|Red Robin in Kingdom Come|
Maurice Mitchell of Geek Twins won the $1 participation prize. Now will he split it with the other Geek Twin?
NEW BUSINESS: Last week I rambled incessantly about the Batman Knightfall series from the early 90s. So now I'm going to talk about the follow-up saga, the Knightsend series. Again I might mash it up a little with the novelization I read before the comics. The good thing about the novelization is that it also included the middle section, which it called Knightsquest or something. For some reason they reprinted the Knightfall series (in two volumes) and the Knightsend series but not anything in the middle, that I could find. Maybe they did long ago and it's out of print? Whatever.
So in Knightfall if you remember from my babbling, Bruce Wayne gets his back broken by the evil new villain Bane. Bruce then picks a former assassin named Jean-Paul Valley to take over. Jean-Paul makes a sweet new Batsuit (flamethrowers!) to kick Bane's ass. Hooray!
But all is not well in Gotham because Jean-Paul is mentally unstable. Meanwhile, at least in the novelization, Bruce Wayne meets this therapist who has some kind of weird supernatural power that helps his crippled back a little. She gets kidnapped so he goes off to find her. Ultimately she uses her power to fix his back, but loses her mind in the process. (Yay?) It's slightly less believable than in "The Dark Knight Rises" where a guy punches Bruce's spine back into position and leaves him hanging for a month or two to recover.
So when Knightsend begins, Bruce goes to see one of his old masters, a nasty broad named Lady Shiva, to help get his groove back. In the comics this requires him taking on increasing numbers of ninjas while in the novelization it's a bit more tame. She eventually makes Bruce have to kill someone, though he only fakes that part of it.
Meanwhile, Jean-Paul is rampaging through Gotham with the help of a crooked cop instead of Commissioner Gordon. Jean-Paul's gotten to the point where he no longer cares if he kills people or not. He adopts more of the Rorshach philosophy that bad guys deserve whatever they get. Though I don't think Jean-Paul breaks anyone's head open with a cleaver.
Annoying Robin (Tim Drake, before he became Red Robin) tries to keep an eye on him, which isn't easy since Jean-Paul locks him out of the Batcave and refuses to let him go along anywhere. (Kudos to him!) Eventually Bruce comes back and finds out what Jean-Paul is up to and decides he has to force Jean-Paul to give up the Batman mantle. Which isn't going to be easy.
There's a big fight then that's a lot more epic in the comics than the novelization. Nightwing and Robin (and even Catwoman at one point) join Batman in fighting against Jean-Paul. They manage to do some damage and for some reason Jean-Paul's suit turns from blue to red, something I used when I repainted a kind of shitty Azrael figure I bought online.
|Blue Jean-Paul Batman is on the left and right front. Red Jean-Paul Batman is on the right back. Crappy old Batman is front and center, getting beat down by Bane.|
In the end, though, it isn't fighting that really solves the problem. Instead, Bruce finds a way to reason with Jean-Paul and get him to see the error of his ways. That might have been disappointing if you were expecting a fight to the death. But I suppose it was supposed to connect to when Bruce fought all those ninjas and faked someone's death because according to him death isn't really necessary.
I didn't really like this story nearly as much. As I said last week, it seemed like poor Jean-Paul had been set up for failure from the start. Also, the new Batsuit was awesome. (Again, flamethrowers!) We go from that back to the boring old tights and cowl? Yuck. But I guess a lot of people wanted the old Batman back because they don't like change. Though really I'd say when you present the other option as a crazy Frenchman you've pretty much rigged the contest. Which may be what happened with New Coke versus "classic" Coke, or I think Rusty Webb said that at one point.
At least until 2003 Jean-Paul carried on as just regular Azrael. In two weeks we'll talk about him a little more and the many parallels between him and my own Scarlet Knight.
Needless to say I didn't bother cribbing any of this for my stories. I mean, the whole thing was pretty lame to me. Even the title was lame. Knightfall was a decent pun, while Knightsend is nothing. Actually if you look at it, you could misconstrue it as "Knight Send." Send what? Hurm. If they were going to end anything, couldn't they have "killed" Robin again?
Anyway, the comics were OK, though the outcome was preordained. At least it gave me some closure.
BTW, I remember at some little comic book shop around Flint I went to with my brother in his search for Star Trek customizable card game cards, someone had drawn a picture of the old and new Batmen. Except they'd replaced Bruce Wayne and Jean-Paul with Beavis and Butt-head and captioned it "Butt's End." I thought that was pretty funny. Huh huh, butt.
Monday is a special announcement, cue ominous music...