Ricky Church reviews Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1…
For nearly 10 years, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have done some groundbreaking work on Batman. Their run on the main Batman title was a highlight of the New 52 where they consistently churned out some great stories that pushed the boundaries for the character, an aspect they have continued to strive for through the pair’s work on DC’s event miniseries Dark Knights: Metal. Now the pair are back for one last story on the Dark Knight with Batman: Last Knight on Earth. Judging from this first book alone, readers are in for one crazy and out there ride that will test many of the limits Snyder and Capullo have set for themselves as well as Batman himself.
It doesn’t take long for Last Knight on Earth #1 to go off the rails as Batman suddenly wakes up in Arkham Asylum and is informed he has been there for decades after murdering his parents in Crime Alley. You’d be forgiven in thinking the story was a ‘What If’ tale or suspect, just as Batman does, it’s a very realistic manipulation done by the Mad Hatter, Scarecrow or The Joker. Again, it doesn’t take Snyder and Capullo much longer to pull the rug out even further as Batman enters a desolate wasteland with only Joker’s head in a jar for company. Snyder writes a pretty compelling introduction as readers are left wondering what has happened and is going on, if this truly is reality or something done to Batman’s mind. The scenarios Snyder places Batman in are unique and interesting. One of the best aspects of the book is how readers are placed in Batman’s shoes as we share in his confusion, denial and wonder at what he’s woken up to. Snyder of course weaves in a couple threads from his earlier stories that his followers will appreciate as it enhances the feeling that this truly is the end of his and Capullo’s time with Batman.
Longtime fans of Snyder’s Batman run will know how well Snyder writes his characters. The interactions between Bruce and Alfred are very heartfelt and emotional, but fans will really enjoy the new dynamic between Batman and his arch-nemesis. Snyder has done wonders exploring Batman and Joker’s relationship through Death of the Family, Endgame and even Dark Knights: Metal, but Last Knight on Earth gives us something very different as Batman traverses a broken, dystopian world with Joker’s jarred head. There’s a lot of funny banter from Joker and the two almost act as friends, though their relationship here is more akin to Kratos and Mimir in the most recent God of War game, another tale where a stoic figure carries around the head of a wise-cracking, sarcastic jokester on his belt. Other characters are used pretty well in some surprising ways given the state of the planet and the tease of who the story’s villain might be is an intriguing one. Snyder has crafted not just an interesting story, but one where the characters have some great interplay and depth.
Of course, Last Knight on Earth isn’t just about the superheroics and Batman’s desire to set things right. One of the major themes introduced is the blurred lines between heroes and villains, especially among everyday people who don’t feel in control. It’s some pretty interesting insight and while it’s one that has been played with before in other stories, such as Justice or Forever Evil, Snyder plays with the concept enough to add something new to say about the world of DC, especially in regards to Batman’s determination that good always should and will prevail. He seems ready to push Batman’s boundaries in ways he hasn’t before in his previous stories and that is a pretty exciting notion.
Anyone who has followed Snyder’s Batman stories will know just how much their success is also due to Greg Capullo’s artwork. Much like Metal, Last Knight on Earth has some crazy imagery that Capullo goes all in on, whether its Batman fighting his way through Arkham in a straight-jacket, Joker’s head or a horde of giant Green Lantern babies (yes, you read that right). The detail he gives just shows how much work he puts into each image, especially if it comes to the quieter dramatic scenes. Alfred and Bruce’s farewell is a great moment where the emotion spills off their faces. Jonathan Glapion’s inks compliment Capullo’s pencils by adding those extra details to the characters expressions, movements and costumes. The book’s vibrant look is thanks to FCO Plasencia’s colours. From the brightness of Arkham to the oranges of the desert and wastelands, Plasencia’s colours are something else. With Capullo, Glapion and Plasencia’s combined work, Last Knight on Earth is a splendid book just to look at.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have really started something that feels unique and special with Batman: Last Knight on Earth. It’s an interesting story that places Batman outside his element with the potential to examine why he’s such a great character and one of the best heroes of the DC universe thanks to the themes on the nature of good vs. evil. The artwork from Capullo, Glapion and Plasencia is outstanding with its crazy visuals and focus on the characters. While it’s a long wait for the next issue, Snyder, Capullo and company have made it well worth it with this introduction to their last Batman story for the foreseeable future.