What was originally announced as a story arc belonging to Scott Snyder’s All Star Batman in 2016, BATMAN: The Last Knight on Earth became a miniseries that was destined to arrive on DC’s controversial Black Label Imprint. The concept, boiled down to its most basic element, is to imagine the very last case of the caped crusader.
Last Knight on Earth begins with a few twists that set up the viewer with doubts. The story begins with Batman coming face to face with a dead child in the same alleyway where Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered. The crime scene is booby trapped, however, and within moments the whole world changes. After a moment of blackness, Bruce Wayne wakes up to find himself in Arkham Asylum. Bruce finds many familiar faces there, but none of them are who he has convinced himself to be. Alfred tells him that he had been making ‘villains’ of all those who had taken care of him. Alfred also informs him that the world had forgiven Bruce for murdering his parents. The story takes an additional turn when the possible clinically insane Bruce Wayne attempts to escape the Asylum, a still-young Bruce Wayne encounters an aging Alfred Pennyworth waiting for him. Alfred informs him that the world Bruce knew is gone.
Last Knight on Earth is the second original miniseries under the Black Label Imprint which had recently been marred by the Batcock Incident. Black Label was intended to be an area for more mature and adult oriented readers. In addition to the penis of the first issue, the second issue of Batman: Damned featured Harley Quinn sexually assaulting Batman. Afterwards we have been seeing a few collected trade paperbacks arriving on the Black Label Imprint. While White Knight may make sense there, All Star Superman and Mister Miracle don’t really make sense on an “adults only” imprint. It seems DC has retconned Black Label as more of Elseworlds type venture. Last Knight on Earth fits into the original “Prestige” concept so far.
I am probably not the most qualified person to review comic books. I had collected comics for several years as a teenager and spent many hours reading comics up through the mid nineties. I had given up collecting after the current trend of overdrawn, hyper-stylized artists such as Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld began stinking up the scene. The last straw came with Marvel’s reboot by using these same artists I outright hated as a catalyst for their Heroes Reborn. It wasn’t until last year when I really started picking up comics again and I am happier now with my hobby than ever before, mainly due to the overall talent the industry has now.
I’ve gone back the best I could to catch up with what has happened in the comic world during my absence. One of the best writers on the scene, in my personal opinion, is Scott Snyder. While I haven’t been collecting during much of this time, I have kept up on the news for the most part. For example I had pretty much written off DC’s New 52 as garbage after seeing some concept art for their newly designed Lobo back in 2013. I should have paid more attention because what Scott Snyder had done to Batman during this time is some of the best writing I’ve seen for the franchise. “The Court of Owls” rightly sums up what Snyder is capable of and in my readings since; whether it is Dark Nights: Metal or The Batman Who Laughs, Snyder is a sadist who truly puts Bruce Wayne through the wringer. Last Knight on Earth seems to be following this direction. When Bruce Wayne finally leaves his manor he is found wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland. Along the way Bruce finds a new companion, Joker’s head in a jar. As it turns out, The Joker still has plenty to say.
There are many surprises along the way. Batman encounters giant Green Lantern babies, the Hall of Justice is gone, and the few remaining heroes and metahumans he finds alive have surrendered themselves to defeat. The world had been ravaged by an unknown force named Omega and almost nothing is left. This entire world is brought to life by Greg Capullo who brings this world to life in a very detailed and expressive way. Capullo has worked extensively with Snyder in the past and it is clear that a symbiotic relationship of trust can be found between the two. Capullo was a way to convey urgency even in quiet moments.
I guess the question I have left is how much of what we are reading is real? The way the story sets up leaves the possibility that perhaps Bruce Wayne really is crazy. In a way this reminds me of the Moon Knight story “Lunatic” by Jeff Lemire. In a similar fashion Lunatic asks whether Moon Knight is delusional or if his experiences are real. Unlike “Lunatic”, however, Last Knight on Earth is actually good. The first issue is a bit of a slow burn, but given Snyder’s history with Batman we should be expecting many twists and turns as the trilogy comes to its close. This is a good read as I am left with more questions than answers and I am eagerly waiting to see where this goes.
Last Knight on Earth hits the shelves July 31.