I promise you, Bruce.Saint Batman (Jean-Paul Valley)
You were right to pick me.
Written by: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
Art by: Javier Fernandez
Colours by: Alex Guimarães
Letters by: Clayton Cowles
Cover by: Lee Weeks and Brad Anderson
Release Date: October 16, 2019
One of the most significant Batman story arcs from the early nineties was Batman: Knightfall. It’s unanimous as the Bane breaking Batman’s back storyline – but it’s so much more than that. It’s what happens after those events that make the Knightfall arc such a satisfying page-turner after Bruce Wayne gives up the Batman mantle. He, in turn, gives the reins to Jean-Paul Valley – a graduate student from Gotham who finds out he’s been trained as an assassin (Azrael) for the order of St. Dumas, unconsciously since his birth. After his tenure as Batman ends, with Bruce retaking the cowl, Jean-Paul leaves Gotham – a hollow version of his former self.
In This Tale From The Dark Multiverse, we see a very different scenario play out. This tale asks a question – what would Gotham be like today, if Bruce Wayne had failed?
As with all of the current, Dark Multiverse/METAL, storylines – or even ones that involve time travel – we are greeted in this issue with Tempus Fuginaut seeking out for hope in the multiverse. Tempus was first featured in one of my favourite series of the last decade, Sideways, and remains one of my favourite new characters. As Tempus looks upon the Dark Multiverse, he finds the Knightfall timeline – but sees that Bruce has failed against Azrael to regain the mantle of Batman. He tells the tale of Saint Batman’s rule over Gotham City.
We find out it is the thirtieth anniversary of Jean-Paul defeating Bruce for the cowl. Bruce Wayne is now a captive of Jean-Paul, who is slowly mutilating him since then. Now a torso with a mechanically attached head, Bruce sits atop a tower overlooking Gotham to witness the chokehold Saint Batman has over Gotham City every day and night. He gives Bruce an offer of a quick death if he admits that his choice of Jean-Paul to take over as Batman, was what Gotham always deserved. Bruce denies him of this immediately, and Jean-Paul leaves him to continue to look over the Gotham City that he no longer can aid.
Cardinal and Torchbearer, two of Saint Batman’s allies, are taking down Oswald Cobblepot and one of his associates who have smuggled in illegal arms into Gotham City. They are executed by Torchbearer, who rallies his troops before being silenced by explosions taking place all over the city. Jean-Paul, awakened by the explosions, goes to aid in keeping Gotham afloat, among other things. As Jean-Paul helps rise Gotham above sea level – we find his struggle with Saint Dumas to continue being worthy of the Batman title. As Jean-Paul is distracted by the aftermath of the explosions, Bruce Wayne is left unattended to be saved by the son of Bane, Tourne.
Tourne takes Bruce to an underground location, where we meet up with his other ally – Shiva. The two want Bruce to help them take back Gotham and defeat Jean-Paul. They give him a suspicious-looking utility belt to aid him.
Worn down after his recovery of the explosions, Jean-Paul goes to retrieve more venom but finds it emptied, betrayed by his lover Madeline, who is quickly killed by his hand. She has also given access to the Cave to Tourne, Shiva, and Bruce – who now has an ethereal and vampiric look to him Batman persona. Cardinal and Torchbearer attack them – but are quickly disposed of by the trio. Tourne seeks revenge for his father’s death and challenges Saint Batman – but he’s rapidly overtaken and eventually loses an arm to his foe (who then proceeds to drink his venom infused blood). Shiva jumps in to take him down but is beat away swiftly. Bruce then goes full force to distract him, as Torune comes from behind to stab him through the chest and break his back.
As the three celebrate, Tourne and Shiva speak to Bruce about rebuilding Gotham – but are incinerated before our eyes by Bruce, who we see has now gone to the Dark side. Tempus leaves this world, noting it as the world of Batman The Broken and continues to look for hope, as this world has none.
An issue worthy of the Knightfall banner – Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins take a classic tale and make it their own. Signature horror and shock value throughout the book, this story holds up against some of the more significant arcs we’ve seen in the past decade — creative and engaging storytelling in a captive medium by two of the most excellent writers in comics.
Javier Fernandez, who I was introduced to by way of his tenure on the Nightwing Rebirth story, and Alex Guimarães with colours give a dark and gritty look to Gotham and a psychotic and lost demeanour on the cast. Lot’s of magnificent scenery and glorified profile panels fill this book, with minor details lost during fights and groups.
I stand to reason the future Tales From The Dark Multiverse books will follow the footsteps of Knightfall. With Tempus, going from world to world looking for hope – finding none. I’ll also bet that this story might be the shining gem of the group, two of the more prolific DC writers paired with a keen art team that put us right in the middle of the Dark Multiverse. We shall see in the coming month if that rings true as well. With an engaging setup, strong plotline, and huge ending payoff, Tales From The Dark Multiverse – Batman Knightfall takes us to a dark place that stays with us long after we depart.