Knightfall Graphic Novel Series Review
A collection of comics that were released between 1993 and 1994, brought together in a series of 3 Novels.
Batman goes up against the criminal mastermind Bane. After being beaten in battle by Bane, the mantle of The Bat is taken on by Jean Paul Valley. Batman struggles to regain his fitness whilst Valley cleans up Gotham his way.
Together with a small band of cohorts, the criminal mastermind Bane orchestrates the release of the entire compliment of Arkham Asylum's inmates. As Batman goes about trying to round up this mass of criminal villainy, we watch as his efforts to recapture and reprison this scum, becomes an ever increasingly arduous task. It seems as though there is some intricate timing at work that see's his opponents becoming more and more devilish and hard core as the pursuit continues. The Mad Hatter, Solomon Grundy, The Ventriloquist, Zsasz and Firefly all serve up a workout starter before the main course enters the fray.
During all of this time Batman does his best to keep Robin as far away from danger as possible. Sub stories see The Joker and Scarecow teaming up and The Riddler and Poison Ivy making appearances to further enhance the story and drain the energy of The Bat.
The culmination of this first book presents a shattered Batman facing off against a monstrous Bane. The confrontation that ensues is both short and violent. As the title suggests, Bane breaks The Bat, leaving him not dead, but left for dead, knowing that he has been beaten.
Who Rules The Night
With Bruce Wayne near death from his confrontation with Bane, he hands over the responsibilities of The Batman to Jean Paul Valley. Jean Paul is known as the Vigilante Azrael. He seems like an incredibly well suited replacement for Wayne as he starts on his long road to recovery. But from very early on, Jean Paul starts to exhibit behaviours that are far from that of The Batman. His style of information extraction and no holds barred methods of dealing with anybody that stands in his way starts to worry Robin. After numerous confrontations on this matter, Valley dismisses Robin and tells him that his way is what will get results in Gotham. And eventually it is he that will deliver Gotham from the grips of Bane, even though Wayne has speciifcally told him not to engage Bane at any cost.
As we progress through this second installment we discover that Azrael is haunted by images of a secret order that he believes is responsible for his fathers death. Under the guise of The Batman he now thinks he can defeat this enemy. But the more he becomes embroiled in this endeavour, the more he seems to lose his grip on sanity and any similarities he has with Bruce Wayne.
Valley works his way through the criminal hierarchy and gets his show down with Bane. By this time he has started to adapt his suit to utilise armour, claws and lethal projectiles. His first encounter with the monster ends in a draw, but a second more violent meeting, has an almost automaton version of Batman defeat Bane, break Bane. Valley has the chance to kill Bane but doesn't, is there still something inside that want's to keep the morals of Wayne alive?
With Bane now behind bars the emphasis switches to Wayne's rehabilitation to peak fitness and the accelerating downward mental state of Jean Paul Valley as The Batman. Valley is lost to the morals of what Wayne has laid down for how Batman can fight crime and he uses his new found status to pursue any lead or clue that he believes will bring him closer to finding the identity of his fathers killer.
Wayne the Lady Shiva to hone his skills once more, but Shiva believes the only way that Wayne can regain and better what he once had is to cross the line and kill his attackers, this he will not do. She sends increasingly more skilled opponents to test his resolve but he stands strong and uses all of his old and new abilities to defeat them his way.
After defeating his final test and fooling Shiva in to thinking he has actually killed this one, Wayne turns his attention to regaining control of Gotham, this means removing the unstable Valley from his ever more deluded vision of being The Batman.
An epic battle ensues between the two protagonists, with Robin and Nightwing adding their weight to the party as well. At one point we are lead to believe that Wayne has been killed when a booby trapped Batmobile explodes when he tries to get in to it.
Wayne reveals himself to Robin and again must engage Valley to remove from power. Wayne lures Valley in to the Bat Cave and by leading him through ever narrowing gaps and crevises forces him to remove his armour. Here naked of the shroud that has created this new monster, Wayne shows Valley to himself and what he has become. Valley relents and Wayne has won.
As these books are a collection of many comics released over the period of around a year, we encounter many different writers, artists and inkers. But a compilation of this sort really shows how well these professionals work together and create a story that keeps you turning the page and being delighted by the images that bring the words to life.
If I'm being honest, the artwork is not by my favourite Batman artists, but all of the images on display in this collection work well together.
I picked these stories specifically to read recently as I believe that there seems to be an underlying similarity to what we might see in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises. If Bane lives up to the Monster that is envisaged on these pages, I think I'll actually like seeing Batman's butt being kicked! So long as he gets the chance to get his own back!