Wednesday, February 13, 2013
BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE - January 1993
Vengeance of Bane
Credits: Chuck Dixon (writer), Graham Nolan (penciler), Eduardo Barreto (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)
Summary: In the Caribbean republic of Santa Prisca, a young boy is imprisoned for the crimes of his father. After his mother dies, the six-year-old is sent to live with the general population. He’s knocked off a railing by two fighting inmates and has a near-death experience. He sees a vision of himself as an adult, and of a giant bat that he’s told represents fear. After the boy kills his first man, the guards name him “Bane.” Over the years, Bane is hardened by prison life, and eventually subjected to an experiment with the drug Venom. After Bane fakes his death, he returns to prison and demands the warden release his three allies, Trogg, Bird, and Zombie. American native Bird leads them to Gotham City, where Bane declares that he will destroy Batman and rule the city. Bane arranges a confrontation with Batman, but refuses to battle him until he fully understands his opponent.
Irrelevant Continuity: The nation of Santa Prisca and the steroid-like drug Venom were previously created by Batman editor Denny O’Neil. The original Venom storyline ran in Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20, and Santa Prisca goes back to his run on The Question. Bane is able to continue to feed himself Venom thanks to Zombie’s skills as a chemist and Trogg’s training as an electrician. They create a device that pumps Venom directly into his brain.
Dramatic Exits: Batman abruptly leaves the alleys outside of the home of Bane’s first target in Gotham, Jimmy “No-Nose” Novak, while Commissioner Gordon is trying to explain the case to him.
Creative Differences: DC officially credits Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, and Doug Moench as the creators of Bane. Dixon has always been adamant that Moench had nothing to do with Bane’s creation, however, and was simply in the room when the concept was being discussed.
I Love the ‘90s: Bird has a mullet that will grow to more ridiculous lengths as the storyline progresses.
Review: As the Superman creative teams were developing Doomsday as the monstrous plot device required to kill the hero, the Batman office was looking for another new, undefeatable menace to play a pivotal role in the Batman titles during the early ‘90s. Doomsday was obviously a mindless simpleton created solely to kill Superman, and while the “Death of Superman” comics sold extremely well, many fans were loudly complaining that Doomsday was an outright lame character to be given such a high-profile event. Bane could be viewed as an inverse to the sheer phoniness of Doomsday; a character intended to be compelling in his own right outside of the massive crossover event. (Some people have speculated that the entire “Knightfall” event was a response to “Death of Superman,” but the creators swear that the two storylines were planned simultaneously, with both offices ignorant of what the other was doing.)
Yes, Bane’s outrageously strong and twice Batman’s size, but he’s also a brilliant strategist, one that’s going to break Batman down mentally and emotionally before he even lays a finger on him. Like Batman, he’s a self-made man with his own set of daddy issues, but with no moral guidance to turn him away from the darkness. And all of this works very well as the basis of the character. However, he’s still a juicehead in a tank top and luchadore mask. All of the scenes of Bane reading stacks of books or meticulously plotting his overthrow of the Gotham gangs are meaningless as soon as a Hollywood producer or hungry freelancer too lazy to do research looks at him and says, “Okay, big guy. He’ll be the villain’s henchman.” (Batman: The Animated Series at least made him a hitman rather than a mindless flunky, but still chose to downplay his intelligence.) Bane doesn’t get a proper appearance in any of the media adaptations until The Dark Knight Rises, and even then his visual is simplified to “Guy in Weird Mask,” a look that makes him almost unrecognizable. As for the comics, it seems as if no one has known what to do with him since the massive “Knightfall” event ended.
As a first appearance already commercially conceived to be “Important” this reads remarkably well. Bane’s origin is about as brutal as a mainstream DC comic could get at the time, without coming across as needlessly sadistic. Bane as the apex of physical and mental conditioning (before he even receives the Venom) has been compared by many to various pulp origins, but it reminds me of the characters Larry Hama often created in G. I. Joe. The prison setting works perfectly to make Bane’s lifelong obsession with masculinity and dominance believable, and it creates a nice contrast to Batman’s expensive, global training as a youth.
This comic was published in 1992, so naturally there are elements that probably wouldn’t make it out of DC today. Most notably, Bane’s three allies: Bird (presumably inspired by The Birdman of Alcatraz, he’s a crook from Gotham with an unexplained influence over birds), Zombie (a former pharmaceutical employee who witnessed Bane’s birth in prison; his name has no obvious relevance), and Trogg (he looks like a caveman…get it?) I personally don’t have a problem with the characters; this is a franchise with recurring villains like the Mad Hatter and Calendar Man, after all, but it’s hard to imagine DC allowing villains that aren’t 100% deadly serious to be featured in such an important issue today. While DC tries to recreate events like “Knightfall” every month now, they seem to have forgotten that it was acceptable to feature villains that weren’t cold-blooded serial killers during the original big event storylines. And the slow-burn was okay, too, as this is merely the beginning of a storyline that takes years to reach a natural conclusion. I can’t imagine an event this massive making it to its end without at least one line-wide reality reboot disrupting it today.