With the July 20th release of The Dark Knight Rises just days away, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at Bane’s very first appearance in comics. So, let’s dive into it, shall we?
BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE
Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Graham Nolan & Eduardo Barreto
Published by DC Comic
Cover date: January 1993
This is an origin story from top to bottom. The Caribbean Republic of Santa Prisca is the setting. After a failed coup attempt, the rebels are killed or captured, leaving very few to escape. But one man does escape, leaving his pregnant wife behind. She is taken to prison and, due to the interesting laws of this nation, her child is charged with the crimes of his father. The only way out is if the child is born a girl. But that would have made this a very short story!
From birth, Bane is serving the prison sentence of his father. He grows up within the prison walls, protected from the worst of the worst, but he soon learns of the harsh reality of his surroundings. Things get even worse for the boy when his mother dies and the prison’s warden places the young boy in the general population, seeing no further reason to protect him.
One of the first conflicts he get into comes when he is around eight years old. A prisoner, thinking the boy’s small size might be useful, wanted to use the him to collect information on the warden and others in hopes of blackmailing his way into an easier life. Another prisoner disagrees with this, for whatever reason, and during the fight between the two, the boy is pushed over a railing and ends up in a coma for 31 days. During his coma he sees a vision of the man he would become and learns that in order to become what he’s meant to be he must conquer fear. In his vision fear takes the shape of a giant bat.
When he awakens he’s put back in the prison, where he commits his first murder. The warden, calling him “a Bane to everything holy,” then places the child in The Hole, a “five-by-ten-foot cell” that would be his entire world for “4,000 days,” or roughly 10 years, meaning he’s 18 by the time the warden returns him to the prison’s general population in the hope that someone will kill him. In fact, the exact opposite happened as people tried to gain his favor and serve him. In his time at the prison, he had become legend.
While in The Hole, Bane broadened his mind and created new forms of meditation. It was here that he also conquered the fear within him. Once out, he continued to broaden his mind. He was taught to read by another inmate who also told him of a city called Gotham. It was here that he first learned of the Batman.
This was all set up for the main event: Military scientists were using prisoners to test a new formula which they hoped would create an army of super soldiers. With every prisoner used dying during the process, the warden decided to subject Bane to the treatment with the hope of finally killing him. It backfires on the warden and Bane becomes even more unstoppable than he was before.
Suddenly, Bane dies. Well, he appears to die. If fact, he wills his vital signs to slow to a pace at which machines wouldn’t be able to detect them and his body is tossed into the ocean. Since he’s far from dead, Bane returns to the island and takes the warden hostage, using him to get a helicopter so that he, and a few others, can escape the prison island. While flying away, he gives the warden a symbolic parting gift and sends him to swim with the sharks.
Bane soon arrives in Gotham and begins his study of Batman.
From here he begins to establish himself and even “introduces” himself to Batman.
I’ve skipped over a lot of this story for a reason. This was the first time I’d read this title since I bought it nearly two decades ago and, surprisingly, it stands up as well today as it did in the early 90′s. Dixon’s writing, along with Nolan’s art and Barreto’s inks, gives this book a look that’s very contemporary. I found that it’s gotten me interested in reading the big Knightfall story line in which Bane and Batman have their epic battle, one that doesn’t end well for Batman.
I was also wondering if this would be a book I could recommend to people these days. It absolutely is. There aren’t many examples of a new villain being introduced in such a high-profile way. Normally, they are given a story in a regular title and you might see them again. Bane, however, was introduced in a very nice 64-page one-shot and was fully fleshed out by then end of the story. I’m sure much of this story has been changed over the years, especially given the New 52 reboot, but this story is still an entertaining read and a good introduction to Bane.