Go HERE for the first part of this review
After leaving Batman crippled and beaten of the floor of the Bat Cave Issue part two opens with Bane holding the broken body of Batman up for the world to see before tossing him onto the street below.
Knightfall Part Two; is an interesting arc as the story focuses not on Bruce Wayne, but Batman. While the cowl has been worn by other people, such as Dick Grayson, this is the only time Bruce has had to sit back and watch. Jean Paul Valley steps up to fill in for Batman and Tim Drake and Commissioner Gordon become more and more weary. It’s important to remember when these books were first coming out that it was entirely possible for Jean Paul Valley to have truly become Batman. Darker books and characters were more in than ever. While Valley’s armored adaptations of the Batsuit hold up poorly now, they were very popular at the time encapsulating 90s excess well.
From a story perspective the modifications of the suit were handled very well, with a piece here and piece there until it all came together. As far as the ‘new’ Batman’s actions, readers at the time didn’t know how far Valley was going to go or what he was capable of. This is a world where Batman, not the softest of heroes, was beaten and crippled. Who could really argue that this ‘new’ Batman was going too far in this world? While Valley’s sanity was fair to question, his actions were not so much.
Commissioner Gordon and Tim Drake are handled perfectly in this manner. They are uncomfortable with the escalating Bat related violence, but neither can truly condemn the actions that are pulling Gotham back together. The way Tim Drake is written in this series is what grounds the story tying it to the Batman Mythos as a whole.
One of the best sequences of this arc is the abduction of Drake’s father and Wayne’s failed attempt to stop it. For those who didn’t think the Bane beating was demoralizing enough a crippled Wayne in a wheelchair trying and failing to stop a kidnapping showed a physical vulnerability that is just not apparent in any other Batman stories.
Every reader knew what the final sequence of this story would be, the climax between Valley’s Batman and Bane. As it comes Moench and Dixon work to keep a level of Grey to Valley’s character and actions but push a tad too hard as Robin is cut loose and Valley moves to face Bane. The fight sequence between the two works well on both a psychological level as well as a physical one. In defeating Bane, Valley will prove to himself and the visions of his dead father that he is worthy. Bane is an imposing figure, and the outcome of the battle was one of the truly enigmatic plot points in this heavily marketed series. It was conceivable that Bane could defeat the new overconfident Batman. Or if he is defeated Valley would succeed where Bruce failed. The art and sense of movement is incredibly strong here as though Dennis O’Neil fully understood the true worth of each panel and made the most of it. The end isn’t jarring as the audience had little invested in either character it was still up in the air as to what was going to happen next.
So what’s better picking up the issues or grabbing the graphic novel?
Like my previous entry, the comics are pretty easy to pick up and the price is about a dollar or two for each book. Despite this, I would recommend picking up Either the 1993 collection titled Batman Knightfall Part Two-Who Rules the night, or 2012’s Batman Knightfall Vol. 2 Knight Quest. At over 600 pages the 2012 release includes a complete record of Jean Paul Valley’s time as Batman, including him hunting down a personal favorite villain Abattoir, but does not include much of Bruce’s physical recovery. The search includes Justice League Task Force 5-6, Shadow of the Bat 21-23, and Legends of the Dark Knight 59-61 and to my knowledge there is no single edition with these books. In a larger context Valley’s descent into darkness is subtler because it takes place over a greater span of time.
The 1993 edition is just under 300 pages and is a very streamlined account, including only the core books that move the larger story forward. You can find the 1993 version for about 10 dollars and the 2012 for 15 dollars so I would choose based on your desire to get the highlights or the full R.R. Martin style treatment.