Top critical review
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"Broken and done"
on 7 April 2012
The masked villain Bane arrives in Gotham with a plan to destroy Batman - release all of Batman's prisoners from Arkham Asylum and once he's gone through them all, he'll be at his weakest and then... then he will break him!
The first part of the Knightfall trilogy is overlong and a bit dull to be honest. It's a good storyline, Bane setting loose a ton of villains into Gotham and then sitting back, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, but all it means is that Batman has to go through each and every villain in a kind of rote, dull way as we slowly see Batman get weaker and weaker.
But why is he so worn out even at the start of the book? It's not explained in the book but the prelude to this is a fight Batman had with Black Mask and his gang which wore him out, along with a venom-juiced up Riddler, followed by what can only be described as a mid-life crisis (I know). Bruce can't sleep nor is he willing to take any rest so he's an exhausted wreck even before Bane sets free the inmates of Arkham.
Luckily Bruce has a new ally in Jean-Paul Valley aka Azrael, a graduate student in Gotham U, who discovers that he's been unconsciously trained from birth to be an assassin for an ancient religious order. While he plays a relatively low role in this book, he's being helped by Tim Drake (Robin) to overcome his conditioning to turn him from a would-be villain to an ally.
I felt there was a lot of crap in this book and a lot of it has to do with aesthetics. Jim Aparo's artwork looks very 90s and is bound to be a turn off to many new Batman readers who've been exposed to tremendous artists like Jim Lee, Tony Daniel, Yanick Paquette, Jock, Frank Quitely, Philip Tan, the list goes on. Joker's face looks ridiculously exaggerated, his mouth looks like you could fit a bowling ball in it, its so elongated, while Zsasz's eyebrows look so jagged they're jutting off of his face entirely. There's a Batman villain in this book I've never heard of and it's easy to see why - he's called "Film Freak" and his superpower is that he's got film reel earrings: that's it. Then there's the Batmobile which looks like a Blackberry Torch, Tim Drake's haircut looks very 90s while Bruce's do looks strangely like Superman's, then there's the 90s mobile phones and printers/computers... The book comes across as very dated.
Appearances aside, the story's not that enthralling either. The enemies that "sap" Batman's strength are all second tier villains like Mad Hatter, Zsasz, Poison Ivy, Cornelius Stirk, and let's not forget the incredible Film Freak. This bizarre line-up culminates with Batman vs Bane where Bruce actually looks scared of Bane, something I felt was very out of character.
The book has a solid overall story arc but it's a long dull slog to get to the conclusion until things get interesting. "Broken Bat" had its moments, I particularly enjoyed Batman's beat down of Joker for the murder of Jason Todd years before, but unfortunately these were few and far between. I'm going to read the rest of the trilogy but for those who're on the fence about reading this first book, I'd say take a look at the second to last page and you've basically got the book in a nutshell. "Broken Bat" is for Batman completists only, for more casual comics readers this book will be boring.