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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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Non-Review Review: Superman – Doomsday

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. This is the very first of the “stand-alone” animated movies produced by the creative team that gave us the television shows. 

Superman: Doomsday is the first entry in the range of animated DC films featuring their iconic superheroes. The line has since ballooned to feature a wide range of other heroes, with movies focusing on Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and even the Justice League itself, but Superman seemed a logical place to start. Of course, the fact that the movie came from the minds that brought us Batman: The Animated Series and the rest of the animated universe (even if it didn’t share continuity) was also a solid indication. However, there’s very much a sense of a production team attempting to find their footing. Although it’s solidly entertaining on its own terms, the film feels like perhaps the weakest entry in the selection of films. 

Well, at least he can wipe it on his cape and no one will notice...

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Why Bruce Wayne as Batman Should Rest in Peace

I’m not a comic book fan, I must admit. I own a few Absolute editions (Watchmen, Sandman, The Long Halloween) and a rare few prestige format books (The Green Lantern Archives and The Killing Joke), and I’m planning on bulk-buying Grant Morrison’s run on Batman in those nice hardcover editions to tide me over on my holiday this summer. So, what I’m about to say must be tempered with that little caveat. I’ve read relatively little of Batman lore, save what my parents would pick me up from the grocery store in Ghana when I was small (and – to further outline the differences between myself and your comics fan – I remember them merely for what they contained rather than by issue and series number; I fondly recall “the one where Swamp Thing meets Killer Croc” or “the retelling of The Riddler’s origin”). Still, on reading the coverage and preparing to jump headfirst into Grant Morrison’s magnum opus, one thought is running through my head: If they are threatening to end Bruce Wayne’s run as Batman, they should do it.
Na na na na na na, Batman!

Na na na na na na, Batman!

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