Thursday, September 29, 2011

With Marvel's successful construction toward a cinematic shared universe culminating in 2012's [Joss] Whedon directed Avengers; it's difficult to shake the sense of inevitability that hovers over DC Comics' counterpart hero-team, The Justice League.

DC may have made their mark with seminal blockbuster pictures like Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), and Batman (1989), but it's Marvel who have spent the following decades defining an industry.

Films based on Blade, X-Men and Spider-man went a long way to dispelling any belief that superheroes could not transition convincingly to the big screen (beyond momentary fad), but even these trailblazing efforts have become footnotes to subsequent developments in a veritable Hollywood takeover. For better or worse, Iron Man (2008) marks the turning point for the average superhero adaptation.

Embued with a sense of indulgence afforded by the standardizing movies released between 1995 and 2005; once unlikely colours and iconography from the four-colour medium finally became par for the course after Iron Man, which refreshed audiences with robotic heroics and a strong core of character and story.

Combining credible talent with an approach that services conventional storytelling and the broad basics of superheroes [earnestly, for the most part]; Marvel distanced themselves from awkward pubescent disappointments like Daredevil and Fantastic Four. By getting it so right, they earned the credibility to pose the question of going deeper, (starting with a much talked about Nick Fury cameo), declaring their intentions with Hulk, Thor and more Iron Man -- a gradual build that brings us to the present post-Captain America world, where movie marketting has done what comics sorely needs to -- sell people the excitement of franchise accumulation.

Earlier this year, DC (probably) thought they were buying in to the same philosophy when they launched Ryan Reynolds toward certain doom in Green Lantern. Only the most apologetic or optemistic observer could have advanced without a sense that GL was being set up for cannibalized mediocrity, a very distant second to its supposed Iron Man equivalent (and franchise brethren).

It was by virtue of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild strike that DC missed out on beating Marvel to the cinematic ensemble punch, inadvertently averting the even bigger disaster of a JLA film that was reported to have cast a group of youthful alternates (such as model, Megan Gale), before cooler heads prevailed. The project, which had every likelihood of undermining DC's pantheon of franchise vehicles in a single stroke -- including Green Lantern -- speaks to the struggles Warner Brothers have had when converting anything unrelated to Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed efforts with Batman -- another character almost threatened by the post-Begins lowrent JLA.

The obvious hasn't completely escaped 'the powers-that-be.'
Over the past couple of years, DC has undergone significant structural change, to not only hand over greater powers to the cross-media aspects of the business, but also shock the comics world with a massive brand-wide reboot of all the major properties (currently in its fourth week). The two events seem likely related and it remains to be seen if it's for better, or worse.

After squandering the marketshare of Green Lantern (and Blackest Night) in two mediums, DC in its many forms is clearly reevaluating. In 2012, they relaunch cinematically with the hotly anticipated Batman reboot trilogy end, The Dark Knight Rises, while [Christopher] Nolan also spirtually coaxes Superman in his life after Returns, delivering a second bite at the cherry, Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder [of 300 and Watchmen fame]. Representing the modern Hollywood method of repeating tried and true projects, it isn't exactly the most inspiring direction forward, but at least offers respite from the confused antics of mismanaged B-properties.

While there appears to be a massive gulf between the representative brilliance of The Dark Knight (2008) and the confused clusterfuck of Catwoman (2004), DC hasn't had it all bad. Somewhere in between lurk tangents like Watchmen (2009), V for Vendetta (2006), and Constantine (2005), which might not have reached the heights of the comics they were based on, but made for respectable mainstream departures from the extremes of their best and worst. Though not financially successful to the degree expected by more dominant superhero franchises, each is a movie with cache that could soften the blow of more public letdowns, and inform a better way forward, if they were more readily identified with the parent company in the way Marvel's best brands have been.

Not every franchise will be Nolan's Batman reboots, nor should they be.

Just as comics have had to reconcile the creative influence of forces like Frank Miller and Alan Moore over decades of lesser knock-offs, so too has cinema been harmed by the popularity of the 'gritty realistic reboot', which continues to give way to ham-fisted imitators intent on devouring the past.

