Newest Review: ... effect and dilutes the emotional impact. The Two Face story feels out of place. Bu rights, it should be in the earlier volume and it feel... more
Batman - Knightfall Part Two Who Rules the Night
Member Name: Jake Speed
Batman - Knightfall Part Two Who Rules the Night
Advantages: Good stuff
Disadvantages: Two-Face flashback issues are unnecessary
Batman Knightfall (Part Two: Who Rules the Night) is a 296 page graphic novel by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon and Alan Grant and continues the epic storyline that dominated the weekly Batman comics in late 1992 and early 1993. This is another bumper collection and gives you Batman #485-500, Detective Comics #664-666, Showcase #'93, and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-18. You must of course on no account read this without buying and reading part one first as this is a trilogy in the graphic novel format. Who Rules the Night begins with Batman having been defeated by the mysterious man mountain masked master criminal Bane. Not only that but the Venom drug enhanced Bane also knows the identity of Batman. When Batman was completely exhausted and at the end of his physical and mental rope after trying to capture all the criminals Bane had deliberately released from Arkham Asylum, Bane confronted him at Wayne Manor and they had their final showdown. A stunned Batman (obviously he was rather shaken by the fact that someone had discovered his secret identity!) was far too weak to defend himself by now against such a formidable and gigantic foe and took a sustained and merciless beating from Bane - who then held him aloft and threw him off a roof in the centre of Gotham to announce to the public that he ruled the streets now and Batman was no more. "Here is your hero and protector. Take him and bury him!" Lying comatose on the street with his ripped costume daubed in blood, Batman is ingeniously whisked away back to the Batcave by Alfred and Tim Drake/Robin pretending to be ambulance men. Despite Robin's protestations that Wayne must be given hospital treatment, Alfred insists they must take him home and preserve his secrets. "The only life that's important to him is his life as Batman. Take him out of a hospital and you'll expose Batman to be Bruce Wayne. You'll save his body certainly. But you will have killed the man..."
They learn that Bruce Wayne suffered a broken back at the hands of Bane. He is now confined to a wheelchair as he tries to recover from the terrible ordeal he has been through. His days as Batman seem to be over but Gotham is now worse than ever with Bane in complete control. Bruce Wayne decides that the forces of justice must not go quietly into the night. The city needs a symbol to show there is still hope. Someone must take on the mantle of Batman and stand in for Wayne so that Gotham doesn't think the hero has gone. The man chosen is Jean-Paul Valley aka "Azrael", a graduate student at Gotham University who has been unconsciously trained since birth as an assassin for an ancient religious order. Batman and Robin have been training Valley and trying to control his dark side (his psychological conditioning makes him struggle to contain a split personality and rage) and feel he is the best available person for the task. Valley gleefully accepts the role of Batman and is soon out on the streets at night with Robin fighting crime and trying to restore order. But Jean-Paul Valley is far more brutal in his methods than Bruce Wayne's Batman and grows increasing arrogant, unstable and difficult to control, alienating Robin and refusing to listen to any instructions or advice. "I am the Batman now. I'll do things my own way." Valley is ordered not to confront Bane but that confrontation quickly becomes his main priority. With a brooding and helpless Bruce Wayne trapped at Wayne Manor, Bane and the new Batman are soon on an unavoidable collision course.
This is a worthy continuation of the Knightfall story with one or two reservations. The first is that Bane is absent from the story too much and the other is that the art is briefly very rudimentary (in contrast to the rest of the book) when we get a two issue flashback where we see Batman having to tangle with Two-Face. This Two-Face flashback is rather annoying in a way as it takes us away from the actual story. It's an interesting flashback but with the ho-hum art nothing special and you can't help feeling that perhaps they should have found room for it in the first part of Knightfall or not at all. You want to stick with the injured Bruce Wayne and the Gotham under the grip of Bane rather than a two issue flashback. It's a bit unfortunate too that this old double issue has many panels where Batman must undertake an underwater rescue. We've already seen underwater capers not once but twice in the first part of Knightfall so you do unavoidably feel a sense of deja vu. Those quibbles aside though this is another good read for Batman fans and you will be eager to get the concluding chapter if you read these first two. There are many nice touches here that often make the story compelling. Bruce Wayne feeling sorry for himself at the start and unusually defeatist (and even doolally). Alfred tells Tim Drake that it's the first time Batman has ever gone up against someone and lost and that reality is hard for him to live with. Alfred's method of whisking the terribly injured Batman away from the police, public and medical staff at the start is clever and I like Jim Gordon realising that this might not be the same Batman when the Caped Crusader is still there about five minutes into their conversation. He is used to turning around and finding him gone before he has finished his last sentence!
The super villain carnage of the first collection gives way here to Bruce Wayne recovering at home (where intrigue and danger still finds him) and then Robin and the new Batman attempting to restore some order to the now more dangerous than ever Gotham. Robin is soon sidelined though and realises that Jean-Paul Valley will do things his way and doesn't paticulary care for a sidekick. Robin is a character that works much better in the comic than he ever would in a film. Tim Drake is given some nice moments and lines here and plays a big part in the climactic showdown. There is also an appearance by Dick Grayson (the original Robin). Grayson is now a costumed hero named Nightwing but seeks out Tim Drake to find out how Bruce Wayne is and ask why he was not chosen to fill in as Batman. There are some good action panels of Robin and Jean-Paul Valley tackling assorted gangs and criminals and the showdowns between Bane and the new Batman don't disappoint (love the bit where the new Batman is thrown of a rooftop and somersaults into a water fountain). Valley goes slightly bonkers and becomes obsessed with beating Bane. He turns the Batsuit into a more high tech affair and gives himself metal claws that draw blood when he strikes the hulking crime boss. It gives the comic a tougher and more brutal feel than your average DC weekly. While the roster of villains from the first part are mostly gone there is a major role for The Scarecrow here - attempting to induce fear in the entire population of Gotham through his nefarious fear gas. "People of Gotham. This is The Scarecrow! Already my omnipotent power moves among you... spreading fear, panic, death and destruction!" There is a really good origin of Jonathan Crane here too and he remains one of the creepiest of all the Batman villains.
Once again there are plenty of surreal panels when his fear gas is deployed and people must experience their worst nightmares. You also get appearances by Anarky (DC character largely inspired by V from V for Vendetta) and Catwoman. Batman Knightfall (Part Two: Who Rules the Night) is once again good fun for Batman fans and should be more than enough to make you seek out the concluding part. At the time of writing you can buy this for around £9.
Summary: Entertaining collection
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