THE BAT-MAN: FIRST KNIGHT #3 Review

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SYNOPSIS: As the Voice’s grip on Gotham tightens, Jim Gordon doesn’t know whom he can trust. With monstrous beasts threatening the city, he turns to the Bat-Man for help, but to truly stop this reign of terror, playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne will step in to help guide the investigation. It all leads to a heart-pounding conclusion that will set Gotham ablaze!

And now we come to the third and final issue of The Bat-Man: First Knight.

When we last saw him, Batman had gotten so desperate that he was considering using a gun to take on The Voice and his army of undead soldiers.  His allies Gordon and the Rabbi even encouraged him to use one.  But there’s one other important person in Bruce’s life in this story that he listens to, and that’s where we begin this final issue.  Thanks to Bruce being surprisingly lazy with his door locks, he and Julie get a lot closer than he ever intended, and this encounter leaves him more determined than ever to win this fight his way,

Meanwhile, we find Johnny the Whip laid-up in a hospital bed with Gordon keeping watch to get him to flip on his boss as soon as he’s conscious enough to choose not getting the chair.  This is what sets this final issue in motion because once The Voice learns that Johnny is in police custody, he realizes he doesn’t have time to take out his targets through assassinations.  So naturally, he decides to attack them all at once.  But he’s also able to kidnap Johnny from the hospital, so I’m not quite sure what the rush is.  In any event, Batman follows the kidnappers, and this leads him to finally realize who The Voice is and confront him face to face (after a few pages of misdirection).

Batman’s confrontation with The Voice makes matters even more urgent, which leads to an all-out battle in the streets of Gotham, complete with a 1939 version of the Batjet (just go with it).  And maybe even a sort of homage to the Joker’s parade in 89?  I’ll let the readers decide that.  But Batman does defeat him in a way that struck me as a little surprising.  I can’t say too much without spoiling it, really I can’t say much about any of the details in this issue without spoiling them, so I’ll just say that if the choice Batman makes is meant to be another homage, it’s a stretch.  But The Voice is defeated, Batman saves the city, and the story ends with Gotham coming to terms with their protector.

So the standouts in this last issue are the same as they’ve been in the previous two.  The artwork is again incredible.  I love the use of color and the stylized realism, it’s very well-suited to the story.  The mix of darks and bold splashes of color evokes mirror the extreme nature of the story that shifts effortlessly between shadowy gangsters, police corruption, undead monsters, and a human bat flying a plane.  The character moments shine as well.  We get longer scenes between Bruce and Julie, and Batman and the rabbi, both of which give Batman clarity on his place in this world.  Also, we get more fun 1939 references.  If I had to choose between seeing Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz in theaters in 1939, I’d just see all of them and love every minute of it.

But some things didn’t work for me.  I know we’re in 1939, but the dialect goes a bit over the top on multiple occasions.  For whatever reason, I didn’t notice it as much in the previous issues, but here it’s more prevalent.  I didn’t love the ears on Batman’s mask, they are supposed to remind us of his early adventures, but that only goes so far.  Same with the purple gloves.  Bruce is lazy with his door locks, which leads to an important character moment sure enough, but there had to be a better way to get there than “Batman forgets to lock up.”  The Voice’s identity was a surprise, but the misdirection went on a bit long.  More than that though, once Batman finally confronts The Voice about his plan and underlying reasons, The Voice gets a villain monologue that just seems all over the place.  Is he doing this for ideological reasons or just an old-fashioned power grab?  I’m not sure if he knows.  I don’t think the writers know either, which should be a sign to not include it in the first place.  And why is The Voice in such a rush when he can just kidnap the only person who can reveal his plan to the police?  Again, the kidnapping leads to an important plot point, but I think the real reason was “Let’s get to the big fight.”  And the way Batman defeats The Voice?  Maybe it was supposed to be open to interpretation, but I don’t think so, I think he makes a decision there that doesn’t align with who we know Batman is, homage or not.  But I could be wrong.  Doesn’t mean this isn’t a good book overall though, just that this issue isn’t quite as good as the previous ones.  But this is a Black Label book and an Elseworlds story, so it should be judged on its own merits, and maybe we’re supposed to be a little flexible with what we expect from Batman in books like this.  How much you’re willing to do that will determine how much you like this book. – Trey Jackson

GRADE: B