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.
Yep, one chapter again, and we’re almost done with part one of this book. (All three parts are in the same book; this isn’t three separate books.) That means we’re close to inciting event for this whole arc, but remember that Bane isn’t our main villain according to the writers. We have met him and last time we got a glimpse into his character but not really understanding what his tie is to Batman or why he was chosen as a potential back-up man. Backman if you will.
So let’s do our own research. Jean-Paul Valley first appeared in the miniseries Sword Of Azrael, created Dennis O’Neil, our author for this adaptation, and…Joe Quesada. Somehow I’m not surprised; even though he was the artist there’s a reason Bill Finger now gets co-credits on Batman. A member of the Order Of Saint Dumas, a group of Catholic fanatics (because of course they’re written as Catholic, the usual insulting kind and for the record I’m nondenominational but was raised Catholic and I never knew anyone who acted like mainstream media’s depiction of Catholics–Hollywood’s Catholics) who genetically engineered him as a baby to be their superhuman enforcer, Azrael. I’m pretty sure that’s not in God’s plan, you guys! It’s a long story beyond that. Fighting off the Order’s influence, though that’s the short version of “The System”, he fought alongside Batman to uncover the events surrounding Jean-Paul’s father’s death. Also a long story.
I’m hoping that the book explains that eventually because they didn’t have wikis when the novel came out, and the comic fans would have had a flashback or a caption [*See the Sword Of Azrael miniseries for more info] kind of deal. What we have is a longer chapter so maybe it will show up here? Nope, because this one is all about the Joker, Batman’s archest of nemeses.
The chapter starts with Robin riding alongside Batman in the Batmobile. Was this really Tim’s first time riding with Bruce? I KNOW Alfred telling Tim about Jason’s death (he got better thanks to the Lazarus Pit and Superboy Prime punching reality…please don’t ask) just before they left couldn’t have happened, or at least it was a refresher. Tim knew Jason had died before becoming Robin and I doubt it took this long to explain the events of Jason’s passing along with this being their first ride. It’s probably just an excuse to go over Joker’s history with Robin, namely Jason, and why Batman doesn’t want to risk another Robin at his hands. Again, this is for the novel reader because Robin already had a run-in with the Joker in his own miniseries, Robin II, also known as “The Joker’s Wild”. So later when Joker sees a living Robin he should already know this either isn’t the same Robin the Joker killed or that he isn’t dead. I have the audio drama adaptation of that as part of the cassette Legends Of Robin, and I recommend it.
Anyway, the main story. Batman and Robin 3 are hunting Two-Face when they hear about an ice cream truck being stolen. Sounds more like Mr. Freeze but neither villain are here. Instead the Joker uses it as part of a plot to kidnap Mayor Krol. It’s here that we meet the comic’s version of Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya (before she was retconned into the “angry lesbian” personality they give her now), but they don’t do a lot in the novel’s version outside of reminding us about Bane’s trick with the prostitutes and yet not doing anything with it. Bullock reluctantly accepts Batman’s help and Montoya is one of his supporters at the time…I think…so they let him examine the mayor’s bodyguards, one of who was hit with the Joker’s smiling poison and with evidence pointing to the truck. So they’re in pursuit, but Batman tells Robin to stay in the car when they reach the car tunnel Joker’s trapped in.
Good thing he didn’t listen. Joker is making his escape with the mayor through one of the work areas and planning to flood the tunnel to hide his escape…but the layout has changed since his last operation down here and now they’re trapped as well. So it’s not just Batman having a bad day. Meanwhile Batman is hit with some debris making his already unstable mental state worse as he has to choose between stopping Joker and helping Krol. This is where we see why Batman needs a Robin to back him up. Robin barely manages to get the indecisive Batman into helping the mayor. It’s further evidence that he’s falling apart because he isn’t letting himself rest. Joker was one of the reasons for that and this decision essentially allowed the Joker to get away.
So what we have is a whole chapter on one event in this crazy evening and it’s a better chapter for it. We see Bruce’s mental state, we see the Joker make his own mistake, and Robin survives what the book says is his first encounter with the Joker. And I have my own decision to make Chapter 18 is rather short but Chapter 19 isn’t just long but it’s the final chapter of the “Knightfall” portion of the novelization. That means Bane and Batman are about to finally meet. So how many chapters are in the next installment? Check in and find out.
[…] event of the arc, the breaking of Batman’s back. Right now he’s in bad shape after last chapter’s run-in with the […]