By Marty Mulrooney
Batman: Knightfall (Volume 1) collects Batman: Vengeance of Bane Special #1, Batman #491-500, Detective Comics #659-666, Showcase ’93 #7-8 and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-18. Launched by Titan Books in the UK two months prior to the release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, this collected edition gives readers the chance to discover how Bane – the only villain to have ‘broken’ the Batman – was introduced in the comics.
Batman: Knightfall (Volume 1) beings with the superb Batman: Vengeance of Bane from 1993, which introduced the character of Bane. Although this story was recently reprinted in Batman Versus Bane (also published by Titan Books in the UK), that collected edition had a highly misleading title, with the second included story, Bane of the Demon, hardly involving Batman at all.
AMO’s review of Batman Versus Bane lamented the omission of the iconic Batman #497 – where Bane breaks Batman’s back – and concluded that the two main stories felt unfinished, which “could have been easily solved with a more extensive collection.” Ladies and gentlemen, Batman: Knightfall (Volume 1) is that collection.
DC comics is re-releasing the entire Knightfall saga in three volumes in 2012. This first volume comprises the aforementioned Batman: Vengeance of Bane, along with the first two previously published trade editions, Part One: Broken Bat and Part Two: Who Rules The Night. After being introduced in Vengeance of Bane, Bane arrives in Gotham City and the real fun – over 600 pages of it – begins.
Batman’s greatest enemies are busted out of Arkham Asylum by Bane and he must face them all at once. The Joker, the Scarecrow and Two-Face all make memorable appearances, along with less well-known villains such as Mad Hatter, the Ventriloquist and Firefly. One by one Batman must tackle the escaped inmates, but each time his strength is sapped just a little bit more. Making matters worse, he often won’t accept the help of his sidekick Robin.
Those who have seen The Dark Knight Rises – or indeed glanced at the front cover of Batman: Knightfall (Volume 1) – will know that when Batman eventually does face Bane, he is so weak and exhausted that his physically superior opponent, the venom drug coursing through his veins, proceeds to break Batman’s back.
The most interesting aspect of Batman: Knightfall (Volume 1) is that, unlike the film, this shocking moment has long-lasting repercussions. As a result, Batman spends the majority of the second half of this collected edition in a wheelchair. Bruce Wayne later asks Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) to take up the mantle of Batman. However, the result is the darkest knight imaginable. Despite Robin’s best efforts, Jean-Paul is a Batman that not only rules criminals through fear, but violence. It’s utterly gripping to watch a new Batman taking entirely the wrong approach while Bruce Wayne struggles to regain his mobility.
Batman: Knightfall (Volume 1) lacks the re-readability and charm of a one-shot graphic novel such as The Killing Joke. It’s drawn with style, although the colouring can seem a little bit garish at times, a fairly common complaint – for some readers at least – when looking back at comics from the 1990s. However, all of these elements come together to create a comic collection of its time – the strong writing mixed with the pulpy visuals make reading through this epic blockbuster a real pleasure. It isn’t particularly elegant, but as a slice of Batman comic book history – and as an introduction to the character of Bane – it’s essential.
9 OUT OF 10
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GAME REVIEW – Batman: Arkham City (PlayStation 3)
BOOK REVIEW – Batman: Arkham City by Paul Dini and Carlos D’Anda (Graphic Novel)
BOOK REVIEW – Batman Versus Bane by Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan (Graphic Novel)
FILM REVIEW – The Dark Knight Rises (IMAX)