Also over the holidays, I finished reading Knightfall. By which I mean the Trade Paperbacks of Knightquest and Knightsend/Prodigal. It had been so long since I’d finished volume 1, I’d forgotten that Azbats had soundly thrashed Bane. I’ll get ahead of myself and point out that Bruce beating Azbats was not quite the closure that Bruce beating Bane would’ve been. I’m sure that happens later. In another trade.
Knightquest was rather tedious and I’d even say skipable. We know Azbats is an asshole, we know he’s crazy, we know he is the edgy 90s New Coke that needs to be smacked down and replaced once and for all by Classic. There are a few good bits, particularly the development of Gordon as he questions his relationship with vigilantes, and Abattoir IS a really creepy villain, as is Tallyman. But the inevitability of Azbat’s fall hangs over the whole story. Which, if Azbats were the real protagonist, would be deliciously tragic. But he’s not. Bruce’s Batman is, so Knightquest is just killing time until real Batman comes back.
Unfortunately, “the Search” is omitted from the Trade, meaning that Batman’s part of this story of Batman is missing. Apparently since VERY BAD THINGS happen to the only non-white girlfriend Bruce has ever had in this arc, it has been stricken and hoped forgotten. I don’t know how bad it is, but I’d rather have read the story of how Bruce was cured with psychic magic than watch Azbats flail. As collected, Bruce disappears at the end of Volume 1 to go on a wheelchair-bound adventure and reappears at the beginning of Volume 3 walking, all “Man, what an adventure I just had!”
One thing that is interesting to me is the Batman morality that is justified to reel in Azbats. The mayor has pointed out that since Azbats took over, Gotham’s crime had gone down by 42%. Considering how crime-ridden Gotham usually is, that’s an astronomical number of crimes that have not been committed. The line Azbats crosses is when he lets Abattoir die, which means that his hostage dies before he can be found. Azbats fails to save 1 and allows another to die. Forget for a moment that Batman lets Quigon die in Batman Begins ; that hasn’t happened yet. The point is that an innocent died because of Azbats. Here is where we’re again faced with the question “Is Batman morally culpable for the lives taken by criminals he leaves to the Gotham justice system that perpetually fails the people?” The answer (we’re told) is no. It’s always no. It’s not Batman’s fault that Gotham’s liberal justice system has a revolving door prison/mental health system and does not believe in the death penalty for capital offenders and terrorists. Batman is doing his job; it’s the rest of the system that’s failing. Still, that Bruce would let it go that Shiva murdered some dude to kickstart his training to re-Batman up is kinda screwed up.
I don’t really have the time to go too deep into Prodigal, but it was probably the best part of second two volumes. Yes, it’s an epilogue, I know. But while Knightquest was biding time and Knightsend had a feel of doom and inevitability to it, Prodigal was a delightful bit of introspection in the the characters of Tim Drake and Dick Grayson, how they relate to one another, how they relate to Bruce and how those relationships affect how they identify with themselves.