To some extent Batman’s entire premise centres on the theme of illusion. A starting point is whether he’s one man or two. The illusion of infallibility is a driving force, before considering the other illusions that perpetuate Batman’s career, such as he alone can keep Gotham safe. Or would that be a delusion? However, although it might not have seemed that way, Tom King has been stripping away the certainties of Batman’s life. He uncoiled his feelings enough to commit to a marriage, yet that marriage didn’t occur. Given how tightly wound Batman is, how would that affect him? It seems we’re now finding out. Are we watching Batman experiencing a breakdown? Or is that another illusion? We already know he’s being manipulated. The truth is revealed early. Batman is unconscious, and everything here is an exaggerated emotional response to the Scarecrow’s fear gas as he attempts to configure why it is his marriage never occurred.

After only half of The Tyrant Wing being King’s ongoing Batman continuity, Knightmares returns the full service. However, it’s once again slow and unsatisfying. The intent appears to be strip Batman back, to present him as a tarnished ideal seen through the eyes of others, Catwoman, John Constantine, Superman, but with a twist, that being they’re actually Batman’s internal projections as he dreams. Or has nightmares. On the plus side, the assorted different places Batman travels in his head allow for a great artistic line-up to present their ornate interpretations of Batman. The sample spread features Jorge Fornes and Yanick Paquette, but there is no bad art. No, the problem is squarely with King’s idea that seven chapters of dream interpretation will fascinate an audience as much as it fascinates him. So little is said over assorted scene shifting and cameos, leaving the best chapter as the one where literally almost nothing is said, Lee Weeks illustrating Batman chasing a masked man through Gotham.

Decompression is a curse of the modern day superhero soap opera. A tidy two chapters could have supplied all the insight King takes seven to supply, falling back on stylistic quirks instead of substance. For all that it’s nice to see Batman and Catwoman changing costumes from page to page as their relationship is compressed, it’s a gimmick, and it’s beginning to seem as if King’s plan of producing a complete story over a hundred chapters has hung a millstone around his neck. Perhaps there’ll be more substance to The Fall and the Fallen.

Knightmares is also combined with The Tyrant Wing in hardback as Batman Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 5.