“If I didn’t want his blood so badly…I would almost pity him.”
A couple days ago I took a look at some required reading for Catwoman in preparation for The Dark Knight Rises. Now I want to examine Bane and there’s no better place to start than with the epic Knightfall saga from the 90’s. The first of three collected volumes is called Broken Bat and it traces the downfall of Bruce Wayne, a theme in the upcoming film. From the first, unassuming panel of a remote controlled robot distracting some Arkham Asylum guards to the final panel of Batman broken, in his own home with Bane standing over him, this story packs a punch.
This volume contains Batman 491-497 and Detective Comics 659-663. Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon tell this story with art from Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, and Jim Balent. Despite having a range of artists, the story is visually cohesive. More so than the following two volumes that have often jarring artist switches. Wishing to completely break the Batman, Bane destroys Arkham Asylum letting everyone loose for Batman to chase down. At the end of the first issue, Batman looks like a man who just worked a double shift and then was asked to stay and help out to cover for someone who called in sick. Across the 12 issues, each one featuring one of the many loose inmates, Batman looks more and more beat down, and the story keeps getting darker as Bane watches and waits. Despite being cunning and strong, I’ve always felt this was a cheap move by Bane. He never has a fair fight with Bruce Wayne in the whole Knightfall saga. Oh, you beat the Batman after observing him in in action for months and waiting until he’s totally exhausted before making a real move?
Batman is continually pushing himself to the edge, never letting up for fear of what one of the many Arkham Inmates might do if he took a break. “All men have limits. They learn what they are and then learn not to exceed them. I ignore mine.” Bold words from a man about to face Bane at the end of the issue. The whole series is often painful to read. At least it was for me as a kid. This was the first comic series I remember reading and being emotionally effected by when I was young. Batman was a my hero growing up, so to see him so weak was a genuinely frightening experience. The entire last issue is the fight between Bruce Wayne and Bane, though I struggle to call it a fight. As they talk, Batman flashes back to the events of the previous issues before ultimately Bane breaks his back and leaves him for dead.
With images of Batman’s fractured cowl on so many movie posters, we’re left to assume that at least some of Nolan’s inspiration for the film comes from the Knightfall story. Whether or not he breaks Batman’s back remains to be seen, but all the footage in the trailers of Tom Hardy indicates that this is going to be an accurate representation of the Bane we know from the comics. He’s smart, driven in his goal to destroy Batman, and he knows his secret identity. So if The Dark Knight Rises has you intrigued for some classic Batman, check out the Knightfall trilogy. You won’t be sorry you did.