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DC Comics
by yo go re

When writers want to introduce a new villain character and get him over with the audience fast, there are a few ways to give him a quick and instant boost: have him kill a secondary villain, or have him severely injure the main hero. Or, in DC's case, have him do both.

Born into a life sentence in Santa Prisca's maximum security Pena Dura prison, the boy who would one day be known as Bane knew nothing but hardship from his earliest days. When the warden volunteered Bane for a medical experiment, he saw his opportunity for escape. He made his way to Gotham City to take on its defender, Batman. When the two finally met, Bane was the victor, the man who broke the Bat.

In the early '90s, comics were getting darker. The big companies were scrambling to capture some of the heat being generated by the extreme heroes at Image, and the results, predictably, sucked. So Batman editor Denny O'Neil started thinking about how he could make sure that nothing like that happened to Batman - how do you make fans appreciate the classic version of a character? By giving them something worse.

The idea was to create a new, kewlified Batman: a darker attidue, a new costume and a willingness to kill; a Batman that everybody would hate. But to do that, they had to get Bruce Wayne out of the way. Since he'd overcome every villain he ever fought, it wouldn't make sense for, say, Killer Croc to suddenly beat the crap out of him. That's why they needed someone new. They needed Bane.

There have been a few Bane figures before - one in the animated style, one in that crazy Legends of the Dark Knight line, and one from the disgustingly bad Batman & Robin. They each had their appeal, but they were also years out of date when compared to modern figures. Then, at SDCC04, Mattel revealed that they'd be adding a figure of Bane to their Batman line. And there was much rejoicing.

The sculpt is excellent. This is Bane from before he gave up the strength-enhancing drug Venom, so he's absolutely huge. His arms are bulging mightily, and the veins look like they're about to pop through his skin. His chest and back are just as ripped, making him really look like a worthy opponent for Batman. And the capper is, if you turn him around and look at the back of his shoulders, he has dozens of tiny, etched-in hairs back there. Ha! Beauty!

The excellence isn't restricted to just his body, though: the details on his clothes are just as good. His design is classically simple: he's based on a Mexican wrestler, so he's got boots, pants, a tanktop thing and a full face mask. Bane is like the bastard son of Lou Ferigno and El Santo.

He's got laces on his boots, appropriate wrinkles on his pants and shirt, stitching on his gloves and a distinct zipper running across the top of his mask. The control panel on his left arm has a simple technological look, and the tube that connects it to his head is translucent green. Rather than just plugging into his head, the tube enters a feeder, then splits into four smaller tubes before disappearing into the mask. It's very cool.

The paint apps do nothing but highlight the sculpt. The blacks used are glossy, which suits the leather of Bane's costume well. His belt is bright silver, as is the front of his mask. The eyes are a nice dark red, and even the little spots where his knuckles poke through his gloves are painted pink. And then, above it, a great paint wash that makes everything pop. It really does wonders for the sculpting on his back, turning thin lines into tiny black hairs. Bane, in action figure form, looks great.

The figure moves at the wrists, boots, knees, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck. The neck isn't a balljoint, for some reason, but Big Daddy B makes up for it with ML-style rocker ankles, which allow him to stand strong in more than one pose. He does have an action feature: pull back on his arm, release it and it springs forward. If you have to have an action feature, this is probably about as good as it gets: it suits the character, works easily and doesn't reduce the articulation at all.

Bane was originally intended to come with Osito, the teddy bear who was his only friend during those early years in the prison. Sadly, that didn't make it to the final release - I guess Mattel got jumpy about releasing a beat-up bear as an accessory. Now Bane's only extra is a spiky set of brass knuckles; not the best thing in the world, but it does add a bit of pizzaz and can fit on either fist.

Between Bane and the Scarecrow, Mattel is releasing some of their best work ever - unfortunately, they're only releasing it overseas. If you live in the US, you'd better make some international friends if you ever want to see these figures. The quality on this pair of villains is nothing short of amazing, and if Mattel had made toys this good in the first place, they wouldn't be having trouble finding stores to carry them now.

Bane was unique among Bat-villains: not only was he strong enough to face off against Bruce, but he also had the brains to go with it. He deduced who Batman really was and began to prepare for their inevitable confrontation. He pumped the Riddler full of Venom and set him on Batman, before blowing up Arkham Asylum and sending the Dark Knight against a gauntlet of his worst enemies. As Bruce neared exhaustion, he returned home to Wayne Manor to find Bane ready and waiting for him. The fight was short but brutal, and in the end Bane broke Bruce's spine and tossed him to the streets of Gotham, making way for the new, darker Batman.

It's too soon to tell if Bane will become a classic, longstanding villain, but good or bad, at least we've got a decent representation of him. Get in the game, Mattel! Release these where the customers can find them!

Bane: champ or chump? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.


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