Wednesday, April 10, 2013

BATMAN #497 - Late July 1993

The Broken Bat
Doug Moench (writer), Jim Aparo (penciler), Dick Giordano (inker), Richard Starkings (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Alfred runs to Robin’s house for help as Bane brutalizes a battered Batman.  As Batman reflects on everything he’s endured over the past few months, Bane takes their fight down to the Batcave.  Batman refuses to scream Bane’s name, but Bane does succeed in breaking his back.

Irrelevant Continuity: 
  • Batman flashes back to a few stories not reprinted in the book, such as a confrontation with a Venom-amplified Riddler, and fights with Black Mask, Azrael, and someone with bandoleers and a mohawk.
  • Tim Drake lives in a house with his father, unlike the previous Robins that lived in Wayne Manor with Batman.  Presumably, the Drakes’ home is near Wayne Manor, since characters are often seen walking back and forth.

Total N00B:  Why do all of the flashbacks with Azrael have him in that spiky bondage outfit, as opposed to the costume he wore on the covers of his original miniseries?  What even happened in Sword of Azrael, anyway?

Gimmicks:   This issue has an alternate cover with an "additional black and white stiff paper partial cover overlay."

Review:  Now we’ve reached the big moment, the scene the creators have been building up to for around twenty issues now.  And it happens in Batman #497, of all places.  Not Batman #500, or even Detective Comics #666, but in a non-enhanced, regular-sized issue with a non-significant issue number.  I can almost see the reasoning that led to the event occurring in Batman’s titular series, the one drawn by legend Jim Aparo, instead of Detective (even though Detective was being written by Bane’s creator and is the original Batman comic), but why choose this point to give Bane his crucial victory?  I would be curious to know if Marvel or Image was launching something big this month and DC felt compelled to compete, or if some end-of-fiscal-year budget concerns lead DC to choose this specific issue. 

At any rate, this is the horrible event the crossover has been leading up to, and to his credit, Doug Moench steps up to the challenge and delivers a mature, somber script that suits the material.  Batman’s narration throughout the story conveys his anguish without coming across as mawkish, and even if this is an issue-long, one-sided fight scene, it doesn’t feel like a cheat.  Bane’s arrogant and evil enough to hold his own in the story, and his sadistic one-liners are a great contrast to Batman’s broken, humbled narration. 

Assigning this chapter to Jim Aparo also helps it feel more significant in a way, given that Aparo was the definitive Batman artist of this generation.  When the guy who’s drawn almost every Batman comic you own draws a giant splash page of your hero’s back being broken, that has an impact.  And if there is one iconic page of mainstream DC comics in the ‘90s, the “BREAK YOU!” page could be it.  Its main contender would probably be Lois mourning Superman’s bloody body, but I think Bane's page had even more resonance.  I didn’t even own this issue at the time, but I saw this page dozens of times during 1993 and 1994.  (Does anyone else remember watching the Home Shopping Channel and seeing the “BREAK YOU!” page flashed on-screen repeatedly the night they were selling signed copies of this book?)  As for the cover, I guess it’s significant too, in a “Wow, look at what you could get away with in the ‘90s” kind of way.


snowkatt said...

lets see what happend in july 1993 in the comics world

image comics and valiant comics started their inter company cross over deathmate
which if i recall correctly was a huge thing
image was also chrtonically late as ususal

and marvel kicked off fatal atractions
i ams ure you know that one

so yeah that would do it to get dc to move

yrzhe said...

I think they were also pacing things so that Batman #500 would be Bane's defeat and the debut of the full Azreal-Batman costume.

Anonymous said...

IIRC, after Sword of Azrael he got a new costume because every time he wore the old one his subconscious training kicked in. And maybe because being bright orange with flaming gauntlets doesn't help you hide in the shadows of Gotham either.

Soon after Batman fought a guy named MetalHead who had a very similar costume, only a spiky bondage variant.

Anonymous said...


That was my guess too, and I think there thinking was that it was more important the new Batman's debut happen in a big milestone issue rather than the breaking of the original.

As it is, I rather like the pacing of this arc, so trying to tweak it so that the breaking happened in a milestone issue would have thrown everything off a bit for me.

Teebore said...

Regarding the break coming in issue #497, I concur with the others. While the general impression is that the creators involved in this story ultimately wrote it as a repudiation of the grim'n'gritty movement sweeping comics, I'm pretty sure DC, from a marketing standpoint at least, viewed it completely as a way to tap into that zeitgeist.

So from their perspective, the big moment of the story is the debut of the all new, all kewl, all armored gritty Batman, so that was held for the big round number anniversary issue, whereas we/the creators view the big moment of the story as the one where the original, classic (and ultimately repudiating) Batman is taken out.

Its main contender would probably be Lois mourning Superman’s bloody body, but I think Bane's page had even more resonance.

I'd agree, but maybe that's just because Batman has always resonated more for me/has always seemed more popular.

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