Trying To Save The Future
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its thirty-fourth choice, Batman: Last Knight On Earth written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo, reviewed by Tripwire contributing writer Laurence Boyce…
Batman: Last Knight On Earth
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Colours: Jonathan Glapion
Letters: Tom Napolitano
The duo of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have teamed on some of the biggest Batman stories of the past decade. The Court of Owls is seen as something of a modern classic, weaving a new and complex folklore for the history of Gotham city whilst emphasising the indefatigability at the heart of the Batman character. Dark Nights: Metal may have sometimes drifted into the realms of the convoluted ‘event’ story but there were moments of brilliant invention, including the creation of villain The Batman Who Laughs. In what is said to be the conclusion of their partnership, Last Knight On Earth is another DC Black Label slice of alternate continuity that sees the Dark Knight Detective one of the last heroes left on an Earth ravaged by a terrible apocalypse.
The story opens with Bruce Wayne waking up in Arkham Asylum, finally free of the delusion that he is Batman. While the conclusion of this beginning part of the story is not really in any doubt, it’s an intriguing opening set-up that plays with the more psychologically troubling aspects of Batman’s psyche (of which, lord knows , there are plenty). The narrative soon shifts into a Caped Crusader wandering a cursed Earth (though there’s no Judge Dredd to be found) with only the severed head of The Joker for company. Unfortunately, for Bats, the head is still fully able to communicate.
Batman must find the one responsible for the collapse of society. As he meets the remnants of the human race – and the heroes who once protected them – and discovers more about the circumstances of the end of the world, he begins to wonder as to whether the Earth really needs a hero to save it anymore.
With it’s out of continuity status, Snyder indulges in a number of outré ideas that would be verboten even in the usually twisted universe that Batman inhabits. The aforementioned head of the Joker as travelling companion (and his later metamorphosis into something akin to Batman’s sidekick) is completely ridiculous yet is done with such verve that one can’t help but be swept along. Indeed, much of Last Knight on Earth is a collection of audacious set pieces and ideas – the aforementioned opening at Arkham Aslyum, a dead Green Lantern battery being defended by giant evil babies, or a plan by Lex Luthor which seems wholly impracticable yet has a certain chilling logic.
Sometimes this means the narrative can get messy as ideas and images are thrown about with wild abandon. But there is an intriguing central mystery at the heart of the story (the identity of the ultimate villain of the piece) wrapped around flashbacks of Batman investigating a case that is very personal indeed.
Capullo’s art is jagged and angular and it adds a rough darkness to the story. There’s certainly a hint of the work of Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley, the artists behind The Dark Knight Returns. Indeed, while Snyder’s story eschews almost any notion of realism, there are still certain aesthetic and tonal similarities with Frank Miller’s classic story. But while Miller’s work was partly a critique of a society that was complacent and lazy in how dealt with its hard won freedoms, the conceit at the heart of Snyder’s work is much darker. Here, humans are given a choice to choose good or evil. And they willingly choose the latter option. Our heroes are no longer a reflection of the best of ourselves. They do what they do in spite of ourselves.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth is a bold and brassy graphic novel that, while it sometimes overtones of indulgence, is still an action-packed read and a fittingly over the top end for the collaboration of Snyder and Capullo.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth is available now from DC in hardback
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far