the realization that the Government is happy to let Gotham get destroyed if the villains go with it, nothing in the world feels entirely fantastical.

Batman #76 is largely a scene-setting piece, with the state of Gotham finally coming full circle. Bane has a firm grip, the blessing of the government, the family is splintered and Bruce is missing. The entire mirror-world concept is solidified by a tantalizing final splash page of Thomas Wayne’s Batman and Gotham Girl in an iconic Gargoyle Pose. With the new-normal set, it’ll be interesting to see how the stakes are elevated in the next eight issues until Batman: Rebirth’s ultimate conclusion.