December 6, 2022

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Noteworthy Issues: Batman: Last Knight On Earth #2 (July, 2019)

Batman continues his strange journey across a post-apocalyptic wasteland with only the Joker's disembodied head for company.

Scott Snyder’s more mature Batman story Last Knight on Earth is something that I may find both a little concerning and somewhere in my wheelhouse.  I like alternate universe stories, but Snyder’s DC work often has the hero against some seemingly unstoppable foe, one where a victory seems more unlikely after Snyder has effectively made the character seem like something that even a well-prepared Batman shouldn’t be able to deal with.

But this one is only three issues long, so hopefully that won’t seem to be so bad.

Issue:  Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2, July 2019

Writer:  Scott Snyder

Artists:  Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion

The Plot:  Batman, with the disembodied head of the Joker as his only company, slowly makes his way across what used to be America to find out who the mysterious Omega is and stop whatever he’s doing to the world.

Commentary:  Much of this issue, aside from some moments involving an elderly Alfred confronting Omega’s two henchmen in the form of a silent Bane and a legless Scarecrow, is basically Batman traveling across the country and seeing the horrors that the world has become.  His only companion is the Joker’s head in a lantern, and the Joker here, when he isn’t making endless requests to become the next Robin, isn’t the worst tour guide.  He does, more or less, know what happened in many places.  A Speed Force storm, with the tortured faces of the DC Universe’s speedster heroes begging Batman to save them, or witnessing a battle between monstrous minions of the Red or the Green attacking a battalion of Unknown Soldiers and Haunted Tanks essentially demonstrate how messed up the world is. Batman wants to help, but in this case, he wants to help everyone en route to the Plains of Solitude.  That’s impossible, Joker says as much, and Batman apparently silently agrees because he often does nothing.

Said Plains, taking up a good portion of the center of the United States, would reveal the fate of Superman.  Superman, of all the characters in the DC Universe, would be the last to give up, so where is he?  I have been a wee bit critical of Snyder’s story where most people of the world select “doom” or “evil” over “justice” and “goodness” in Snyder’s various stories, and that theme is revisited here in the form of not Superman, but Lex Luthor.  Luthor, still alive and trying to find a way to return Superman to the world, brings up the doom vs justice thing, and how his role in that debate helped to ruin the world, and in what I consider a nice twist, is something even Luthor acknowledges is rather dumb.  He didn’t believe there was any way that the majority of people would choose doom over justice, and yet somehow that actually happened.  It’s enough of a shock to force Luthor onto the side of the angels, no matter how short-lived and doomed to fail that heal turn may be.

However, for all that this is a crazy world with a distinct lack of hope for anything, a world where even the Spectre is dead because both Heaven and Hell were obliterated by whatever happened, the book does give little moments of character to Batman.  As he and Wonder Woman are, at one point, taking a trip through the Underworld, it shows how Batman feels guilt even for the deaths he is indirectly responsible for.  That means seeing the dead heroes of the world lined up along the shore, joined by Alfred, and Batman didn’t exactly murder these people.  Omega did, and he’s rumored to be someone Batman trained.  It just seems wrong to me to assume Batman killed all of these people.  He just, well, didn’t.

However, Batman is still a character of great hope.  This Batman is not the original.  He’s a clone with many of the memories of the original, and the original died when he opened the door of the Hall of Justice to let an angry mob of people in. Wonder Woman, rejoining Batman’s quest, says that she initially left him because he was the one that opened the door, but she came back because he was the one who opened the door.

Then there’s some light humor as Batman relates how he once snuck onto Paradise Island without anyone noticing.

But then the pair, with the Joker head, get into Gotham and that doesn’t go entirely well.  A last minute unmasking, that I erroneously thought to be Omega, is there to show that Batman did inspire more hope than he thought.  Is it enough to stop a guy who weaponized the Anti-Life Equation and put it into the Bat-signal?  That seems unlikely, but that is what makes this a somewhat typical Snyder Batman story.

Grade:  B+

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