Marvel have found success in the most logical way, with movies that, to a significant degree, repel from the grim 'n' gritty colourless trends of recent history. There's plenty of room for argument about the details, but by launching their Avengers properties with the robot Iron Man, monster Hulk, fantasy laden Thor, and wartime Captain America, Marvel have at least shown a minimum aptitude for offering diversity in their present movie line-up. From a certain dough-headed Hollywood perspective, this could be interpreted as a necessary live example of the virtues of doing something 'different.'

Where DC has dominated for quite some time is the domain of animation.
With Marvel now under the ownership of Disney, it seems entirely reasonable to suggest that the next great frontier for corporate superheroes in cinema might be animated features. Granted, this would be a battle far bigger than comparing live-action muscle men, requiring a change in box office trends that have condemned traditional animation to DVD and television, but who better to fight the fight against CG (in)animate objects than some of the greatest 2D characters who've ever been drawn?

1993 saw such a feat broached by Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the first feature spin-off of the critically acclaimed Bruce Timm Batman animated series, which gave birth to the on-going collection of now unrelated DC DTV (Direct To Video) movies. Limited theatrical release delivered high praise and a quality product still relevant. Then there's the more recent acclaim of The Incredibles (2004), a Pixar CG superhero movie that enjoyed plenty of success, playing computer animation against itself, arguably the closest thing the world has to a bloody good Fantastic Four movie.

As a repeat offender, DC needs to invest in good people working on good projects, preferably outside the box, to cleanse the palette of their past mistakes. Throwing millions behind traditional animation might be a bit of a big ask in 2011, but it would be the kind of bold move that might start to rebuild a credibility fitting of the fictional historic heroes they are custodians of, and build a buzz that Green Lantern certainly lacked. It could even have broader implications for the company that owns them, the once proud purveyors of animation, Warner Brothers. There is certainly potential already existing in the lower budget projects hitting Blu-Ray and DVD, ie; upcoming Batman: Year One, and past projects like the 2008 adaptation of DC: The New Frontier [pictured above], but you've gotta learn to walk before you run.

If one accepts that it's preferable for executives (and other potential obstacles) to work from existing evidence, then I think DC's credible sleeper hit is one of the most obvious, but least likely characters, that they could source. Often affectionately referred to as the 'heart and soul' of the Justice League, he is a character that, if successful, could be a preliminary marker for expansion similar to Avengers, who also possesses many unique qualities that would allow for a strong, focused three act film, with unique and intriguing dressing.

I, of course, am talking about Martian Manhunter.

I don't doubt for a minute that Zack Snyder will do good things with his version of the Superman mythos, but with General Zod confirmed as a villainous presence, I can't help but feel flattened by the prospect of repeating the Richard Donner era all over again -- a factor that severely crippled Bryan Singer's infamous (loveletter) approach in Superman Returns. I also can't help but wonder if Snyder's skills as a filmmaker might not have been better utilized on a character like Martian Manhunter!

It isn't at all irrelevant to note that I've been watching Dark City very recently.
The 1998 [Alex] Proyas film is not a great example of a theatrical blockbuster, but has certainly overcome any marketted shortcomings to become an acclaimed cult film as years have gone by. I mention it, because, as pictured above in art by Darwyn Cooke (and less obviously, Ken Steacy), there is an associated nostalgia to Martian Manhunter that, visually, could certainly learn from the retro inspiration of much of Dark City's forties noir costume and set design. Like Dark City, a film based on Martian Manhunter could also pastiche genres in ways that would make it quite unique, particularly in the present market. To what extent the retro aspects were fulfilled would be subject to a director.

Based on the CG embellishments of Sucker Punch300, and design of Watchmen, particularly the urban latter with its neon flourishes; I think of a Martian Manhunter film as a technicolor delight, well handled by a director of Zack Snyder's persuasion.

In a world where CG is so often used as a meaningless gratuity -- or ham-fisted gimmick, see; Green Lantern's hideous costume -- I imagine a Martian Manhunter film as a visual exercise that makes technical use of CG as an artistic, graphic statement, lending a vaguely similar factor of intrigue to Robert Rodiguez' work with Sin City. I see unnatural, deep glowing purples and greens, tech-noir neon highlights, burning red eyes, and a movie that revels in fiction. In a way, it could almost be this era's answer to the bold design of Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy (1990). Then again, there's margin for a much more naturalistic approach, too. More literally like Dark City. Martian Manhunter is really a versatile property, when you start thinking about it.

