“When Huntress elected to go undercover in Arkham Tower, it was to investigate a place of healing that seemed too good to be true. But what happens when Helena Bertinelli really does need some healing? With Nightwing and Batwoman also on the inside, what began as an undercover mission has turned into a rescue operation as the mysteries of Dr. Wear’s Arkham Tower begin to unravel! Then, in “House of Gotham” part three, the young boy rescued by Batman has begun his course of treatment at Arkham, so why are the only people showing him kindness those whom the law asserts are criminals? It’s a cycle of violence the Dark Knight has no answer for as Gotham’s most vulnerable struggle to keep their heads above water!”
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Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made.
Writers: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins Art: Javier Fernandez Colors: Alex Guimaraes Letters: Clayton Cowles
Released: 16/10/19 Published by DC Comics
The first single issue comic book that ever I bought, as opposed to a collected edition graphic novel or movie adaptation, was issue 19 of Batman: Shadow of the Bat. It featured a man named Jean Paul Valley, wearing a brutal looking variation of the dark knight’s costume, traipsing around like he was Batman. I was so offended by this notion that I scratched a mark across the front cover of that very comic book. Little did I know at the time, that the long running story-line (Knightfall, Knightquest and Knight’s End) of which that issue was but a fraction, would go on to become one of my all-time favourite Batman stories.
Something else I didn’t know at that time was that the man parading himself around as Batman, Jean Paul Valley, would go on to become a huge part of my life as a comic book reader (I own all 100 issues of the original Azrael comic book run and have written a rejected screenplay for an animated movie featuring the character’s origin story). So it goes without saying that anything featuring links to Knightfall, in particular Jean Paul and Azrael, peaks my interest big time!
Tales of the Dark Multiverse: Batman: Knightfall #1 is part of a 10-issue series that puts a new spin on some of the biggest events in DC comics history, by looking at them from alternative realities, where all the wrong choices were made. In the case of this particular story, Bruce Wayne’s Batman did not defeat Jean Paul Valley at the climax of Knight’s End, leaving Jean Paul to wage a religious war against crime for thirty years in Gotham. The result is catastrophic. Without his defeat at Bruce’s hands, Jean Paul’s instability has brought ruin to the city, whose people are now divided into two camps: those who worship “Saint Batman” and those who secretly yearn for someone to save them from Jean Paul’s tyrannical rule. That possible salvation comes in the shape of a man claiming to be the son of the super villain, Bane, as well as the highly skilled martial artist, Lady Shiva. As they lead an assault on Valley’s forces it becomes clear that victory may depend on one man; Bruce Wayne, or what’s left of him. But can thirty years of brokenness be overcome by the former Dark Knight?
Writers Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins do a great job here of capturing the flavour of the Batman comics from the 90’s. If you look at where the character of Jean Paul was at the time in which this story kicks off (a slave to “the system” seeing visions of “Saint Dumas”) then it’s logical to assume that the path he might head down would be not too dissimilar to what we get here.
There is a tendency, for anyone who isn’t named Dennis O’Neil, to write Jean Paul as a religious nut-job with a psychopathic personality. Check out a recent iteration of the character depicted in the pages of Legends of the Dark Knight for a prime example. But to do so is to strip him of all the growth he achieved as a character during the years that O’Neil was writing him after the events of Knightfall. It takes him twenty steps backwards and fails to understand what O’Neil was doing with the character. But Snyder and Higgins set their story at the perfect moment in time to justify taking Jean Paul down the kind of rabbit hole that most other writers should be trying to avoid. For this reason I am able to go on the journey willingly as we see what might have been.
Snyder and Higgins focus on one of the key aspects of Jean Paul’s character that O’Neil was always trying to explore, which was the fact that, Jean Paul’s father not really having been there for him means that he has got some serious daddy issues. He looks for approval from the closest father figure he has had in his life, which is Bruce Wayne, without being emotionally equipped to function beyond what “the system” has programmed him for. And so he remains locked in an internal battle concerning his own identity. That was always the journey of the character that O’Neil played out. The question of, “who am I?” constantly hung on Jean Paul’s shoulders. We find Jean Paul here having decided who he is, and yet still seeking that approval from Bruce, which will never be forthcoming. It makes him a tragic figure rather than a mere nut-job playing at being Batman.
Another key influence for Snyder and Higgins appears to be Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. It’s a cliché these days to name that particular work as an influence. But it’s almost inescapable. If you look at where we find Bruce’s Batman at the start of TDKR, we are given an almost plausible journey to show how he became that particular version of the Batman. It’s clearly not the same, but with a few tweaks here and there, it very well could be. Gotham City certainly looks ripe for a mutant takeover by the time we reach the end.
Javier Fernandez does a great job on the art work. I love his design of Jean Paul’s evolved Batman costume. It looks like a variation on his famous Knightquest costume, with a bit more medieval knight vibes added in for good measure. Another gripe I have, besides different writers tackling the character, is with different artists who’ve come to draw Jean Paul’s Azrael over the years and their purposeful attempts to simplify his costume. The original Azrael costume, designed by Joe Quesada, is quite simply one of the best costume designs in comic book history. The iconic Az-Bats costume of the “Knightquest” era is also a particular standout for me. So it’s great to see Fernandez putting as much care and attention into making something that looks just as iconic.
This book made me yearn for the days where Jean Paul was a part of my life each month. He’s never been a particularly popular character, no doubt due to the threat he posed to the mantle of the bat. But maybe it’s time for a reappraisal of the impact this character has had upon the legacy of Batman. And maybe it’s time writers like Snyder and Higgins were encouraged to bring Jean Paul back into regular continuity with a monthly title all of his own again. On the strength of this, I’d say he deserves it.
