Before The Dark Knight Rises: 5 Essential Bane Story Arcs

With The Dark Knight Rises out in just two short months, now might be a good time to solidify your knowledge of Bane...

It€™s nearly time€ In just two short months the third and final chapter of the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, will descend upon us from the metaphorical rooftop and then we€™ll all finally know. Will it have been worth the wait? Will we be able to actually understand Bane€™s dialogue? Will it trouble Joss Whedon€™s ridiculously awesome The Avengers? In fact at this point, the only thing we can be sure of is that we€™re most definitely due for some cowl-crunching, Bat-breaking Bane mayhem. And I say bring it on€ Those of you with a less aggressive interest in Batman and his family of friends and enemies may have had limited exposure to this mysterious, complex individual. As is, you may even consider him to be an unworthy candidate for a Nolan Batman villain €“ especially with the bar being set so dizzyingly high from Heath Ledger€™s swansong take on the Joker. Perhaps you remember Bane€™s erroneous appearance in Joel Schumacher€™s even more erroneous Batman and Robin (eurgh, I uttered its name€ Where€™s the Cat-o€™-Nine-Tails?!).Or maybe you remember bitch-slapping him back into a cell as the Caped Crusader himself in Rockstead€™s epic Arkham Asylum (or working with him to destroy Titan canisters in Arkham City). For those of you out there with the Bat-fever and some pocket change to spare, now might be a good time to solidify your knowledge of this power-hungry behemoth into something more comprehensive. That way you can impress your friends in the theatre by leaning over and whispering €œBane doesn€™t do that in the comics€€ into their ears. They€™ll love you for that! Honestly, it€™s not as easy as it should be, to say, €œHey, I wanna learn more about such and such a characters€™ backstory€, and actually get hold of the literature you need. It can be difficult to sift through the multitude of titles that they might feature in; the good and the bad; the main-canon and non-canon; the essential and the filler. Still interested? Good! I like your commitment and I like your style. Whatever your level of Bane knowledge is, if you€™re reading this article then you€™ll have seen him around of that there€™s no doubt, and you€™re interested enough to want to know more. But to fully understand Bane€™s origin and his nigh on twenty year character arc, it€™s necessary to do quite a bit of digging. But don€™t worry, I€™ve done that digging for you! Because I€™ve already wasted my best years, why should you have to waste yours? So without further nonsense from yours truly, why don€™t you get eBay up and let€™s get wrist-deep into our 5 most essential Bane story arcs. Vengeance of Bane by Chuck Nixon, 1993 (Stand-Alone Special) So you want to know more about Bane do you? Where do you even begin? Well, at the beginning of course! And it all began in 1993 with Vengeance of Bane. His first ever appearance, Vengeance of Bane is set amidst the backdrop of a perpetual civil war on the fictional island of Santa Prisca. His mother, a rebel insurgent, is taken prisoner while she€™s heavy with child and incarcerated within the walls of Pena Duro (a Spanish phrase with more than one definition, but essentially translating as €˜Hard Punishment€™). Bane is born to serve a life sentence for the sins of his father; a father who remains unknown but is assumed to be another rebel. Upon the death of his mother, a young Bane must learn to survive the brutal prison with only his wit, his courage and his hunger to thrive for company. Batman himself doesn€™t feature much in this one-off special, although he€™s heavily foreshadowed in some of the key scenes and in reading Vengeance of Bane, it€™s poetically apparent as to exactly why Mr. Muscle has got such a hard-on for breaking the Bat in two. If you want to understand Bane then look no further, this one book alone will clue you in as to exactly where he came from and just how dangerous he can really be. Batman: Knightfall Saga by Various Writers, 1993 (Main-Canon Batman Event) Right now is a good time to get hold of this story arc as volume three has recently been republished. It€™s split into three parts which is comprised in three separate in-print graphic novels (Broken Bat, Who Rules the Night and Knightsend). By all means buy them all; it was a gripping event and essentially acted as Batman€™s own €˜Death of Superman€™ storyline, except for the fact that it€™s far less mundane. The Knightfall saga marks Batman€™s first major encounter with the Venom inflated sociopath and it€™s also the first time in comic-book history that he€™s well and truly bested by a villain. It€™s powerful stuff and often pops up in conversation when fans discuss favourite Batman moments. When Bane cleverly engineers a mass escape from Arkham, flooding the streets of Gotham with just about every psychopath in the rogues€™ gallery, it€™s of course up to Bats to put them all back where they belong. Over the course of six in-word months, Batman fights constantly and tirelessly against the villains of Gotham; all