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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: Shadow of the Bat – The Last Arkham (Review)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

In 1992, DC comics launched Shadow of the Bat. It ran for eight years and ninety-two issues. Alan Grant wrote most of those issues, before his creative relationship with the publisher eventually broke down. (Grant is still upset about the manner of his dismissal.) As the driving force behind the book, Grant was able to give Shadow of the Bat its own unique flavour, focusing on the madness of Gotham, and the strangeness of its inhabitants.

The opening four-part story, The Last Arkham, remains perhaps the most definitive of Grant’s contributions to the Batman mythos, teaming up with artist Norm Breyfogle to offer a rather creepy and unnerving exploration of the city’s ever-slipping sanity.

Me thinks the Batman doth protest too much...

Me thinks the Batman doth protest too much…

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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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Flashpoint

After spending the tail end of last year looking at the tangled inter-continuity crossovers at Marvel, I thought I’d spend January looking at some of the looser “out of continuity” tales at the major companies.

Flashpoint is the first big event of Geoff Johns’ relaunched run on The Flash. If Flash: Rebirth was intended to echo Green Lantern: Rebirth, fan anticipation and speculation suggest that his Flashpoint – a five-part miniseries – will serve as a counterpart to Sinestro Corps War on his Green Lantern run. However, the title Flashpoint has connotations for the character – it was the title of a relatively recent story featuring the character, one of DC Comic’s Elseworlds. I figured, with the big event coming it up, it might be worth a bit of a retroactive review of the title which perhaps inspired the event.

He moves like lightening...

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