Ryan Milbrath's Reviews > Batman: Knightfall, Vol. 1

Batman by Chuck Dixon
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's review
Sep 03, 2012

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

Knightfall is the first installment of the three part series, and is probably the best of all three. Chuck Dixon’s Bane is often viewed in movies and cartoons as juiced-up monkey, outsmarted by the Bat every time another villain sends him off. His incarnation in the movie Batman and Robin was particularly lowly. At least Christopher Nolan gave Bane the kudos he deserves as an intelligent criminal. Dixon’s Bane, is a cold, calculating terrorist. His killer instinct and cunning have been honed in prison, and his ruthlessness has few rivals. Aside from the fact that Bane’s origin story was a little far-fetched and raised eyebrows (life sentence in prison as a boy? Subjected to weird steroid testing?) and his reason for taking over Gotham a little ridiculous (haunted by bats in his dreams? ), I think Dixon made a compelling character.

What makes Bane compelling is Dixon’s story in Knightfall. Bane seeks to take over Gotham, like a prison, killing off the top dog. In the case of Gotham this is Batman. However, he realizes that the Batman is too strong. Until he can weaken Batman mentally and physically, Bane is content to orchestrate chaos from the sidelines. His plan is ingenious. Release the chaos of Arkham Asylum upon Gotham, and watch as the Batman tries to prevent the city from turning into ash. Thus, the majority of Knightfall consists of Batman, suffering from a mid-life crisis, over-exerting himself in his attempt to round up all the freed patients of Arkham Asylum. Bane finally strikes in the climax of the book, when Bruce, mentally and physical drained from constant battle, retreats to the batcave to rest, is challenged in his very house. Bane overwhelmingly defeats him, breaking his back, and leaving Wayne paralyzed. Wayne, leaves the mantel of the bat in the hands of Jean-Paul Valley, a man on the edge of a psychotic break.

The second half of the Knightfall story arc follows Jean-Paul Valley’s rise as Batman. Mentally unstable because of his father’s brain washing, Valley is a trained assassin by the Order of St. Dumas. Slowly the readers see Valley’s downward spiral. He becomes increasingly ruthless and ultraviolent when dealing with the criminals of Gotham. He uses technology and force to bring down Bane. His Batman is an angel of vengeance. When Bruce travels to Santa Prisca to learn more about Bane and to find Tim Drake’s Father, a mentally instable Jean-Paul Valley is left in charge. This situation creates the central conflict for the Knightquest arc.

The writing and artwork is 90’s Batman through and through. It’s campy, colorful and by today’s standards, a lot of it hasn’t aged well. It’s like the X-Men in the 80’s and 90’s, or Spiderman during that same time. The story is a classic in the Batman Universe, but some part of me, longs for a revamp. Just to see what a new artist and writer could come up with.
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