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In honor of The Dark Knight Rises, which premieres tonight at midnight, I read this rag to prepare my heart and mind for what may come to pass on the silver screen. Batman #497 is the issue that changed things in the Batman universe. It showed us that Batman is more man than bat, and that he can be broken.

The comic opens with with Bruce Wayne stepping out of the Batcave to find a hulking Bane standing in front of him. Bruce, taken completely aback, asks Bane how he knew that he was The Batman.

I’ve known you since I lived in the hell of a dark hole thousands of miles from here. I’ve known you in my dreams.

Bruce knew, at that moment, that he may not survive this confrontation. But, being the detective he is, Bruce asks Bane why he is fighting him. Why does Bane want Bruce and Batman gone so much?

Bane’s answer was simple: Gotham City.

Bane wants what Bruce has. Bane wants fear to rule the city. Bane just wants — period.

Batman admits to Bane that he may be the “single greatest source of madness” he he had ever faced. Bane agrees and the two start their deadly dance. Batman leaps first, but he is no match for Bane’s Venom-fueled power.

Bane smashed and crashes Batman into everything in sight. With every blow, Batman thinks back to every villain he’s fought. Every one of them a piece in the puzzle that formed Batman’s demise. Batman is thrown through glass and eventually through the grandfather clock and down the Batcave stairs.

As Batman is thrown into the Batcomputer and around his cave, he has even more flashbacks to the villains he had fought over the years. Each blow Bane lands makes Batman realize that this moment had been coming for years. In looking back, Batman saw that there was nothing he could have done to stop this. It seems that Bane has been behind these criminals all along, each one used to chipp away at him until Bane could deliver the final shattering blow.

All of them… They all had a hand in it… But it was Bane’s bloody hand behind them, behind it all. Bane from the beginning and Bane now, at the end.

Batman tries to fight back, but his energy is gone. Every punch thrown either does nothing or misses completely. When finally Batman is worn out, Bane demands that he beg for mercy and scream out his name. But, in his final act of defiance, Batman tells Bane to go back to Hell.

Bane, cradling Batman in his massive arms, mulls over his options as he raises Batman above his head.

I am Bane — And I could kill you… But death would only end your agony — and silence your shame. Instead I will simply… BREAK YOU!

With one strong thrust, Bane breaks Batman’s back over his leg and leaves Batman in pain on the Batcave floor.

Broken… And done.

This issue was quite intense. With the thought that I may see this play out on the big screen tonight in my head, I was giddy like a school girl while thumbing my way through this issue. But, as a huge fan of Batman, I must admit that, if this is how Batman ends tonight, I will probably cry.

Batman was my boyhood hero, and to see him broken is quite heartbreaking.

It is interesting that Bane, the one you’d think as a meat head, is the only one to figure out that Bruce Wayne is Batman at this point. It wasn’t The Joker, nor The Riddler, nor even The Penguin that figured it out. It was the one character with the best combination of brains and brawn that solved the riddle and broke the bat.

But, in reading this issue, I had a dreadful thought. What if, in Bane’s rage during the movie tonight, Alfred Pennyworth is killed? It is one thing to kill or maim The Batman, for he has made many enemies. But, Alfred? I am pretty sure that if Alfred become a victim of Bane’s fury that I will tear up, for Alfred is one of my favorite characters aside from Batman.

Either way, as the comic book probably was back in ’93, the film tonight will be a tough one to swallow. But, I will be there anyhow. Batman is my favorite comic book hero, almost to the point that he feels like an old friend. And, as you would be there for a friend through tough times and personal struggles, you’d want to be there for that friend when he’s at his earthly end.

You know, in a comforting way, by sitting in a cushioned chair and eating delicious popcorn.