As suddenly as it began, Batman: Knight Terrors is wrapping up. In a lot of ways, this month is more of the same. However, there is one key difference… me! Casper was unable to find enough time for this review so, I’m here to pick up the slack. With that out of the way, let’s get into it!
I’m not going to harp too much on most of the (entirely valid) points Casper brought up last month but I think one thing he mentioned that I’d like to expand on, given the new information in this issue, is this story’s connection to the main event. It makes sense that this two-parter might be more closely tied to the main plot than others, as it’s written by the same author. I would even understand if it was necessary reading for the main event (though that wouldn’t be desirable). The problem is this story is neither here nor there. It has no impact on the overarching story but it also can’t be read in a void. This miniseries relies on the event to set the stage and give you a reason to care but doesn’t forward the plot. So, this tie-in is almost inherently worthless. It just doesn’t fulfill any role. The final pages also makes this worse by ending with a “now go read the event” cliffhanger. It makes the story within feel incomplete despite, in reality, wrapping itself up neatly.
That leads me to my next complaint. It’s never a good thing when I have to ask what the point of a story is and this story had one clearly defined and failed to deliver on it. This was supposed to be a story about Batman trapped in his nightmares. As Casper mentioned last month, if Batman isn’t afraid of his nightmares, then they aren’t nightmares. This issue makes it worse, however, with inconsistency and an inability to grasp the concept of lucid dreaming. On the first page, as Batman recaps what is going on (for all of us dumb readers who can’t remember what happened one month ago) he says he can’t become lucid “no matter how hard [he] fight[s] for control.” Huh? What? If he is aware he isn’t lucid in a dream…, isn’t he lucid? Being lucid doesn’t mean being in control of a dream. That can occur as well, but a simple awareness in the dream is all it takes to be considered lucid. It seems like that would be prerequisite knowledge for writing this story. At the very least this is something the editor should have caught.
Things only get worse as the plot develops though. Batman’s solution to overcoming his supposed lack of lucidity is to “let go and let the nightmare take control.” You can see the results in the image above. Somehow this frees him to control the dream (though he doesn’t do much with that control so, again, what was the point?) How that works, I can’t begin to tell you. It all seems very contradictory.
Some new fears are presented in this issue (but again Batman “doesn’t scare easily,” so… say it with me. What’s the point!) These new fears are also miss the mark. His subconscious accuses him of wanting his parents to die so he could be Batman.
No. Batman wouldn’t think that. It’s so far outside the realm of an insecurity Batman would have I can’t even imagine how it got to print. That little nugget is followed up by the “revelation” that a metaphorical piece of Batman’s soul is still left at the scene of his parent’s death. Which, sure, is true but it’s presented in such a way that makes it out to be a new piece of information. I think it’s pretty obvious and well known. I mean, he’s Batman. Clearly, he never moved on from that night. That’s enough examples of how this comic treats Bruce’s mental state. The point is, it’s either entirely off the mark in its diagnosis or has absolutely nothing new to say.
At this point, it might be surprising but there was one bit of this comic I did like. Late in the issue, there is a two-page sequence where Batman talks to his childhood self and reassures him about his future. It’s honestly really great. There’s real emotional weight, it allows him to acknowledge the good in his life (which is sadly rare in modern Batman comics), and it’s well-written. The following page kind of ruins the moment with a weak attempt at humor and writing that is painfully lacking in finesse but for two brief shining pages, this comic was great.
One area of this comic that I disagree with Casper on is the art. I think Guillem March turned in great work on both chapters. He’s a great choice for a horror comic with his shadowy, heavy-lined style. The problem isn’t how he draws, it’s what he’s drawing. Insomnia is a terrible design in particular. He’s completely unintentionally dumb looking. Personally, a muscle-bound pink-haired man with in a Robin outfit just isn’t very menacing. I’m not sure who actually did the design though so I’m not going to pin it on March. The gun-headed bat (which is actually referred to by Insomnia as “Gunbat” in this issue *sigh*) looks just as bad as it did last issue and almost all the other designs in the issue run into similar problems as well. Even if March did design all these guys, I still have to give him credit for drawing very engaging dynamic pages that are soaked in atmosphere (partially thanks to the great Tomeu Morey on colors). I’d just like to see him given a chance to draw some stronger Batman stories.
Most of what I said about the main story applies to this backup on a smaller scale. That said, it might be even worse. The writing on this story does nothing for me. It stars Arsenal and Black Canary and seems to drop directly into whatever is happening in Green Arrow right now. So, in addition to having the same problem as Batman in that it hinges on reading the main event but doesn’t contribute to that story, it now doubles the problem up by doing the same thing with the Green Arrow book. I’ve watched several interviews with Williamson so I know he likes continuity and line-wide consistency, but there is a difference between consistency and making comics unable to stand on their own without reading completely unrelated material.
Like Batman, the character’s fears don’t really track that well and both become aware that they’re in a dream immediately. I don’t know why these tie-ins can’t just be a plain old nightmare that explores the characters’ fears. Instead, we get a standard superhero fight comic which defeats the purpose of the event in my eyes.
The art doesn’t help this story out either. Trevor Hairsine gets the job done but the faces are generally awkward and the sequential storytelling is weak. The narrative alternates between shots of Arsenal and Black Canary sleeping and shots of them in their nightmares. Showing them asleep isn’t necessary for the plot because we already know that that’s the impetus of the story but the bigger problem is the lack of a visual cue to let us know when the narrative is switching, making it a very confusing read. There should be a coloring difference or a change of clothes or something. As it is, both realities look visually identical as you can see below.
Craft problems aside, there just isn’t enough content to this backup for it to be worth reading. A good writer can do a lot with eight pages, but this story could have been told in two and it just isn’t worth a whole extra dollar on the price tag.
- You’re reading the main event
- One great sequence is enough for you
- You’re a Guillem March fan.
I really liked Williamson’s “Abyss” arc when he was briefly writing Batman a while back. Even “Shadow War,” which I wasn’t a fan of, was much better than this. So, it’s very disappointing that this half-baked nothing of a comic is the best Williamson could put together for this event. I know he’s capable of better but he also has a bad habit of writing comics that are “content,” don’t have any depth, and seem hastily written. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what this is and I can’t recommend it.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.