the while Bane merely observes from a distance as the Dark Knight suffers from increasing physical and emotional burnout. It€™s a seemingly endless gauntlet that Batman of course manages to complete, only to find Bane at the end of the tunnel, healthy, fresh and ready for him. Make no mistake, Knightfall is the seminal Bane story arc for two reasons. One: Bane wins by a huge margin and suddenly, the connotations of Batman€™s mortality are given an entirely new perspective. And two: Bane sets in motion a chain of events (explored in the further volumes) that altered the Batman mythos forever. The reason that Nolan chose Bane for the Dark Knight Rises is most certainly due to the importance of this story arc to the Batman legend. Bane of the Demon by Chuck Dixon, 1998 (4-issue Miniseries)Bane is an ultimate killing machine, of that there€™s no question. As Ra€™s Al Ghul himself describes him in the pages of this very series, he is €˜treacherous and vain; to whom loyalty means nothing€™. He€™s a €˜being of pure self; entirely without morals or any virtue save sheer courage€™. And that€™s the Head of the Demon himself talking! Bane returns to his homeland of Santa Prisca in attempt to discover who his estranged father actually is. Given a list of four potentials (one of whom is an American doctor who was working in Santa Prisca at around the time of Bane€™s birth €“ keep this in mind, it€™ll be important later on), Bane investigates a trail that leads him into the clutches of the deadly League of Assassins. Despite being grossly underestimated by both Ra€™s Al Ghul and his daughter Talia, Bane is able to use his hidden intelligence to leverage himself into a position that may or may not ensure him immortality and true power. What a cunningly evil sunofabitch, right? But did you know that in the DC Universe today, he€™s actually a good guy (€sort of) operating within the Secret Six (one of DC€™s many super-teams), until the series ended last year? In my eyes, Bane of the Demon is an early entry into the €˜venom-addled-villain-turns-good€™ story arc. He€™s still villainous at this point, but his motivation is starting to warp into something entirely more identifiable to a hero. Tabula Rasa by Scott Beatty, 2002 (Batman: Gotham Knights, issues 33 €“ 36)Remember earlier when I mentioned the American doctor who visited Santa Prisca and could potentially be Bane€™s father? Well I said it€™d be important later and now this is later. Bane shows up in Gotham claiming that he is cured of evil and reveals photographic evidence linking Thomas Wayne (aka €“ Batdad) to Santa Prisca and his mother; Bane and Bruce Wayne may just be brothers. Uh oh, get Jeremy Kyle on the phone, quick. It€™s a huge source of shock for all involved but Batman, much to the chagrin of the rest of the Bat-family, starts to re-evaluate his feelings toward the World€™s largest Rey Mysterio Jr. impersonator. Batman allows Bane along while he investigates a slew of murders that have an M.O similar to that of the Tattooed Man, while awaiting the results of a paternity blood test. Tabula Rasa is an important story arc, not only for the fact that it€™s one of the true lynchpins in Bane€™s villainy-to-heroism turn but for the implications it has not for Batman, but for Bruce Wayne. If the blood test came back positive for a match, how do you think it would affect him to know that he wasn€™t alone in the world? That his family didn€™t die with his parents? Powerful stuff! Veritas Liberat by Scott Beatty, 2004 (Batman: Gotham Knights, issues 47 €“ 49) This is the culmination of a decade long mystery: just who exactly is the baby daddy? Beginning in Pena Duro Prison in Santa Prisca back in 1993 it took Bane eleven real-world years to discover the answer. Bane€™s search takes him to the peak of a Himalayan mountain, to Kanchenjunga, a destroyed Kobra base and home to an infamous Lazarus Pit. There Bane finally finds what he€™s looking for (I€™m not ruining the surprise), but there€™s no time for tearful reconciliation €“ they€™re attacked by Kobra Acolytes who are raiding the ruins for salvageable tech. As you can probably already imagine, Batman isn€™t far from the picture for long and Bane€™s precarious loyalty to the Bat-family is called into question. In a way, Veritas Liberat marks a final crossroads for Bane €“ will he succumb to his violent nature? Or are his new found loyalties and yearning for redemption too powerful for him to resist? Veritas Liberat was heart-warming (despite being set amid sub-zero temperatures) and I was happy to see this complex, misunderstood villain get the closure he needed in order to switch to the side of the light. That's all she wrote! That's not all the Bane there is, not by a long shot. He's shown up many times and more over the years, usually with a muscle-bound spanner to lodge in the Batworks and if Nolan has his way he'll get a brouhaha out of him. But one thing is certain. We definitely haven€™t seen the last of Bane€ Did I miss anything, smarty pants? Do tell€
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Stuart believes that the pen is mightier than the sword, but still he insists on using a keyboard.