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Batman: Knightfall

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Knightfall is a Batman Family crossover published in 1993. It's a trilogy consisting of three storylines, Knightfall, Knightquest, and KnightsEnd. It was written by Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon, Dennis O'Neil, [[Doug

History

Knightfall is a Batman Family crossover published in 1993. It's a trilogy consisting of three storylines, Knightfall, Knightquest, and KnightsEnd. It was written by Alan Grant, Chuck Dixon, Dennis O'Neil, Doug Moench, and Jo Duffy, with illustrations by Barry Kitson, Bret Blevins, Graham Nolan, Jim Aparo, Jim Balent, Mike Manley, Norm Breyfogle, and Ron Wagner. The story was originally published in Batman, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Justice League Task Force, Legends of the Dark Knight, Robin, Shadow of the Bat, Showcase '93 and Showcase '94.

Bane, the primary villain of the storyline, is introduced in Vengeance of Bane, and the vigilante Azrael is introduced in Sword of Azrael. Knightfall is divided into two parts. In The Broken Bat, Bane defeats Batman by breaking his spine. This requires Azrael to become the new Batman, and defeat Bane in Who Rules the Night?. Knightquest is also divided into two parts. In The Crusade, Azrael's Batman grows more violent and crazy, while in The Search, Bruce Wayne seeks a cure for his paralysis. In KnightsEnd, Bruce Wayne returns and takes his mantle as Batman back from the usurper Azrael.

Synopsis

Knightfall

The plot of Knightfall began with the master criminal Bane freeing all of the maximum-security inmates of Arkham Asylum. Bane's plan consisted of weakening Batman by forcing him to deal with the deadly villains one at a time. Among the freed inmates, there were numerous high profile villains, such as the Joker, who trapped Arkham's administrator Jeremiah Arkham, and Scarecrow, as well as many less known villains, such as the Mad Hatter, The Ventriloquist, Firefly, Cavalier, and Victor Zsasz. The storyline of Knightfall drove a large rift in the relationship between Robin and Batman, as Batman sought to face the outbreak alone. Indeed, in later issues, Tim Drake, the current Robin, asks Batman if he is even needed as his sidekick anymore.

Over the next few issues, Batman became weaker and weaker as each criminal was put away. The combination of the Joker and Scarecrow took Batman to his mental and physical limits. After this encounter, Bane made his move and attacked Batman (by this time, Bane had deduced the identity of Batman to be Bruce Wayne) at Wayne Manor, where he was most vulnerable as his alter-ego. The fight between Bruce Wayne and Bane was detailed in Batman #497, and ended in Bane breaking Wayne's back over his knee. With Batman supposedly out of the way, Bane assumes control of Gotham City and begins to take over a number of illegal operations within it.

After his defeat, Bruce Wayne enlists the aid of Dr. Shondra Kinsolving to rehabilitate him and asks Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) to take up the mantle of Batman so that Gotham has a protector. Tim Drake argues with Bruce to allow Dick Grayson (the former Robin) to become Batman, as he is more experienced and mentally competent. However, Bruce says that Dick is his own man now, with his own responsibilities and would only do so reluctantly; Dick later expressed resentment at not being asked to stand in as Batman. Bruce's rationale for this decision is revealed in later issues -- secretly, he doesn't want Dick to have to face Bane, as he knows Dick's character will compel him to try. Bruce gives Jean-Paul strict orders never to engage Bane in combat; indeed, when Jean-Paul faces Bane, only his modified gloves save him from being thrown to his death.

Soon after, Kinsolving and Tim's father Jack Drake are kidnapped and Bruce with Alfred leave the country to find them - their story is continued in Knightquest: The Search, whilst the happenings in Gotham are recorded in Knightquest: The Crusade. Jean-Paul is shown as a different but not dangerous Batman until an encounter with the Scarecrow, which culminates in Jean-Paul being infected by Scarecrow's fear gas and the "System" - his programming as Azrael - taking over, in order to combat Jean-Paul's fear. Following this, Jean-Paul was unable to shake the influence of the System, giving into it completely after his first defeat at Bane's hands, and being increasingly influenced by it during the rest of his tenure as Batman. Over the next few issues he is portrayed in, Jean-Paul alienates Robin and becomes paranoid and arrogant, the opposite of what Bruce had chosen him for. In Batman #500, Jean-Paul in his new mechanical Batsuit, confronts Bane in a vicious battle and eventually prevails. Jean-Paul leaves Bane broken mentally and physically, although he struggles with the choice of whether to simply kill Bane or hand him over to the police. Stating that he will let Bane go to Blackgate Prison, Jean-Paul continues to watch over Gotham after the fight, but grows increasingly unstable.

The massive story was quickly collected into two volumes of trade paperbacks. Volume one was subtitled Broken Bat and the second was Who Rules the Night. In late 2011, the story was recollected in one massive volume together with The Vengeance of Bane as Knightfall Vol. 1: Knightfall.