Verdict – An absolute must-read for fans of 90’s era Batman comic books. Snyder and Higgins do a great job of re-imagining the ‘Knightfall’ legacy, without betraying the roots of the original story or it’s characters.
The splash page of Batman and Joker crashing through a skylight, during a flashback, is stunning and I get a kick out of seeing the 1980’s colours on their costumes…
Detective Comics #1040
Reviewed By Bryan Lomax
Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“The Weekender”) and Dan Watters (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Art: Dan Mora (“The Weekender”) and Max Raynor (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”). Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Weekender”) and Arif Prianto (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”). Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Weekender”) and Rob Leigh (“The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom”).
Published by DC Comics
As I suspected, at the end of issue #1039, the “finale” to Mariko Tamaki’s story, “The Neighborhood”, was anything but. Hugh Vile, we are told, is still alive, leaving Penguin and Mr Worth to continue whatever scheme it was that Vile had concocted. Huntress and Deb Donovan wake up in hospital, seemingly recovered from the effects of Vile’s attacks. Meanwhile, Bruce sits in a prison cell talking to a drunken man, allowing Oracle to put the evidence together that would get him out.
All of this amounts to a mildly amusing dose of pop psychology, as Bruce’s drunken cellmate, having learned that he is Batman (something he conveniently forgets once sober), tells him that he essentially brings all the darkness and misery upon himself; that he is attracted to it. Bruce looks rather non-plussed by this revelation. Dan Mora’s art work, particularly his gift for facial expressions, body language and framing, really help in selling these exchanges. The splash page of Batman and Joker crashing through a skylight, during a flashback, is stunning and I get a kick out of seeing the 1980’s colours on their costumes.
We are told by Penguin that Vile is still alive but we don’t see him. We can only assume at this point he lies in a hospital bed under armed guard. And with Deb Donovan now fully awake and able to testify as to what happened to her, it’s unclear as to just what evidence Oracle needed to gather in order to free Bruce from custody. The tactics that Penguin employs here also make little sense to me. He’s killed many people over the years without the perceived need to remove Batman from the equation first. And, given the level of destruction he manages to pull off at one point, it feels like a somewhat flimsy excuse for Penguin and Worth to not use all their resources to make a co-ordinated attack directly on Bruce.
‘The Quiet and Unsung Death of Kirk Langstrom’ makes a concerted effort to paint some heroic light onto the tragic character of Man-Bat. Unfortunately, it relies quite heavily on some past events from stories that I’ve never read, which means I felt a bit distant from it all. Not to mention the fact that, by now, we all know that when people die in comic books they rarely stay dead. This made it hard for me to connect in any real emotional way with Langstrom, especially given how few pages that writer, Dan Watters, had to tell his story. In that respect he did a good job given he was so restrained.
Mariko Tamaki’s ongoing story, that began with so much intrigue, now seems to hang in limbo with too much uncertainty, while Man-Bat is given a “final” send-off that struggles to resonate emotionally. The highlight is Dan Mora’s artwork.
Huntress confronts Hugh Vile while Batman continues his struggle with Worth. But when Vile infects Huntress he sends her after the dark knight and the two vigilantes become locked in a deadly battle with one another…
Writers: Mariko Tamaki (“The Neighbourhood: Finale”) and T. Rex (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”).
Art: Viktor Bogdanovic, Daniel Henriques and Norm Rapmund (“The Neighbourhood: Finale”), with T. Rex (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”).
Colours: Jordie Bellaire (“The Neighborhood: Finale”) and Simon Gough (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”)
Letters: Aditya Bidikar (“The Neighbourhood: Finale”) and Rob Leigh (“The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”)
Published by DC Comics
Huntress confronts Hugh Vile while Batman continues his struggle with Worth. But when Vile infects Huntress he sends her after the dark knight and the two vigilantes become locked in a deadly battle with one another.
For a story with “Finale” as its subtitle I have to say that I found it very disappointing. It just doesn’t feel like anything has been fully resolved at all. We are left with too many questions that leave you feeling frustrated. Is Vile defeated? If so, where does that leave Penguin and Worth, given they seemed to be in league with him? Where’s the logic in Bruce turning himself in, especially since Worth is still out there? After all, he’s already destroyed one police station to get at Bruce, so what would stop him from doing it again?
Then you have the infections of both Huntress and Deb Donovan, which are unsatisfyingly wrapped up with a line of dialogue from Oracle.
Not only do all of these elements suggest that this issue is not, in fact, the “finale” of the story, but also, the cover presents the tagline, “From the depths… Enter: Vile”. This suggests that things are just about to get going with regard to our main villain. But he “entered” our story a few issues ago. Perhaps such a tagline might have been more appropriate during one of those issues rather than on the “finale” of the story.
Thankfully, the artwork by Viktor Bogdanovic, and the coloring, by Jordie Bellaire, are still on excellent form.
T. Rex’s short origin story for Vile, “The Life & Times of Hugh Vile”, is a much more rewarding affair. At only ten pages, Rex doesn’t have much to work with, but manages suitably enough to convey the story of a man who has embraced his dark side thanks to the Venom-esque parasite that now lives inside him.
However, I’d rather the thirty pages of a comic book were devoted to the main story at hand. I often find that, as the main story starts to hit a stride, we are then forced to dovetail into another story altogether. I don’t think I’m a fan of this particular evolution in the medium.
Verdict: Again, we are left with more questions than answers, making for a highly unsatisfying “finale” (if that title is to be believed) to Mariko Tamaki’s story.