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God of Comics: Bane – Conquest #1 (DC Comics)

Bane is a weird character.

No, wait, scratch that. Bane isn’t a weird character, but the treatment of him is. Bane is an important character that can and should be a major player in the DC Comics world and maybe not for the reasons you think.

See, the thing with Bane is that people think that the Venom is what makes him interesting. This is a failure to understand who Bane is; this is a man born into a prison sentence for crimes he never committed, who watched his mother being eaten by sharks and was victimized by a cruel warden of a third world country. He taught himself several languages and a series of arts and histories while imprisoned, honing his mind and his body in circumstances that should have killed him.

If this sounds like the beginning of a hero’s story, it’s because it could be. He freed the other inmates in his prison, was captured and subjected to medical experiments by his country’s military, destroyed them all and escaped. He’d grown up hearing stories of Batman and attacked him not out of obsession but out of a sense of rivalry: Batman was the bar against which he measured himself. He broke the Bat, was beaten by Azrael, kicked his Venom habit over a couple of months – a task that took Bruce most of a year.

Yes, the Venom makes his already incredible athleticism superhuman, but it’s his mind that makes him dangerous. He’s a detective of a skill that nearly matches that of Bruce himself, a scholar and strategist of enough talent that he was able to take down the Batman, a man who can kick his addiction to one of the most addictive substances in the DCU seemingly at will. He’s informed by the trauma of who he is and has no secret identity: Bane is his actual name, the only one he knows.

He’s fascinating. He’s incredible. Most writers use him as simple muscle and miss the subtlety and subtext of the character; he’s just as complex as the Batman that he’s come so close to destroying. Bruce’s reaction to Bane tends to be panic because he knows Bane is the one person who can maybe out-think him.

This series sees the people that originally created him – Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Graham Nolan – back to take him beyond Gotham. Bane has put his original band back together, a trio of criminals known as Bird, Trogg, and Zombie, and the four of them are setting out to build a worldwide criminal empire. This might be the scariest thing that could happen to the criminal underworld in the DCU, a man who gives Batman nightmares coming to rule them all.

And he should. He’s intelligent, ambitious, and ruthless in a way that no one else in the DCU can really match. This is a twelve issue maxi-series, too, meaning that our creative team has a beginning, middle, and end in mind, and if that end doesn’t lead to every hero in the DCU suddenly having to deal with a much more dangerous criminal element I’m going to be very surprised.

See, here’s the thing: the only character I can see that’s gone on this journey before was TAO over in Sleeper (and if you haven’t read Sleeper go to your comic shop and buy Sleeper). Bane is just as dangerous and driven as TAO was, and Bane could make his organization work in a world where DC Superheroes operate (unlike TAO, who could operate in the Wildstorm universe but never the DCU).

This is going to be awesome and you really should get in on the fun now.

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