The story of Martian Manhunter can be approached in many different ways, but is generally a simple high concept with key mythology. Scientist's experiments accidentally transports Martian to Earth; shocked scientist dies a mournful death; Martian is alone in a world he doesn't understand. Martian learns human culture from television, assumes identity of gumshoe detective, battles evil with steely resolve and uncompromising squint. William Hurt's character in Dark City doesn't make for a bad approximation, which is something that inspired elements of The Kirby Martin Inquest, a comic book I wrote that is yet to move past the first issue.

The work of Mark Verheiden and Ken Steacy from Secret Origins #35 tells much of this tale as a flashback, and is a beloved reference that stays with me to this day. It also bares many similarities to the later work of Darwyne Cooke in DC: The New Frontier, which hits a few extra beats about discrimination, humanity, and superheroics. Between the two, I think you have a very thorough bible for a working script, with additional mythology about Mars and Martians worth keeping in mind, even if it's best left unelaborated upon, at least until a sequel.

As much as design and visuals would be a motivating factor for this film -- (probably more comfortably titled Manhunter from Mars); character study and development would provide much of the meat of the project. Establishing Dr. Erdel -- the scientist responsible for bringing MM to Earth -- as more than a mere mcguffin, might be nice. I've always been quite taken by the idea that he was a kind, gentle man, who regretted his mistake in his final moments, providing a positive influence before dying in front of a confused and unprepared alien. The New Frontier captured this, and MM's television education, quite well. The latter of which influences his decision to become a gritty noir detective, buoyed by the backstory of his life on Mars.

In the Verheiden story, "Detective John Jones" (an alias based on his martian name, J'onn J'onnz) finds himself on the trail of kidnappers. In The New Frontier, Slam Bradley and he investigate satanic cultists, intersecting with Batman in the process. The New Frontier pulls upon allusions to modern Batman interpretation as a paranoid, suspicious figure, who famously threatens Martian Manhunter with a hypothetical pack of matches. These themes provide a thriller aspect to the story, lending an interesting narrative of human frailty while also giving Detective John Jones additional stakes. Grafted on to a fellow detective, or perhaps even a government presence, the concept would provide danger for the Second Act, and spice in the Third Act.

Martian Manhunter spent the fifties embroiled in spy tales and that's certainly an interesting element to draw upon, represented in The New Frontier by government interference via King Faraday, who captures the Martian when he attempts to stow away on a rocket headed for Mars. The pair resolve their differences in a series of events that both commit the Martian Manhunter to becoming a heroic influence on Earth, while redeeming the human perspective. I think a tighter, more intensely character driven arc might be necessary to make the Martian Manhunter film worthwhile, but the sentiments are certainly echoed in the source.

Long story short: I'd really like it if someone made a Martian Manhunter film. A good one! With the right balance of indulgence, ingenuity and design, I think it would have the potential to be a very unique project, capable of spinning out into sequels and franchise crossovers, while sustaining itself.

With the right mix of elements, I think this is the type of concept that could really lend itself to the mass market. A good script would balance action, intrigue, character, and atmosphere in ways that reflect the 'swiss army' alien powers of the hero himself. A character of pathos, of bold heroism, of action, of mystery, of heart. Everyman and no man, all at the same time. Relatable, but completely wrapped in the wonderous world of fiction that should be ten times as important.

I'm not sure Martian Manhunter would be the franchise ticket, the one that picks up the slack when Christopher Nolan confirms his departure from the successful Bat-films. Done right, in ways GL wasn't, it would have every potential to be the surprise breakout hit that Iron Man was, though, and above all else, lend a little prestige, versatility and credibility to DC superhero films. If the sense of inevitability that hovers over the JLA is at all true, I think this is the unlikely, but perfect place to start.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Knightfall Part 11: The Broken Bat (DC)
Batman #497 When: July 1993
Why: Dough Moench How: Jim Aparo

The Story So Far...
He is the dark knight detective that watches over a city of crime, sworn avenger of the innocent, scourge of the underworld. With a sharp mind and trained body, he is the ultimate product of human invention and spirit, but what would it take? What grand gesture, or inventive scheme would finally push the caped crusader beyond his limits? What would it take to break the bat?

