Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1 – Scott Snyder, Writer; Greg Capullo, Penciller; Jonathan Glapion, Inker; FCO Plascencia, Colorist
Ray – 10/10
Corrina: Batman Into the Future! (Dystopian-style)
Ray: There’s no question that the Snyder/Capullo Batman run is one of the all-time great DC runs. A package of five major stories each pitting Batman against a massive threat, starting with the underground menace of the Court of Owls and ending with Jim Gordon standing alone against the eldritch Mr. Bloom, it showed that Batman could go wild and bizarre without losing an iota of the gritty charm that sets the character apart.
Now, the creative team returns for one last go Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1, this prestige format, triple-sized three-issue miniseries taking Batman on his final mission. Almost every key Bat-writer has their own take on what the end of Bruce’s mission looks like, and it’s no surprise that Snyder’s is a lot darker than most. He set up the bones of this idea with Batman creating a machine to clone himself in his run, and this story is the conclusion of that. But calling it a “story” almost doesn’t do it justice – it’s a collection of stories, subverting your expectations and whiplashing you from genre to genre with the masterful touch of a Christopher Nolan movie.
The story starts much like many other Batman stories – with Batman investigating a case. But this case takes on a particularly disturbing element when what seems like a simple vandalism investigation turns into a map leading Batman to the site where his parents were murdered. This scene is a master-class in tension, leading to a horrific reveal that rivals anything Snyder did in his creator-owned thriller Severed. From there, the story veers wildly as Batman is ambushed, neutralized – and wakes up in Arkham Asylum to a doctor with a vaguely familiar grin, in a world where Batman never existed. It seems Bruce killed his own parents due to mental illness and created a fictional world where he was fighting a war as Batman against the villains he made out of the employees at the asylum. At least, that’s what Alfred tries to tell him. It’s clear Alfred is not telling Bruce everything, and the confrontation between them after Bruce’s dramatic escape is one of the issue’s best scenes. Few writers have delved into the pain Bruce’s mission causes Alfred as Snyder has over his run.
And just when you think you know where this is going, the story takes another wild twist as Bruce winds up wandering in a wilderness, accompanied by the Joker – or what’s left of him. Snyder’s take on the Joker is an odd one, codependent with Batman but in such a bizarre way that it barely feels human. What he’s endured before Batman finds him certainly seems to confirm the hints of immortality and inhumanity Snyder played at in “Endgame”. What surprised me is that this story seems to heavily tie in with Snyder’s current Justice League run, giving Lex Luthor a role and potentially hinting at the consequences of Bruce’s choices in that title’s last few issues. Where is this going? What’s real and what isn’t? Heck if I know, but what I do know is that this is easily one of the most compelling first issues of a Batman comic I’ve ever read. A master class in tension that deftly leapfrogs between genres, it never lets up and its 56 pages both fly by and leave you enough to pore over until next month.
Corrina: Disclaimer up front: I liked Snyder’s Batman run best when he stuck to the detective/horror vision of Gotham, rather than his turns into the supernatural and the conspiracy elements. That’s why I’m one of the few that liked Bat-Gordon more than the Court of Owls. But Snyder’s vision of Batman is one I can get behind: the eternal knight, the protector, not the broken, suicidal man in the current non-Snyder Batman run.
This is a version of Batman that cares deeply about the people around him, especially Alfred, and even about the people he doesn’t know. Thus begins the big question: Is there’s no one left to protect, what is an eternal knight to do?
Snyder gives us several answers to this question, from Bruce as someone so haunted by his parents’ murder that he creates a fictional world, to Bruce realizing he’s likely a clone of the original, to his conversation with Wonder Woman that nothing is left to be done.
Bruce Wayne is a person who needs to prevent others from experiencing the same pain he did as a child. But what purpose does he serve in this world that Snyder has created?
I’m fascinated by the answer to that question in upcoming issues.
I also cannot finish this review without mentioning the art team, as they have to transition from a noir style in the opening detective story, to a more realistic tone in the scenes at the asylum to the hell landscape above ground, and the last survivors underground. Their art brings us along on Bruce’s journey.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.