Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bane and "Eye on Design"

Before I begin, I would like to offer my condolences to all the families and victims of the Aurora shooting.  I know that probably means nothing, since no one from there will ever read this, but I still wanted to say something.  I will definitely talk more about this event and the media coverage of it, but not until all the facts come in and we have had time to grieve and completely analyze everything.

This is not only a special The Dark Knight Rises post, but also features a new type of post called "Eye on Design," where I analyze the character design of certain characters.  Today, we will be talking about the history and brilliance of the main villain from The Dark Knight Rises, Bane.

Bane is the epitome of a character that should have only been used once, but how that one appearance could have been remembered forever.

Bane had a hard life.  In the corrupt South American nation of Santa Prisca, a young Bane was forced to serve his father's life sentence in prison.  At this time, Bane was just a child.  Yep, the leaders of Santa Prisca made a six year old boy spend his life in prison.  Aren't comic book villains just great?  Yet, young Bane made the "best" of his prison life.  If by "best," you mean hiding a shank in your teddy bear and killing your first man before you even learned to shave.  He also read and worked out, though, if that's any consolation, becoming vastly intelligent and athletic in the process, and he soon became "king" of the inmates.

Seeing the boy's progress, the wardens of the prison began to fear Bane's potential and thus entered him into a scientific test of a new drug called Venom.  All previous applicants had died, and the wardens expected the same result.  But Bane wasn't going down that easily.  In a showing of almost godlike resolve, Bane hung on, and the Venom made him even stronger than before, creating the muscular abomination seen above.  With his newfound power, Bane escaped the prison and gave himself a new goal: to destroy Batman.  Throughout his life in prison, Bane heard countless stories and rumors of the almost mythical figure of the Caped Crusader.  Bane is convinced that Batman is the mythical bat creature that has haunted his dreams as a boy and is determined to destroy the Dark Knight at any cost.

But instead of simply charging at Batman like any other villain would do, Bane did something that I think is rather novel for a comic book villain: he waits, and he plans.  First, Bane destroys the walls of Arkham Asylum, where most of Batman's rogues gallery is held.  Then, Bane watches as, night after night, week after week, month after month, Batman struggles to recapture all of his foes and wears himself out in the struggle for order and peace.  It is during this time that Bane, through the simple tactic of observation, determines Batman's identity.  Finally, months later, Bane does the unthinkable.  He attacks an exhausted Bruce Wayne IN WAYNE MANOR, beats Batman to the brink of death, and then, in possibly the greatest splash page known to comic books, Bane "breaks the bat."
Dozens of Batman fans' minds were blown at this moment.
Batman's back was broken in half.  It was doubtful Bruce wold ever walk again, much less be Batman. And the comic world was shocked.

But that's not the end of the story.  Bane soon takes over Gotham city, but, as he would soon find out, he wasn't done with Batman just yet.  See, you could break the Bat, but you're still leaving him alive.  And just breaking him just makes Batman angry.  That's right: Bruce Wayne decided to recover from his injury and once again take the mantle of the Bat, showing again the amazing resolve the Dark Knight is known for.  But, in the time it takes to recover from a BROKEN BACK, Bruce recruits fellow vigilante Jean-Paul Valley, also known as Azrael, to take up the mantle of the Bat.  Azrael's backstory is kind of lame, including a secret order and him possibly being a clone or test tube baby, and if that interests you, you just read the Wikipedia.  Valley's Batman costume will be the subject of my "Eye on Design" section of this post, so we'll get to him in a bit.  For now, let's just finish up the story.

Bane is eventually defeated by Valley, who uses a knife to cut Bane's Venom steam.  See, while Venom gives Bane amazing strength, it also is incredibly addictive.  Imagine heroin times...say, A MILLION.  Immediate withdraw kind of stuff.  A weakened Bane is then severely beaten by Valley and sent packing.

And you know what?  That should have been then end of it.  Bane had his glorious moment, and his defeat should have ended his campaign.  He did what he set out to do, and we should have seen him decide to move on after his defeat.  It would have shown how different he was from other villains.  He succeeded in his task, but only failed in the aftermath.  He should have just moved on with his life.  But, of course, Bane was too much of a money-maker to just let go.  Ever since his premier story arc, Bane has been featured in multiple story lines.  Some good, some great (such as his time on Gail Simone's Secret Six), and some just plain stupid (such as when he thinks he is Bruce Wayne's half-brother and fights crime with Batman for a while).  He's been on and off the Venom wagon dozens of times.  It really just seems like nobody knows what to do with Bane after his shining moment.  Simone's run on Sinister Six was definitely the best, and I would highly suggest taking a look.  Not only do we see a sympathetic side to him as he tries to act as a father figure to his fellow teammate, but he's also hilarious at times, if in a sad, kind of pathetic sort of way.

Prison life doesn't teach you how to romance ladies,  apparently.
Not only does he respect Batman, he has no idea how to handle children.  A man after my heart.
I know The Dark Knight Rises' Bane is similar to Bane in name only, but he's still an amazing character, and I find it hard to understand why anybody would hate him, as I've seen with other comic readers.  Is he misused?  Sure.  Has he gone on longer than he should have?  Of course.  But, in that one moment, Bane made every Batman reader hold their breath.

But now, for an "Eye for Design."  As I said, Jean-Paul Valley took over for Bruce Wayne when Bruce was recovering from his...incident.  And Valley adopted a more sleek, more technologically advanced suit.  As seen here.

What is it with comic book characters and the "Come at me, Bro!" pose?
So, what works here?  Well, for me, I like the following
  • The mask: For me, when it comes to masks, I think the simpler and less detail, the better.  With full masks like this and on Marvel's Deadpool, the mask mainly covers the mouth, and leaves more room for showing emotion through other means, especially the eyes.  Instead of gritted teeth, a frown, or a smile, full mask characters have to have more expressive brows and shading to properly express their emotions.  It creates some interesting art and some interesting expressions.
  • The Gloves: These just have a great, visceral look to them.  These things are not only full of tech, but they can climb walls due to the sharp fingers and can most likely punch through fucking concrete if they can.  They look like they have POWER in them, which I like.
  • The Cape: I can't really pinpoint what I like about it.  I like arching points to them, and the jagged edges, I guess.  It just really looks great in art and gives him a very jagged and angular look, which really makes him look...well, like a bat.
But what doesn't work?  Well...everything else.  I mean, GODDAMN, this suit is a fucking mess.  First of all, the color scheme is completely ridiculous.  Gold, Red, and Blue?  This isn't what the "terror of the night" is supposed to look like.  He looks like he should be at a Soccer Game rooting FC Barcelona, not striking fear into the hearts of men.  Also, we appear to be taking a page from the Rob Liefeld school of character design with huge shoulder pads and random leg belts that have no practical meaning.  Also, what's with the belt with no buckle?  And the Megaman collar he's sporting here?  Why does he have armor all over his shoulders and chest, but his legs only have spandex?  It looks like he is half dressed or just forgot the rest of his costume somewhere.  What are those prongs sticking out of his legs?  Do they have any point?  Did the designer just look at Batman, see the prongs on his wrist (where, you know, they would actually have some functionality) and say "Oh shit, I should probably put those on Jean-Paul somewhere."  I mean, this whole thing just doesn't work and screams "90's."  It's opulent and impractical.

Check back next week as I go into the plight of my favorite Batman villain.  Who?  I won't tell until then.

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