Trade Post: Batman Knightfall Volume 1

Batman Knightfall Volume 1 (DC)
Collects Batman #491-500, Detective #659-666, Showcase 93 #7-8, Shadow of the Bat #16-18 & Vengeance of Bane
Written by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon & Alan Grant, drawn by Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, Jim Balent, Bret Blevins, Klaus Janson & Mike Manley

You guys, I can’t tell you how excited I was when I saw that DC was re-collecting the Batman Knightfall story. If you’re unfamiliar with early 90s Batman comics, a weakened Batman went up against a new bad guy on the street named Bane who released all the villains in Arkham. After trying to stop and recapture all the bad guys, Batman finally goes up against Bane and — as you can see on the cover to the left here — Bane breaks Batman’s back. After this, a guy who has been hanging around for a little bit named Jean-Paul Valley, also known as Azrael, gets named the new Batman. JPV’s a little nutty to be nice about things and Robin realizes this is a problem, but Bruce is worried about finding Tim’s kidnapped dad and their shared doctor who Bruce wants to tell he’s Bats. There’s a lot going on, but what else can you expect from a 630 page book?

The reason I was so excited about this book — and the two that come after it — is because these were really my first Batman comics. I’d read one or two before and knew the character from the Adam West TV show, but these were the first ones I collected. The death of Superman got me into that book and the breaking of Batman got me into this one, I guess I was a little morbid as a kid. Anyway, while I have most of the issues collected therein, this is the very first time I’ve read them in order. I got many of the issues piecemeal, read them and then promptly placed them in bags and boards.

I was surprised by a lot of things reading through this book. First off, I was shocked that Kelly Jones didn’t do any interiors, only covers. This surprised me because what I remember about these stories is mainly his covers (as well as the gatefold foil Joe Quesada one for #500). I was also surprised at how quickly they got to breaking Bats. I assumed it would be towards the end of the book, but it actually takes place around the half way point.

My other surprises were more story based, so they deserve their own paragraph(s). I should note that, even if this book was a complete artistic embarrassment, I would love it because it’s so near and dear to me. While I didn’t think it was embarrassing at all, I was surprised at how flimsy Bane’s reasoning is presented in the book. We see his origins in the Bane one-shot, but his reasoning doesn’t make much sense. Why does he care about Gotham or Batman? Because some guy told him how great it was? I assume the intent is for Bane to compare himself to the highest physical specimen and win, but that falls apart when you release an army of madmen to bend him so you can come in and break him. Along similar lines, I have no idea why Bane hangs out with the trio of goofballs he does, Bird, Trogg and Zombie as they don’t do a whole lot for him.

Another problem I had which might have come from seeing how well this source material was handled in The Dark Knight Rises was that I didn’t get the impending sense of worry and doom with this story that I got in the film. Bane not only releases every crazy into Gotham and breaks Batman’s back IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, but also starts taking over all of the crime in the city, but the normal people we see don’t seem super upset or worried about it. The story lacks a sense of larger urgency that the film absolutely nailed. This is not helped by the inclusion of the Shadow of the Bat issues included in this collection which come right after JPV went out as Batman for the first time and give you three issues of Scarecrow trying to become a fear god, JPV being crazy Batman and Anarky trying to kill both of them. These don’t really help the series along and slow things WAY down, but I’m glad they’re in there. Maybe it would have been better to put them later in the book? But then they’d come after JPV made the AzBat armor…hmm

Okay, that was a good deal of complaining and critiquing, but I still really enjoyed reading this book and not just because of the wonderful trip down memory lane. Watching Batman getting so worn down facing also-rans like Firefly was actually pretty amazing. And, man, that scene where he fights Bane and gets broken? Still gives me chills. So intense. I also liked how JPV goes over the edge bit by bit. I mean, he’s clearly a terrible choice for Batman, but Bruce is not in his right mind, his brain’s as broken as his body, so it kind of makes sense. Plus, JPV was apparently hanging around before all this and was being trained by Batman and Robin. I’m pretty excited to break into the next book and see how his books hold up.

Ah, I’ve got one more complaint or more positively, a suggestion. It would be nice if there was a trade collecting some of the stuff that leads into this book. Bane appeared in a few other comics that are referenced several times that I’d like to read, but it’d also be cool to get a little bit more of JPV’s back story. Sure, I’ve got the Sword of Azreal trade on my shelf (and plan to read it again soon), but that’s a pretty old and, I assume, out of print book that I’m sure other people would like to read. Similarly, I noticed from looking at the second Knightfall volume I have and the information out there for the third, there’s a lot of stuff that’s still not collected like the Justice League Task Force stuff and a few other tales of Bruce Wayne running around trying to save Tim’s dad and their doctor. It’s entirely possible that these trades will get made in the future, especially if the planned Knightfall ones do really well, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Maybe I’ll just make my own!

