Just as Batman Begins was partially based on Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight was based on a multitude of Batman stories – The Killing Joke and Long Halloween among them – Christopher Nolan, Jonathon Nolan, and David S. Goyer have clearly been inspired by a handful of Batman comic book stories in their development of The Dark Knight Rises.
And while nothing in the world can truly prepare Batman fans for the end of Nolan’s beloved Dark Knight trilogy (short of paying large quantities of $$$ for extensive psychotherapy), becoming thoroughly familiar with the source material is your best and least costly option.
We’ve constructed a list featuring of five comic book stories that you should probably read in preparation for The Dark Knight Rises. Are you ready for the legend to end?
“Batman: Legacy” is a sequel to another Batman story arc – “Contagion” – and serves, in some small part, as a follow-up to “Knightfall.” Specifically, “Legacy” features the first rematch between Batman and Bane since the latter put the former into a wheelchair.
After an outbreak of an incredibly lethal disease known as “The Clench” (but also known as the Ebola Gulf A, the Apocalypse Plague, and the Filovirus for some reason), Batman joins forces with Robin, Nightwing, Oracle, The Huntress, Azrael, and Catwoman to find its cure. The search leads them to the Middle East, where they learn that Ra’s al Ghul and Bane – his new heir – are responsible for its release.
Eventually, Batman and company return to Gotham City to stop Ra’s and his League of Assassins from unleashing the disease onto the public. Batman manages to destroy the disease before it can do any real damage, then goes on to beat the dickens out of Bane in hand-to-hand combat.
“Batman: Legacy” might not be fondly recalled as one of the great Batman stories, but its similarities to The Dark Knight Rises are undeniable – in particular, Bane’s connection to Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Assassins (the comic book equivalent of the League of Shadows from Batman Begins). Of course, we’ll have to wait and see if Bane actually has connections to the League of Shadows in the forthcoming film, but it certainly seems likely at this point.
Batman, Incorporated season 2 – which is being published currently – is the culmination of Grant Morrison’s legendary six-year-long Batman run. Drawn by the increasingly excellent Chris Burnham, it follows Batman and Robin (Damian Wayne, Batman’s son with Talia al Ghul) as they fight to stop Talia from…well, murdering Damian.
The name “Batman, Inc.” refers to Bruce Wayne franchising and publicly financing the Batman brand on an international scale. Now, there’s a Batman – or a Batman equivalent – in many countries and cities the world over. The implementation of Batman Inc. was done in an effort to be better prepared in the fight against the mysterious Leviathon, who was ultimately revealed to be Talia.
While season 2 is ongoing, Batman Incorporated is one of the few Batman stories where Talia poses a serious threat to her “beloved,” A.K.A. “the Detective,” A.K.A. Batman. Previously, she was little more than a means for Ra’s al Ghul to extend his legacy by marrying her off – now, she’s the main event, smarter and more devious than Ra’s himself. Plus, she wants to hurt Batman like he’s never been hurt before – by going after his one and only biological son.
If rumors are to be trusted (and of course, they aren’t always), Talia al Ghul will be in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman, Incorporated – and Morrison’s Batman run as a whole – is your best bet for understanding just how dangerous she can be.
Batman: Incorporated season 2 #3 hits shelves July 25 2012.
We can only guess as to what comic book stories influenced Christopher Nolan’s version of Catwoman (as played by Anne Hathaway), if any at all. One can assume that it’ll be a mish-mash of iterations – a la Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker – but again, that’s a total assumption, and very possibly an incorrect one.
So instead of suggesting a Catwoman comic book story that directly influenced The Dark Knight Rises in some manner, we’ve instead included a story that is just downright entertaining and excellent. “Selina’s Big Score” was written and drawn by the great Darwin Cooke (DC: The New Frontier), the man who redesigned Catwoman as we know her today, goggles and all. It’s essentially an old-school heist story with film noir leanings, reminiscent of Cooke’s Parker adaptations with a beautiful, vibrant visual style that recalls his The Spirit re-imagining.
