Bane. It is a one syllable name that stirs as much fear and angst within the world as Batman as any other besides possibly that of The Joker.
He is the man who broke the Bat in his very first story and has only become a more complex and terrifying character in the decades since. Now Bane is returning for a 12-issue maxi-series from his original co-creators, artists Graham Nolan and artist Chuck Dixon. He’ll begin to terrorize the DC Universe anew this week in the pages of Bane: Conquest as he and his gang expand their horizons beyond Gotham City and across the world.
So what better time is there to look back and consider the greatest hits of one of Batman’s greatest villains? In anticipation of the new Bane-centric comic, we’ve collected 5 of the all time best stories in comics or movies to ever feature Bane. From breaking the Bat to breaking his bad habits, these stories show off why one man in a luchador mask can leave such an imposing shadow in the world of superhero comics.
Batman #491-500, Detective Comics #659-666
Written by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and others
Drawn by Graham Nolan and others
This is where Bane got his start and it’s the reason he stuck around. While a great deal of nuance and history have been added to the character since his debut in “Knightfall”, all of the makings for a classic Batman villain are here. He possesses a tragic background, incredible strength, drive, and resources, and repeatedly does the impossible. The story of “Knightfall” is the construction of an unendurable gauntlet in which Batman must face off against his greatest foes without any rest, and it is all perfectly planned by Bane.
The plan itself is devious enough, but Graham Nolan’s design for the character and his climactic battle are pitch perfect. The simple jumpsuit and hulking build contrast with Batman beautifully. It makes the moment in which Bane breaks Batman seem inevitable as Bruce Wayne’s more lithe body is pummeled by a Herculean bodybuilder. There’s a reason the mask, muscles, and name haven’t changed since Bane first appeared in 1993; it’s because you don’t fix what isn’t broken.
“A Debt of Significant Blood”
Secret Six (vol. 2) #9
Written by Gail Simone
Drawn by Nicola Scott
Colored by Jason Wright
While Bane has existed as a villain for the majority of his appearances, both in comics and other media, he has grown beyond the role to become more of an anti-hero. Nowhere has that take on the character been mastered better than in the pages of Secret Six. In this issue, a tie-in to the “Battle for the Cowl” crossover, Bane must deal with the conflict of his villainous past and his more grey present. He returns to Gotham City, along with fellow teammates Catman and Ragdoll, to determine who will assume the role of Batman to surprising results.
This single issue reveals a great deal about the character of Bane, specifically his ethical code. While he does terrible things, there is a reason to every action he takes and he strictly abides to the standards he sets. Even though he considers Batman an enemy, this story reveals the respect he holds for his greatest foe, and what he will do for those he respects. It’s a fascinating bit of introspection on a character who uses very few words. Even if you’re unfamiliar with Secret Six, this issue is worth reading as a standalone adventure about Bane and his complicated relationship with Gotham City and its guardian.
The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Played by Tom Hardy
While The Dark Knight Rises possesses the most mixed reviews of Nolan’s Batman trilogy, none of the fault should lie with Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane. Hardy, one of our greatest modern actors, infuses the character with a moral and philosophical complexity only matched by that of Heath Ledger’s Joker. He is a man of conviction and dedication whose physicality and accent are as complex as they are complete. Hardy becomes the character and that character is unforgettable.
Whether Bane is making speeches in a stadium or brutally shattering a human body, his presence on the screen is an awesome force. If any single element makes The Dark Knight Rises succeed, it is that of Bane. No matter how poorly his character arc might end, just watching the character makes this movie one of the greatest Bane stories of all time.
"Bane of the Demon"
Batman: Bane of the Demon #1-4
Written by Chuck Dixon
Drawn by Graham Nolan and Tom Palmer
Colored by Noelle Giddings
When Bane was originally introduced it seemed that his homeland of Santa Prisca had little to do with the rest of Batman’s mythos. This story proves that nothing could be further from the case. As Bane seeks answers for why he was imprisoned as a child, he discovers connections to the Order of St. Dumas and the League of Assassins. These ties to Azrael and Ra’s al Ghul lead him inevitably into further conflict.
Yet this time Bane is not the obvious villain of the conflict. He was grievously wronged as a small boy and this mini-series bears out that truth. It’s about seeking answer for what went wrong, tying Bane to his nemesis Batman as he fights some of their shared foes. While the context and perspective are different, this story shows off the heroic aspects of a villainous character in a very compelling manner.
"Caution to the Wind"
Secret Six (vol. 2) #35-36
Written by Gail Simone
Drawn by Jim Calafiore
Colored by Jason Wright
The finale of Secret Six revealed an unexpected emotion within the character of Bane: love. Throughout the series he had attempted to redeem his addiction to Venom and previous foolish acts through courage and stewardship. As the series came to a close, he became entirely dedicated to his own goals, but could not release his paternal love for teammate Scandal Savage. Even as he gave into his addiction once more, he was unable to release his concern for one other person. In this story it’s impossible to deny the humanity hidden so long within Bane. It shows off both what makes Bane deeply flawed and undeniably compelling.