Batman begins….for the third time
Whilst I’ve glanced over Batman Knightsend in the past, I’ve never quite sunk my teeth into it. It’s vast length often put me off picking it up and the fact that it’s prefaced by two equally giant graphic novels didn’t do it any favours.
However, after reading both Knightfall and Knightquest I am fully engrossed into the ‘Fall Of The Bat’ saga. I’ve had an enjoyable time reading the rise of Jean Paul but perhaps it’s time to reset the man in the mask to the status quo.
We last left the tale with Bruce returning to Gotham and realising that Jean Paul Valley was not fit to wear the cape and cowl. Refusing to give it up, Jean Paul has sparked a fire within Bruce. A man who will now turn down his own happiness to ensure that Gotham is safe.
I’m extremely eager to jump into the book and watch Bruce, the rightful Batman, reclaim the mantle. So let’s get started and dive right in to Batman: Knightsend.
The Rise Of The Bat
Jean Paul Valley continues to be haunted by visions of St Dumas, leader of the ancient order that indoctrinated him, this furthers his descent into madness and the vigilante becomes almost like a plague on Gotham. A wraith who is slowly succumbing to madness.
Opposing this we follow Bruce on his rise in power and strength. Being trained by the deadly Assassin, Lady Shiva, he faces some of the toughest tests known to man and it’s really engrossing watching just how skilled he must become in order to gain the mantle of The Bat again. These early issues are like a Rocky training montage, swapped out with our favourite Super Hero and they really help feel like they pack a real punch to get you invested in the character.
That is something that I really lacked throughout Knightquest. I didn’t really feel any connection with Jean Paul, which is always a negative with a protagonist, and that has really been amended here. It’s great to see Bruce back in the habit and I think this is one of the main selling points of the book that will get fans interested in picking it up.
The Mask Of Tengu
In order to complete Shiva’s training Batman must don the mask of Tengu. A totem Shiva wore when murdering a Sensei and now through mistaken identity his disciples want revenge on Bruce. Whilst this would normally be seen as a negative to anyone else, Bruce realises that it is a challenge that he must complete in order to become the best. Better than before. We have a few issues revolving around Bruce slowly taking down each disciple and it’s truly enthralling to watch him grow from strength to strength.
When he finally puts back on the cape and cowl it’s a triumphant moment. One of the highlights of the book that I challenge any reader to not get butterflies over. His final leap off Gotham Tower lets you know that he is ready.
It’s about to go down!
Mirroring this challenge, Jean Paul is wrapped up in his own plot of insanity and conflict. Tracking down Lehah. The criminal who murdered his father in Sword Of Azarael. Whilst normally these sections may be seen as lacklustre subplots, Dixon has done well to balance them within the narrative and for once Jean Paul is as interesting as Bruce. It all feels like it has a purpose. There is a balance to the book that must be admired. Whilst Jean Paul falls Bruce rises and the creative team have managed to showcase a dichotomy that adds a wealth of depth to their character’s.
The arc really feels head and shoulders above it’s prequels due to this and in it’s earlier sections Knightsend is clearly the strongest book of the trilogy.
Batman VS Batman
The Batman VS Batman battle spans across multiple arcs and is some of the most thrilling action from the canon read through thus far. Scaling all of Gotham’s highs and lows it is a brilliant demonstration of how the two Batman differentiate in style and ability. Jean Paul is fast, uncaring and his madness drives him to make mistakes that Bruce uses to his advantage. However Bruce’s compassion also gets him in trouble a long the way. Refusing to let bystanders die Jean Paul uses this to almost kill his foe.
Whilst most action in comics is just that, this feels like it has a real depth to it due to the subtext of their opposite ideologies. Often we feel the other is defeated and they recover. Normally this might slow the pacing down, here though it helps to strengthen the book and make it an engrossing page turner. Dixon has done an expert job in showcasing a battle that will allow readers to side with both combatants and even a Jean Paul hater such as myself managed to admire him.
The fight ends in the Bat cave. Jean Paul believes that he has booby trapped the entirety of it’s walls. However, there is one entrance that he does not know of. Travelling back to the well that he fell down as a child in Year One, Bruce is able to enter the vast cavern and drive Jean Paul to the point that he admits Bruce is the true Batman. It’s a satisfying conclusion that leaves us feeling overjoyed that Bruce has returned but sad in the truth that he is now punished to the life of his never ending crusade once again.
Dixon is able to present a bitter sweet conclusion that few writers could muster and he has to be commended for his balance of action and drama. The writer feels at his peak here and it is a perfect summation of the incredible arc that has been Knightfall.
The epic book closes on the true star of it all, Jean Paul Valley, realising that he is once again only human…and perhaps that is good enough.
Knightsend is a satisfying conclusion to what has to this point been the longest arc in my canonlogical review read through. It features many stand out moments that build perfectly upon the foundation that was set in the previous two books. Knightsend is a story of both failure and success. A gleaming and dynamic example of just how much comics constantly require reinvention whilst also staying true to their core values.
Bruce Wayne has reclaimed the throne in what is one of the best books thus far.
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.