Review by Win Wiacek
Knightfall is a Batman landmark, that ran for over a year, constructing an ambitiously epic, if sometimes sprawling tale featuring all Batman’s greatest foes. It’s been collected in different formats, coming full circle with the 2018 25th anniversary editions containing almost the same material as the first 1993 collection, reprinted with new covers in 2000, both subtitled Broken Bat.
Absent here is the prelude of a new criminal observing the Caped Crimebuster at work and manufacturing confrontations with steroid augmented villains, culiminating in Bane freeing Batman’s foes from Arkham Asylum. Batman has also assigned Tim Drake – the third Robin – to train and monitor Jean-Paul Valley, intending to turn the former Azrael’s dark gifts to a beneficial purpose.
‘Crossed Eyes and Dotty Teas’ by Doug Moench and Norm Breyfogle opens proceedings, as Batman deals with the Mad Hatter. In ‘Puppets’ (Chuck Dixon and Breyfogle – sample art left) god-obsessed Maxie Zeus and innocuous Arnold Wesker flee Arkham. As the Ventriloquist, Wesker uses the gangster doll Scarface to express his murderous schemes and along with hyperthyroid brute Amygdala begins a lethal search for his old boss. The Dark Knight is obsessive about recapturing all his enemies and ignores Robin’s pleas for rest and reason.
Moench and Breyfogle contribute ‘Redslash’ as knife-wielding maniac Victor Zsasz invades a school, resulting in two deaths Batman cannot scrub from his over-worked conscience. In the final confrontation patrolwoman Rene Montoya barely prevents the Dark Knight from beating Zsasz to death.
When they last met, Bane nearly crippled Killer Croc and the diseased carnival freak looking for payback in Dixon and Jim Balent’s ‘Crocodile Tears’ leads Robin into a deadly trap. Then ‘Night Terrors’ (Moench and Jim Aparo) finally sees the re-emergence of the Joker. A collapsed tunnel saves Robin, but Batman seems hell-bent on self-destruction, unable to relax until the maniacs are back behind padded bars.
Mayor Krol is terrorised by the Arkham Alumni and forced to sabotage Gotham whilst pyromaniac Garfield Lynns sets the ‘City on Fire’ (Dixon and Graham Nolan – sample art right). Batman allows Robin to tackle the Firefly whilst he searches for less predictable prey. Meanwhile Wesker closes in on Scarface, and Riddler can’t pull a robbery because there’s nobody around to answer his obsessively-constructed crime conundrums.
The Caped Crusader almost dies at the hands of relative lightweight Firefly in ‘Strange Deadfellows’ (Moench and Aparo) as, impatient to help, Jean-Paul takes to the streets on his own in a makeshift masked identity. When finally convinced to take a night off, Bruce attends a civic gala and is recognised by Bane just as Poison Ivy turns up to kidnap Gotham’s glitterati.
Robin spectacularly if injudiciously tackles Riddler’s ‘Burning Questions’ (Dixon and Nolan) as Batman at last ends Firefly’s horrific depredations, and unsanctioned vigilante the Huntress secretly joins the battle. The climactic clash between the completely exhausted Masked Manhunter and his maddest monsters begins in ‘Die Laughing’ (Moench and Aparo) when Scarecrow and Joker explosively seal off the Gotham River Tunnel.
In ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ (Dixon and Nolan) Batman narrowly escapes a concerted assault by Bane’s hit squad, heading home only to find Alfred unconscious and his home invaded by the orchestrator of all his woes. The end of the road is Moench and Aparo’s ‘Broken Bat’ as Bane finally attacks in person, mercilessly beating the exhausted hero, ultimately breaking his spine in a savage demonstration of his physical and mental superiority. It’s still a shocker.
It’s a blockbuster beginning, that in these editions continue in Knightfall Volume 2. A different formatting of the material under the Knighfall title was issued in 2012 and repeated for the Knightfall Omnibus.