Monday, October 18, 2010

Repetitive Batman Outing Finishes The Fall With Simplicity Over Violence: Knightfall: Knightsend

The Good: Wraps up the story nicely, sort of.
The Bad: Very simplistic ending, Missing a huge chunk of storyline, Overly simple, Lame villains, No Character!
The Basics: Wrapping up the essential conflict of having two Batmans running around Gotham City, Knightsend resolves the story, but does not satisfy.

The only comic book I bought, for a long time, as an adult was the three graphic novels comprising the Knightfall saga, a Batman comic endeavor. My reasons were explained in my reviews for Knightfall: Part One - Broken Bat (click here for that review!) and Knightfall: Part Two - Who Rules The Night (click here for that review!) and I am glad to be done with the series with Knightfall: Part Three - Knightsend. The problem here is that it is not the end of the series. In the prologue to this volume, the graphic novel declares that a portion of the story, detailing Bruce Wayne's recovery and the new Batman's (Jean-Paul) descent into madness, is missing from the anthologies. I picked up Knightfall because I was intrigued by the idea that all of Batman's enemies were released from Arkham Asylum and Batman became so exhausted retrieving some of them that he was thwarted by Bane and had to be replaced. The idea of having to round up his many nemesi was a cool idea to me. The first volume delivered on that, the second dealt with two more villains being apprehended and this volume, missing the important step as it is is completely devoid of the other enemies of Batman.

Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City miraculously healed, but afraid of literally taking a leap to return to his duty as the Dark Knight. He encounters a fearsome warrior named Lady Shiva who kills a master of martial arts while wearing the Mask of Tengu. She then gives Wayne the mask and lets him fall prey to the apprentices of the master she just killed, hoping she can get him to kill one of them and betray himself. While Wayne defeats these apprentices using non-lethal methods and walks out to the abyss he intends to jump into without doing so, Batman - now seriously armored - goes completely insane and goes on a bit of a killing spree in search of the guy who apparently killed his father. Haunted by the Ghost of Saint Dumas, Batman is hunting a man who is likely already dead and burning through most of Gotham City to do it.

The truly disappointing thing here is not only that a potion of the story is missing (why wasn't this Part Four with Part Three being Knightquest?!), but rather that so much of the missing part of the story seems vastly more interesting than what is presented here. While Batman worked to regain control of the streets of Gotham City in the first chapter of Knightfall, the reader was engaged. Here, Wayne goes through repetitive physical conflicts, fights adversaries who seem obvious and simply physical obstacles, then he stands atop a giant building refusing to leap off. We get it, it gets old quickly. Sadly, it keeps repeating.

Moreover, the character of Jean-Paul Valley, the new Batman is simply dull and a one-trick pony. Any potential Wayne saw in him is gone now and he's a mindless psychopath, as bad as any villain in the Batman pantheon. Indeed, much of the book revolves not around Batman and his insanely burning through gun runners to try to find his father's assassin, but with Robin and Nightwing following him and witlessly trying to determine if he truly is insane.

Indeed, the only truly enjoyable elements in Knightsend are the climactic moments when Wayne, Catwoman, Robin and Nightwing confront the impostor Batman atop a bridge and the end of the book. I don't mean "the end" as in "that it ended," but rather in the resolution. I find the resolution to be ridiculously simple, but as a fan of Star Trek (yes, I know there is a difference between Trek and Batman) I appreciate the philosophical ending to Knightsend.

In short, like all his villains that he must defeat, Bruce Wayne as the returning Batman eventually uses his brains, not his brawn to overcome Valley's Batman. Wayne realizes Valley has gone completely delusional and his solution is to break him by stripping him of his armor (literally and figuratively). It's a smart and intriguing resolution that relies on brains.

But more than the prior two outings, Knightfall reads like a comic book. The characters barely move the story, much of it being very plot centered and reading it becomes a waiting for the end. We thumb through the pages desperately hoping for decent dialogue (most of the conversations in this trade paperback are between Robin and Nightwing and some reference events in the missing chapter) and end up disappointed. We end up waiting for the ultimate resolution and when it comes, we set aside this volume with the full understanding that we will never pick it back up again.

Even if I reread Knightfall Parts I and II, I will not pick Knightsend up again.

The artwork is nothing to write home about with much of it being sloppy and underdeveloped until the final chapters when the two Batmen are going at it. In short, even the spectacle aspect fails. Lacking a solid, interesting plot, genuine character development and reasonable dialogue and failing to be visually interesting, Knightsend falls flat.

But more than that, key Batman villains are still on the loose at the end of Knightsend, most notably the Joker. Given that this was one of the engaging concepts of Knightfall for me, that one of the greatest villains is still at large is just shoddy to me.

That's the curse of Knightsend, though, it wraps things up and restores a status quo to the Batman universe. Sadly, that's all it does.

For other DC graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Absolute Justice
Wonder Woman: Challenge Of The Gods
Green Lantern: Agent Orange


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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