Chapter By Chapter (usually) 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.
Yes, we’re doing two chapters, which still beats three chapters last time, where we mostly just brought Tim in, showed more of Batman’s arrangements with Commissioner Gordon, and Bane stole some missiles in between killing prostitutes because apparently Venom doesn’t boost ALL his muscles. Chapter 9 is only a few pages long while Chapter 8 is about normal chapter length so I’m going to do both together this installment.
Going back to Bane’s…other missile, this is kind of what bothers me about 90s comic. The entire length…sorry, Bane…of the Knightfall/Knightquest/Knight’s End arc is good from a technical perspective but dark and gritty was becoming the norm and they were pushing kids away from comics. My theory remains that they were so annoyed at comics being looked at as solely a kids media format that they pushed things more adult like this to prove it wasn’t, the end result being chasing away kids. If it wasn’t for the DCAU tie-in comics and the “Johnny DC” line of kid-targeted comics I wonder if the problem of finding new readers wouldn’t have happened a lot sooner.
It’s hard to find new comic book readers when it’s tough for those audience to find those comics, especially in their formative years. I can find video games, DVDs/Blu-Rays, and even books easier than I can find comics or magazines so it’s not a surprise to me that they’re dying even before you get into over-deconstruction, ruining classic characters, “representation” activists who can’t write a story to save their lives and hide behind the “bigot” tag rather than give those characters a story the genre’s target audience will enjoy, and corporate owners who couldn’t care less so long as they have a movie idea that costs them less money. This is the state of comics currently and it started in the 1990s. As fascinating as the Knightfall storyline is to someone my age, and I do remember enjoying this book in my initial readthrough years ago when I bought it, I still see the huge downsides of it overall, just like Watchmen and its fallout. But enough about that. Homepage jump is satisfied so let’s see what happens in these two chapters.
There’s going to be a lot in chapter 8 because there’s more than one segment. Much of it is Bane setting up a distraction and executing his plan to free the Arkham
inmates patients. The second segment starts with Bruce and Alfred in the cave listening to the various explosions, with Bruce explaining to Alfred that he’s sure they’re diversions and it isn’t until the explosion at Arkham that he’s ready to move even though it isn’t dark yet. Batman has Alfred contact Robin and heads to his car…and this chapter made me a bit sad as a superhero fan.
I grew up with Batman as the “Caped Crusader” but at some point he became known by another nickname, the “Dark Knight”. This novel, and I don’t know what the comics did, shows Bruce hates that moniker, a bit of nonsense by the press. He also doesn’t seem to refer to his car, a heavily modified Maserati rather than the trend of “racing tanks” that started with Tim Burton, as the Batmobile, the narrator telling us that it’s a nickname Alfred gave it. O’Neil, if not the comic writer for the issue he’s adapting here and we don’t have a list of what issue is part of what pages or chapters, is basically writing his perspective through Bruce. Despite having written or edited Batman stories since the 1970s it’s disappointing that he shows a dislike for these nicknames, especially the Batmobile. Just because he doesn’t call himself that doesn’t mean he can’t respect it, or just don’t bring up his hating it. It’s like O’Neil objects to this in ways Christopher Nolan seemed to in his bat-films. We do get a nice scene of the car coming through a secret entrance in a shed, which is how it’s done in the comics rather than coming out a cave like you see in other media thanks to the 1966 TV show.
Then we get a quick moment of the inmates getting the message, which must be a trip backwards given that the attack clearly hasn’t started yet. We get a quick look at the actions of Two-Face, Joker (and points to making him sound like Mark Hamill through the description given that he pretty much is the Joker most people here–and I’m on that list), the Ventriloquist (who apparently wasn’t allowed to keep Scarface so he needs to make a sock puppet out of his sock), and two people name Amygdala and Abattoir, which apparently spell check has heard of but I haven’t. Meanwhile we get to see why Arkham is easier to break out of than an open cardboard box soaking wet. Two guards notice everybody reading a note taken out of their meals and write it off as another of Arkham’s ideas. Idiots, wouldn’t he tell you if that were the case? One is concerned but the other talks him out of it, and I wonder if he’ll end up dead for his lazy incompetence.
This part of the story finally catches up with Batman’s as Bane’s crew begin the jailbreak. The distractions are delaying the police, some of the inmates attack Batman and one of the cops tries to arrest him because of the bat-shaped scars Bane left on the last batch of prostitutes, because clearly that’s more important than STOPPING THE VILLAINS WHO MOST GIVE YOU TROUBLE AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH AND LEAVE A LOT MORE DEAD BODIES ofpeopleyouactuallythinkmatter and now you understand why Gotham City needs Batman and company. Because the cops that aren’t corrupt are probably too stupid to be approached. As Batman notes, the Joker got away. Who do you think is more important, the guy whose symbol can be drawn by anyone or the serial killer that only is allowed to live because, according to the novel, the psychologists want to study them. I’d move out of the city just because of the morons running it, nevermind the crazed serial killers! I don’t blame the cops for getting there when they did. Bane set up a good distraction with multiple bank and bus explosions. It’s just between the Arkham guards and this guy they don’t seem to prioritize well and Gotham suffers for it.
Chapter nine isn’t much. It’s just Bane preparing himself for his next encounter with Batman and stuff we already know. Meanwhile back at the Batcave (I wonder if we’re allowed to call it that) we get the full list of escapees while Alfred convinces Bruce to get some sleep because he’s bound to be busy for a while and a discussion of why Batman is taking on the task of capturing the escapees. It’s a good moment and a good short interlude between this and what’s to come.
Next time we’ll begin to see the various fights that Batman will have collecting the more dangerous escapees. I think the comic went over all of them, including a few I didn’t list here, but I don’t have any of those issues. We’ll see how Batman saves the city from the crooks, and the incompetence of the GCPD who isn’t Gordon, Rene Montoya (who is shown on monitor duty and will probably feature more later), and the Bat-Clan. Let’s see how many other nicknames get the shaft.
[…] In our last set of chapters, Bane managed to break a bunch of Arkham’s worst villains out of the Asylum. I know, that’s not exactly hard to do. Pretty sure you can do that with a 4-year-old and box of animal crackers at this point. That took two chapters and this week it’s three to see what happens next. […]