Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Classics - Batman #497

DC Comics had a problem in the early 1990s.

The company had enjoyed huge success with "The Death of Superman," bringing terrific sales and national media attention.

So how could they follow that up and achieve the same results?

Their answer was to literally break the Batman.

So in 1993, they had Batman face off against - well, everyone.

The powerful character named Bane (created by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan) pushed Batman to his limits. Bane freed the monsters sealed up in Arkham Asylum, and Batman spent weeks facing them down and recapturing his old foes - so when, exhausted and near collapse, he was finally forced to confront the massive Bane (who was bolstered with augmented strength courtesy of the drug called Venom), he had nothing left.

This issue, written by Doug Moench and drawn by the great Jim Aparo with inks by the also-great Dick Giordano, was the climax of that conflict as Bane conducted a brutal assault on Batman, a fight that raged through Wayne Manor and into the Batcave.

Even by today's standards, it's a painful fight to watch, as Batman is virtually helpless before Bane.

It's certainly not my favorite story, but there's no denying that it's a historically significant one. It was rare for Batman to lose a fight, and he had never suffered a beating so severe or injuries as devastating.

And yes, this was the inspiration for a similar sequence in the recent movie The Dark Knight Rises.

The problem with this kind of overkill story is that it's difficult to top in terms of shock value. Perhaps that's why we haven't seen many stories that compare in terms of getting the attention of the world outside comics.

It takes a major event - like a death or a wedding, for example - to get that kind of attention, and you can only kill a character or marry them off - or break their back - so many times before it loses its impact.

Still, it was a marketing success - they turned the eyes of the world onto the Dark Knight, and DC once again earned headlines.

Batman would eventually "get better," of course, and Bane continues to be one of the more popular members of his rogue's gallery - but I can't help but wish comics could get this kind of attention for great stories and art, rather than just going for the jugular.

Grade: B+


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