Batman: The Knight #10 offers the big, climactic finale to a series that I’m not sure needed one. The time spent on Bruce’s training abroad, in the past, has always been vaguely referenced and left with plenty of gaps. This approach is very useful to writers, since it allows them to insert whatever lesson or backstory they need for their given story. Need a remorseless assassin from Bruce’s past to come back for Blind Justice? Create Henri Ducard. You want a story where Bruce visits an ancient master in the mountains of Korea after Jason Todd dies? Boom: Kirigi. Whatever the plot calls for, there’s enough room between when Bruce’s parents die at age 8 and when he returns to Gotham at age 25 to fit it in somewhere.
What Batman: The Knight does is try to take that and turn it into one, continuous story. It even includes previously established characters like the ones I just listed. However, when you do that, you dictate that there must be an overarching narrative that connects all of those disparate pieces. This leaves little room for other lessons that would conflict with that story. Especially with the inclusion of “Anton” as a narrative through-line and constant point of focus for Bruce, it raises the question in any other story of “but what about Anton?” It’s problematic to say the least. Not only does a single narrative demand cohesion, but it also typically requires a climax, which is why we have Ra’s.
I became worried when solicits announced that this series was building to a big finale because I thought it was at its best when it was just focused on Bruce growing as a person. I became even more worried when it was revealed that that climax would be Ra’s al Ghul. He has felt and continues to feel out of place in the overall story. Continuity issues aside, he remains far too obsessed with a Bruce Wayne that has barely proven himself. All Bruce has done is studied under various teachers. This is supposedly still the same guy who would get beat up in Gotham’s East End on his first night out as a vigilante. Despite all this, Ra’s wants him to become his right hand man (actually no, now he’s not the Demon’s “hand”, but his “heart”. Head, hand, heart – is Ra’s planning on constructing an entire Demon?) and seems to put all his trust in him, only to be completely blindsided that this stranger could betray him.
The issue is meant to be a turning point for Bruce when he finally becomes Batman in all but name. It ties together all (or at least a lot) of the lessons that he’s learned so that he can foil Ra’s’ evil plan. It’s the kind of thing you expect from a story’s finale. The final lesson that he learns seems to be the ability to plan. It’s arguably Batman’s most famous trait, to the point that his “prep time” has become a meme. Bruce states that he has never had a plan before, and only now has had the drive to take action after his big fight with Anton. This seems very strange to me, given that I had just assumed that preparedness was simply part of Bruce’s personality, and not something that he needed to learn in his training. It strays into the territory of over explaining every detail of a character that prequel stories can often fall into.
He laments that up until this point he’s been entirely passive, even including the night his parents were murdered. Zdarsky throws in a metaphor about his life being a song that he needs to start singing due to the fact that Bruce’s mother apparently loved it when he sang to her, but he didn’t when she died. Honestly that whole opening is very melodramatic and kind of comes out of nowhere, not referencing any sort of pre-established motif from the story. It’s through contrast with Anton, who is “hollow” and doesn’t have the “love” and “justice” that Bruce does, that he finds the drive to start taking control of his life. It’s a sequence that didn’t totally resonate because I have difficulty buying that this would be the thing to be his life’s decisive moment. I might’ve felt differently had I been more invested in their friendship, but that was always a low point of the series for me.
The pacing of the plot moves very quickly to wrap up the Ra’s storyline and get Bruce back to Gotham. It’s got plenty of action and explosions to keep things moving along and entertaining. By the time we learn what Bruce’s plan is, it’s already in motion and everything is in high gear. Funnily enough, the ending to this series should be very familiar to anyone who has seen Batman Begins. There are plenty of similarities from Bruce burning down Ra’s lair after being trained by him and discovering that he’s evil, (both times we’re told that everyone got out safe so it doesn’t count as killing, but I’m dubious) to him being rescued from burning wreckage, and even the scene of him opening up a boarded hole in the ground at Wayne Manor to discover what would become the bat cave. Batman Begins is a great movie and I think often unfairly overshadowed by The Dark Knight, so it’s definitely not a bad source to take inspiration from. It’s a familiar plot, but one that still keeps your attention as it races towards its conclusion.
Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is as impressive as ever as he makes every sequence in the story pop. The deep shadows throughout the al Ghul facility create a dramatic atmosphere that couples with Bruce’s determination. The scenes with Bruce in his various caves simply envelop the page in moody shadows, and Di Giandomenico’s affinity for partially lit faces meshes really well. Ivan Plascencia’s colors are vibrant and make the fight scenes among the fire intense and exciting. Part of what makes the issue so quick and easy to read is how nice it is to look at.
- You’ve been waiting for Bruce to finally show off all his Batman skills
- Big action sequence with fights and explosions are how you like finales to end
- You want to see how Bruce is able to defeat Ra’s in their new first encounter
This final issue is fast-paced and action-packed, but fails to satisfyingly justify the overall premise of the series as a whole. Transforming Bruce’s entire pre-Batman training into one continuous story is restrictive more than anything else, and having Ra’s as his final challenge does not work for so early in his career. It’s great to see the lessons learned over the course of the series come together so that Bruce can prevail, and the art makes that triumph compelling to watch, even if critical turning point which brings him there feels flimsy.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.