SYNOPSIS: Bruce Wayne’s worldwide journey has reached its conclusion-is he ready for the brutal final exam? The acclaimed series comes to a shocking, climactic end as this young Dark Knight will face the ultimate test!
Every beginning has an end. Isn’t that what they say?
Well, we’ve made it to the end of The Knight and it’s been quite a ride, one with its share of detractors.
For me, the elephant in the room was the inclusion of “Anton” the vigilante that will come to be known as Ghost Maker. He’s far from one of my favorite Batman characters, one I’ve had a bit of a hard time with how he’s been retconned into Batman’s history. I can accept Bruce taking in his own killer son as a way to deprogram his League of Assassins training, but Ghost Maker has been a harder pill to swallow. While I’m still not a fan of the character, Zdarsky has at least eased me into acceptance of the role he played in Bruce’s formative quest.
Everything feels suitably epic as Bruce and Anton fight to earn their place at Ra’s al Ghul’s side. Bruce’s passion, his ability to care, and the fact that his quest has meaning, are what give him the edge. In fact, I love how Zdarsky opens the issue, flashing back to the often-seen Wayne murders. What makes this different is the fresh perspective Bruce is given. Not saying “I love you” back to his dying mother is his first heartbreak in the aftermath of tragedy and fuel that invigorates him this outing and beyond. Bruce takes control of his destiny during this fight and it makes all the difference going forward.
Seeing Bruce gain this new confidence, and finding strength in having a plan, has great echoes throughout the Batman mythos. Joining Ra’s and getting dubbed “The Demon’s Heart” is two-fold. One, it continues to draw parallels to 2005’s Batman Begins but also makes an interesting link with Talia, who yes, still has those weird sideburns from the last issue. It’s probably the only quibble I have with Di Giandomenico’s art.
Zdarsky nails Bruce’s inner dialogue throughout this installment. It helps to see Bruce blend all his training from this series together, forging it into skills he will use for years to come. It was also interesting to see Bruce take inspiration from his surroundings, namely the cave and what it could be, not just the one in Lazarus City, but in the caverns below his manor back in Gotham.
The final (for now) confrontation takes influence from both Begins and Rises, but I did not mind. For me, it serves to bolster those elements of the mythology, while at the same time reinforcing Bruce’s rule against killing. I do find Bruce a touch hypocritical at times when he mentions Ra’s army building and thinking of himself as a god and how it can make one man into a monster. What is his support team of the Robins and Batgirls if not his own army? And he may not call himself a god, but certain writers have depicted him as an all-knowing Bat-God. It’s an interesting parallel.
Speaking of parallels, the story takes us to a point where Bruce is made to wonder if this is a “good death”, calling to mind the eternal question from Frank Miller’s, “The Dark Knight Returns”. I love that Zdarsky included this as it enhances the overall Bat narrative. We also see Bruce’s return home, which calls to mind not only “Year One”, but the lighting is reminiscent of Batman Begins.
I really feel like this is a story you can take or leave out of your respective head continuity of the Caped Crusader. Do you want to see this as Bruce’s journey right before “Year One”? No problem! I think it totally fits in with that, maybe only coming into conflict with how Ra’s and Batman know each other. Do you want to believe this never happened or only happened in a post-Rebirth or Infinite Frontier continuity? Well, that works, too. It’s so versatile that it can work on multiple levels. You could easily hand it to a fan of Bat movies and they could enjoy it as a self-contained origin story.
The art is spectacular throughout. I will say it again, Carmine di Giandomenico brings such a cinematic flair to his visuals that most of this book could easily serve as storyboards for a big-budget film! That final splash page is Bat-perfection and would make a great poster. The inky shadows that have spilled all across this book have been one of my favorite aspects, particularly when they give Bruce any hint of his future self as a Dark Knight.
Ivan Plascencia’s colors have been nothing short of brilliant. I’ve been reviewing these issues digitally and the work is stunning. The glow of headlights, the Gotham sunset as leaves fall, raging fires, the cool chill of a dark cave, this book is a visual feast, one I can’t wait to have as a collected edition on my shelf. DC, Absolute this story immediately!
There may be those who question the necessity of this comic, but I for one am glad it exists. Zdarsky brings some real insight into Bruce’s beginnings, offering elements that to me enhance the mythology and strengthen the bonds across other media. It’s a gorgeous-looking book, with dare I say the best art of di Giandomenico’s career. Keep an open mind and give it a try. It’s a wonderful companion piece in the Dark Knight’s vast library! – Javier E. Trujillo