World’s Finest Trade Post: Batman Gothic & Superman The World Of New Krypton

BATMAN: GOTHIC (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Klaus Janson
Collects Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10.
Legends of the Dark Knight was one of the two Batman books I didn’t read regularly (the other being Shadow of the Bat) unless it was giant Bat-crossover time, but there are some really interesting stories from the lengthy LOTDK run that are slowly being mined for trade consumption, like this Grant Morrison/Klaus Janson jam called “Gothic.”

I’m a pretty big fan of Morrison and dig a good chunk of his work, though definitely not everything (Invisbles befuddles me every time I try to read it), but this book doesn’t really read like what you might expect from the guy who was doing Animal Man and Doom Patrol at the same time in the late 80s/early 90s. Sure, there’s some weirdness with Batman facing off against a seeming immortal who feeds on misery, soul-catching buildings and ghost nuns, but it still feels like a solid Batman book.

I can’t completely speak to that time in comics because I hadn’t gotten into them yet, but I would imagine Batman dealing with these kinds of supernatural elements wasn’t a regular thing, so it might have seemed unique at the time, especially with some flashbacks to Bruce Wayne’s childhood, but to a reader now, the book feels a little been-there done-that. For those who like to trace the Morrison-verse that he’s been creating for years, I didn’t notice any connections here to any of his more current work, but I could be completely wrong on that.

In the end, it’s a nice little story that’s pretty interesting and was probably a big deal at the time, but we’ve seen this kind of a thing a lot since then, both on the “Batman vs. monsters” and “background revealed” ideas. It’s fun to see a younger Morrison playing with the character he would go on to spend years playing with, but I’m not a big fan of Janson’s art, so that’s not a huge draw for me at least.

SUPERMAN: THE WORLD OF KRYPTON (DC)
Written by John Byrne and a bunch of others, drawn by Mike Mignola and more!
Collects Superman: The World of Krypton #1-4, Man of Steel #1 and Superman #233, 236, 238, 240, 248, 257, 266, 367, 375 and Superman Family #182.
With the whole “World of New Krypton” story going on through the different Superman books for a year and the temporary return of thousands of Kryptonians, DC released this collection of books looking at the planet through the eyes of several creators over the years, but focusing on John Byrne and Mike Mignola’s post-Man of Steel miniseries along with a series of back-ups from the silver age about Krypton. Makes sense right? Well, kind of.

As anyone reading “WONK” will know, the writers used a hodge podge of all the versions of Krypton instead of focusing on one particular past version. And, hey, that’s not so bad. I liked seeing how the different guilds represented the various takes on the people. This trade sets up the version of Krypton I became familiar with while reading Superman comics in the post-Man of Steel era, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as far as continuity goes. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad story by any means. In fact, it’s  an engaging, century-spanning sci-fi story about how Krypton went from a people whose lives were prolonged by using clone parts to one where exoskeletons did the same thing to the final Krypton-shattering conclusion. I was surprised at how deep the story went and how they explained the destruction of the planet.

I’m going to take a moment here to go off on a bit of a tangent. I’ve been reading Superman comics since 1992. Over those nearly 20 years a lot has changed and even when new stories would come out to contradict the history I knew, I’d be able to easily reconcile or ignore it, but lately I’ve been having a harder time doing that, especially post-Infinite Crisis which now says that Superman got his powers as a boy and went off to hang out with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The change didn’t really seem to mean anything for a while, but now we find ourselves knee deep in Legion comics many of which feature Superman. It was starting to bother me. I like the MOS mindset that says that Superman is the only Kryptonian so any other Super-folks have to have another explanation as to why they’re wearing the S shield. Sure, the Matrix Supergirl might have been confusing, but I liked that there was a certain level of creativity that went into those characters. Anyway, I do like most of Geoff Johns’ run on Action Comics even though the first arc really bugged me when it first kicked off. I’ve kind of come to a mental place where I’m comfortable with it all now because I’ve told myself that MY Superman is over. I’m not quite sure when it ended, maybe Infinite Crisis, but that realization has really helped me enjoy some of the more recent Superman comics, though I still don’t care about Superboy hanging out with the Legion in Adventure Comics. I know it’s the epitome of geekiness, but by not worrying about how “WONK” fits in with MOS, I’m having a much better time with comics.

That’s the mentality I went into World of Krypton with, which really helped me enjoy it, though it helps that this story does explain MY Krypton better. That same outlook might help you too if you’re a fan of another Superman era as it’s a good story (as are the older Superman back-ups reprinted which also don’t hold much sway on current continuity) and how can you go wrong seeing Mike Mignola break downs on a superhero comics?