By: Adam Basciano
“The Dark Knight’s deadliest enemies have escaped Arkham Asylum! The Joker, Anygdala, the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Zsasz, Killer Croc, the Firefly, the Ventriloquist and Scarecrow – one by one, he must face them all in mortal combat! But lurking at the end of this seemingly endless gauntlet is the deadliest menace of all – a mysterious man-mountain known only as… BANE!” (DC Comics)
The Story: The “Knightfall” saga is a fairly large story and “Broken Bat” is just the first act. Usually the first act of a story is mostly setup, for the main body of a story, which typically runs through the second act. “Broken Bat” goes against the grain and gets straight to the point. A hulking menace of a man known as Bane causes chaos by raiding Arkham Asylum, and breaking out some of its dangerous criminals. His master plan is to create a gauntlet for Batman to run through, ultimately weakening Batman so that Bane can deliver the final blow. My only exposure to Bane prior to reading this was from that ridiculous pile of elephant $h!t known as “Batman & Robin.”
Much like everyone else in that film, Bane was horribly characterized. In fact, he probably got the worst treatment. In the film Bane was a muscle bound monkey with no brains, who had an affinity for grunting. In this book, Bane is an expert marksman, a hunter who is really intelligent, and cunning. Bane comes off as an immense threat, capable of defeating Batman.
Speaking of Batman, the writers put him in a position I had never seen him before, weakness, frailty and defeat. In “Broken Bat” our hero is ill, and after combating the breakout is even more depleted. Nor does he know who is behind the breakout or what purpose it ultimately serves. This physical exhaustion combined with the lack of knowledge and preparation take its toll on Batman, as evident in his battles with Zsasz and Firefly. Against Zsasz, Batman was late on the scene which led to fatalities. Batman nearly caved under pressure and killed Zsasz, but was prevented from doing so via intervention from the police.
Against Firefly, both the Dark Knight and Firefly nearly perish as Batman is unable to hold on to his grappling hook. Both writers do an excellent job of illustrating Batman’s rapid decline in health and mental focus, when he begins ignoring his own strategical advice in order to defeat his enemies more quickly, but by doing so he only expends more energy, thus harming himself further.
The writers also elevate Robin from sidekick to a worthy associate of Batman’s. In this story he performs detective work and is able to provide Batman with valuable info on the whereabouts of his enemies. He is also able to evade death at the hands of Killer Croc.
By the time Batman faces off against Bane he is on his last gasp. Bane beats him to within an inch of his life, breaks his back, leaving Batman crippled on the Bat-Cave floor. Knowingly or unknowingly, the authors of this tale have left a commentary on steroid use. Bane’s obsessed with beating and being better then Batman and needs to use his strength enhancing venom to do it. Similarly, athletes feel the need to use performance enhancing drugs to keep up with their competition, and to be at the top of their sport.
The Story Grade
The Art: I prefer Batman with the black and grey colour scheme. However, I do have an affinity for the blue and gray combination, as it is the first incarnation of Batman that I saw when I was a child.
It’s kind of like the coke can vs. the coke bottle. While the coke can is sleeker, looks better, and is more efficient, the coke bottle is a classic remnant from the past. The art duties for this chapter were handled by two different artists – Jim Aparo and Graham Nolan. They managed to define an image as their own while still making the transition between artists seamless. Jim Aparo is considered among the great Batman artists, and rightfully so. He conveys an expression, better than most artists I’ve come across in the industry. Whether Batman is staring down an enemy in intense agony or physically drained, it’s as if the reader is experiencing everything through Batman’s eyes.
Graham Nolan is an artist I am unfamiliar with and he has a knack for drawing “superhero” Batman. Even though Batman is a mere mortal with no extraordinary powers, when drawn by Graham Nolan he looks to be as powerful as Superman. Most impressive is that he does this without making Batman look like a bodybuilder, but rather uses the angle of the image to accomplish this. The most striking image in the book is the two page spread of Bane breaking Batman’s back over his knee.
The Art Grade