Comics Reviews

Batman’s Greatest Enemy Was Never The Joker – It’s Bane

Through his weaponization of Batman’s secret identity, Bane is more dangerous threat to Batman than any of his other villains.

Over the years following his debut in Batman #1 (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Sheldon Moldoff), the Joker has established himself as the Dark Knight’s arch-nemesis, and that reputation is very well-earned. Not only is the Joker a complete thematic and ideological foil to Batman, but the Clown Prince of Crime has managed to hurt the Dark Knight in ways that his other foes could only dream of, personally crippling and even killing many of Batman’s closest allies, including Barbara Gordon and Sarah Essen.

However, there is another villain who could challenge the Joker’s long-held position as Batman’s greatest foe, and that’s Bane. Although Bane may not seem to be, his traumatic origin bears some disturbing similarities to Batman’s own, and his unique knowledge of the Dark Knight’s secret identity has allowed him to torment Batman by directly targeting his allies and attacking him within his own home, earning a reputation as the man who “broke the bat.”

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Bane Breaks Batmans Back.

Introduced in Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1 (by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, Eduardo Barreto, Adrienne Roy, and Bill Oakley), Bane’s childhood was a harsh one. Born in the war-torn Caribbean island of Santa Prisca, Bane was sentenced to life imprisonment in the hellish Peña Duro prison alongside his mother by the draconian Santa Priscan government, who held them both accountable for the crimes of Bane’s escaped rebel father. Within a few years, Bane’s mother succumbed to the harsh conditions of the prison, and the young man was forced to watch as the guards callously tossed her body into the shark-infested waters that surrounded the prison, installing the young man with a deep sense of rage that would remain with him the rest of his life.

The brutal death of his mother is the first of the many parallels between Bane and Batman. Like Bane, Batman lost his parents Thomas and Martha after they were gunned down by Joe Chill, and that loss would inspire both men to spend what remained of their childhoods gathering the skills and knowledge that they’d need to exact revenge on their parents’ murderers. Although Batman had the freedom to travel the world and learn under world-renowned experts in the fields of martial arts and academia, Bane was able to find equally experienced mentors within the walls of Peña Duro, which housed some of the most dangerous criminals in the world. By the time each of them had reached adulthood, Batman and Bane had honed their bodies and minds to almost superhuman heights, but each would go on to use their newfound skills very differently.

While Batman would dedicate his life to battling the criminals of Gotham City, Bane dedicated his own life to dismantling institutionalized systems of law like the ones responsible for him and his mothers’ unjust imprisonment and supplanting them with his own “survival of the fittest” ideology. To achieve this ambition, Bane has amassed a large criminal empire and assassinated prominent lawmakers and law enforcement across the globe. Having learned of Batman during his time in prison, Bane has developed an obsession with killing Batman and plunging Gotham City into lawless anarchy, and he’s managed to hurt Batman in ways that no other villain could.

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During the Batman: Knightfall crossover event, Bane freed almost every member of Batman’s rogue’s gallery from Arkham Asylum and set them loose on Gotham City, hoping to push Batman to his physical and mental breaking point. While Batman worked to bring in each of his villains, Bane studied him from the shadows, eventually learning his secret identity and confronting an exhausted Batman within Wayne Manor, beating him within an inch of his life before breaking his back over his knee, paralyzing the Dark Knight from the waist down.

Eventually, Batman was able to regain the use of his legs, this encounter established a long and bitter rivalry between him and Bane that has gone on for years. With his knowledge of Batman’s true identity, Bane has tormented the Dark Knight in ways that no other villain has, frequently referring to him as “Mr. Wayne” and taunting him with the knowledge that he could reveal his secret identity. During the “City of Bane” storyline, Bane inflicted a truly devastating blow on Batman by murdering Alfred under the orders of the Flashpoint Thomas Wayne, taking another parental figure away from Bruce and nearly causing him to break his sacred vow never to kill.

Through his weaponization of Batman’s secret identity, Bane is a more dangerous threat to Batman than any of his other villains. Although the Joker has inflicted terrible tragedies on Batman, none of them have felt as personal as Bane’s attacks on the man behind the mask. No matter how hard the Joker tries, he’ll never never be as good as the man who broke the bat.

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