SYNOPSIS: Bruce Wayne’s journey to become The Dark Knight has taken him around the globe several times but his training is nearly complete. His trials, however, haven’t gone unnoticed: someone has been watching him…hunting him! The final test of The Batman begins!
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you don’t like “Anton”, the character who we’ve come to know in the present as Ghost Maker, this issue will automatically have a strike against it as he reenters the story. While I haven’t been a fan of his character in Batman, particularly how he was retconned and shoehorned into the Bat Family, I haven’t minded Zdarsky fleshing out that backstory in these pages.
As Bruce continues his training, he gets the feeling of being simultaneously stalked and being a step behind. No matter where he goes, he feels he is following in Anton’s shadow, with the addition of someone sabotaging his training. The clues lead to Anton, but is it really that straightforward?
Bruce heads off to Dr. Daniel Captio, in the hopes of visiting one final master in his quest to become a cold, terrifying creature of the night. The Batman Begins vibes are once again strong with this issue, particularly as Bruce travels the countryside on foot. Thematically, fear, and turning that fear against those who do harm, also play a part in Bruce’s motivations, making the comparison to the film stronger.
Zdarsky excels at getting the reader inside Bruce’s head in this installment. His drive, concerns, and most importantly, his humanity are on full display here, and why those attributes matter to him. Bruce’s values are really emphasized and why they put him at odds with Anton and later, Dr. Captio. Bruce’s love and compassion for people, be they strangers or dear ones, get highlighted as well, serving as a fitting reminder of why he is on this mission.
All this is vividly brought to life by artist Carmine di Giandomenico and colorist Ivan Plascencia. They complement each other so well, with Plascencia bringing a glow to the art, no matter the setting. I’ve mentioned the noir-like shadows that stretch and cover characters’ faces and that continues here, acting like a mask for characters at times. One of my favorite panels is a small, but important, one as Bruce utilizes a cape in a very Batman-like fashion.
A climactic fight near the end of the issue is suitably cinematic. There’s something about the dramatic setting-cliffside, during a thunderstorm-that imbues a grandeur to the proceedings of two men in hand-to-hand combat. Zdarksy gives Bruce confidence and determination worthy of Batman, as well as highlighting how emotions play a part every time he engages in battle.
I can understand a dislike of certain characters, but don’t let that dissuade you from picking up this book. While there are echoes of other Batman origin stories in this issue, I didn’t find it derivative. Instead, it only enhanced the legend of The Dark Knight for me, reinforcing certain themes and moments in his lore. Batman: The Knight is about one man’s heroic journey and as we get to the road’s end, Zdarsky and company are succeeding at the difficult balancing act of being familiar, yet fresh and exciting. – Javier E. Trujillo