When it comes to Batman and his classic comic book villains most people immediately think of The Joker. They might then think of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow or Mr Freeze for example. But I have to say that I personally find Bane a more deadly adversary than any of them. Because unlike the other villains he is perfectly sane. While Joker's plans are based around his insanity and his propensity towards chaos Bane is a brute who cunningly plans to take Gotham as his own. Think of him as Batman turned mob boss if you will and pumped full of a venom drug which enhances his abilities to superhuman levels.
In Knightfall we see Bane come to Gotham and release anarchy (curiously a name of a vigilante who appears later in the book) upon the city when he blows a whole in Arkham Asylum. A sick Batman then struggles to contain and defeat foes such as Two-face, Ventriloquist, Poison Ivy, Joker, Scarecrow and Firefly, running himself ragged in the process. As he does this Bane watches on, works out who Batman really is and then finally when Batman has been physically and mentally crushed attacks him at Wayne Manor and breaks the bat. This for me is one of the most iconic comic book scenes apart from say Superman's death, Spiderman leaving behind his suit and also the Spiderman scene with the death of Gwen Stacy. What follows the breaking of the bat is more chaos into which a new Batman, a figure wearing the cowl and who makes technological improvements, steps to confront the evil and take back Gotham from Bane.
What is so significant in this comic omnibus is the depiction of a broken Batman as mentioned before. As a character he had taken many gunshots and wounds but he had always had the mental edge on opponents. No one had broken him mentally and defeated him in a one on one fight until Bane did which opened up a whole new area for the comics and posed the question: could Batman still continue to defeat his enemies while not killing?
There are other questions posed again such as the thought that since the insane members of Arkham do not play by the book the police need a Batman who too does not play by the book. Another question is raised by the psychologist who says that all the inmates are merely misunderstood which is challenged by everyone else who says, 'a body count in the triple digits and they're misunderstood?*' Either way the whole challenge of how the Arkham inmates should be tried is thrown up. Should they get away with crimes on the basis of criminal insanity?
A very excellent comic book omnibus and very much recommended. I personally prefer this story arc to [b:Watchmen|472331|Watchmen|Alan Moore|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327866860s/472331.jpg|4358649] or [b:Batman: The Dark Knight Returns|59960|Batman The Dark Knight Returns|Frank Miller|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327892039s/59960.jpg|1104159]. While it may lack the sophistication of those works I still believe it has more uplifting ideas. This omnibus does not focus on death and doom but rather on how to come back from defeat and how to take defeat. If you want a different Batman story to others that have been raved about then try this out for size.
*paraphrased of course