Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Digs Deep Into Bat Mythos

From Batman #497 (1993) by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo; The Bat is broken...
As I continue cleaning up my comic book collection in our attic, and organizing things as previously posted about, I came across some Batman/Detective Comics I had in my possession and had half forgotten about.

About a month ago after coming across an old promotional card at my local comic shop, I wondered online: "Who Remembers Az-Bat?" Now that I've seen the recently released Dark Knight Rises (2012), it occurs to me that though the general moviegoer/Bat-fan may still not know who Az-Bat is, or Jean-Paul Valley for that matter, some of the narrative beats that led to his creation in comics have been borrowed for the movie's Bane-centric plot. This might be a good time for those who are only Bat-movie fans, to pick up a trade paperback or two.
Eventually, Bane gets his at the "hands" of
the new Batman in issue #500 (1993).

 As comic geeks will tell you, despite the high entertainment value of the latest film, the general movie-goer still doesn't really even know who Bane is. Though Christopher Nolan and Tom Hardy's modern film take does seem to do a much better job capturing the character's essence (if not costume design) then, say, Robert "Jeep" Swensen and Joel Schumacher did in Batman and Robin (1997), the time between his injury and eventual return created a huge storytelling opportunity for comic books when it occurred in that universe. (Really had Nolan elected to go the similar replacement-Batman route the potential was there HUGE SPOILER ALERT **as they explore it more fully in the film's conclusion.**)

In the comic book, when Bruce was out of commission, following his battle with Bane (an iconic moment posted atop this post) he then passed the Mantle of the Bat on to another person (one significantly less stable than Rises' surrogate young cop character). The new Batman in turn takes the intimidating power of the cowl to a whole other (translation: violent, as in killing) level. Following the events of the comic arc entitled "Knightfall" (during which Bane "broke" the Bat, and Wayne retired from crime fighting for a period of time), I may have been one of the few comic fans who enjoyed the story of his replacement, a former Batman adversary turned anti-hero, Azrael a.k.a. Jean-Paul Valley.

Of course, in the end, Bruce can't
resist another come-back...
While I had not previously been a comic book Batman-fan, but the Azrael-as-Batman storyline peaked my interest. Maybe it was because at the time, Jean-Paul Valley, Azreal's "real" name was the only character (other than Alpha Flight's Northstar) who shared the same name as I. It's not surprising that we often gravitate to those characters to whom we related and while as a teen I could definitely not see myself in millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, and I did see my (in an urban Upstate New York neighborhood) my seemingly unusual name in print so I was curious.

It was great to re-read thees back issues again, especially after having seen the current movie, and to be able to identify the clear beats taken from the books. When one considers the amount of character development occurred in a 2+ hour movie, and how much occurred in this year-long run, it's commendable how much they did include.  If you're interested (and if you're a true Bat-fan, why wouldn't you be?), the entire KnightSaga--Knightfall, Knightquest, and KnightsEnd--is widely available at most local comic shops or, if you must, one of the megalo-book stores.

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