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Monday, July 7, 2014

Graphic Novels - Batman: Knightfall - Who Rules the Night

I can’t believe it’s been two years since I looked at the first volume of “Knightfall.” I thought I would have gotten to it by now especially since all of the Knight Trilogy has been released in the trades. Now, it’s time to see what happened to Batman after Bane broke him. The creative team for the trade varies a lot. We have names like Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Jim Aparo, Klaus Jansen, and Graham Nolan bringing this to us. The issues contained here are Detective Comics #664-666, Batman #498-500, Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-18, and Showcase ’93 #7-8 . Here’s a brief recap of the previous volume:

Bane, being of sound mind and body, decides to unleash all of Arkham Asylum’s inmates on Gotham City. He does this in order to weaken Batman. As for Batman, who’s not of sound mind or body at the moment, doesn’t ask any other hero for help and decides to take on this threat with himself, Robin, and that Jean-Paul Van Damme guy. Besides, he’s the cotton-pickin’ Batman! He beat up a shark for goodness sake! He can win, right? Well, it all doesn’t go well. Bane corners him at his lowest and breaks his back.

Batman: Knightfall – Who Rules the Night
Writers: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, and Alan Grant
Pencils: Jim Aparo, Graham Nolan, Bret Blevins, Klaus Janson, and Mike Manley
Inkers: Scott Hanna, Mike Manley, Klaus Janson, Bret Blevins, Steve George, Terry Austin, Rick Bruchett, and Dick Giordano
Colorists: Andrinne Roy and Klaus Janson

SYNOPSIS
We start out with Bane triumphant. He takes Batman’s broken body to the city and throws it off a building so that people can see that Batman’s out. Somehow, this fall doesn’t kill Batman. Alfred, Jean-Paul, and Robin commandeer an ambulance in order to get Batman back to the Batcave. Alfred reveals to the others that Bruce may not regain the use of his legs. Meanwhile, Bane takes over the city by taking out the gangs. Also, other subplots from the previous volume come to an end. Scarecrow and Joker break their alliance, and the Ventriloquist finds Scarface.
Ouch. I think we can safely say that Batman is related to the McLeods... of the Clan McLeod!

After a badly-drawn flashback involving Two-Face (I’ll get to that below), Bruce awakens from his coma. Not only is he beaten in body, he’s also beaten in mind and spirit. Bruce tells Tim that Gotham still needs a Batman and that Batman will… not be Dick Grayson for whatever reason. The job is given to Jean-Claude Valley, and that is the last reference I’ll make to “The Muscles from Brussels.” People already start to notice the differences in Batman, namely Commissioner Gordon. The first challenge Jean-Paul has to face to the Scarecrow who’s using hypnotized college students to screw up Gotham. He sort of gets assisted by Anarky, another vigilante who kind of looks cool in my opinion. We also find out that Jean is a bit more brutal than Bruce ever was.
Batman's being courteous? Clone!!!! Clone!!!!! He's been secretly invaded!!!

As Jean-Paul is getting used to the role, Bruce needs a physician in order to get into some shape. He provides Dr. Shondra Kilsolving (aka “Shondra Plot Device”) with the means to do that. He also takes a liking to the woman. Unfortunately, things don’t work out as she and Jack Drake get kidnapped at Jack’s home. Bruce does what he can to stop it but he is unable to due to his wheelchair. That still doesn’t stop Bruce from trying to figure out who the kidnappers are. Meanwhile, Catwoman ends up working for Bane.

While Bruce is trying to find “Tall, Dark, and Doctor-y,” Tim finds out how brutal Jean-Paul is. He tells him to hold back on the criminals, but Jean-Paul ain’t having any of that. When Bruce finds out where Shondra has been taken, he and Alfred prepare to go overseas. Tim doesn’t get a chance to tell Bruce about Jean-Paul. Meanwhile, Jean-Paul starts to crack a bit. Since he was a part of the Order of St. Dumas (I could have fun with “Dumas”), his brain has been toyed with a bit. He falls under something called “The System” and makes an upgrade to his suit: “The Deadly Deathclaws of Death!!!!” After Bruce leaves, Tim finds out about his dad is gone.
Those gloves... what if he needs to itch? Pick his nose? Shake a hand? Cuddle? I don't see those situations turning out well.

