“Last Knight On Earth” – Collected Edition
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion
Color Artist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Review by Steve J. Ray
It’s no secret that 2019 was a great year for Batman stories. With the Dark Knight celebrating his 80th anniversary DC Comics pulled out all the stops and some great tales emerged. One of the greatest has now been released under one cover, as Batman: Last Knight On Earth – The Collected Edition.
Writer Scott Snyder has crafted a tale that’s equal part fantasy, nightmare and vintage comic-book fare. He and his collaborators, the brilliant Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, teased lines and pages from the story for months before the first issue came out. The clever part is that these teasers only added to the mystery and anticipation. This made me happy, as I am a complete spoilerphobe.
I’ve been reading Batman comics for over forty years, so it’s rare that anything feels as new, or fresh as this tale does. I have to say that some of the previews, those showing a young Bruce locked in Arkham with everything pointing at his entire life as Batman being a lie, worried me slightly. That’s something that had been done before and talked about for decades.
Grant Morrison managed to make all the camp Batman stories of the 50s and 60s canon by explaining them as the fever dreams of a Batman driven temporarily insane, after prolonged sessions locked in a sensory deprivation tank.
British writer/artist Brian Talbot gave fans the disturbing two part tale “Mask” (in Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight vol. 1, issues #39 and #40). This story was also about a Bruce Wayne who’d been told that his entire crimefighting career as Batman never happened.
Batman: Last Knight On Earth is every bit as scary, but even more surreal, than both of its predecessors.
This story is bonkers, and more than slightly terrifying. The whole premise is enough to worry any dyed-in-the-wool bat-fan. It’s only fitting that Scott Snyder should team up with Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion on his final bat-tale, as this is the team he started with, way back in Batman (New 52) #1 back in September 2011. The art really adds to the sense of disjointedness and the nightmare feelings we feel whilst reading.
I love Capullo/Glapion’s Batman/Bruce Wayne, and their Joker has always been a favorite. Getting 150 plus pages of them telling a brand new Batman story has been an absolute joy. Their cartooony style is a perfect fit for a tale that goes from the streets of the Gotham City of today, to a future Arkham asylum, then a post-apocalyptic nightmare world of tomorrow.
Add in the color art of FCO Plascencia, and the always spot-on lettering of Tom Napolitano, and we get a comic that borders on perfection.
The color palette changes drastically between the timelines/settings of the story, The cold antiseptic whites of Arkham completely contrast against the black bordered crime trail set out in the pages leading up to it. The atmosphere is altered yet again as soon as Batman claws his way out onto the blood red sands of a dead world.
Napolitano’s distinctive lettering is gorgeous; from Bruce’s tortured cries, to the Joker’s insane dialogue, all of it is beautifully realised. Joker is hilariously insane in this story, and that owes a great deal to Mr. Napolitano’s terrific lettering. Beautiful work.
The imagery on the opening pages is very clever. The hand holding the chalk could just as easily be that of the creators of this comic, slowly erasing the details of Batman’s life. The dead boy in the alley also resonated with me. Everyone talks about how Bruce Wayne’s parents were the ones that were killed in Crime Alley that night, but – to my mind – Bruce himself also perished, or at least his innocence did. When the boy passed, the Batman was born.
Alright On The Knight
Another great surprise was discovering that Bruce Wayne managed to perfect his cloning process (please see Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Endgame”, “Superheavy” and “Bloom” graphic novels) and, in an apocalyptic future, the Batman lives. The world is in ruins, heroes have been killed, or scattered like leaves in the wind, and the Dark Knight’s allies are few. Oh, and the Joker’s alive too… if you count existing as a decapitated head in a jar as living, that is.
This collected edition is chock-full of references to classic, and quirky DC titles of old. To see Unknown Soldier(s) and G.I. Combat’s Ghost Tank brought back some very fond childhood memories. I’ve always loved writers that honor the past, rather than just try to make a name for themselves by obliterating it. Scott Snyder is one of comics’ greatest ambassadors, because of the way he treats his fans on-line, the way his love for the medium shines and – of course – because he’s a damn fine storyteller.
Between this story, the superlative Justice League Dark, his own 100 page specials and the amazing TV show on DC Universe/Amazon (bring it back!) a certain Swamp Thing is getting a lot of exposure right now. That’s something I’ll never tire of. I loved Mr. Snyder’s take on the character, and am glad to see Swampy in this book too.
Are We There Yet?
The future versions of Bane, Scarecrow and Gotham City are nightmares worthy of any dark multiverse. I’ve never found Kansas, the Fortress Of Solitude, or Gotham – which has never been all that appealing anyway – less inviting.
There’s no doubt whatsoever that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo will be forever remembered as one of the all-time great Batman creative teams. Their work on the main Batman title, on Dark Nights: Metal, and on the collected edition I’m here to review, can be spoken about with the same levels of reverence and respect as O’Neil and Adams, Englehart and Rogers and Grant and Breyfogle, in my honest and humble opinion. They have examined Batman’s past, present and future, redefining the character and also underlining the aspects that made him great in the first place.
The beautiful part for me, though, is the fact that this saga has run through various titles, both ongoing and mini-series, each one referencing and building on the other, yet each strong enough to stand alone. Fans can enjoy “The Court Of Owls” saga, “Metal” or “Last Knight On Earth” as their own stories, but will enjoy a far richer reading experience if they’ve followed the saga in its entirety.
Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion’s Batman is legendary. Yes, I’ve used the “L” word and genuinely think that it’s deserved. Just think at how much material they’ve produced over the years, just focusing on the Dark Knight! They’ve even got two costume designs into the history books. Personally their New 52 uniform is one of the very few from that era that I like; I cannot stand Superman with a collar, nor the silver tiara and blue boots Wonder Woman looks. The purple lining cape version of Batman is awesome.
Batman: Last Knight On Earth is one of those “Possible Future” sagas that I believe will actually have a lasting effect on the character for years to come. This was a nightmarish vision which contains many of Scott Snyder’s hallmarks. This is a writer who’s clearly a real fan; of Batman, Joker, Nightwing, Jim Gordon, Batgirl and the entire Bat-Family. This story has shed more light on the Batman/Joker dynamic (you will not believe Joker’s fate unless you see it with your own eyes) and Snyder’s own fascination with Batman’s mortality and eternal legacy. We’ve already seen a Batman Who Laughs, but a Batman that goes bad of his own volition could actually be scarier still.
I’ve loved this story, and have a feeling that I’m not alone. The collected edition is beautiful and contains the whole three issue series, variant covers, and more. It’s well worth picking up.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment