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End of the Knightmare
Batman - Knightfall Part Three Knightsend
Member Name: SWSt
Batman - Knightfall Part Three Knightsend
Advantages: Interesting conclusion and excellent artwork
Disadvantages: Poor print quality and thin pages
After over 12 months and a thousand pages of comics, the epic Knightfall saga finally draws to a close with KnightsEnd. Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham, recovered from the broken back inflicted on him by Bane. He returns to find that the man he left behind as Batman, Jean Paul Valley, has turned from protector to avenger, using increasingly violent methods to stop crime. Although recovered physically, Wayne is not yet mentally ready to seize the mantle back and enlists the help of Lady Shiva, a cold-blooded killer, to help him get his edge back.
Despite being a lot lighter on action, in many ways KnightsEnd is the most compelling segment of the whole Knightfall storyline. It is a fine piece of storytelling, which rounds the saga off in a satisfying and convincing way. It's also a lot deeper than many of the previous entries. The original, Knightfall, was essentially just a series of interlinked stories which saw Batman endlessly battling a range of foes freed from Arkham Asylum. Although excellent, it was essentially one long fist fight. KnightQuest was a look at what happens when the ideal of Batman becomes perverted by violence. KnightsEnd shows what Batman is really all about.
KnightsEnd gives an opportunity to see a new side to Bruce Wayne. He is no longer the consummate warrior and has lost faith in his abilities. Suffering a crisis of confidence, he needs the help of the amoral Shiva to ensure he has the skills needed to continue his crusade. In many ways, it takes the character back to his origins examining both his physical and mental suitability for the role he has chosen.
The style and tone reminds me of the Legends of the Dark Knight series from the late 80s (this is almost certainly a deliberate parallel). It is a lot darker and grittier and focuses more on Batman as a man, rather than as a symbol of justice. It sees Wayne questioning everything the Batman is and does as he anguishes over how his legacy has been perverted by the more violent Valley.
It's also interesting that the book frequently shifts attention from both Wayne and Valley to examine the reactions of Robin (shunned by the new Batman) and Nightwing (feeling slighted that Wayne didn't choose him as his successor) to the return of Wayne. This sub-plot contains some really interesting character development and is a genuine addition to the overall storyline.
Don't run away with the idea that this book is all talk, though. For every image of Bruce Wayne suffering a crisis of confidence or Valley suffering tormenting hallucinations, there are plenty of fights between bad guys and Batmen and, of course, the final showdown between the real Batman and the Pretender. This mix of action and character is really well handled, and it all adds up to a highly satisfying story. The outflow of emotion you feel once the story concludes surprises and demonstrates that a well-written comic can be just as powerful as a well-written novel or film. This brings the whole Knightfall/Azrael saga full circle and feels like a fitting conclusion to an epic journey.
The artwork throughout is excellent. Once again, DC have collected together the finest artists available to them and used them well. Whilst each artist might have a different approach to depicting the Batman and Gotham City, it's an approach which works very well. The artists have clearly been given a brief to work to, so that whilst there are differences, they still fit together as a whole. The dark, grimy colouring and shadowy panels perfectly capture the darkness of Gotham City and the battle for its heart.
The biggest gripe I have is not to do with the quality of the story, but the quality of the printing. My copy is a DC import version (from 1995) and the pages are unbelievably thin. I lost count of the number of times I accidentally turn over two pages at once and starting reading, only to discover that the events on the new page didn't follow on from the end of the last one. It's helped by the fact that the pages are at least numbered, but you really don't want to keep having to glance down at the page numbers to make sure you are still on track!
Price-wise, this will cost you around £10 to buy new. Whilst it's probably the slimmest volume in the series (and so page for page the most expensive), it's well worth the investment. If you've already bought the other books then of course you are going to want to buy this so that you can possess the whole tale. It's a no-brainer and £10 will seem a very reasonable price.
The Knightfall tale might have been constructed to generate publicity for Batman/DC and shift comics, but that doesn't mean that it's been a cynical waste of time. The epic story has been a strong one from start to finish and a worthy addition to the long history of the Batman. This final part rounds things off in fitting fashion and feels like a very satisfying conclusion to an epic journey for both characters and readers.
Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench et al
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: An excellent conclusion to an epic tale
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