Knightfall part three is the least involved third of this epic, as it works diligently to restore a status quo to the Batman universe. Bruce Wayne’s body is now restored but his will and confidence are not. He enlists the help of Lady Shiva, who then kills The Master of the Seven, framing Bruce. The result is that now seven martial arts masters are gunning for Bruce. The reader never doubts the outcome and while the fights are well done, there is little else there. Bruce’s surprise and anger that Lady Shiva is willing to kill and be dishonest comes off as pretty weak for the world’s greatest detective. It’s Lady Shiva, the clue he missed was that it was Lady Shiva.
After defeating the seven, sparing their lives and being oddly cool with Lady Shiva murdering a man so Bruce can fight again, he enlists the help of Tim Drake and Dick Grayson before turning his sights to Jean-Paul Valley.
At no point even in the initial run would readers wonder if Knight’s End would end with Bruce restored as the one true Batman. Aside from a very cool Catwoman cameo, the book plays out as a massive fight sequence, with no real sense of intensity or stakes. There is also a logical incontinency to the entire battle. Bruce is punching Jean-Paul Valley’s armored suit with this fists, a lot. This is the same suit that has been shown to withstand bullets and even grenades. Bruce should have broken his knuckles and wrist, or better yet been the detective from Detective Comics and not slam his fists into the suit in the first place.
The action is well choreographed – one of the few positives I took away. Another was the efforts made by Nightwing and Robin to protect the citizens of Gotham caught in the melee. With many blockbusters of late destroying major urban centres with little to no thought on the hero to save people, and it’s nice to know the comic book heroes of older books still recognize the whole hero saves people trope.
Eventually Bruce (or writer Denny O’Neil) realises that Batman should be smart, and Jean Paul Valley is defeated in an admittedly clever manner. But it’s just not enough. This is the reason Knightfall is not remembered as fondly as other Batman Arcs, the weak ending that simply restores the status quo in a way that makes everything else irrelevant. Even Jean Paul Valley just wanders off to be forgotten. There should have been some epilogue as to how Bruce will handle a violent psychotic who knows his secret identity and talks to ghosts.
So what’s better picking up the issues or grabbing the graphic novel?
Here it gets a bit trickier than other editions, but in the case I’m going to say the original issues. Again, the original comics were mass produced to the point that they aren’t tricky to get a hold of and fairly cheap as well. You should look for 10 issues clearly labeled Knight End Part 1-10. There are unnumbered Knights End Books but they really add nothing else, with the exception of the Catwoman books which are pretty solid on their own. In 1993 a 350 page streamlined edition was released, but unlike part one and two it’s difficult to find. In 2012, coinciding with the release of Dark Knight Rises, a massive 650 page edition with everything was released. While you can find it for about 15 dollars, in my mind there is so much filler that the high page to dollar ratio isn’t the great deal it seems to be.
Coming up next my personal favorite Punisher Arc, that no one else seems to remember.