Johnny's Reviews > Batman: Knightfall

Batman by Dennis O'Neil
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bookshelves: superhero

Batman Knightfall is not a graphic novel. It is a novel (sans graphics) based on three story arcs which ran in monthly comic books from 1993-94. One shouldn’t make any assumptions based on the source material, however. Even though Dennis O’Neil wrote the book, The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics, and many of the great comic arcs themselves (as well as putting in a great tenure as editor of the entire line), he notes in the afterword that comics and novels are two distinctly different (pardon the redundancy for emphasis) things. Indeed, he offers the careful observation that “…form does partially follow content.” (p. 349) Since I mention three story arcs, you won’t be surprised that the book is divided into three overlapping sections.

The novel format allowed O’Neil to get into head of a villain like Bane and help one how he was transformed into a monster and why he was so truly obsessed with the death of Batman. Then, he masterfully takes another character and evolves that “good guy” into something of a monster himself. Both villain and “good guy” (or, at least, anti-hero) see visions and are somewhat the creation of their fathers. Such psychological transformation can be visualized in a few graphic scenes, but not explored deeply without sufficient prose. Here, it is extremely vivid.
As if that wasn’t interesting enough, there was also a brilliant consideration of vigilantism. We usually think of Batman as a hero. Yet, where would Batman have to go over the line in order to become the “criminal” which many law enforcement agencies and officers would consider him (if he existed in real life)? To be able to explore this idea in such vivid descriptions without compromising the integrity of Bruce Wayne was quite vivid.

If that isn’t enough to commend this effort, please note that this is not simply filled with action scene after action scene. One would suspect that to be the case considering some of the superhero films which have come out in the last year and the dearth of “story” in many of the mainline comics (DC and Marvel) being published today, but Batman is known for the Detective Comics venue and there is one particular section of this tri-partite novel that is more detection and deduction than combat. Indeed, Bruce Wayne becomes something of a modern Sherlock Holmes, complete with Holmes’ predilection for disguise. Of course, it also helps that this section takes place in England.

Yet, there is also a love story knit into this tri-partite story. It is full of seeming betrayal and offers enough emotion to make you put down the book for a few moments. If you have ever, yourself, fallen madly in love with someone, you’ll understand both the promise and the danger of such a connection, such an interweaving of lives.

Knightfall has all of these elements and more—including familiar characters in the classic cast which make appearances whenever it would be logical. There is little more to say that wouldn’t create spoilers, but I’m glad this doesn’t follow the comics to the letter because Knightfall is a richer experience.
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Reading Progress

February 19, 2016 – Started Reading
February 22, 2016 – Finished Reading
March 4, 2016 – Shelved
March 4, 2016 – Shelved as: superhero

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