Comic Books & Graphic NovelsOpinionReviews

The Longbox Hunter: BATMAN #500

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Batman #500 Gatefold cover closed
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Batman #500 Gatefold cover opened

He is vengeance. He is the night.  He is…not Bruce Wayne? In Batman #500, there’s a NEW Batman in town and he’s ready to kick Bane’s ass and not take names later.

The decade was the 90’s, and updating superheroes was big.  Superman died, launched several new heroes and came back with a mullet. Green Lantern lost his hometown, went insane and was replaced by a kid named Kyle, and even over in the Marvel Universe superheroes were busy changing names, costumes and more. Batman was no less immune to this than any other hero.

Batman #500 was written by Doug Moench, penciled by Jim Aparo, inked by Terry Austin and Mike Manley and drawn by Ian Gibson. This issue was published by DC Comics on September 30, 1993, with a cover date of October of 1993 with a cover price of $3.95.  The title of this issue is “Dark Angel” and is part 17 of the Knightfall story arc. It is available on ComiXology for $1.99 and in the Batman: Knightfall Vol. 1 trade paperback. I would also recommend that you find a copy of the novelization of the Knightfall storyline written by Dennis O’Neil.  He really does a great job bringing the whole saga together in one book.

To bring you up to speed on the story so far, Batman (Bruce Wayne) is a broken man, having been outwitted by Bane and then having his spine broken by Bane, Bruce leaves the country to find Robin (Tim Drake)’s missing father.

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Picking your nose with those is not recommended.

Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Jean-Paul Valley, who formally went by the identity of Azrael, has taken over the mantle of the Bat and is in the midst of a fight with Bane. The new Batman fights him to a draw, the old Batman costume and gear slowing him down.

Upset, he goes back to the cave to redesign the costume. Robin, concerned about him, tries to convince him that he’s acting to brutal only to be rebuffed by Jean-Paul and locked out of the cave.  He meets up with Nightwing, who is none to happy with Bruce’s choices.

Meanwhile, Bane commandeers a message board in Gotham Square in order to draw Batman out.

Go Go Bat flashlight!
Go Go Bat flashlight!

Batman and Bane start fighting, Bane with his Venom powered muscles and the all new, all shiny Batman in his new suit.

They both fight with total disregard of collateral damage and wind up on a speeding elevated train!

Will Jean-Paul best Bane? Will Bruce find Tim’s dad? Will Commissioner Gordon stand for this? Does this issue stand the test of time? Let’s break it down.

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Shiny and pointy….like a real bat.

Artwork: The art of Jim Aparo is very good. Lines are clean and detailed. You can count the hairs on Harvey Bullock’s face (go ahead, I’ll wait.). The action is conveyed well, with plenty of movement lines showing speed and direction.  The onomatopoeia (visual sound effects) is kinda weird (Spap? Rnch? ) and almost laughable, but that’s okay.  The new Batman costume is more complicated than the traditional one with lots of metal and sharp talons on the legs and feet. It makes you wonder how he gets in the Batmobile with those things on. He’s definitely not going to sneak up on anyone if that thing clanks as much as I think it does.

Story: This being the end chapter of the Knightfall storyline, the story is just continuing from the last Batman issue.  But you don’t really need to know too much to understand what is happening here. The new Batman is struggling to find his way, first trying to be Bruce Wayne’s version of The Bat before allowing “The System” to take over and let him become his own vicious Batman.  Doug Menoch does a great job at conveying this.  First with Jean-Paul failing at his first attempt taking down Bane and then with his transformation into a Batman who is the bringer of justice, almost to the point of offing Bane, before thinking better of it. The omniscient narrator works perfectly well when you don’t have any characters talking and helps set the right tone as Batman searches the city for Bane.

So, does it stand up?  Yes. The Knightfall story does stand as one of the great Batman epics and would make an interesting season of a future television show (hint, hint Warner Bros., somewhere around season 4, please) Jean-Paul is struggling between his Azrael personality and being what Batman should be. It’s kind of like how the comics industry at the time was walking a line between what they were in the 70’s and 80’s (lighthearted, merciful superheroes who just take the villain to jail) and what the industry was becoming in the 90’s (grimdark heroes who hand out punishment and would just as soon kill the villain as rehabilitate them).Fortunately, this lightens up a bit towards the end of the 90’s.  Batman goes back to being the Dark Knight, not the GrimDark Knight.

So download or pick up a copy and get reading!

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Thomas Townley

Thomas spends hours playing games, reading books and comic books and watching genre tv. You should too.

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