You probably don't remember, but in Knightfall, the evil Bane came to Gotham City and defeated Batman, breaking Bruce Wayne's back and leaving him crippled. Bruce picks a security guard and former assassin named Jean-Paul Valley to take over for him. At the end of Knightfall, Jean-Paul defeats Bane with the help of some sweet new armor that has shuriken launchers and claws.
Knightquest picks up as Jean-Paul now gets to be Batman on his own terms. Bruce Wayne has flown off to search for Robin's dad and a missing doctor and so Jean-Paul is left to his own devices.
Bane has left a vacuum in Gotham's criminal organizations and someone has to fill the void. That someone turns out to be a lot of freaks and weirdos. First is a pair of twins who dress like Jon Voit in "Midnight Cowboy" to stage a bunch of daring robberies. There's also a freaky assassin named the Tally Man who was a contract on Batman (really the other one but he ain't particular) and some lesser Batman foes like Abbatoir, the Corrosive Man, and the Clayfaces. The latter two necessitates Jean-Paul making Batman's armor even more badass. The picture shows evolution of Batman's costume from the tights and cape lying on the ground to the more armored look on the right and finally to the awesome really armored version on the left that comes equipped with flamethrowers and rockets and stuff.
|Evolution of the Batmen (and also Bane)|
Of the more well-known villains, Jean-Paul does tangle with Catwoman, who in this case is actually on the side of good as she tries to foil some eco-terrorists. Then later the Joker shows up to create a movie of killing Batman. In the process the Joker murders both Siskel and Ebert. And Jean-Paul would have done the smart thing by killing the Joker if the cops hadn't shown up. Yes, the cops save the Joker...and then promptly let him escape.
Later Jean-Paul does actually kill a villain, at which point Bruce Wayne (who's been magically healed) decides his protege has gone too far and needs stopped. Because we need to keep criminals alive to kill again. (Honestly, has anyone ever done the math on how many people the Joker's killed in 70 years?) Not that I think we should kill everyone, but maybe after the sixth time the Joker breaks out to go on a killing spree we might finally say enough is enough.
Anyway, I always feel sorry for Jean-Paul because he was a character designed to fail. He was designed with too much baggage for anyone to ever seriously think he would stay on as the Batman for very long. The writers weren't playing fair, making him too unstable and uncharismatic to ever be a serious contender to the cowl. They were probably afraid if they installed someone like former Robin and current Nightwing Dick Grayson (as Grant Morrison did in 2009) the audience might actually not care if Bruce Wayne came back and then how do we keep publishing Nightwing and all that? It's the kind of dirty dealing from the bottom of the deck that sunk Conan O'Brien on the Tonight Show a few years ago.
Of course I liked Jean-Paul because he had a sweet costume. A cape and tights are fine, but why have that when you can have flamethrowers and rocket launchers? Duh. And really he's even more of a tragic character than Bruce Wayne. He never even met his mother, was brainwashed from birth to be an assassin, and had his father die literally on his doorstep with this big new job as the assassin Azrael. He really got the shitty end of the stick. Part of it is too I like to root for the underdog and since everyone (even the writers) were pulling for Bruce Wayne, I would go the opposite way.
If there is one big problem in these comics it's that you have like four different writers and so Jean-Paul's personality becomes a bit uneven between them all--something definitely noticeable in a collection like this. Sometimes he seems pretty sane while other times he seems much angrier and crazier. And in the Catwoman issues he's an undersexed boob. So it seems the writers weren't really on the same page.
There are a couple of problems with the actual collection, not the actual story. For one thing they put some of these out of order. It was annoying they start with the first two parts of Batman vs. the Midnight Cowboy robbers and then leave that off for a few other issues before getting back to it. And it's never clear what happens when Batman and Robin were fighting each other in the Batcave. That was probably in an issue not included. That's the second problem that people on Amazon have noted. There's about 8 issues missing, most of them dealing with Bruce Wayne's activities. The good thing is all of those are online, though they're $2 apiece. Of course this collection as it stands is 656 pages so I can see where they decided that another 160 or so might get a bit too cumbersome. But they could have at least grouped all the stories together in the right order.
Anyway, I was glad I finally got a chance to read all these. I'd read the novelization back in the 90s but that leaves a ton of stuff out. I'm sure at some point I'd actually go and read the entire arc in the proper order because I think it's one of the great Batman storylines.
Tomorrow Box Office Blitz Continues!