Everyone’s a Critic

BSR Flashback: Batman #497 (L July 1993)

Posted by jadecanary on June 16, 2008

The Broken Bat
Knightfall Part 11
by Doug Moench (w)
Jim Aparo (p)
and Dick Giordano (i)

Broken… and done.

With Batman: R.I.P. in full swing, I’m reminded of the last time Batman got his ass handed to him, Knightfall. Knightfall was a 19-part epic (with sort-of cross-ins) featuring the official first assault on Gotham by 1993 Villain of the Year Bane. Bane made his first appearance in the Vengeance of Bane Special.

Batman #497 is the eleventh chapter of the Knightfall story-arc. In the first 10, and prior, Bane started making Batman’s life a living Hell. Bane destroyed Arkham Asylum, allowing all the inmates to escape. Batman, already exhausted from the never-ending battle, was now forced to collect the inmates and get them off of Gotham’s streets. After an incident involving The Scarecrow, the Joker, the Mayor, and a flooded subway. Batman was finally done. He drove home, and headed straight to bed.

And that’s when our story starts. Bane is upstairs in the Manor. Alfred: unconscious. Batman is exhausted, but understands what must be done. Bane explains the Venom coursing through his brain is an enhanced form of the steroid drug that Batman was once hooked on. Batman questions Bane, “Why all the killing?” Bane responds, “I’d kill for anything.”

I realize you may well be the single greatest source of madness and evil I’ve ever faced…

Then they fight. Bane fights to break what haunts him, night after night. Batman fights for Alfred, for Robin, for Gotham, and for himself. But Batman has fought too much for too long. It was no contest. Bane had an answer for everything Batman tried to throw at him. Batman was physically outmatched. He lost his speed and timing to the relentless war he had faced over the last few months.

In moments, Bane turned the myth, the legend of the Bat, that which could strike fear in the hearts of the cowardly and superstitious…

into a just a man. Broken and beaten.

I am Bane, and I could kill you. But Death would only end your agony and silence youR shame. Instead, I will simply–

Batman lost the war for the first time in his career. He handed the reins over to an untested rookie, Jean-Paul Valley, and left. Valley, formerly known as Azrael, defeated Bane. After that, the programming inside of Valley’s head perverted the legend of Batman. When Bruce healed, he defeated Valley, only to turn over the mantel to Dick Grayson, if only briefly.

Bane would later kick his addiction to Venom, but he would never be the villain he was designed to be. He would become an Ubu for Ra’s Al Ghul, and the intended for Talia. It was then that he would rematch Bruce Wayne, once again Batman. Rested and ready, he defeated Bane. Then he would go through soul searching, and take on the quest to find his father. Bane even teams with Batman to take out Venom pushers in Gotham.

But ever the bad guy, Bane is on the wrong side of the Battle for Metropolis during the Infinite Crisis. He runs around, breaking the backs of C- and D-listers. The last we see him, Bane works for Lex Luthor on the prison planet in the pages of Salvation Run. It is implied in some stories that Bane is back on Venom, but it seems no writer cares enough to explain.

During the Knightfall story, Batman is physically broken. Fifteen years later, in the R.I.P. story going on now in the Batman books, Bruce’s mind will be broken. The villains have changed, but the story is the same: how far can we bend Bruce Wayne before he breaks? And what do we do with the pieces? The resolve of the Knightfall arc: KnightQuest and KnightsEnd, I felt, were a let down. They did so much to end Bruce’s career as Batman, and did so little to bring him back (his paralysis was healed by his girlfriend/doctor/meta-human with healing powers). Maybe the question isn’t, “How will Batman be different after R.I.P.?”, rather “What is DC willing to do to put Batman/Bruce Wayne back to the status quo?”


One Response to “BSR Flashback: Batman #497 (L July 1993)”

  1. Christopher said

    I Loved Knightfall. It was the Graphic Novel that made me want to get back into reading Comics. But you are right in the last lines…

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