February 29, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Noteworthy Issues: Batman: Last Knight On Earth #1 (July, 2019)

Batman wanders a post-Apocalyptic wasteland with the still-living head of the Joker, unsure what happened to the world.

Scott Snyder writes good Batman stories, but they sure can be a bit much.  It isn’t uncommon for a Snyder story to show set-back after set-back for the hero without even the slightest bit of hope until finally the good guys (generally) prevail.  The longer the hopeless losses continue, generally speaking, the more frustrated I get.  However, that may not be much of a problem in Batman: Last Knight on Earth.  It’s a special mini-series and only three issues long.  So, really, that should mean Batman (and whatever allies he has) will prevail fairly quickly.

That’s my hope anyway.

Issue:  Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1, July 2019

Writer:  Scott Snyder

Artists:  Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

The Plot:  After a rather bizarre case, Bruce Wayne wakes up in Arkham Asylum, told that he was never Batman and he’s only just gotten well.  That doesn’t feel right, and in fact, the world has become a much uglier place while Batman was “away”.

Commentary:  The whole “Bruce Wayne was never Batman” thing doesn’t actually last very long.  That’s something of a shame.  Alfred is there, explaining that all of “Batman’s” adventures were a result of his therapy, and all of Batman’s enemies were actually his doctors.  A psychological tale along those lines could have been interesting, seeing as how Batman’s general mental health has long been a part of the character’s basic identity.  But instead, it doesn’t take Bruce long to realize that the whole thing is an illusion.  Alfred is real, but much older than he appears to be.  There’s a Snyder-ish explanation for how Bruce Wayne is fine, but he has to see about fixing a broke world, and that means traveling outside the Asylum where the first thing he finds ends up being his only company:  the Joker’s decapitated head, alive somehow, very talkative, and inside what looks like a lantern.  In fact, that seems to be the only thing for miles as Batman sets off to explore this post-apocalyptic world.

As I noted in my introduction, Snyder has set up something that looks rather hopeless, but not as bad as it has in other places, largely by working off an idea he had during his Justice League run that while the League would offer “Justice” to the people of the Earth, Lex Luthor would offer “Doom” and somehow for some reason, people went with “Doom”.  Why would people go with doom?  The DC Universe is generally a hopeful place where the average citizen loves their heroes, a point of contention during JLA/Avengers when Captain America couldn’t look at that without seeing fascism.  Why would people side with the likes of Lex Luthor over Superman?  That made no sense to me.

Snyder actually turns that on its head here.  When Batman finally gets an explanation for how the world was ruined, he’s told that, as in Justice League, Lex Luthor offered Doom and the people went for it, only after turning on the world’s heroes, they likewise turned on the world’s villains.  What heroes and villains that survived did what they could against a mysterious person called “Omega” who seems to have harnessed the Anti-Life Equation on the East Coast of North America, and while Omega’s identity is unknown, it is suspected he’s someone Batman trained.

I have said in the past I am something of a sucker for alternate realities, and this is that sort of story.  Batman and the Joker encounter people using Green Lantern rings but without sufficient willpower to really do much about it, and Wonder Woman, jaded and defeated, is leading a handful of superhuman women as the last of the Amazons, ready to escort what people she found to hopefully safe place even if it isn’t a really pleasant place.  It just sounds better than the world they’re living in.  Will Batman accompany them?

That’s not Batman, and Snyder’s Batman is, like the best Batman interpretations, not one to simply give up.  He’ll see what he can do to fix things, even if his only company is the disembodied head of his greatest enemy.

All things being equal, this is a good start, one that should work for Snyder’s fans, working as he does with longtime collaborator Greg Capullo.  It is a little weird, but this is a weird story, and I am intrigued enough to keep going with this one.  Is the ending going to prove too big for Batman to somehow handle but he does anyway?  That is how I felt at the end of Dark Nights: Metal.  But that is a chance I may be willing to take for now.

Grade:  B+