The Batman Review: Traction (S1E02)

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Original Airdate: September 25, 2004
Writer: Adam Beechen
Director:
Sam Liu

Quick show of hands: how many of you know this guy?

Chuck Dixon

No one? Wait, wait… you in the back, you… oh. You were just stretching. Sorry.

So. The gentleman up there is named Chuck Dixon, and he will be popping up a lot over the course of these reviews. Why? Because he is, bar none, my favorite Batman writer of all time. He’s not one of the big names like Frank Miller or Jeph Loeb or even Denny O’Neil, but his accomplishments and legacies (in the DC Universe and elsewhere) are many. A small and select list:

  • Almost singlehandedly raised Tim Drake through the role of Robin, writing the first Robin solo for over a hundred issues.
  • Handled Nightwing’s first ongoing for 70 issues, giving Dick Grayson a second chance after The New Teen Titans went down the tubes.
  • Created the Birds of Prey, introducing a generation to the badassery that was Oracle and Black Canary.
  • Created Stephanie Brown, whom certain sects of the Internet will insist on pain of death is the greatest DC character ever.
  • Wrote some of the best damn Joker, Riddler, and Scarecrow stories I’ve read in my life.

Oh, and he created the villain of today’s episode. Shame or something.

“Would you care to repeat that, Señor?

Meep.

Pleasedontkillme.

Okay – in all honesty, I’ve never liked Bane very much, even though he’s almost certainly Dixon’s most well-known creation and Dixon himself is immensely proud of the fellow. Yes, yes, heretic, Judas, how dare you dismiss the man who broke the Bat, etc., but there’s something disgustingly… safe about him.

A quick history lesson for those who need it: Bane served as the linchpin of the 1993 megacrossover Knightfall, breaking Batman’s back so DC could “experiment” with a new, more X-TREEM Batman. Anyways, Dixon spared no expense in establishing what a grade-A badass this guy was – raised in a hellhole Caribbean prison that severed all sense of morality from him, gifted with a sharp mind that allowed him to learn six different languages when most of the prisoners couldn’t even read, stronger than any mortal man could dream of when armed with the super-steroid Venom, and pretty damn strong even without the stuff.

But there’s no getting around the fact that he was grown in an editorial test-tube, so his character is more rooted in petty oneupsmanship than anything truly unique or engaging. Like the Joker? WELL THIS GUY’S TWICE AS RUTHLESS. Like the Riddler? WELL THIS GUY’S FIVE TIMES SMARTER. Like Killer Croc? WELL THIS GUY CAN MAKE MINCEMEAT OUT OF CROC WITH ONE HAND BEHIND HIS BACK. Like Ra’s al-Ghul? THIS GUY FIGURED OUT BATMAN’S SECRET IDENTITY IN A CAVE WITH A BOX OF SCRAPS WITHOUT ANY FANCY INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL SYNDICATE! As for his motivations…

How utterly fascinating.
How utterly fascinating.

Now, fellow reviewer the Unshaved Mouse has opined this sort of Generic Doomsday Villain can work in certain contexts, but I found Bane to be by far the dullest part of Knightfall. And I say this as someone who thinks that Knightfall – at least, the first third – was the best Batman megacrossover DC’s ever done, and probably the only one that managed to not waste the premise of every Arkham inmate running loose at the same time. Surely it’s not coincidence that most discussions of Bane, no matter how gushing, can’t help but mention that his post-Knightfall career mostly consists of acting like mindless muscle or jobbing to DC’s other heroes?

(Disclaimer: I’ve heard that Gail Simone’s done some amazing things with him in Secret Six, but as that’s not a Batman book, my point about Bane being a rather dull Batman villain still stands.)

Maybe Bane’s whole luchador getup is more fitting than I thought. Much like pro-wrestling, his much-touted victory over Batman was carefully staged from the start for maximum publicity, and he got to be king of the ring for all of five minutes before the higher-ups swept him out like yesterday’s garbage once they’d gotten bored of fucking around with the status quo

get-on-with-it

Yessir. Sorrysir. Won’t happen again, sir.

Let’s see how The Batman handles this most estupendo of evildoers, courtesy of one Adam Beechen. Now, Beechen’s a very divisive name in the DC fandom – long story short, he ruined Cassandra “the best Batgirl (according to Tumblr)” Cain beyond repair, but he also wrote one of the most awesomely terrifying episodes of Teen Titans, so… can we at least call it squaresies?

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