Armed with an arsenal of stolen weaponry and a strategic intellect as sharp as The Batman's; Bane arrives in Gotham City as a tortured soul born into the harsh prison system of Caribbean nation of Santa Prisca. Obsessed by the demon of justice Batman represents, he is intent on testing his chemically enhanced strength and brilliant mind against Batman, enacting a plan to combat the dark knight's will in both the physical and mental realms by unleashing his darkest demons like an army of chaos.

The gambit forces Batman to push himself to breaking point, hunting down the escapees unleashed from Arkham Asylum by Bane's surgical srike. Mad Hatter, The Ventriloquist, Amygdala, Victor Zsasz, Firefly, The Cavalier, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Joker are all released to do as they please, forcing Batman to work to breaking point in an effort to bring them all in. Bruised, battered and exhausted, he retires to his inner sanctum as Bruce Wayne, but this respite will be short lived. There, Bane lies in wait to break the bat...

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Bane 4 (Enhanced)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnast)
Fighting: Draw 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

Real Name: [Unknown]
Group Affiliation: [Secret Six]
First Appearance: [Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1] Year One: [1993]
Win Percentage: [0%] Last Opponent: [Injustice League]
2006: [#147] 2007: [#254] 2008: [#206] 2009: [DNR]

Born into incarceration within the notorious Santa Priscan penitentiary known as Peña Duro -- Hard Rock; the man called Bane began life guilty for the crimes of his father, a revolutionary rallying against the corrupt governments of the small Carribean Republic. As a child, Bane learned from a school of violence and crime, beginning his path of brutality with blood on his hands at a shockingly young age. While his physical presence grew to meet the needs of prison life, Bane's mental accumen was also sharpened, taking full advantage of the collective wisdoms of various prisoners, and limitless time to study.

Rising through the criminal ranks thanks to his natural abilities and intellect, Bane conquers Peña Duro, raising the ire of it's appointed controllers. Under the watchful eye of Dr. Hugo Strange, Bane is entered into experiments using an enhancement drug called Venom, which claimed the life of many test subjects. Bane proved strong enough to survive the near-death side effects and is embued with a new strength almost instantly accessible with with the administration of the venom drug, every twelve hours.

With the aid of allies, Bane escaped his prison life, entering the world with a view to travel to Gotham City. Obsessed with Gotham's dark knight protector, who rules the city of crime through terror in a way similar to those in prison; Bane hopes to end his internal philosophical struggles by exercising his fantastic deductive skills, phenomenal strategic intellect, incredible strength, and access to the venom enhancement drug, to mentally and physicall break the Batman.

Bane is accompanied by an entourage of close personal allies; Trogg, Zombie, and Bird, former prisoners who escaped Peña Duro with Bane's help. Specialists in various fields, they are trusted assistants to Bane's ambitions to break the bat.

Real Name: [Bruce Wayne]
Group Affiliation: [Batman Inc, Justice League of America]
First Appearance: [Detective Comics #27] Year One: [1939]
Win Percentage: [72.7%] Last Opponent: [Superman]
2006: [#1] 2007: [#2] 2008: [#1] 2009: [#19]

After witnessing the street murder of his parents, the young Bruce Wayne's destiny was forever shaped to be one dedicated to an ideal. Having spent his formative years studying the various sciences, martial arts, and crime fighting techniques, Bruce is ultimately inspired to become the one-man war on the criminal element in Gotham City: Batman.

Perhaps Batman's greatest power is the millions inherited from his industrialist parents, and the various facilities that came with that. They prove crucial in the design and construction of his many weapons, which are typically non-lethal, and have a variety of uses.

Complimented by his keenly strategic mind is Batman's expertise in the martial arts. He is extensively trained in multiple fighting styles, and commonly regarded to be one of the greatest hand-to-hand fighters in the world. He is also extremely proficient in general urban warfare.

Statistics: Batman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
On the verge of exhaustion, the Batman becomes Bruce Wayne, a maskless debt to a faithful servant dedicated to maintaining the charade necessary of their grander goals. Alfred is nowhere to be seen, already the victim of a demon lying in wait. Bruce Wayne makes his way up the Batcave stairs to the manor above, the final trek on a path of misery that began with an assault on Arkham Asylum and his subsequent pursuit of its escapees.

A hulking mass of brawn and brain, Bane greets his opponent with a promise of mercy for the already defeated Alfred Pennyworth. It is not Batman's allies that this cunning hunter seeks, anymore than it is "Bruce Wayne" -- the mask that "no longer serves a purpose" in contrast to Bane's, a luchadore's facade with a direct line to feed "venom" into his brain and bloodstream.

