If comics were a whorehouse, Batman would now be the prostitute everyone wants to have a go with.
Of all the reinventions present since the New 52 hit, Batman’s had the most series that have spun out of them. The character himself stars in 4, with a further 5 being denoted as under the Bat-family label featuring appearances or allusions to the caped crusader, and it also doesn’t include featuring in Justice League, JLI and God knows where else right now. I’d half-expect him to be a supporting player in Voodoo or I, Vampire for Christ’s sake.
While I still love the character with every fibre of my being, I feel his core awesomeness is being abused somewhat. DC seem to have latched onto the fact that anything in the Bat brand is an instant license to print money, and thus he’s dominating the company’s merchandising efforts more than ever. I’m pretty sure the only reason he’s not running the Justice League is because the descendants of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster – Superman’s original creators – would sue DC for more money than they’re already owed.
Fortunately, not all of the Bat-books being thrown at us are bland and terrible. Only some of them. Like, half. Ish. Anyway, does Knight Terrors fit into the Snyder and Tomasi area of thought-provoking action-ness, or is it another Tony Daniel voyage into stupidity and self-aggrandisation that leaves you chugging a bottle of bleach?
First off, I was gratified to find out artist David Finch wasn’t the only writer this time around, since I’ve already covered how most artist-writer’s I’ve experienced in mainstream comics are about as engaging as a broken latch on a toilet cubicle. Plus, the last Batman – The Dark Knight book Finch worked on showcased his…lacking talents as a narrative scribe. No, this time he’s joined by Paul Jenkins (isn’t that the American newscaster from Team America?) and the two craft a solo book where the big bad Bat gets faced with some big bad baddies who bust out of Arkham, including a roided-up Two-Face and a scantily-clad woman wearing a white corset and bunny ears in a manner that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sin City story. The plot deals with Batman tracking down someone behind a toxin that makes anyone fearless and immune to pain, which leads to a rather hilarious moment where resident contract killer Deathstroke, infect by the toxin, slices up the Bat-plane with a whale-sized claymore. At that point I had to question whether or not Rob Liefeld had had any involvement, at least in this scene.
The story is pretty basic, but not in a bland and boring kind of way. Arkham escapes and supervillain performance enhancing drugs have popped up frequently in Batman’s world but innovation isn’t where the book excels, for excel it does indeed. It’s one of the rare Batman narratives I’ve read recently that features characters from outside the Bat-family, including a nice, if brief, team-up with the Flash and a house-destroying punch-up with Superman. It’s good, old-school superhero fun with a bit of a cerebral spine running throughout where Batman introspectively narrates his own battle with fear. While it doesn’t quite hit the same kind of character depth as The Dark Knight Returns or Hush, it’s still far better than Faces of Death at least.
The artwork is Finch-standard awesome, with nicely fleshed-out tones and great backgrounding. One thing I actually didn’t mind was the lack of the Batsuit’s recent line articulations for most of the story, presenting an outfit more in line with the pre-Flashpoint Batman’s appearances that further emphasised the slightly classic mood. The characters’ faces can look a bit deformed every now and then, and resident jerk Agent Forbes resembles Brad Pitt after too many botox injections. On the whole, pretty good stuff.
Dialogue is basic, with a few funny moments here and there that mostly include Alfred snarking. As I said, I wasn’t expecting Shakespearean levels of inspiration when I picked this book up, and as a piece of enjoyable, flashy pulp fiction it does the job. Batman thankfully doesn’t sound like a macho asshole the way he did in Faces, but doesn’t quite achieve the depth present in The Court of Owls.
Don’t go into Knight Terrors expecting anything huge or world-shattering, because all it aims to do is entertain with flashy colour, a half-interesting plot and a bunch of physical bust-ups. I’d almost go so far as to call it a Batman equivalent of The Expendables, except there’s no Sylvester Stallone with dialogue that sounds like he’s speaking out of his butt.
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