Welcome, my beautiful nerds and geeks, to the Geek Garage Podcast’s very first issue of Comic Corner! As we’ve discussed recently on the podcast, as well as in our most recent Update blog post, we are making an attempt to create more supplemental content for our amazing listeners, in addition to our weekly podcast episodes. If you haven’t read our latest blog post yet, I urge you to do so, since it contains all the details about Comic Corner you need to know. But if you don’t want to, or you’re too lazy (which I totally get), this is the short version: Ted and I will each pick a comic that we’ve read, give a short synopsis, and then talk about things such as the artwork, story, and the characters. And if you’re concerned about spoilers, don’t worry because we have that covered! We’ll be providing both spoiler-free and spoiler-filled details.
So if any/all of that sounds even remotely tantalizing to you (and I would not blame you if it doesn’t), then please continue to read on for Issue #1 of Comic Corner!
Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1
- Publisher: DC Comics
- Run: 1993-1994
- Alan Grant
- Chuck Dixon
- Dennis O’Neil
- Doug Moench
- Jo Duffy
- Barry Kitson
- Bret Blevins
- Graham Nolan
- Jim Aparo
- Jim Balent
- Mike Manley
- Norm Breyfogle
- Ron Wagner
If you’re at least somewhat familiar with the storied history of the brooding bad-ass known as Batman, at least when it comes to the comic books, you’re probably familiar with this particular iteration of him and his battle against Bane. It’s one of the most mentioned iterations of Bane within the hardcore comic book reader circles, and it’s of course a big source of inspiration that Christopher Nolan took for his film The Dark Knight Rises.
Volume 1 of Knightfall begins with Bane’s origin story, as he is condemned/sentenced (even before he’s born) to live out his entire life in the Pena Duro prison. As Bane ages, he quickly grows accustomed to harsh prison life, and becomes unsurprisingly hardened by it. During his sentence, Bane does manage to make one “friend” named Bird, who fills him in on the corrupt and crime-ridden city that is Gotham. Eventually, he is able to escape the prison and flees to Gotham, where he begins his quest to take down Batman.
After arriving in Gotham, the first (and probably biggest) domino to be knocked down by Bane was releasing all of Arkham Asylum’s inmates, including the Joker, Scarecrow, and several others. As this sends Batman on a wild goose chase to wrangle back up all the escaped inmates, Bane is able to watch and better formulate his “grand plan”. When Batman and Bane’s paths finally do cross, things get…interesting.
Feel free to continue reading for a more comprehensive look into this book, but definitely beware that spoilers start here!
David’s Thoughts (SPOILERS!)
This was definitely not my first foray into the comic book realm of Batman, as I had recently read some of the benchmark titles such as Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween. However, this book certainly had a different feel to it, compared to those I had previously read. It’s clearly a product of the 90’s, which is mostly reflected within the artwork and writing style.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this comic. Despite the flaws of Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises, I really liked his interpretation of the Batman/Bane story arc. So suffice it to say, I was quite eager to read Knightfall and play “hide and seek” with all the influences that were taken and adapted into the film. One of the biggest things I was looking forward to was learning Bane’s “origin story”, because I knew from friends that it differed from the movie. And before Bane has his transformation (both physical and mental) to the villain we all know him as, I ultimately empathized with his character. For me, it was a little rough starting out the story, learning that even before he was born he was sentenced to life in prison. Talk about unfair!
There were only a few minor things that I took issue with in this book, and they both have to do with Bane. The first was his motivation for taking down Batman. So, because this rando named Bird tells him about this shitty place called Gotham, where a masked vigilante named Batman beats up bad guys, Bane gets all pissy about it. Out of all the terrible shit that’s happened to you, and the horrendous shit that happens all around the world, you’re going to focus on some weirdo in a bat costume? Alright, dude, you do you…
The second issue I had was with Bane’s technique for taking down Batman. Objectively speaking, his plan was solid: Use a rocket launcher to blow a hole in Arkham Asylum, let the Joker and a million other baddies escape, forcing an already exhausted Batman to pick up the pieces. Then, once Batty’s all done wrangling them up, Bane is free to give him the beating of a lifetime. As I said, solid plan. But a dick move? Kind of. Bane didn’t face off against Batman in his prime; they fought when he was practically on his death bed, and could barely throw a solid punch. So it was a little difficult for me personally to lend a certain amount of “respect” to Bane; the same kind of respect you lend to all comic book villains, for their attempts at taking down the hero. The saving grace for me with this problem was the issue of “fairness”. I, or any other reader, could easily have said “Well it’s not really fair that Bane gets a Luchador mask that pumps go-go juice into his viens, while Batman barely hangs on”. But then you get into the issue of what exactly is “fair”? Because you can hardly call it fair, being sentenced to life in prison while still in the womb.
So, moving ever forward…
One of my favorite parts of this book actually happens after Batman gets the beat-down from Bane, where he is “forced” to temporarily hand over the mantle of the Bat to Jean-Paul Valley (aka Azrael). There are a few interesting turns that the story takes at this point. Up until now, we’ve gotten Batman and Robin as our crime-fighters. And Robin is typically portrayed as the kid kicking rocks and pouting because Batman utilizes him more for backup, out of fear of putting him directly in harm’s way. Cut to Jean-Paul donning the cape and cowl, we now have a much more different dynamic. Instead of the headstrong, ready-to-jump-into-action Robin that we’re used to seeing, he is now the conservative type. As temporary Batman, Valley continues to make increasingly questionable decisions when it comes to his crime-fighting methods. At almost every turn, he defies what Bruce Wayne as Batman would do in that particular situation, leaving Robin to assume the role of the more conservative hero.
All of these acts of defiance on Valley’s part crescendos when he makes the active choice to attempt taking down Bane. I will fully admit that I was not expecting Bane to get bested by Jean-Paul. In my mind, I followed all of the stereotypical stories that follow this pattern, where acts of defiance are met with extreme consequence. But low and behold, we were greeted with a Batman, that is not Bruce Wayne, that was able to take down Bane against major advisement. And the writers were able to portray this part of the story in a way that was actually quite cathartic, both for the character as well as the reader.
All in all, I really did enjoy reading this story. It was incredibly rewarding for me to finally get a better look into Bane’s canonical backstory. Now I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! If you have read volume 1 of Batman: Knightfall, definitely hit us up on social media or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me/us know what you thought!