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Flashback Friday Review: Batman #500

There’s a couple of comic events that stick out from my childhood. The death of Superman is the big one along with the hype and media circus surrounding it. The other is Batman’s back being broken by the hands of Bane, a character that felt like an unstoppable force, much like Doomsday.

With a copy as part of my Comic of the Month Club, I thought it’d be interesting to go back and see how well this comic stood up almost twenty-five years later (the comic came out in October 1993).

Batman #500 was the culmination of the “Knightfall” storyline that featured Jean-Paul Valley really stepping into the role of Batman and making it unique along with his confrontation with Bane.

The story itself is interesting in just how it’s told. I don’t remember it being the style of the time, but could have bee, but writer Doug Moench uses the captions in an almost third person sort of way. There’s a prose aspect to it all that’s interesting and going back, feels rather stilted. Better suited for a prose novel, the caption text at times has a poetic feel about it all and falls too often in the telling not showing side of things. Oh how times have changed when it comes to comic narratives. I can’t see anyone today doing a similar thing.

The story itself has a lot packed in. There’s two confrontations with Bane. There’s the development of the new Batman costume. There’s issues with the GCPD and how they’re handling Batman. And there’s the relationship between Valley, Tim Drake, and the snubbing of Nightwing as Batman. A lot is touched upon and there’s varying depth in how much is focused on each. The battles with Bane lack a certain brutality about them. The interactions with Valley and Drake lack emotional impact. It’s the interaction between Drake and Grayson as they discuss the new Batman that really stands out as having some depth to it.

The story as a whole holds up better in the mind than it does revisiting it.

Art duties are held by Jim Aparo, Terry Austin, and Mike Manley, who split the issue into two parts. The different artists is not noticeable and when it comes to that, things flow nicely. The style too hasn’t had issues aging. It’s absolutely of a different time with a bit more static visuals but generally if you just updated it a bit, the art would hold up today. The one thing, like the story itself, I never get the feeling Bane is physically imposing compared to Batman. It’s a big difference than what is presented today by many artists where he’s a giant brute.

Some times it’s best to let your positive memories linger and not revisit the past. This is an example of that with a comic that doesn’t hold up over the years. The narrative itself is a very different style compared to today and the concept of the new Batman’s confrontation is a better set up than the actual meeting. Like a summer blockbuster, the visuals feel better than the narrative with a lack of depth or exploration of what’s set up.

Story: Doug Moench Art: Jim Aparo, Terry Austin, Mike Manley
Story: 6.5 Art: 7.5 Overall: 6.75 Recommendation: Pass

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2 comments

  • For some reason, I remember this as having come out in August of ’93, but I could be conflating that with having seen the solicit for it. I just remember talking about it with my friends whose parents had come over for a party that month. For some more early 90s context, I had been listening to Spin Doctors all day.

    If I’m not mistaken, when you fold out the classic Bruce-style Batman, there’s the new JPV suit underneath?

    I bagged and boarded this one as soon as I finished it and haven’t opened it since. Interesting note about the third-person prose. I’d be interested in reading it again to see what you man. Two other Bat books from that era that I liked were Speeding Bullets and In Darkest Knight.

    • Yup, it had the cover fold with the new version of the suit underneath, which is actually cool. There were two cards inside too. It’s really interesting and go back to read it. The writing style is so different from today.