The Dark Nostalgia Rises – Knightfall vol. II : Knightquest
Synopsis: Mentally defeated and physically broken, Bruce Wayne suffered a crippling blow while battling the brutal Bane. Now, the mantle of the Bat must be passed on to another, and Jean Paul Valley answers the call! But as the new Caped Crusader slowly loses his grip on sanity, his idea of justice takes a violent and deadly turn. Witnessing this dangerous behavior firsthand, Nightwing and Robin try to come to grips with Bruce’s highly controversial decision while the new Batman sets his sights on taking revenge against Bane! Collecting DETECTIVE COMICS #667-675, BATMAN #501-508, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #19-28, CATWOMAN #6-7 and ROBIN #7!
When I reviewed the first volume of Knightfall, I spoke about how the book had a charming old-school quality that seemed to rage against the pitfalls of nineties comics’ tropes. The first installment seems to rally against the idea of comics in the Image mold of the time where everything was grim and gritty and the hero must be as violent as the crime he combats. In the second volume, it seems that the nineties enveloped the Batman mythos and everything about the title got flipped upside down to fit with the established status quo of the time. Readers apparently wanted my blood, more bullets, more outlandish mechanical costumes, and a darker, more violent Batman. Or maybe they didn’t and these issues were written to show them that point.
I don’t want to say that Knightquest is a terrible story. I appreciate the fact that the arc of the narrative does build to a satisfying climax and that Jean-Paul’s decent into madness is very carefully spelled out and detailed. That having been said, his story could have been truncated because after a while it begins to get repetitive. His constant struggle with his own inner programming as well as his progressive upgrades to his armor become staples of the story and you can tell when we are going to get a scene with Jean-Paul talking to the ghost of St. Dumas or becoming frustrated with his own results and redesigning the suit. There are several scenes like this and by the end of the book you wonder why they couldn’t have streamlined it a little bit.
My other major gripe with this collection is that Bruce Wayne’s side-story of flying off to rescue Tim Drake’s father is introduced but then never followed up on. He simply returns and we don’t know what exactly happened on that trip. It is a somewhat frustrating element to the collection because it feels like there is something important to that story and yet they do not bother to tell it.
All in all, it is not a horrible story but the first volume is superior in every way and makes these issues look poor by comparison.