Knightquest

"Knightfall" was immediately followed by "Knightquest" in the monthly serials. "Knightquest" is divided into two storylines, one following Bruce Wayne (Knightquest: The Search) and the other on the new Batman (Knightquest: The Crusade). The stories were not treated as crossovers and the Batman titles continued as they had before Knightfall where the creative teams each pursued their own storylines. This however leads to some contradictions within the story between the different comic titles.

The issues that make up the Knightquest saga were highly sought after by comic completists as they were never collected into trade paperback format; "KnightsEnd" was released as a trade paperback directly after the two "Knightfall" collections. However, in 2012, DC released the books that made up "The Crusade" as part of their Knightfall rereleases, titled Knightfall Vol 2: Knightquest. It is said that Danny O'Neil never liked "The Search" and is most likely instrumental for that part of the storyline not being released in a trade.

The Crusade

Detective Comics 667

Jean-Paul as Batman. Cover to Detective Comics #667. Art by Kelley Jones.

Knightquest: The Crusade follows the story of Jean-Paul Valley as he became increasingly violent and mentally unbalanced as he replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in Gotham. During this time, he drives Robin away because he believed Gotham post-Bane to be so tough that only violence could answer its criminals. Indeed, in several issues Robin is left horrified as Jean-Paul ferociously attacks common criminals, often with a weapon and sometimes nearly to death. This surge of violence from Gotham's defender put pressure on Batman's relationship with Police Commissioner Gordon, who begins to distrust and even fear the new Batman and eventually comes to realize he is not the original. All of Jean-Paul's actions are compelled by "The System"; on numerous occasions, he sees the ghosts of his ancestors giving him advice on how to run Gotham and he is driven to near insanity by the time the saga ends. He repeatedly redesigns his Batman costume, adding more gadgets and lethal weapons, including laser, razor-sharp Batarangs and a flame-thrower. Eventually, he also adds a Bat-symbol, matching the one used for the series' logo. Valley expresses desire, through narrative, to be a better Batman than Bruce Wayne, especially when he discovers his lack of interest in detective work caused him to make false assumptions about Catwoman (he thought she would sell a powerful nerve gas to terrorists when she merely wanted to dispose of it so it couldn't be used to hurt anyone). His questionable actions culminate when he encounters the serial killer Abattoir, who is keeping an innocent prisoner in a secret torture chamber. Jean-Paul purposely lets Abattoir die, thereby condemning the prisoner to death as well. Other notable villains Jean-Paul faces include Mister Freeze, Joker, and Clayface. Of these villains, the most notable encounters are with Catwoman and the Joker, both of whom could tell Valley wasn't the original Batman (Catwoman because he didn't give out the pheromones that Bruce did and Joker mainly because of his psychotic bond with Batman but also by judging his movements and seeing that they weren't as graceful as Bruce's).

The Search

Knightquest: The Search follows Bruce Wayne and Alfred's search for Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving, with whom Bruce Wayne falls in love in the midst of his rehabilitation sessions. Kinsolving's brother-by-adoption Benedict Asp kidnapped her to use her special powers to kill people at a distance. Asp demonstrates this new form of mass murder on a small English village. When Bruce Wayne finds Kinsolving, he finds himself caught in the middle of a telekinetic tug-of-war between Asp and Kinsolving. The battle climaxes with her refocusing her energy to defeat Asp, with a side effect of the battle being that Bruce's broken spine becomes healed. However, the drugs forced onto her by Asp, not to mention the effects of the fight with Asp, reduce her mind to that of a child, and Wayne reluctantly puts her into a mental institution.

Bruce eventually leaves England to return home to a civilian life in Gotham, but Alfred remains in England, not wanting to see Bruce Wayne damage his body further. He does not return to Gotham until a while later, when Dick Grayson persuades him to do so in later issues.

KnightsEnd

Although previous parts of KnightSaga had taken considerable time to run their course, the entirety of KnightsEnd was published within two months, as the Batman books had to prepare themselves for the impending Zero Hour, which would immediately follow the KnightSaga (the Zero issues focusing on aspects of Batman and Robin's origins). As a result, nothing was truncated and the Batman series made use of all of the Batman related titles at their disposal, such as Catwoman, Robin and the usually set in Year One Legends of the Dark Knight that led the story to its conclusion.

Jean-Paul Valley sees visions of his dead father, who had programmed him at birth to be a deadly weapon. These visions tell Jean-Paul to avenge his father's death, while at the same time trying to stop a gunrunning organization that used to be run by Carlton LeHah, who had killed his father. He eventually comes to believe that Penn Selkirk, a Gotham mobster who has taken over the remnants of LeHah's organization, is a puppet for LeHah, running things behind the scenes.

