17. Batman: Knightfall (1993 – 1994) – Written by multiple writers, Art by multiple artists.
Knightfall is a huge Batman event full of characters and villains and with a scary, new antagonist and a gut punch of a climax. It is actually split into four parts: Knightfall, Knightquest (which is two stories running concurrently) and finally Knightsend. I originally intended to review all four in one 100 word segment but after reading Knightfall I realised this was a terrible idea.
Knightfall follows Batman as he is put through the whinger by new villain, Bane, a super-strong, super-smart nutcase who wants to take control of Gotham and realises that in order to do this he must destroy Batman. His plan to break the dark knight is simple: release all of the inmates of Arkham, arm them, and let them run wild through the city. Once Batman is at his breaking point Bane, who has worked out that Batman is Bruce Wayne, shows up at Wayne Manor to dish out the final blow. The issue in which Bane beats the shit out of Batman is brutal and unflinching, and ends with the iconic image of Bane snapping Batman across his knee.
Knightfall is a fantastic story because it takes its time to break Batman down. By the time Batman stumbles into the Batcave for his bout with Bane we have seen him become weaker and weaker, but refuse to rest and give up when his city needs him. Throughout the book I kept hoping that Batman would crack and get a good night’s sleep, but in the end it is not to be.
By the end of Knightfall, Bruce Wayne has been replaced as Batman by John Paul Valley, the former Azrael, who quickly updates the Bat suit, brutalises Gotham’s criminals and, in another knock down drag out fight, defeats Bane.
Bruce Wayne, wheelchair-bound, has gone in search of his kidnapped doctor, leaving the new Batman in charge of Gotham. We’ll have to see what happens in Knightquest: The Crusade, to see how this darker, grittier, 90’s-er Batman handles the job of protecting Gotham city.
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