The Broken Bat
Credits: 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.
- 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.