Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Batman #497 (1993)


Batman #497 (Late July, 1993)
"Knightfall, Part 11: The Broken Bat"
Writer - Doug Moench
Artist - Jim Aparo
Inker - Dick Giordano
Colorist - Adrienne Roy
Letterer - Richard Starkings
Assistant Editor - Jordan B. Gorfinkel
Editor - Dennis O'Neil
Cover Price: $1.25

Here's one I've wanted to talk about for a little while now.  The first time I read this, I think I was a bit too jaded and cynical to truly get the gravity of the situation.  We were coming off the Death of Superman, and while that felt (in comics terms) Earth-shattering... Knightfall just kinda felt like a "me too" stunt.

Plus, this story was just so much longer than the one that ran through the Super-books.  I couldn't fully keep up, and for did not really feel the urgency to.  I've since reread this story in its entirety in various collected edition formats... and today we're going to discuss the pivotal "breaking" chapter.

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We open with an exhausted Bruce Wayne entering the Manor from the Batcave entrance behind the grandfather clock.  What he sees is... Bane... and on the ground, Alfred.  Bruce is rightly concerned that Bane knows who he really is.  Bane refers to Bruce Wayne as Batman's mask... which isn't a new concept by any means, but still interesting.  He's here to break him... and to punctuate the point, lets a jolt of Venom toxin into his bloodstream.


He asks if Bruce has any idea what Venom is... and, of course... he does.  Bruce asks what Bane wants... why has he chosen him as his target.  Well, ya see... Bane wants Gotham.  Batman's got it... and Bane wants it.  Well, that's all Bruce needs to hear.  He's tired of Bane's crap... he's tired of the blood... it's go time.  Of particular note... as we open, Bruce is more or less wishing for death.  Now, by jumping at Bane... is he doing so for justice... or is it something of a death wish?  We're about to see just how much "fight" Bruce is packing...


... which is very little.  I mean, we've seen Batman take on big-bads before, however here it's clumsy... it's just as though he's hurling his body into the Brute.  Not sure if that's intentional, or just another case of my thinking too hard.  Bane beats the stuffing out of our Dark Knight... all the while, he is flashing back to beatings he'd received all throughout this Knightfall arc.  Alfred wakes up... Batman demands he leave while Bane continues to ragdoll him throughout the Manor.  Ultimately Bane spears Batman through the wall and down a flight of stairs into the Cave below.


The fight rages on... Bruce appears to lose himself in thought as he is pummeled.  He thinks about how little rest he has had of late despite the relentless thrashing his body has faced.  At this point, Batman throws the only actual punch of this fight... it's not terribly effective.  At this point, Bane realizes that Batman has already been broken.


More fighting... make that, more "beating" continues.  Bane kicks Batman into the giant penny trophy... and it falls over and, by the looks of it, crushes Batman pretty good.  I should mention that amid the fight Alfred has left, and appears to be headed toward Tim Drake's house.  Also, potential Bruce Wayne love interest, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving calls the Manor... she becomes important later.


At this point in the fight Bane appears to be getting bored.  He wonders aloud why Batman refuses to fight back.  Bane breaks a stalagmite off the ground and prepares to use it as a weapon... at this point Batman acts... though it is more defense than offense.  Bane still ain't digging this... so he hurls Batman through the trophy case where Jason Todd's Robin costume hang.


We shift to Alfred who has just arrived at the Drake home.  He alerts Tim as to the goings on, and asks that they also inform Jean Paul (Valley)... and ya know, an ambulance.


The next several pages consist of more Bat-thrashing.  It looks as though, at one point Batman makes a very feeble attempt at throwing a punch... which Bane answers with a tremendous backhand.  It's now that Bane has decided to stop "playing with his food"... and so, he hoists Batman above his head... 


... and rather than kill him out right, decides to...


... break him!  We close out with Bane standing over the broken Batman...


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This is a difficult issue to review "in a vacuum".  Its strength is in what came before... the utter brutality that Batman was forced to face all throughout the Knightfall storyline... without all of that, this issue can, at first blush, appear to be kind of disappointing.  I mean, without the context... it just looks like Bane is beating the hell out of Bruce.  While that is undoubtedly true, we must also understand that by this point... Batman was already "broken".

The trials he had been put through just to get to this point did an absolute number on his spirit.  This bit here is just Bane's dessert.  You'll notice that for the whole "fight"... note the quotes... Batman throws very few punches.  There is almost no offense from Bruce... to the point where Bane actually screams "Why don't you Fight?!" as though he is somehow disappointed.

It's strange... for such a landmark issue, there's quite little to actually talk about.  This is a "fight" issue.  It is well presented, and features a lot of callbacks from earlier in the story arc.  Jim Aparo does a wonderful job here.  There are looks of true pain... even anguish on Batman/Bruce's face here.  He was somehow able to convey both mental and physical exhaustion through his art... and it's very well done.

The ending was quite well done as well.  Batman just slumped on the ground at Bane's feet.  Not a whole lotta pomp and circumstance... just a broken body laying on a cold cave floor.  It's kind of the way you'd expect Batman to go out.

I really have no complaints here... however, I still cannot recommend reading this issue on its own.  To get the full effect, you really need to check out the entire Knightfall run.  It's an exhausting story... a true gauntlet for Batman to run.  When you finally arrive at this issue, it's almost as though we're just as tired and achy as Bruce is.  Knightfall, like DC's other early 1990's character "events" Doomsday and Emerald Twilight, is as much an experience as it is a story... and should definitely be experienced by anyone calling themselves a bat-fan.  Wholeheartedly recommended... just make sure ya read the whole thing!

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