Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman Knightfall #1 – Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Writer; Javier Fernandez, Artist; Alex Guimares, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: In the 1990s, DC and Marvel had dueling comics of the same theme – alternate realities. DC’s Elseworlds tended to focus on alternate origins (Kal-El was raised by the Kents), alternate futures (Kingdom Come), or random period piece absurdity (Batman vs. the Reign of Terror in 18th century France). Marvel’s What If? took classic moments from their comics and changed the key event (What if Gwen Stacy had Lived?, for one example). The two bled into each other, but now DC is reviving the concept with Tales from the Dark Multiverse, a horror-themed anthology that shows just how badly past DC events could have gone in the Dark Multiverse.
The What If? comparison is unmistakable – right down to the towering figuring watching the events but refusing to intervene. Here it’s Tempus Fuginaut, who is having an odd moment in DC Comics. And first up on the event list is Knightfall, where Bruce Wayne had his back broken and was replaced by the mentally ill Jean-Paul Valley, who became a fascist Batman.
In the original comics, Bruce beat back Jean-Paul, who eventually became a hero again. His Rebirth version is a cinnamon roll who threw off his programming from the Church of St. Dumas and is currently fighting Darkseid with the Justice League Odyssey. So this version, where Jean-Paul impaled Bruce and became a Venom-addicted tyrant who kills anyone in the way of his order is going to throw his fans – but I don’t think it’s far off from the 1990s version, who was arguably a far more compelling villain than he was a hero.
This story, written by Gates of Gotham co-writers Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins, is pitch-black – not unexpected from the Dark Multiverse – and some flourishes like what Jean-Paul has done to Bruce might go a bit too far for some readers. But the book has some deep cuts in terms of Azrael’s supporting cast, and the art by Javier Fernandez is perfectly gothic.
Azrael is not a likable, sympathetic, or even tragic character here, so hanging a comic on him is tricky. That’s why it’s good Snyder and Higgins have given us an unlikely group of heroes, including the son of Bane and a semi-reformed Lady Shiva. The battle to take Gotham back takes some unlikely turns including the unleashing of a potentially far more dangerous Batman onto Gotham.
“Saint Batman” isn’t the global threat that some of the upcoming villains from these stories look to be, but he’s a compelling addition to the rogues’ gallery of Batmen from the Dark Multiverse we’ve been introduced to. The ending, though, indicates he may not be the biggest threat. A fifty-page delve into the worst-case scenarios of the DCU may not be to everyone’s tastes, but if you like your alternate futures with a taste of the macabre, this new anthology series is off to a good start.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.