The Big Batman Read: Knightquest: The Crusade (in 202 words)


18. Knightquest: The Crusade (1993-1994) Multple writers, multiple artists

Knightsquest: The Crusade answers the question ‘what if Batman was created in the 90s?’.

With Bruce Wayne paralysed (and hunting for Dr Kinsolving) the mantle of the Bat is taken up by brainwashed sociopath Jean Paul Valley. Valley quickly alienates Robin, seals off the Batcave, and begins turning the batsuit into something from a Rob Liefield fantasy full of pouches, spikes, flames, and stupidity.

The Crusade serves as a reaction to trends at the time for more extreme, darker heroes like Spawn and the like. In fact some of the villains introduced (and quickly dispatched) during this run could easily have come straight from an issue of Spawn, and most of them seem silly and over-written.

The entire run has some very bright spots and as a parody of 90’s comics it is genius. It takes all the tropes at the time and shows how silly they are while at the same time still being a very readable book. It also finishes just as the joke begins to wear thin.

Now to see what Bruce Wayne was doing all this time while Jean Paul Valley was brutalising criminals in a batsuit that has something that Bruce Wayne’s never did: a motherfucking flamethrower.

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The Big Batman Read: Knightfall (in 338 words)


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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The Big Batman Read: Batman – Venom (in 100 words)


6. Batman: Venom (1991) – Story by Dennis O’Neil, Art by Trevor Von Eeden and Russell Braun

In this awesome comic Batman gets addicted to super steroids and kicks a shark in the face.

This was actually one of the first Batman comic books I ever read, way back when I was in junior school. It has no gangsters or super-villains, just a mad, drug peddling scientist and a disgraced military man trying to make a super army.  The book has an anti-drug theme but manages to pull it off, creating something that feels like a Batman story and not a PSA. It also stands as a prequel to Knightfall with references to Santa Prisca and Venom.

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