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.
For 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 the back of the book:
A savage fight with the supervillain Bane has left Batman virtually crippled–and Gotham City defenseless. As Bruce Wayne begins the long and painful path to recovery, he realizes he must choose a successor in his role as the Dark Knight. But is Wayne’s apprentice, Jean Paul Valley–a young vigilante known as Azrael–worth of the mantle of the Bat? Is Gotham ready for this new Batman and his lethal brand of justice? And what will happen when Bruce Wayne returns to reclaim Gotham City and his role as the true Batman?
LIke with The Death & Life Of Superman and it’s take on Superman’s “Death & Return” story arc, Batman: Knightfall is split into parts based on the names of the arcs that form the full “Knightfall” event: Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knight’s End. Since the book is called Knightfall and so is part one I won’t use the name lest you get confused. The individual chapters have no titles. With that it’s time to dive into this first chapter and see how our story begins.
Before I start reviewing the story, I want to give props to Dennis O’Neil for acknowledging not only the writers for the various comic stories collected into this novelization but the artists, colorists, the often ignored letterers, and the medical staff who got him back to work after his car accident. He was a class act and it’s too bad we recently lost him.
The story actually starts in medias res but we don’t know that until it goes into a flashback. I’m not sure what the order was in the comic because I only have a few random issues from that period. We see Batman break into a villain lair in one of Gotham’s seemingly never-ending abandoned warehouses and take out a bunch of goons. Most of this section we get to see from Batman’s point of view. We learn why he comes through so many skylights is part of his psychological edge, the same as his costume. Thus far the book isn’t telling us Bruce is crazy for running around in a bat costume. It’s just another tool in his battle. As he drops in we get to see him analyze the situation and the goons he’s going to have to take down. It’s interesting to see his mind at work in this section.
Then he sees a guy in a mask with tubes in his arms, the apparent employer. He won’t give Batman his name now but claims when he does he will make Batman scream his name before jumping eighteen feet and running off. We know who this is nowadays. This was Batman’s first meeting with Bane. Again, I don’t know what the comic did but keeping the guy in a luchador mask’s name a secret like I didn’t do is actually quite good. We get to be as confused as Batman if we don’t already know this character through the comics or later appearances prior to reading this novel. Time has of course dulled this reveal but that’s why people complain about spoilers, to keep that mystery going until it’s no longer avoidable, kind of like Darth Vader’s sled or something.
From there we flashback to what Batman to this warehouse. Again we get to see Bruce and Alfred’s procedure in Alfred slyly altering Bruce to end his date early because something’s going on that might require the Batman’s attention, namely the murder of No-Nose Novak and his gang. You can kind of guess what Novak’s deal was with that name, though it’s less “another strange themed villain” and more “even Batman deals with Dick Tracy style disfigured villains now and then”. We’re also subtly told that Bruce has a history of not sleeping with the girls he dates to “protect their virtue”. (Suck it, Tim Burton and Frank Miller.) My guess is that the serial dating is part of Bruce’s act. As I’ve written before, there’s Bruce the public persona, Batman, and the real Bruce somewhere in-between. We see the transition from Persona Bruce to Real Bruce to Batman Bruce. Sorry, I was on a roll. Point is it’s a good moment that not only shows us Batman on his way but nicely gives us that look at Bruce while making the first scene about Batman. It’s a good use of a flashback.
The final segment actually leave’s Batman’s brain to go into Jim Gordon’s. Batman has numerous ways of getting in touch with the Commissioner since there’s no “Bat-Phone” in this continuity. It’s mostly Batman and Gordon comparing notes at the zoo, but we see it all from Gordon’s perspective. He makes a joke when Batman uses two words instead of one about how chatty he’s getting. After comparing notes and Batman doing that modern Batman thing where he runs off as Gordon turns around talking he notes how odd it is that he’s accepting help from a vigilante but given the level of corruption of Gotham government Batman is a necessary evil, his “devil” as he calls him. And for those of you making a big deal of Batman killing (Bane even notes that he doesn’t kill the goons, adhering to the Fifth Commandment: “thou shalt not kill”) that if he does cross the line the pact is broken and Gordon will come for him…and that it will be a sad day for Gotham City. Makes you wonder who made a pact with whom.
This was a great introductory chapter. We meet the main villain for part one, though not the main villain for the whole storyline as we’ll see throughout this book and review, get a good look into Batman’s and Gordon’t thought processes, and see how they operate. This is the best way to start the story and hopefully that continues as we move on in part one of Knightfall.
[…] The last chapter was an introduction to Batman, a look inside his head as well as that of Commissioner Gordon’s and how he views their partnership. If I had known chapter two was only a couple pages I would have reviewed it with chapter one. It appears to be a look at Bruce Wayne’s life, with chapter 3 introducing us to Bane, a character created for this storyline. I’m going to have to pay better attention to this in the future. It makes more sense reviewing chapter 2 with chapter 1 than chapter 3 as the first two go together better thematically. If chapter 2 wasn’t literally 3½ pages I’d probably still review it on its own but this is a long book and I don’t want to take forever reviewing it. We’ve only covered a small portion of my book library in the Chapter By Chapter series and over at The Clutter Reports. I want to finish this before either the site or I pass on. […]