Batman: Knightfall Part One: Broken Bat (Anglais) Broché – 3 septembre 1993
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The biggest problem with Knightfall is that the actual story begins here, but there are countless back-issues of comics and collected editions that you'll need to pick up to understand how everything got to this point. Who is Bane and what does he have against Batman? Go find 'Vengeance of Bane'. Where'd Jean Paul Valley come from? Read 'Sword of Azreal'. What's the drug called venom? Pick up 'Batman: Venom.' Why's Batman so exhausted? There's no direct answer to that one, but it starts with the death of the second Robin in 'Batman: A Death in the Family'. When did Bane beat up Killer Croc and pump the Riddler with venom? There are two individual back-issues you'll need to read to answer those questions. Even chapter 1 of this book, where Bane destroys Arkham, is not technically a part of the Knightfall saga - Knightfall actually begins with the Mad Hatter story. While it's still possible to enjoy Knightfall without reading all this supplemental history, it's not quite as satisfying without it.
Still, fans of Batman definitely need to read Knightfall. One of the interesting things DC Comics did was give fans the false impression that the changes happening were *permanant*; Batman would really be replaced for the rest of the series. It's interesting to read through this volume from that perspective - is this arc really worthy of being Batman's final adventure? Each chapter follows Batman as he recaptures an inmate, with occasional subplots to keep things interesting (Scarecrow and Joker take the mayor hostage). The writing is excellent, and so is the art (with a few chapters being done by Jim Aparo). Finally, if you haven't ever seen the actual panel where Batman is broken - stop reading. Get up. Buy this book now. Just go.
Batman: Knightfall is a good read, but if you want the full experience, track down all the extra reading I mentioned above. Otherwise you won't feel the impact of this historic Batman arc.
But it is the execution that most readers seem to be quibbling about. The individual comic book stories in which Batman tracks down the escapees from Arkham are not especially memorable, whereas the goal would be almost for each episode to stand on its own as well as lend itself to a geometric progression of the Batman's troubles. The exception that proves the rule would be the climax of "Die Laughing," where Batman gets a does of the Scarecrow's fear-gas, which only dredges up the Joker's killing of Robin as his greatest fear. But when Bane finally attacks Batman, having worn him down through this long series of battles with other foes, even the flashback of the chain of events does not provide a glimpse of anything more than simply piling on the wounds until Batman has nothing left. The result is functional, but not the spectacular culmination you would hope for with such an epic.
Furthermore, the artwork by pencillers Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan, and Jim Balent is fairly pedestrian. In terms of providing some of the atmosphere that suits Batman best, the closest would be "Night Terrors," where Aparo's pencils are enhanced by inker Tom Mandrake to good effect. But ultimately the artwork suffers in comparison to the covers and promo pages drawn by Kelly Jones. The idea of Jones having done the entire "Knightfall" saga does induce salivary secretions, but it was not to be. So basically we have a very good idea that could have been great if the execution had been better.
"Batman: Knightfall, Part One: Broken Bat" reprints the first half of the epic tale from "Batman" 491-497" and "Detective Comics" 659-663. The tale concludes in "Batman: Knightfall, Part Two: Who Rules the Night."
Powered by the Venom derivitave, the Spartan and immensely powerful Bane unleashes a torrent of madness on Gotham in the form of Arkham's inmates; the depths of The Dark Knight's obsession are plumbed as he attempts to save Gotham. All the while Bane watches, and measures the Detective.
Overall, a true turning point in the Batman mythos; with his body broken and battered past the point of exhaustion, we truly see Bruce Wayne driven with an almost fatalist determination, a determination that brings him face to face with a villanous perversion of his own discipline, and perhaps, the unthinkable: life without the Bat.
The big theme here is seeing our hero pushed to the point of exhaustion and ultimately, ineffectiveness. A villain many may not know, Bane, busts everybody out of Arkham Asylum at once. He then spends most of the book watching Batman wear down physically and mentally. A new level of villainy--how delicious! For his part, Batman suffers by refusing to accept (much) help from Robin or who-is-he-and-why-is-he-here Azrael. (A page or two setting up the soap opera to this point would have been welcome and worth ANOTHER STAR.) Eventually, the reluctance to involve Tim Drake is seen as a response to Jason Todd's then-recent "death." (Explaining those quotation marks requires plunging into the DC Universe's current plotline quagmire...don't get me started.) I guess for purposes of this book, signalling the JLA is not an option. I would have called Green Lantern myself, but hey, I have my own city to protect.
I hope Bane's origin and his specific reason for targeting Batman are explained in Books Two and Three. An explanation of why Batman starts out all weak and pouty would have been helpful too.
The back cover is a bit misleading since the pictured Nightwing (Dick Grayson to the casual fan who hasn't kept in touch at all), Catwoman, and Two-Face are either totally absent or only seen in glimpses.
Finally, has Commissioner Gordon ever been more useless than he is here? He does nothing interesting except fuss with his glasses a la Clark Kent. Also, not enough Alfred. His sarcasm is welcome as always, but a bit prissier than usual here. One cute touch was one villain's use of a Chief O'Hara puppet; this is the only acknowledgment of the character outside the T.V. show that I can recall.
On to Part Two...must call in sick tomorrow...