After two months, a miniseries, and dozens of tie-ins that took over almost every comic DC publishes, we’ve finally reached the end. Has Knight Terrors lived up to all the hype that prioritized it over every other story you might’ve been reading? Well, not really. Honestly, if you’ve read any of the other events that DC puts out every year or so then you already know what to expect from this. Deadman and Insomnia duke it out over the nightmare stone with everyone else battling in the background, and we get a big “moment” at the end meant to cement this whole ordeal as particularly important. I’ve probably also just described the next few events with a couple of names swapped out.
This comic in particular serves two roles. It is both the conclusion to the Knight Terrors miniseries where the main plot of the event has been taking place, and it is also the finale to the event itself. This might seem like a distinction without a difference, but it means that the narrative drive needs to be split. It can’t just wrap up the the main story, it also needs to give a big climax to the rest of the DC publishing line that have been dragged into everything.
The problem with this is that, by design, all of the individual Knight Terrors tie-ins are fairly self-contained. They need to be able to be read with the barest of context. They all keep their stories to themselves and largely wrap up whatever personal, fear-based issues the character is dealing with by the time they wake up. Except now they’re all awake, and we need to do something with them. The solution is to have a big brawl between all the heroes and Insomnia’s forces. Narratively, none of this matters. It’s all just noise that happens in the background and gives an excuse for some action splash pages. It’s such a chaotic mess that it might as well not be happening at all, aside from the need to make this feel like it involves everyone (after all, look at that exciting cover!)
The story that actually matters is that of Deadman and Insomnia’s. Anyone who hasn’t been reading the Knight Terrors miniseries might be a little lost, so let me summarize what you’ve missed: Insomnia’s family was killed while the Justice League was fighting the evil Batmen from the last event, so he was driven mad and wants to use Doctor Destiny’s nightmare stone to make it so that everyone else’s nightmares become real too. Nothing else of importance happens or is revealed in that series. With that out of the way, both Deadman and Insomnia are corporeal and fighting over the nightmare stone that is causing nightmare monsters to wreak havoc over the world.
This fight is far more dialog heavy than the big DC Event Fight™, so you get a chance to care about the characters involved. I talked about how Insomnia’s motivation of blaming the heroes for his family’s death is extremely played out, but it at least gives us something to work with to wring some drama out of this issue. Unfortunately Williamson overplays his hand and writes Insomnia to be such an over the top evil maniac that it becomes easy to stop caring about him. I feel bad about you losing your family and all, but my sympathy drains when you start ranting about how “If I can’t have my family… no one can”.
Still, the story tries to generate some pathos for Insomnia during a sequence in the beginning where he “traps” Deadman in a fantasy where he has a loving family (humorously also all dressed like Deadman). This is the closest we get to any sort of connection between Insomnia and his dead family, and it’s only vicariously. It also doesn’t make a ton of sense as a trap because Deadman never expressed any sort of desire for a family. The comic even addresses this point when Deadman later tells Insomnia, “This is not what I want […] you gave me what you wanted”. It’s great that they address this fact, but then why was the reader meant to feel any sort of tension in the scene, and why did it seemingly work at all? It’s all just a very strange sequence that comes out of left field and relies on telling rather than showing. In that way it’s almost a perfect microcosm for Insomnia’s entire motivation.
Just as in Knight Terrors: First Blood, Howard Porter is on art for the main part of the story. The scratchy pencils create a distorted and almost surreal look to all of the characters that goes well with the tone of the book. The dream sequences themselves have this effect the most, but even the real world still almost feels like it’s deformed in some way. While this deformity lends itself to the concept of nightmares becoming real, it can go a bit wrong when applied to images that require precise detail, namely faces. There are multiple instances where a character’s face looks as though its proportions are off, creating a very jarring effect that doesn’t happen consistently enough to feel intentional.
With Insomnia defeated by Deadman’s noble sacrifice, the story is able to close the book on the whole Knight Terrors event. But wait, there’s more? Because they never stop, the ending of this event acts as a tie in to the beginning of the next one, Beast World in November. Yes, this all rolls into Amanda Waller’s overarching plan to sow distrust in DC’s heroes, so with the Justice League off the table (but still definitely acting as individual heroes, so it’s not really clear what’s been accomplished or why) she plans to move on to the Titans next. And what better way to do it than with an evil version of Doctor Fate, “Doctor Hate” (get it?)
This is just so tiring. These events don’t feel like anything anymore except for a way for editorial to constantly find new ways to tell us nothing will ever be the same again. They never feel special or important because we go from one to the next without skipping a beat. It would be a bigger deal if DC wasn’t having a crisis. The other reviewers and I were talking and it seems that DC has had at least one big, line-wide crossover event per year since 2014. That’s after only a two year respite after Flashpoint, because before then they’d been doing it since Infinite Crisis in 2005. I understand that these drive sales, and cross promotion is just the name of the game, but it really feels like it’s gotten worse recently with one crisis directly leading into the next. Let us breathe, please.
- You’re excited to see the Knight Terrors finale
- Big fights with as many characters as possible are your favorite types of stories
- You can’t get enough of big events
Knight Terrors: Night’s End #1 is exactly what you would expect from an event finale. It’s full of spectacle, grandiose speeches, and a big moment to make it “important” to canon. None of it resonates particularly deeply, but that’s not why you’re here. This exists to wrap up a two month long intermission in DC Comics’ stories as loudly as possible. I’d make a joke about it being a nightmare, but honestly it doesn’t leave enough of an impression to warrant that sort of reaction.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.