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Batman – Knightfall (Review/Retrospective)

This March sees the release of Batman vs. Superman. To celebrate, we’ll be looking at some iconic and modern Batman and Superman stories over the course of the month.

Knightfall is one of the definitive Batman stories.

That is, to be clear, not the same as saying it is one of the best. Knightfall is far too chaotic and disorganised to rank among the best Batman stories ever told. This becomes particularly obvious when the story enters its second and third act, as everything falls to pieces and the saga sort of sputters out rather than coming to a clear end. Indeed, this problem can be seen even in the nineteen-issues-and-change introductory arc; the creative teams start with a strong focus and clear direction, but this quickly descends into anarchy as the story builds a forward momentum.

Batman just snapped...

Batman just snapped…

At the same time, there is something striking and ambitious about Knightfall. It is no surprise that Denny O’Neil considers it one of his crowning accomplishments as editor of the line. Asked to name his favourite Batman arc, O’Neil replies, “I guess it would be Knightfall because it involved me so deeply–I worked on it as a comic series, a novel, and a radio show. It was a very steep mountain to climb, but we climbed it and that was satisfying.” There is no denying the influence and success of the arc.

In some respects, Knightfall is an astonishingly cynical piece of work. It is quite blatantly designed as a crossover with a high-profile guest cast and killer high concept. Indeed, Knightfall could be seen as a headline-grabber in the style of The Death and Return of Superman, but with the added hook of Batman’s iconic rogues gallery. After all, it was the nineties, the era of sensationalist headline-grabbing sales stunts. It could be argued that comics (and mass culture) have always been stuck in this cycle, but it was particularly evident in nineties comic books.

All of Batman's greatest adversaries... ... and Maxie Zeus.

All of Batman’s greatest adversaries…
… and Moench.

However, Knightfall has two core virtues that go a long way towards excusing the confusion and excess at the heart of the story. The first is that there is a sense that the writers seemed to have a (very) rough idea where they would like to end up, even if the journey was not mapped in advance. While the plot resolves with a convenient and contrived twist, at least it does not hinge on Bruce magically waking up from a coma. More than that, though, there is a sense that Knightfall is actually trying to say something about its central character.

For all the noise and static along the way, Knightfall is essentially a story about Batman means in the context of the nineties.

Armoured and dangerous...

Armoured and dangerous…

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Batman: Birth of the Demon (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises this week, today we’ll be reviewing the complete “Demon” trilogy, exploring the relationship between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul.

Birth of the Demon is very much the odd one out of the Demon trilogy. Of the three stories, it is the only one not written by Mike W. Barr. It also is arguably the most reflective of the three stories in the series, focusing on the origin of Ra’s Al Ghul more than in any modern conflict with Bruce Wayne. Still, it all feels strangely appropriate that, more than a decade after his creation, Denny O’Neil should return to tell the back story of his most iconic addition to the Batman mythos.

Shadow of the bat…

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Batman: The Animated Series – The Demon’s Quest (Parts I & II)

This post is part of the DCAU fortnight, a series of articles looking at the Warner Brothers animations featuring DC’s iconic selection of characters. I’ll be looking at movies and episodes and even some of the related comic books. To tie into tomorrow’s review of Under the Red Hood, I thought I’d take a look at the episode which introduced Ra’s Al Ghul to the animated DC universe (and represented the character’s first appearance outside comic books).

If Heart of Ice – perhaps one of the best pieces of Western Animation produced during the nineties – illustrated just how good the creative minds behind Batman: The Animated Series where at innovation (updating and adding depth to previously shallow characters), then The Demon’s Quest perhaps reflects their skill at adaptation. Adapted from Denny O’Neill’s seventies story arc introducing Ra’s Al Ghul as an adversary of the Dark Knight, by the author himself, it’s also a testament to the show’s diversity. This isn’t exactly a conventional Batman story, and certainly not one conforming to the gothic or noir conventions which seemed to grip the character during the nineties. 

"We'll always have your father's desert stronghold..."

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