I read the internet. I read the social phenomena that is meme. If you don’t, I’ll tell you this; Batman is all over the meme. Variations on how he is “The goddamn Batman” are rife. I recently saw a picture of the Justice League of America, with the caption “JLA? More like Batman and his bitches.” This is widely accepted as correct, and that team includes Superman, various Green Lanterns and Wonder Woman.
I’m using this to get the point of this piece across; Batman is the best. Superman maybe the best known superhero of all time, but by and large he is known to be second best to Batman. Batman who is, may I remind you, a regular human being.
DC have afforded Batman liberties that they have not any other creation in their 77 years. May 1939, Detective Comics introduced us to Batman. At the time, DC was called National Allied Publications. Less than a year later, NAP became DC. In case you haven’t checked or never even thought about it, DC stands for Detective Comics. To tie it all up, Batman is known as the world’s greatest detective. Are you getting it yet? Not quite? OK.
Under the JLA title, every non-batlike member of the JLA was taken out by Ra’s Al Ghul. A guy that Batman has successfully nullified on numerous occasions. How did the Demon’s Head accomplish this? Well, he followed Batman’s instructions on how to take the League members if they ever went rogue. Plans which logic would dictate he probably didn’t execute as well as Batman would have, because yanno, he’s not Batman. Are we there yet? Little more?
OK. I’m nothing if not thorough. The last book of the Dark Knight series. You can check the details for yourself, and debate the whys, hows, wherefores and details as much as you like. But there’s a statement that I think should resonate with you that I can make because of this comic. Batman beat Superman in a fight. Sorry, were you not paying attention? Batman. Beat Superman. In a fight.
He’s iconic. People who have never read a comic know who Batman is. In fact, people who’ve never read a comic, seen the TV series (animated or live action) or caught any one of the range of movies, even then still know who Batman is. To those who know him well, who’ve read his stories, the Batman is infallible. Batman is it. Batman could beat up Chuck Norris.
At this stage, you might think I’ve gone over board. But I can’t make this a big enough deal. He is, after all, the goddamn Batman.
And then there’s Bane. The man that broke the bat. I’m not particularly afraid of giving away spoilers here, the covers alone give away more than I will. But the preamble to this moment was to set up the fact that if you’re in to your comics there are some things which you almost have a duty to read. A movie fan should watch certain movies. Can you take a movie aficionado’s opinion seriously if he or she hasn’t watched the Godfather or Citizen Kane? No. There are just some things that are momentous enough to warrant reading above anything else. The fall of the bat, well, that’s an event that doesn’t come around more than once a generation, if that.
Ultimately, there is a wonderful simplicity to Knightfall. The plot is not intricate, because the plan of the villain is not intricate. As is often true, the best strategy is often the simplest. Bane is also an uncomplicated villain. He’s certainly not anywhere near the intricate nefariousness of the Joker, undoubtedly Batman’s most famous villain. Yet he accomplishes what Joker never has, without the borderline inane idiosyncrasies that readers of the DC Universe are used to. There’s none of the usual bells and whistles of trademark comic rivalries, because this story stands on the magnitude that true changes to the status quo are.
We are looking forward to the last cinematic installment of the Nolan Batman series. We saw Ra’s Al Ghul, a character who was new to the masses but a key component in the life of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, who deserved his time in the mainstream. Then Nolan gave us the Joker, one of the most iconic trans-medium villains of all time. But when he wants to end, he turns to Bane. It’s cliche to say you should read the book because of the movie or vice versa, and comparing the two from any franchise at times seems to be what keeps the internet ticking over. But if you are a reader of comic books, if you are true to our little world, then this is a moment of history you owe it to yourself to be familiar with. This is Knightfall, when the Batman was beaten.
First published in 2012 for http://www.proudlion.co.uk