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
In Darkest Knight
Batman - Knightfall Part Two Who Rules the Night
Member Name: SWSt
Batman - Knightfall Part Two Who Rules the Night
Advantages: Interesting new take on the Batman; some superb artwork
Disadvantages: Tale can feel a little slower after the all-action Vol. 1; Bruce Wayne all but disappears
If that plot summary tells you one thing and one thing only, it's that Who Rules the Night is not a standalone tale. If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, then you need to go back and read a few previous Batman adventures before you try and tackle this one. At the very least you need to read Knightfall Part One (which charts Bruce Wayne's doomed battle with Bane). In reality, you need to go back even further and read Sword of Azrael and some of the other tales which preceded the Knightfall saga.
Who Rules gets off to a slightly shaky start, due to a curious narrative structure. Having seen Bruce Wayne beaten and crippled at the end of the previous book, you are anxious to find out whether he is still alive and what will happen now Bane rules Gotham. Instead of giving you this, the story actually moves backwards in time, with Tim Drake (Robin) having a flashback to one of Wayne's final battles with Two-Face which occurred prior to his showdown with Bane. Presumably this is done to close off a thread that had been left dangling and also to build a sense of dramatic tension by making you wait to find out the answer to the questions regarding Wayne's fate.
Unfortunately, it actually has the opposite 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 feels like the only reason it isn't is due to scheduling issues during the original comic publication run. The fact is it stops Who Rules from hitting the ground running.
After the high drama and emotion at the end of Broken Bat, this second part can initially feel like something of an anti-climax. The pace seems to be a lot less frantic. It's not full of the one-on-one battles with the crazy foes that were the hallmark of part one. In some ways, however, that is a good thing. Although Part One featured some excellent writing, it did sometimes boil down to a series of endless battles between Batman and the bad guys. Who Rules changes the dynamic and shows the new Batman having to battle enemies whilst also fighting with his own fractured nature.
Lessening the focus on battling bad guys leaves more room for some strong characterisation. It's interesting to witness the conflicting sides of Jean Paul Valley as he struggles to uphold the image of the Batman (a vigilante with a sense of conscience and social justice) whilst all the time wanting to give in to his training as Azrael (whose sole purpose is to punish wrong-doing and act as judge, jury and executioner). This underlines how important Bruce Wayne's humanity is to the psychological makeup of the (real) Batman and how dark the Batman always could have been without the humanity.
It's also interesting to witness the reactions of other characters to this new, more violent Bat. Commissioner Gordon is somewhat suspicious and disapproves of the new tactics, whilst Sergeant Harvey Bullock thinks it's about time the Batman started to use the same dirty tactics that the criminals use. This also allows the writers the opportunity to develop some of the support characters and examine their attitude to a masked vigilante they have grown familiar and comfortable with over the years.
The gradual breakdown in Jean-Paul Valley's relationship with Tim Drake's Robin adds an extra dimension. He desperately wants to give Jean-Paul a chance since to deny him would be to question Bruce Wayne's judgement; yet at the same time he can't approve of the increased levels of violence and the fact that Valley apparently revels in this. The wedge that grows between Batman and Robin is an interesting development and adds a new dynamic to their relationship.
This slower pace actually has another major advantage. When the violence does come, it is all the more shocking. In part one, the sight of Bruce Wayne's Batman beating up bad guys became almost routine; the only thing that changed from story to story was which bad guy was on the receiving end. Here it is used more sparingly, but when it happens it is far more brutal and violent.
Some of the artwork in Who Rules is simply breathtaking - far more so than in Part One. Once again, the artwork is variable in terms of style (several different artists were responsible for inking different episodes), but it still manages to retain a sense of a coherent story. Whilst (in common with part one) the artwork is not as realistic as we have come to expect from modern comics, it is still very effective.
It's clear that the artists are revelling in the opportunity to portray a new, more violent Batman and they really go to town on providing some seriously dramatic artwork to show this off. There are some massive panels of Batman pouncing on his victims, some superb depictions of comic book violence, where villains are left battered and bruised. The artwork is hugely effective at getting across the same message as the story: this is not a Batman to be messed around with. This Batman is REALLY scary. This Batman is a monster.
The one disappointing aspect is the way the Bruce Wayne sub-plot is handled. Just like in the film The Dark Knight Rises, Wayne's recovery to something approaching normal (albeit confined to a wheelchair) is unrealistically fast. One minute he's at death's door, probably crippled for life, the next minute he's out of danger. He's then almost completely forgotten about for most of the rest of the tale, barring a few minor appearances. In fairness, this is to allow the new darker Batman to take centre stage, but it still feels slightly unsatisfactory.
Whilst it might lack the in-your-face action of Knightfall Part One, this second part is a worthy follow up and an excellent story in its own right. The chance to see a new, more violent Batman - the creature Bruce Wayne would have been without the humanity - gives an interesting insight into the Batman myth and simply confirms what many have known all along. There is only one true Batman and Bruce Wayne's humanity is as crucial to the character as fighting or detective skills.
A new copy of this can be picked up for around £8, which is a bargain. This is definitely a novel that you will want to read again and again.
Knightfall Part 2: Who Rules the Night
Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant et al
DC Comics, 1993
© Copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: An emotional close to the first part of the epic Knightfall saga
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