My primary complaint with this series so far has been that not much actually happens. There’s been a lot of vague gesturing towards Insomnia’s master plan facilitating the event, but never with enough focus that it might wrap things up too quickly. Knight Terrors #3 finally manages to establishes a concrete sense of momentum for the story. Its pacing is still somewhat disorienting, but it feels like we’re getting somewhere.
The story itself is broken up into three distinct sections. While each one individually does a good job delivering on whatever it sets out to do, there’s a disconnect that keeps them from forming a cohesive whole, resulting in an awkward read. It’s a big part of why this series can be so difficult to get invested in: the story continually jumps from one sequence to another without a meaningful narrative flow that draws you in. A character will announce “we should do this” and then for the next 7 or so pages that scene happens until we jump to something else.
The first of these “chapters” is the fight against the “Sleepless Knights” teased at the end of the last issue. It’s not a long fight, but the opening splash page by Camuncoli is extremely impressive. It’s the sort of action shot that creates a dynamic sense of movement as the readers vision is obstructed by a rolling gas cloud and you’re not quite sure what the rest of the field might look like. Unfortunately, this level of visual excitement is contained to just the splash page. The rest of the fight is a standardly framed action with the good guys punching the bad guys in close-ups with sound effects over top.
Aside from serving as a cliffhanger for the previous issue (and acting as an action-packed cover for this one), the brief fight’s main purpose is to introduce Damian Wayne to the story, and it’s a very welcome addition. Williamson is able to handle his voice very well, and Damian’s harsh and violent demeanor really helps kickstart the characters into action after so much pontificating and worrying. His rapport with the others is fun, which acts as a life raft for a series previously bordering on boring.
Before the plot can really move forward, the second segment of the story gives us another flashback via Insomnia’s mind. It turns out that Insomnia’s name comes from the fact that he lost the ability to sleep due to something that happened to him caused by the Justice League. It’s a suitably creepy sequence, with the shots of implied self harm being especially unsettling. However, it still does the frustrating thing where characters will allude to some event but never speak of it in clear terms so that they don’t give away a twist. Almost always that sort of dialog comes off as unnatural, and while this wasn’t as bad as some, (at the very least no one called it “the event”) I couldn’t help but be somewhat frustrated by it.
With the flashbacks out of the way, Damian, Deadman, and Dodds decide to try and find the nightmare stone in “The Hollow”, between the lands of the waking and dreaming. This is easily the highlight of the issue. Deadman is clearly the focus, but Damian’s inclusion plays a big part in allowing a meaningful heart-to-heart, from one person who died to another. We get to see the hesitation both of them have in confronting this facet of their existence. The sequence of Deadman with his own former “corpse” is especially brutal.
Focusing on Deadman’s struggle also allows his breaking the fourth wall at the beginning of each issue finally have some sort of meaning. Instead of random commentary and gags totally removed from the rest of what’s going on, they’re contextualized as part of Deadman’s personal issues. Do I think that this narrative technique is totally successfully integrated into the larger themes? No. However, it does a lot of work in making everything feel like a complete story.
- You’re a Damian fan who likes when he shows up
- You still want more scary dream sequences and flashbacks
- Deadman’s journey of coping with his death is compelling for you
Knight Terrors #3 manages to move the story forward enough that you care about what’s happening in the moment. The narrative still struggles to get you fully invested due to how disjointed the various set pieces are, but individually their smaller character moments carry the scenes. Has it quite reached the point that the series feels “worth it” outside of an event framing device? Not quite, but it’s improving.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.