The story follows Selina as she gathers a team of professional thieves to take down a mob train full of unmarked cash. By the end, the entire team is killed but Selina, who escapes with the money and a bit of a broken heart. As far as plot goes, it’s all fairly conventional stuff, but what “Selina’s Big Score” lacks in innovative writing, it more than makes up for with Cooke’s breathtakingly colorful visuals.
“No Man’s Land” was Greg Rucka’s first foray into Batman-land (but his best, in my opinion, was Batwoman). Following the “Cataclysm” storyline – where a major earthquake all-but-destroyed Gotham City – the U.S. government evacuated, abandoned, and isolated the city, declaring it a “no man’s land.” Unfortunately, this left all the poor people who couldn’t get out of town at the mercy of the criminals and super-criminals who refused to leave.
As for how much “No Man’s Land” has influenced The Dark Knight Rises, it’s entirely unclear at this point. Originally, it was thought that Bane might have a Tesla-esque Earthquake machine (the imploding football field in the trailers seemed to confirm this), but his mystery machine was revealed to be something else altogether.
That said, The Dark Knight Rises still seems to borrow a few elements from “No Man’s Land” – particularly the way in which Bane and his mercenaries have cut Gotham City off from the rest of the world, leaving its citizens at the mercy of the villains inside. Might the Batman of TDKR also gather a coalition of super-friends (after his initial defeat at the hands of Bane) to help him eventually save Gotham from its “reckoning,” as he did in the “No Man’s Land” comic book? We’ll soon find out.
“Knightfall” (which led into “Knightquest” and finally “KnightsEnd”) was a major part of DC’s big 1990s push to be more edgy and extreme following the death of Superman.
After Bane discovers Batman’s secret identity, he sets out to utterly exhaust him both physically and mentally by releasing every single big bad guy from Arkham Asylum for the Caped Crusader to deal with. Batman, of course, deals with every single big bad, but when he returns home to what he assumes is the safety of Wayne Manor, he finds Bane waiting for him – and he’s just too tired to defeat a giant ‘roid freak in a fist fight. Thus, Bane proceeds to snap Batman’s back over his enormous right knee, which paralyzes Bruce Wayne forever (fortunately, “forever” in comic books translates to approximately one year).
In a moment of desperation, Batman passes the bat-mantle to a man named Jean Paul Valley – previously the armored vigilante Azrael of the insidious cult “The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas.” At first, things go fairly smoothly. Using “The System” (deep psychological brainwashing from “Dumas”), Valley builds an ostentatious armored bat-suit that would make Rob Liefeld blush and defeats Bane pretty brutally, but without killing him. However, the longer Valley “plays” Batman, the more his brainwashing takes hold and the more violent and (gulp) deadly he becomes.
Eventually, Bruce Wayne rehabilitates himself, re-dons the cowl, and – with the help of Robin and Nightwing – defeats the psychotic and armored Azrael Batman. All’s well that ends well?
While “Nightfall/Knightquest/KnightsEnd” started swimmingly – the book depicting Azbats (as he’s sometimes referred) taking down Bane is particularly thrilling – it suffers from a general ’90s malaise and a less than satisfying conclusion.
We don’t yet know how much The Dark Knight Rises will borrow from “Nightfall/Knightquest/Knightsend,” but we do know from the trailers that Bane will – perhaps early on? – beat Batman senseless, and it might be a beating that takes him out of the game for a good chunk of the movie. Will Christian Bale’s Batman have his back broken? It’s possible, if unlikely. Will someone other than Bruce Wayne take over the bat mantle? Probably not, but there has been a lot of speculation on that front.
So how’d we do, Screen Ranters? Do you think these Batman comic book stories will properly prepare the uninitiated for the The Dark Knight Rises? Or do you think there are other more suitable Batman stories out there? Keep in mind, this wasn’t a list of “the 5 best Batman stories ever,” as that would almost certainly be an entirely different list.
The Dark Knight Rises hits theaters July 20th, 2012.
Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.