Comic book heroes falling in battle and being replaced for around two dozen issues is nothing new. Spider-Man got a superior stand-in a couple of years ago, Iron Man handed his shiny helmet over to best pal Rhodey Rhodes many decades ago and Scott Lang turned the idea of Ant-Man into a blue collar working class hero.
Perhaps the most infamous replacement at the time, was that of Batman. Here was a hero that many considered to be godlike, a caped crusader who always got right back. In the Knightfall saga, Batman wasn’t just reminded of his mortality, he was utterly broken at the hands of Bane. His body and spirit shattered, Bruce Wayne made the only logical choice that he could at the time: Recruit a young vigilante who just so happened to be the perfect killing machine for a religious organisation that had existed for centuries, and give the man his identity.
Look, when you’re hopped up on painkillers and you just had your spine rearranged by a walking He-Man advert, then asking a fella whose mind was home to mental murder machine probably sounds like a good idea at the time. Long story short, Gotham had a new Batman, he was brutal and the OG dark knight eventually returned to reclaim his mantle after he’d been healed by the latent psychic abilities of physical therapist at the cost of her mental faculties and comic books.
Here’s the question though: What if Bruce Wayne failed in his battle against Jean-Paul Valley?
In the original Knights End tale, Batman’s fight against Azrael takes place across all of Gotham, only ending when Wayne forces Valley to literally see the light and get an epiphany slap. In Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Knightfall, that moment of clarity never occurs and Valley succeeds in defeating Batman, sentencing Gotham’s original hero to a fate worse than death.
Three decades pass, and Valley’s grip on Gotham is complete. Having learnt from his past, Valley has become the iron-fisted Guardian of the city, reinventing himself as an unholy trinity of ideas to become something else entirely thanks to a cocktail of Bane’s venom, Batman’s resources and is own religious identity: Saint Batman. It’s hard to tell exactly how awful life is for anyone in Gotham City who run afoul of Saint Batman and his flunkies, but one thing’s for certain: Valley has a zero tolerance policy for anyone who crosses him.
Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins, Javier Fernandez, and Lee Weeks’ one-shot is a tale of broken men, in more ways than one. It’s also a story of just how badass a future devoid of Batman could really be, of legacy and strange new ideas coming together to create a wild possibility. But there’s a lesson underneath this twisted take on Knightfall as well, a reminder that all stories set in the Dark Multiverse are a tale of horrific twists and turns. If M Night Shyamalan was a nihilist, he’d probably call the Dark Multiverse home, especially when this reality’s version of Knightfall ends on a simple note:
If something is broken, fixing it may be the worst thing you can ever do.
Last Updated: October 23, 2019