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Knightfall - You'll believe a bat can break
on April 6, 2004
Knightfall, and the subsequent Knightquest and Knightsend story arcs it spawned marks the first truly *epic* storyline in the Batman comic book titles. This ground-breaking and pivotal series follows Batman as he battles all of Arkham Asylum's inmates, who have been released by the drug-enhanced killer named Bane. Part one culminates with the actual breaking of the Batman, while part two has Batman passing the mantle to his new protege Jean Paul Valley.
The biggest problem with Knightfall is that the actual story begins here, but there are countless back-issues of comics and collected editions that you'll need to pick up to understand how everything got to this point. Who is Bane and what does he have against Batman? Go find 'Vengeance of Bane'. Where'd Jean Paul Valley come from? Read 'Sword of Azreal'. What's the drug called venom? Pick up 'Batman: Venom.' Why's Batman so exhausted? There's no direct answer to that one, but it starts with the death of the second Robin in 'Batman: A Death in the Family'. When did Bane beat up Killer Croc and pump the Riddler with venom? There are two individual back-issues you'll need to read to answer those questions. Even chapter 1 of this book, where Bane destroys Arkham, is not technically a part of the Knightfall saga - Knightfall actually begins with the Mad Hatter story. While it's still possible to enjoy Knightfall without reading all this supplemental history, it's not quite as satisfying without it.
Still, fans of Batman definitely need to read Knightfall. One of the interesting things DC Comics did was give fans the false impression that the changes happening were *permanant*; Batman would really be replaced for the rest of the series. It's interesting to read through this volume from that perspective - is this arc really worthy of being Batman's final adventure? Each chapter follows Batman as he recaptures an inmate, with occasional subplots to keep things interesting (Scarecrow and Joker take the mayor hostage). The writing is excellent, and so is the art (with a few chapters being done by Jim Aparo). Finally, if you haven't ever seen the actual panel where Batman is broken - stop reading. Get up. Buy this book now. Just go.
Batman: Knightfall is a good read, but if you want the full experience, track down all the extra reading I mentioned above. Otherwise you won't feel the impact of this historic Batman arc.