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Night Falls on Gotham
Batman - Knightfall Part Three Knightsend
Member Name: Jake Speed
Batman - Knightfall Part Three Knightsend
Advantages: Decent end to the series
Disadvantages: You need to read the other volumes
The maverick Azrael eventually defeated Bane with the help of a new armoured Batsuit and was now a law unto himself and needed to be stopped. Only problem of course is that Bruce Wayne had his back broken and is now in a wheelchair. Or he was anyway. Here he is back on his feet (albeit unsteadily) and must now go and reclaim the mantle of Batman from the man he chose to succeed him. That's the first salient problem with this third collection if you've bought it with the first two parts. A middle story arc entitled KnightQuest showed us how Batman recovered from his injury and tied up a few loose ends from Part 2. It was never released in the collected format though so you go from Batman in a wheelchair to Batman back on his feet and preparing to take down Azrael with no explanation of what happened in between. Very frustrating if your only experience of this arc is through the graphic novel collections. This is an entertaining and solid collection but there are a couple of problems besides the fact that they didn't print the entire collected arc in complete chronological fashion. The first is that everything in the Knightfall storyline pales slightly when we move beyond the Batman v Bane anticipation and resolution of the first part of the anthology. Batman tangling with just about every famous super villain ever to grace the comics was fun and sort of novel and his final confrontation with Bane was gripping with a very unexpected location. When Bane began to feature less and less then Knightfall lost something and never quite got back to its early impact. The other thing about collections like this is that they draw together many issues of the weekly Batman titles and so unavoidably draw in several different artists. It can be slightly distracting at times when the art changes through the book (especially if you have settled into and enjoyed the style of a particular artists) although all of the illustrating and colouring here is serviceable.
The story has a now almost ambulatory Bruce Wayne initially impressed by the fact that Azrael has taken care of Bane. He believes Jean-Paul Valley has proved himself worthy of the Batman mantle on a permanent basis. However, when Robin informs Bruce Wayne of Valley's methods and the circumstances around Abattoir's death (a low level Batman villain who Valley has disposed of), Wayne orders Azrael to relinquish his Caped Crusader duties immediately. The new Batman is in no mood to take orders though and tells Wayne he will kill him if he ever returns to the Batcave. Bruce Wayne must now somehow become Batman again and take down this volatile imposter. The stage is set for a battle of wits between the teacher and this former student. The twist is that Bruce Wayne has to turn to a villain to get himself back into fighting condition. The master assassin Lady Shiva (who is a nasty piece of work and has had several runs ins with Batman down the years) is the only person for the task. These panels are good fun as Shiva pits Bruce Wayne against several martial artists to regain his skills and insists that he must learn to kill if he is ever to be truly worthy of his skills and her training. Bruce Wayne of course would never kill so he has to find a way around this loophole because he needs Shiva's expertise. It's quite a nice touch to have Batman and Shiva in a sort of alliance and him having to outwit her if he is to continue to receive the training he needs to be prepared for the formidable Azrael.
I liked the way here too that the original Robin Dick Grayson (now a costumed hero known as Nightwing) was brought in by Bruce Wayne to help in his quest to take control of Gotham again. Grayson and Tim Drake's Robin must break into the Batcave and find a way to monitor the movements of Azrael's renegade Batman. The Batcave is nicely deployed too for the final showdown. These elements of detective work and Bruce Wayne using his brain as much as his brawn are welcome elements very much in key with the comic and character. One other thing that is certainly in favour of the collection is that it clocks in at well over 300 pages so you certainly feel like you got your money's worth although it doesn't take as long to read as a truly complex artistically consistent Alan Moore type graphic novel. I think that out of the artists here that Graham Nolan and Barry Kitson fare the best. The comic is fairly action packed and straight ahead and only really begins to falter and lose its way when Jean-Paul Valley has visions of his dead father and The System (the secret order that trained him) almost enter the story as an entity in themselves in surreal form. It becomes a bit pretentious at times and slows the story down but never to a drastic degree. The last third is inventive though and almost cinematic with the final showdown in the caves below Wayne Manor. It terms of guest stars the main one here aside from Lady Shiva is Catwoman and she's used well. Knightsend is certainly worth reading if you are a fan of Batman but it isn't something you can just pick up in isolation and jump into. You really do need to read the rest of the Knightfall arc too and even then there will still be one or two plot threads that are somewhat confusing if you don't have any knowledge of this era of Batman. It isn't as good as the first part but this is a good solid comic and a decent way to end the trilogy.
Summary: Good fun
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