Returning to Gotham, Bruce meets Robin. He is impressed enough with Jean-Paul to let him remain as Batman but when Robin tells him of Abattoir's death, Bruce sneaks into the Batcave and demands that Jean-Paul step down. Jean-Paul refuses and threatens to kill Bruce if he ever returns. In response, Bruce asks the deadly assassin Lady Shiva to retrain him. Since Bruce had once been the only person capable of surviving a fight with her, he figures that nobody could better prepare him to fight Jean-Paul. Shiva pits Bruce against several expert martial artists after killing their master in what would become Bruce's disguise, the Mask of Tengu (a bat spirit).

Shiva's caveat is that these attacks will continue indefinitely until Bruce Wayne breaks his solemn vow to never take a life. Finally, in the midst of another attack, Bruce uses the deadly Leopard Blow Shiva had taught him, leaving his would-be assailant dead and Shiva finally declaring him worthy of fighting her (at some point in the future). Without Bruce noticing, Robin and Nightwing had tailed him and saw the whole thing. As Shiva departed and Wayne was left to hear Nightwing chastise him over how everything Batman had ever taught was a lie, the man struck by the Leopard Blow came back around, as Bruce had merely struck him hard enough that Shiva would believe for the time being that Wayne had killed the man. Bruce had figured out that Shiva put a radio transmitter in his mask, and decided that he was back to peak physical condition and thus did not need any more from Shiva.

Bruce returns to the Batcave and dons the original Batman costume. Along with Robin and Nightwing, he tracks Valley down to Selkirk's penthouse, as the other heroes had been watching Jean-Paul for a while and knew he sought his father's killer, as LeHah's body was never recovered. Coincidentally, Catwoman is chasing the same man because he owns a neural enabler that might allow a paraplegic to walk again. Selkirk already wants to kill Jean-Paul for destroying a valuable weapons cache in Gotham Harbor.

When they eventually all meet, mass fighting and gunfire ensue. The battle ends in the mobster's helicopter as Jean-Paul's grapnel gun locks one of the rotors and Catwoman knocks away a gun intended to kill Bruce and Jean-Paul. Selkirk's helicopter crashes into the Gotham Narrows Bridge; coupled with fuel from the chopper mixing with Jean-Paul's flame-thrower, Jean-Paul falls into the Gotham River. Bruce and Catwoman save Selkirk and his aides just before the helicopter explodes from the leaking gasoline. When Bruce tries to find Jean-Paul using the Batmobile, it explodes. Having realized that Jean-Paul would have booby-trapped the car, Bruce escapes just in time. After the explosion, Nightwing fears Bruce dead and takes his vengeance out on Jean-Paul on a party boat. The police arrive in time to prevent Nightwing's murder, but Jean-Paul escapes. However, to his shock, Jean-Paul finds Bruce waiting at Wayne Manor.

The final battle of the Knightfall saga takes place in the caverns surrounding the Batcave between Jean-Paul and Bruce Wayne: rather than beating Jean-Paul at hand-to-hand combat, Bruce escapes into a passage too narrow for Jean-Paul to go through in his armor, forcing him to remove most of it. Bruce then opens a hatch to the outside, which covered the very hole he fell into as a child, allowing sunlight to stab at the night lenses in Jean-Paul's helmet. After being momentarily blinded, Jean-Paul sees Bruce staring down at him in the original Batman costume and concedes defeat, saying "You are Batman... and I am nothing." Bruce comforts Jean-Paul, who leaves Gotham to travel the world and find his purpose as had Bruce. Bruce decides not to take Jean-Paul to the police because it was his decision to make Jean-Paul the Batman.

KnightsEnd was collected into a trade paperback about a year later. Originally released as Batman: KnightsEnd, recent editions retitled it as volume three of the Knightfall saga. A new version of the trade not only does that, but also fully completes it by inserting the last two epilogue stories and the Batman: Prodigal storyline.

Issues

Reading Order


Knightfall

The Broken Bat

Who Rules the Night

Tie-Ins

Knightquest

The Crusade

Tie-Ins

The Search

Knightquest: The Conclusion

KnightsEnd

Aftermath

Tie-In


Paraphernalia

Items: Batrope; Bat-Signal
Vehicles: Batmobile
Weapons: Batarangs; Robin's Battle Staff

Notes

  • The storylines Knightquest: The Crusade and Knightquest: The Search bind together in Robin #7 and it is entitled Knightquest: The Conclusion. Despite this fact, Robin #7 is labeled as part of The Search storyline.

Trivia

  • Although the story was published after the Death of Superman storyline, DC Universe Legacies sets the Knightfall storyline before Superman's death, not after.
  • The storyline of Batman: Knightfall was adapted as a full cast radio drama by BBC Radio 1 in 1994, starting with a slightly tweaked version of Batman: Sword of Azrael. There are some minor alterations, but it is mostly true to the comic books. [1]

Recommended Reading


Links and References

Batman Blind Justice TP
Batman Family Storyline
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This event or storyline is specifically related to Batman, or to members of the Batman Family. This template will automatically categorize articles that include it into the Batman Storylines category.

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