This arc may contain Batman’s “Knightmares,” but I can’t help but feel that they’re actually my nightmares.
Tom King wraps up “Knightmares,” his self-proclaimed “arc of one-shots” with this issue. Based on that description alone, I’d hoped that we would get some type of zinger or reveal that would make this feel like an actual arc, even if that arc is just a bridge. I mean, if it’s being touted as an arc, there should be some type of actual story arc, right? Well, there isn’t. This is an “arc” because DC needed six issues to fill a trade. In reality, “Knightmares” is nothing more than a bunch of one-and-dones.
Now, I’m not opposed to one-and-done stories. I’ve read many one-and-done issues that are a ton of fun or completely moving. King has even written a few of those! But the six issues that make up the “Knightmares” arc? Nope. They just haven’t done it for me. And despite being unsatisfied with the issues themselves, it’s a little irritating that it would be pushed as an arc rather than a collection of six, individual issues. Be honest with what it is, and you would avoid some headaches.
I will give DC some credit though. There have been a few wonderful moments or lines within these issues, but a few nice moments or lines isn’t going to cut it for a trades-worth of pages. In all, the entire thing feels like a waste that could have – and more importantly, should have – been conveyed within a single issue – at least as it is. We gained nothing from this arc that we didn’t already know. There was no progression. No revelation. No big “Aha!” moment to give any of these stories a point… They’ve just been filler. And its filler that’s coming in at the most inopportune time of the King’s run. We should be rising to the climax of his long game, not pausing to play with various artists – which, by the way, has been the only positive takeaway from “Knightmares.”
This could have been different though. This could have easily been an actual arc, that moved from completely absurd to completely profound. Each issue could have ultimate symbolized Batman fighting his way out of layers of psychosis and dream state to ultimately wake up by the end… But the story didn’t do that. The story ended the same way it began… Batman is dreaming. The last issue of this story is a splash page of Batman asleep. There’s nothing exciting about that. He’s tied up to a machine, but we suspected this all along, so… what’s the point? Had there been a single panel or two of Batman’s eyes opening, we’d at least close this book going, “Oh!!! $#!& about to get real!” But this isn’t what happens. And this isn’t the feeling we got from the end of the issue.
Anyway, this story, in particular, came about because Tom King told Amanda Conner that she needed to do Batman, and she said she would have loved to have done the Bachelorette party (from the Prelude to the Wedding tie ins). King said, “Done,” and here we are… Batman #68 is a reimagining of the Bachelorette party, but less entertaining, and even more irrelevant than the previous issues of ”Knightmares.” In fact, this is nothing more than the Selina and Lois show, because that’s who we follow for three-fourths of this issue.
For some of you, I’m sure this sounds amazing. Under certain circumstances, I would even agree. This could have been good – especially with Conner on art – but the issue never lives up to my expectation. The writing, specifically the dialogue, is bad. There are so many fragments and awkward pauses that it’s almost unreadable. Literally, none of it reads well, which is a shame because there are clear parallels that take us back to “Superfriends” (the double date issue with Bruce, Selina, Clark, and Lois) But nothing lives up to that here. We joke that King’s dialogue in Batman reads as a drunk Captain Kirk, but this issue is almost as if it’s blackout Captain Kirk. And yes, I do realize this is a dream and that logic and reason are thrown out the window, but the script still needs to be enjoyable. I also realize that Selina and Lois are both hammered in this issue, but that doesn’t mean we need blackout Captain Kirk dialogue.
While reading the issue, it almost as if King decided to try channel Palmiotti and Conner. It was almost as if he wanted to recreate what they did on Harley Quinn… Which if he’d been paying attention to how recent attempts to do this have gone following their iconic run, he probably would’ve known it was a bad idea. The problem here is that his humor isn’t the same as Palmiotti and Conner. He doesn’t even let his humor go to the places that theirs would. We get a twelve-page grid in this story of Lois and Selina drinking wines from other planets and universes, and all they did was get drunk. Can you imagine what Palmiotti and Conner would have done with this? Selina and Lois would’ve been growing things, changing colors, teleporting to different dimensions, gaining powers, etc… And it probably would’ve been awesome!
It even begs the question, why not have Palmiotti and Conner write this? If we’re going to spend six issues in “Knightmares,” why not let a different writer and artist – who all have unique presence and tone from one another – write each chapter. Clearly these stories are here because the talent needed a buffer. This issue would have been better under Palmiotti and Conner. The issue with Pyg would have been better under Morrison and Gerads. This could have been something great, and unique that created some hype… but it didn’t. “Knightmares” is nothing more than a momentum killer.
The Art: Amanda Conner covers most of the art for this issue. If you’re familiar with her work then you know what you’re in for. She has a light, fun tone to her work, and it’s refreshing to see in comics – especially in an issue of Batman. I genuinely enjoyed her presentation of Selina and Lois since this is a dream, but wouldn’t mind seeing Conner work on a Batman title if it were in the vain of The Animated Series, Batman ’66, or even one of the young reader lines.
I can’t just praise Connor’s work here. Paul Mounts did some incredible work on colors. The pages of Lois and Selina in “The Paradise Pool” are spectacular. The other artists on the book also did a great job, and if there’s anything worth the ticket price, it’s the art.
Overall: Tom King’s “Knightmares” ends with this issue, and while I wish I could say there are redeeming qualities within this story/ “arc,” there aren’t. The best thing about any of these issues is the art, and that remains true here. I was ready to move on from “Knightmares” weeks ago, and I’m happy that we finally are.