Now that Bruce has left, Jean Paul decides to take on Bane and his henchmen. Robin tells Jean-Paul not to since Bruce forbade them from facing him. Still, Jean Paul goes through with it. Jean-Paul uses some trickery to get Bane’s henchmen out of jail. They lead him to Bane who’s oblivious about the breakout. Batman busts in and knocks out the henchmen. He then takes on Bane. The fight gets pretty brutal with Bane knocking out Batman and escaping. Because of this defeat, Jean Paul makes more “upgrades” to his suit. Elsewhere, Tim talks about his doubts about Jean-Paul to Nightwing.
Oh man, it's Dick and his mullet. If you think Superman had a mullet, you'd be wrong by taking a look at this thing. No wonder Batman didn't ask Dick!

Now that Bane is at his end, he wants to throw down with Batman for one last time. Even the police hold back for this and Tim suits up as well. Batman comes out with his new suit and gadgets. He fights with Bane and it is pretty brutal as before. It only needed some Han Zimmer music. Their fight moves the subway which leaves Robin to save the passengers. The fight ends with a crash as Batman is triumphant and Bane is down for the count. Bane tells Batman to kill him, but Batman knows he’s broken him enough. The book ends with Batman heading into the night and with Robin thinking Jean-Paul might do alright.
While that suit is a bit ridiculous, that's still a cool pose and layout.

OPINION
This was a nice conclusion to the “Knightfall” part of the Knight Trilogy. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it is something that’s nice to read. I will say that the story is pretty good for the most part. We see a beaten Bruce Wayne and how it affects the rest of the Bat-team. We also see how it affects Gotham now that Bruce is out of commission. This leads Jean-Paul Valley into taking the cowl and he is already off to a weird start. Unfortunately, Jean-Paul is a character I really can’t get behind. There’s just not a lot to him that I like. Still, his “upgrades” have made for some funny material. Maybe his character gets more... character later.

The villains were fun as usual even though we didn’t get many. While the artwork to the Two-Face two-parter was bad, the story wasn’t that bad. I just didn’t like that it was a flashback that didn’t add much to the overall story. The Scarecrow three-parter was a little better. While the artwork was weird, it did fit with the fear-inducing villain. It also introduced me to Anarky who I might read more about. Bane was still Bane. Unfortunately, he was really only here to get his keister kicked by Jean-Paul Valley.

The artwork varies here. Some of it is good and some of it isn’t. The art from Aparo and Nolan was good. It had its wonky places, but I liked it. The art from Mike Manley was also quite good. He drew the final Batman/Bane showdown and he ruled with that fight. The artwork from the Scarecrow three-parter wasn’t to my liking. Still, it does fit the villain and the tone the writer was setting. On the other hand, the artwork from Klaus Jansen was not that good. That artwork really wasn’t to my liking and it sucks because the story wasn’t a bad one.
Meh... at least the story was decent!

There’s also one thing I wonder about: why wasn’t Nightwing asked to fill the spot? He does appear in the trade once and we get a weak-hearted excuse. To me, he’s probably the best person to fill Batman’s shoes because he was his partner for the longest. I heard somewhere that the writers basically wanted to put some who’s more like the Punisher in the costume to show how wrong “A darker Batman” would be. I say they accomplished that mission. I also thought the placement of the Scarecrow storyline in the trade was off. The last issue before it  and the issue after it flowed together well. Throwing that storyline between there messed that flow up.

Overall, I like this trade and will read the rest of the Knight Trilogy. I probably won’t cover it here though. I know of a podcast that actually went through all of the Knight trilogy and other major storylines from that era. It’s called “Hey Kids, Comics!” and they are on the Two True Freaks podcast network. They’re a British father/son team and they’re quite funny and insightful. Check it out if you’re looking for any podcasts to listen to. Well, I’m done with 90’s. I think I need to go back to a time where gangsters were Batman’s main threat. Peace and God Bless.

NEXT TIME: BATMAN FACES THE NOTORIOUS GANGSTER KNOWN AS BLACKIE!! DON’T WORRY, POLITICALLY CORRECT ACTIVISTS! THE GANGSTER’S NOT ACTUALLY BLACK!

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