Friday, May 17, 2013

BATMAN #500 - October 1993 (Part Two)

Dark Angel II:  The Descent
Credits:  Doug Moench (writer), Mike Manley (artist), Ken Bruzenak (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Batman finds Bane after he announces himself on an electronic billboard.  He cuts off Bane’s Venom supply and chases him on to the city’s elevated trains.  Bane kills a conductor and takes control of a train.  Robin arrives to rescue the passengers as Batman has a brutal confrontation with Bane.  Eventually, the train goes off the tracks and crashes into an abandoned building.  Batman has an opportunity to kill Bane, but leaves him for the police.  Later, Robin admits he was wrong and tells Jean-Paul he’s earned the mantle of Batman.

Irrelevant Continuity:  Bane’s message on the electronic billboard reads “‘Batman’ Now.”  Gordon notices the quote marks, but isn’t willing to believe that Batman has been replaced.  Gordon’s inability to realize that the original Batman is gone stretches credibility quite a bit, unless the reader is supposed believe Jean-Paul can perfectly mimic Batman’s voice and body language.

Review:  Talk about commitment to a misdirection -- the story actually ends with the skeptical Robin admitting he was wrong and giving Azrael his blessing to become Batman.  Moreover, this follows a lengthy dramatic sequence that has AzBats fighting “the System” and refusing to kill Bane when he has a chance.  So, Gotham has a darker new Batman, but one that still isn’t willing to cross that final line.  Even though this was never intended to be permanent, it reads as a more sincere attempt to sell the replacement hero than any of the Spider-Man clone comics I can think of.  (And Marvel was actually serious about their ridiculous hero swap!)  

While several of Moench’s previous issues would lead you to believe he was apathetic towards this event, he seems to be putting a real effort into selling this as the conclusion to the long running Bane storyline, and the true beginning of Jean-Paul as Batman.  And it’s as about as brutal as you could expect a Comics Code Approved fight featuring Batman could be at the time.  Visually, this is the best Batman/Bane fight so far.  The setting of a runaway elevated train adds more suspense to the fight, and gives Mike Manley some cool visuals to play with.  (Hmm… fight scene during climax of the story set on an elevated train running through the worst areas of Gotham…could this be another moment that influenced Nolan?)  

Robin even gets to do something more than complain this time, as he rescues the civilians that Bane has trapped in the final car.  Now, here’s another instance where it’s hard to tell what Moench is going for.  Leading up to this scene, we see Jean-Paul race past an elderly woman that Bane has pushed aside, and arrive too late to stop Bane from killing the train’s conductor.  (Robin sees none of this, which would help to explain why he’s willing to give Jean-Paul his blessing later.)  No civilians are saved by the new Batman this issue; nor are there any narrative captions or thought balloons to indicate that he’s even given them a single thought.  Is this Moench’s way of subverting the superficial point of the story, by allowing Robin to be the true hero while Batman is concerned with beating up the guy who beat him up first?  If so, it totally went over my head as a kid.  I finished the issue convinced that DC was absolutely serious about this new Batman.  Not that I truly expected the change to last, but I had no idea the creators already had the resolution mapped out.


j said...

I loved this issue. It was pretty much the peak though. There's a long stretch of pretty boring issues. It picks up when Bruce comes back and I always enjoy the final Batman vs Azreal fight. Prodigal is also a great storyline and I believe it's collected in those trades.

Teebore said...

Is this Moench’s way of subverting the superficial point of the story, by allowing Robin to be the true hero while Batman is concerned with beating up the guy who beat him up first?

Intentional or not, I love that reading of it, as it fits in with the intended arc of the story and still makes sense within the context of this issue (as you say, Robin misses AzBats most flagrant disregards for civilian life).

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