Chapter By Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at a time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Brief history reminder. DC Comics in the 1990s had finally gotten Lois Lane together with Clark Kent, not Superman, and thus he revealed his identity to her. The romance continued and now the Superman title writers, we’ll call them the Super-Writers whether or not you find that description correct, decided it was time for them to get hitched. Clark & Lois Kent. Then the pecking order ruined everything. Around the same time ABC was airing Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, which focused on their relationship more than Superman superheroics. It was fine in the early seasons but it kind of lost the plot, and that was after strange adaptation decisions like having Perry White being obsessed with Elvis Presley and being from the South. I lost interest in it, but the showrunners decided THEY were the more important Superman portrayal and Warner Brothers of course sided with the “preferred” media format, television, over the source material, comics.
The showrunners hated the idea that those dirty paper products would have the most important event in the characters’ history first, and demanded they wait until the show was ready. They then made a bunch of false starts thanks to a character called the “Wedding Destroyer”, whose sole interest was ruining weddings and really had it in for the future Kents. But please, convince me that the Prankster was the dumbest Superman villain over the Wedding Destroyer. Go ahead, waste both our times on a fool’s errand. When they finally got Clark to marry the real Lois and not a clone they didn’t tell the comics, who had to rush out a wedding special just to even with the upstarts who looked down on the reason they have a show to ruin. Dean Cain, you were a good Superman but you were part of a lame show. Teri Hatcher also deserved better, as did Delta Burke frankly.
This left the Super-Writers in a pickle and I swear I’m going somewhere with this. With their big event ruined they needed something to draw in Summer readership, and were forced to use a meeting running gag as their only option…let’s kill Superman. What followed was the “Death & Life Of Superman” event, which made lemons into lemonade by using the concept to explore the effect Superman has on Metropolis specifically and the DC Universe in general. The end result was Superman restored with +3 superheroes, one a reformed antagonist, and the rare example of death in comics done right. However, I’ve already done a review of that novelization in a previous Chapter By Chapter series.
So Warner Brothers or DC Comics in their continued lack of understanding said “can we do the same thing with Batman and make the same amount of money?” and forced the Bat-Writers to find out. They didn’t kill Bruce Wayne…until decades later and that’s for another topic…but they did decide to break him, to show what makes Bruce the Batman he is, and why that’s a good thing, a similar batch of lemonade but something at least different enough to be a fresh take. Then they made a novel and long intro short it’s our next novelisation review here at BW Media Spotlight for Chapter By Chapter…
by Dennis O’Neil
Just as Roger Stern, who worked on Superman in the past and was part of the event, was a good choice for that novel, Dennis O’Neil was the right choice for a Batman event novelization. While his list of novels isn’t as long as Stern’s he does have a few books under his belt under different pen names. Many of them are based on DC properties while his Richard Dragon character was eventually brought into the DC universe, though he’s sadly forgotten except as maybe DC’s attempt at Iron Fist. However, O’Neil is part of the crew truly responsible for bringing Batman and Gotham City out of the Silver Age and into the Bronze Age, giving it a darker tone similar to the Golden Age depiction without going as far as the 90s or definitely the more modern comics and movies. It was a perfect balance and the period I got into the comics. He was also the editor during the Knightfall event.
So what was Knightfall and why do I keep forgetting to put the K in? No clue on that last part, but you can check this video from Owen Likes Comics for the full story. Here are the highlights: Knightfall, Knightquest (and it’s sub arc Knightquest: The Crusade), and Knight’s End formed the trilogy of stories that did for Batman what Death Of Superman and it’s various sequel arcs did for Superman, examine the character and what he means to DC fans and creators. Bane attacks Batman, breaking his spirit and then his back, as part of his plan to rule Gotham City. Realizing the city needs a Batman but he isn’t up to it, Bruce chooses an odd successor in the form of Jean-Paul Valley, a former enemy who was the assassin for the crazed Order Of St. Dumas, as the new Batman. This proves to be a huge mistake as Valley is still a victim of their brainwashing, driving him further mad. So Bruce must pull himself together while the rest of the Bat-Family try to reign in their new Darker Knight. It’s a fantastic storyline but sadly I only have a few issues from the event, which I have reviewed in the past.
Batman: Knightfall is an adaptation collecting those events in the same way that The Death & Life Of Superman did for that event. I think I’ve read it before but it should be fun to read it again. Since I haven’t read the full story arc, though more than Superman’s story, I can’t really compare it as an adaptation. One of my more recent followers runs a Batman website so hopefully he or anyone else more aware of the original comic can help on that end, but I will be judging the novel on its own merits and how it works as a story.
Like The Death & Life Of Superman this is split up into three sections based on the storyline’s title: Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knight’s End, with an epilogue. I’m using a paperback version of the novel, with puts the first storyline at page one for a total of 19 chapters, the second at page 143 for a total of 20 chapters, and the third at 301 for a total of only 9 chapters. I don’t know yet how the chapters will go as it’s harder to skin for chapter lengths. We could end up with multiple chapters reviewed at once, or just one.
We’ll start learning the answer to that next time with the first chapter of “Knightfall”. If you have a copy, read along. If not, follow with the comic and tell me where the chapter ends compared to the comics. If you have both, tell me what I didn’t discuss and what didn’t adapt correctly. I’d like to see some discussion on this one. Or sit back and enjoy my thoughts on the novel and what I know about the event. Either way, see you for the beginning of Batman: Knightfall and see if I forget to add the K when the post goes live.
[…] an extended breakdown of the comic event this novelizes check out the reveal for this book as our next Chapter By Chapter book review. For those of you starting here check out […]