With a flick of a switch Bane becomes more than mortal flesh, energized by the serum coursing through his veins. He is a super-human, a monster of chaos and order in one. As quickly as the venom transforms his opponent, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again, triggered by the disdain he feels for an evil so callous and thorough it would condemn his city without cause.

He leaps into action, this dark knight. Exhausted and desperate, he is easily caught by a thriving Bane; tossed aside like the regard for his own safety. Treated like a human wrecking ball, Batman is noble to a fault, pleading for Alfred to flee while Bane prepares to choke him silent.

Recalling the trials of his life in the preceding week, Batman is rammed down the passage toward the Batcave, stomped, swatted, and staggered. He throws a punch to the gut, but it does nothing. "You are already broken," his tormentor declares. "It is over. You are nothing. A DISAPPOINTMENT!"

A dropkick sends the dark knight toppling to the lower levels of his Batcave. A clubbing blow to the back of the skull leaves him drained and vulnerable. A kick to the ribs sends him skidding along the ground. A bump against a stand drops a giant novelty penny across his spine. Pinned down, an uppercut adds torque to the wrenching position between the floor and a hard place.

Bane drags the Batman from beneath his massive momento and makes a static weapon of another of his trinkets, the famed Batmobile. Unrelenting, the villain growls, "WHY DON'T YOU FIGHT!?" The answer may be the physical fatigue of the last few days, perhaps the mental.

A stalagmite becomes a bat to club the Batman. He finally gives Bane what he wants, a moment of resistance that swats the stone formation from his hand. It is a rebellion quickly ended by a charging headbutt that sends Batman hurtling toward another trophy, and another mental blow. Draped in shattered glass and a yellow cape, the dark knight holds the symbol of his greatest failure in hand -- the domino mask of Jason Todd...

Rising like a living deadman, Batman throws a punch with nothing to it.
His arms clumsily absorb the impact of Bane's returning blows. Reflexes gone, he eats boot leather. The cave tears his costume. Bane compells him to submit, to beg for mercy. Batman tells him to go back to Hell.

"I am Bane -- and I could kill you... but death would only end your agony -- and silence your shame. Instead, I will simply -- BREAK YOU!"

A broken Batman. A nemesis triumphant.

The Hammer...
In a day not long passed, I would've begun this discussion by lamenting the longterm difficulties of a character like Bane. Best remembered for the fight featured above, he is -- or at least was -- the character who "broke the Bat"! An accolade so big and rare in a corporate environment, it rendered him effectively 'unemployable' in the eyes of those who felt the act could never be topped, and fans who grew to regard these early nineties stunts with bitter disdain.

As the feature villain of Christopher Nolan's upcoming trilogy cap, The Dark Knight Rises, the character is about to become something entirely new. First impressions of the Tom Hardy occupied vision, with distinctive open-muzzle head gear, suggests a liberal adaptation. One that reshapes the basic outline of a character who, in some respects, represents an 'Anti-Batman'. With DC Comics' 'New 52' relaunch shedding its history in favour of a DCU For Dummies, there's every chance this version of Bane will not only take hook with the mainstream masses, but also entrench itself in the comic books themselves, similar to some of the creations that went both ways, in and out, of the likewise streamlined Marvel Ultimate line.

The DC reboot is one of the reasons the opening statement doesn't seem so relevant anymore, but there're more factors at work.

I think it's fair to say that time has made for a relaxed indulgence in both the good and bad of Bane. Recent trends in comics have been flirting with nineties-esque gimmicks for quite a while now, making them seem more acceptable to a mass of internet-age readers who joined comics in the early 2000s. The passage of time has also allowed the Knightfall story to be retold several times over, in different mediums, making Bane's legend much less about a sales spike, and more about a chapter in the saga of Batman. There's also the all-important fact that, unlike his Superman-killing counterpart (Doomsday), Bane had an interesting concept behind the short-lived victory.

While it's clearly true that Bane was envisioned as an opponent capable of challenging Batman in the realms of the mental and physical, he wasn't strictly designed as a dark mirror to the hero himself. Accompanied in early appearances by an inner circle of trusted allies (Zombie, Trogg, and Bird), creator Chuck Dixon is well reported to have begun with the concept of an evil Doc Savage: famed "Man of Bronze" and pulp predecessor to Batman -- the ultimate reneissanceman and adventurer!

