Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2014 Day 9: Batman #497

Batman #497, July 1993

After "The Death of Superman" DC Comics realized that radical changes to characters could get some attention, and so a series of stories took place that made some big changes to classic characters. Some were long lasting (Hal Jordan's madness and Kyle Rayner's ascension as Green Lantern), and some were shorter lived (Superman's electric powers).

"Knightfall" was the Batman story that was part of this trend. In it, an exhausted Batman is run ragged when a then new villain, Bane, breaks open Arkham Asylum and leaves Batman and Robin to recapture all the villains. This was a time before the extended Bat family, a time when Bruce was not on good terms with Dick Grayson, there was no Batgirl, and he had just met the Huntress and didn't like her much. No, it was Batman, Robin, Alfred, and the GCPD. Oh, and this new guy, Azrael, who was a bit of an unknown quantity, and didn't seem all that stable.

Over the course of the first ten parts of the story, Batman recaptures, or at least stops, most of the principal members of his rogues gallery, and then runs a gauntlet of Bane's henchmen. ZAnd arriving home at Wayne Manor, he finds Alfred unconscious and Bane waiting. And that's the point where today's issue picks up.

Batman spends the entire issue trying to fight Bane, but he's just too exhausted. He doesn't stop, though, no matter how weak he is. He remembers everything that led to this, and by issue's end, Bane has beaten him. They are in the Batcave, and Bane lifts Batman up, and cracks the Dark Knight's back over his knee.

I'd read event comics before. Even at twelve, I knew that these kind of things didn't last. That Batman, my Batman, would be back, even if Azrael was going to have to be Batman for a while. But still, that was Batman, lying on the Batcave floor with a villain standing over him. I had never seen the hero to end all heroes look so... human. It's a scene that I'll always remember.

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