Review: BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Colours: FCO Plascencia
Letters: Tom Napolitano
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman: Last Knight On Earth #1: Bruce Wayne wakes up in Arkham Asylum. Young. Sane.
And…he was never Batman.
So begins this sprawling tale of the Dark Knight as he embarks on a quest through a devastated DC landscape featuring a massive cast of familiar faces from the DC Universe. As he tries to piece together the mystery of his past, he must unravel the cause of this terrible future and track down the unspeakable force that destroyed the world as he knew it…
This could be the last Batman story ever told…
As any reader of his run on the current Justice League series knows, Scott Snyder loves to do very complex world-building. Unlike there, in Last Night on Earth #1, he doesn’t waste time on explaining what’s going on, but throws the reader into the deep end, only giving us pieces of the puzzle as we follow Bruce Wayne through the story.
This is probably a wise decision, as Snyder can overwhelm the reader with explanations of the complexities of his story. As interesting as this is, he sometimes needs to be reminded of the writing technique “show, don’t tell.” This works well here, allowing us to share Batman’s viewpoint, figuring our what’s going on as he does.
Being a DC Black Label book, it is presumably outside of the regular DCU canon, which lends much more uncertainty to the story. We are shown no less than three different levels of reality, each declaring the previous one as unreal. In a story in the main line, the reader could safely assume that sooner or later the illusion will be broken and Bruce will return to the DC Universe we’re all familiar with.
But here, we have no guarantee what the true reality is. The issue ends with Batman in a post-Apocalyptic (or is that post-Apokoliptic?) DCU, which is presumably the “real world” in this story. But is it? Or are there more layers yet to be peeled back?
However, it does seem that the DCU presented in Last Knight On Earth #1 draws on the Snyder’s work in his current Justice League storyline. This world shows us how incredibly bad things might get if the League loses the battle between Justice and Doom.
Many recognizable remnants of the DCU are strewn about this ruined world. A lifeless Mogo hangs in the sky, Speed Force storms ravage the landscape. Some old friends and enemies remain: Wonder Woman, Vixen, Poison Ivy, Alfred, but others are dead or presumed dead, like Superman.
Snyder also draws on his story “Twenty Seven”, from Detective Comics #27 from 2014, which revealed that Batman created a system for creating a succession of clones of himself. The Batman in this story appears to be a clone of the original Batman, who had been killed in the cataclysmic event that befell this version of the DCU
The story starts off with a narration, which appears at first to be Alfred, but the issue ends with the implication that it is really the Joker narrating. This is somewhat surprising, but actually makes an odd sort of sense. I can believe that the Joker feels himself, in a deranged way, to be Batman’s assistant and closest companion.
And, as is common with Joker stories, the Joker makes for great comedy relief. For example, he tells Batman he has written a poem to encapsulate everything he’s ever wanted to say to Batman, and instead starts reciting the old dirty limerick about a man from Nantucket.
But my favourite moment of the entire issue was the final fond embrace between the elderly Alfred and Bruce. One thing Snyder has gotten absolutely perfect about the Batman mythos is that their relationship is that of father and son. Alfred Pennyworth is not just Batman’s manservant, but is the man who stepped up to raise Bruce after his parents’ death.
Also, the art for this series is amazing. Capullo and Glapion have done a fantastic job of bringing Snyder’s dystopian DCU to life. This world captures the sense that the world we know has been irrevocably changed into something sinister, but still holds hints of the familiar old DCU we know and love.
This is the type of story that it’s really hard to pin specific complaints on. It’s set in an alternate future timeline or possibly a parallel Earth. On top of that, it’s not entirely what Batman is experiencing is real and what isn’t. Both of these can excuse a lot of what might constitute mistakes in an in-continuity title.
Thus, all we have to go on is whether the story is internally consistent. It seems to be so far, but as we don’t yet know the entirety of what’s happening, it’s hard to say for sure. All I can really say is that Snyder hasn’t made any missteps in the story so far.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth is a fascinating experiment, taking one of DC’s flagship characters and putting him into a different kind of story that we’re familiar with. There have been an extremely vast number of stories in which this has been done before, but Snyder has done so in a way that is fresh and intriguing.