Therein lies the saving grace of a character who otherwise might've been relegated to sneering trivia: defined very early by a gimmick, and popularly degraded by a less-than-impressive follow-up appearance in the 1997 Joel Schumacher feature length farce, Batman and Robin.

Before Christopher Nolan and his team will have remade the character (with possible ties to Ra's al Ghul), there will have been many contributions that added depth to the original high concept and simplistic early exploits. Today, Bane is a much more altruistic figure, menacing, but generally treated with a sense of fighting honor that reflects an element of his iconic lucha libre design.

As a powerhouse villain Bane was the crowning obstacle for Jean-Paul Valley; DC's edgy replacement Batman who is better remembered in his own right as the armored, fanatical, violent, and very dead nineties hero, Azrael. Stories of typical villainy have persisted to sometimes undercut the credibility of the character, but time has allowed for other stories to balance the bad with the good.

Lesser characters, like Judomaster during Infinite Crisis, were offered up in sacrifice to recreate and readdress his penchant for backbreaking, reinforcing the mythology of it. There was also the journey of self-discovery, when Bane, with funding from Bruce Wayne no less, discovered his Kobra-fanatic father in a tale that humanized a Bane who literally lacked those qualities via a backstory of imprisonment. Purging the character of the Venom drug also went a ways to reforming the character, emphasising the human strength that was there from the beginning (and allowing for an analagous drug mythology to creep into Gotham's stories). [BTW: It's worth restating that, yes, the guy whose entire life has been one giant revenge-quest because of his parents' murder actually does have the ability to forgive, as was the case years after Batman was healed and back in the saddle.]

In 2007, I featured an issue of Checkmate [#12], wherein Greg Rucka and Nunzio Defilippis restored further credibility to the character in a story that saw Bane in his native Santa Prisca, politicized in a war against drug cartels and government corruption. It largely played background to other action, including a firey face-off against Son o' Judomaster, Tommy Jagger, but the idea was appreciated. From there, Gail Simone had her way with Bane, casting the back breaking brute in a cartoon role, clumsy and stoic as a member of Secret Six, with glimpses of brilliance leading to an eventual restoration of the villain, which presumably signals the design of any future Bane predicaments in the "DCnU".

The Dark Knight Rises and DCnU New 52 will in all likelihood canonize Bane as an unimpeachable feature member of the Batman rogues gallery. I think that's nice, but hope that the shift away from years of history doesn't simplify the character in unflattering ways. In the case of Nolan's films, that seems unlikely, even if the approach differs from The Dark Knight (for example), which embellished and showcased great elements inherent to The Joker character, without veering from a recognisable model. With a strong eye for story, it seems certain that the film version will not suffer the pitfalls of Knightfall, driven by an idea probably much stronger than merely breaking Batman's back.

I'm obviously looking forward to the film and am pleased to have finally been able to get back to this here Comic Book Fight Club. I won't pretend it will be a regular thing, like years gone by. I've had this particular entry sitting in my drafts from the day Bane was revealed, and in the time since, my faithful (and sometimes streaky) scanner has seemingly given up the ghost. I'm pleased that one of its last tasks was to capture the art of Jim Aparo, not at his all-star best in this particular issue, but still a Bat-favourite.

In keeping with the pro-Bane theme of this discussion, I should acknowledge the work of Doug Moench on the issue, as well. With Aparo, he plots a fine final battle, one that is among the most iconic fights in comic book history! The full page shot of Bane snapping Batman's back across his knee is inarguably one of the best recognised images in the game, right up there with Miller's impalement [from Daredevil #181, folks]! Bane's intrusion into the Batcave is also one of those things that people really seem to remember, perhaps because it plays out with such brutal significance throughout the battle. What I really want to mention, though, is one of my favourite quirks about the fight -- it starts with a conversation!

The fact that the hero and villain engage in reasonable dialogue before the iconic punch-up is something that stays with me, perhaps because I'm a ham for pro wrestling promos (and fights), or because it flies in the face of all of those versions that distilled the character into a hulkish brute who breaks backs. A depiction that is gleaned from the last page of an entire issue.

Winner: Bane
The Fight: 7 The Story: 4.5 The Pictures: 4.5