Batman: In Darkest Knight — A Review

Good day, everyone! It’s good to be back from my hiatus, and I’m hoping to keep a regular second season on my column here at Sourcerer. So, thanks for reading and please do keep coming back. This first entry is a review of a work I have touched on before–DC’s Elseworlds story Batman: In Darkest Knight by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham, in which Bruce Wayne becomes a Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan and instead of becoming Batman.

The story begins with a moment familiar to fans of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Young Bruce, wounded and delirious from blood loss following his first vigilante outing, is in the process of simultaneously apologizing to and demanding a life purpose from a bust of his deceased father, Thomas Wayne. In this iteration, however, the familiar giant bat that sets Bruce on his life path as Batman is vaporized by Abin Sur‘s Green Lantern ring seeking a new wielder.

At this stage, I feel I need to step back to say a few things about this work as a comic, as a Green Lantern story, and as an entry in the Batman mythos. I’m going to be completely honest with you; this is not a particularly well done story. Though the artwork also has its weaknesses, the writing, especially, feels uninspired and contrived to force the story into being more than elegantly shaping it into something worthwhile. The best example of this is in the story’s treatment of Sinestro.

As many readers know, I am a huge fan of Sinestro. I hate to see him misused. Sinestro’s role in In Darkest Knight is a hodgepodge of altered earlier Green Lantern stories, such as his expulsion from the Corps (originally the fault of Hal Jordan). This series of convenient events continues with Sinestro coming to Earth to attempt to uncover his new arch-enemy’s greatest secrets. In furtherance of this, Sinestro hunts down Joe Chill, somehow fuses minds with him through his yellow ring, and then inexplicably begins wearing a purple suit identical to that of the Joker.

The next odd narrative choice is the establishment of a Green Lantern-themed Justice League by the Corps’s Guardians of the Universe. The Guardians approach Clark Kent, Diana of Themyscira, and Barry Allen individually in order to recruit them all into a defense force for the Earth that would allow Bruce Wayne more free time to pursue his Green Lantern duties around Sector 2814. Needless to say at this point, many of the characters’ motivations and the convenient results (such as the costumes) that follow are never satisfactorily explained.

Image of Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash taken from https://sourcererblog.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/7d637-reign075.jpg

There are a couple of other gripes I have with the story, and those are the sudden and useless murder of Commissioner Jim Gordon by Sinestro and the Green Lantern Batman costume. Seriously, look at it up above. He looks like a lame facsimile of Space Ghost.

Complaints aside, the story does contain some redeeming qualities. Chief among these is a line following Sinestro’s attack on Bruce that ends with Alfred’s death. When asked whether or not he would step down from his duties to take an appropriate time to mourn his loss, Bruce simply replies that his entire life is an act of mourning. If through nothing else and at no other time, the creative team truly expresses their grasp of Batman’s essential narrative here.

And that’s my Season Two premiere. I hope you all enjoyed it, or at least got a chuckle out of it. As a reading recommendation to start things off, I suggest reading this comic and drawing your own conclusions. The entire story is available on comiXology for $1.99. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

For at least the first few posts of this season, I’d like to do more reviews of comics I’m currently reading. I’ll admit I’m a bit behind the industry these days because of past financial difficulties, but I am trying to get ahead in my consumption with trade paperbacks. Future reviews will likely include the first volume of Sinestro (so I can finally finish out what I started last year) and a recently reprinted Marvel classic called Dr. Strange & Dr. Doom: Triumph & Torment. Look for more from me in coming weeks.

It’s good to be back! Now go out and support your local comic shops.

The Batman Column: Season 1 Finale

Good day, everyone! I know it’s been awhile, but working two jobs has kept me away from blogging for some time. However, I decided to take advantage of a little free time and come back to put together what will effectively be the season finale for my column here at Sourcerer. You, dear readers, have watched my blogging voice grow over the past months as I wrote my weekly Batman column that slowly began to grow into something more. The last couple of posts in that column dealt heavily with the ideas of narrative multiverses and correcting continuity errors by condensing storylines.

I hope to continue that trend when I do return; after all, it looks like Marvel may be headed towards its own Crisis on Infinite Earths with the recent teasers for its latest Secret Wars event that seems to tie into every major story from the past few decades. It’s no secret that Marvel has been playing with its multiverse a bit more over the past few years, with most major storylines featuring orphan characters from defunct universes, as well as time travelers from the past and many possible futures. It’s become a trope in many Marvel books that the timeline is effectively broken and in need of repair. Look for more from me as this event continues to develop.

Aside from my own work, I’ve also missed two very important events for comic book fans, those being Jack Kirby’s birthday (August 28) and Banned Books Week (September 21-27). Jack Kirby, the King of Comics, co-creator of Captain America, creator of DC’s New Gods, and primary creator of most of Marvel’s stable of characters, would have been 97 this year. I would like to wish belated good fortunes to his estate, and it looks like they’ve finally reached a settlement with Marvel over old rights. Further, I hope some of you were able to fit in such superhero stories as Watchmen or The Killing Joke during Banned Books Week last month.

That’s about it for this finale. Look for my column to return in full force in the near future, as well as small periodic posts here and at quaintjeremy’s thoughts. And as for a last comic book recommendation, I urge you all to go out to your local comic shops, talk to fellow fans, find books that will interest you, and follow them with all your heart. Keep the community alive.

I’ll see you all soon.

Comics!

I promised you an announcement about the comics posts today, so here it is.

Jeremy’s working on a Batman post to cap the awesome eight-month run he’s had with that. I haven’t properly updated this page yet, but I will soon, and it has tons of good stuff already.

David and I both have ideas about where to go from here with the comics. Jeremy’s last post will go when it’s ready and not a moment before, because we’re writers first. We insist on quality.

So, look for a post from Jeremy here soon. Look for a more specific announcement, and perhaps even a comics post from either me or David, next week.

This is the best we can do right now. By the time this publishes, I’ll be standing in front of a room full of people talking to them. That is only about eight hours away. I’m going to try and load a Wordless Wednesday for Part Time Monster and then it’s off to bed for me.

Catch you this evening. I’m on Central Time.

The DC Multiverse: Crisis on Infinite Earths

Happy new book day, everyone! Today, I’d like to continue the trend I started last week and talk a bit more about DC Comics’s somewhat convoluted multiverse structure to help make it more accessible and understandable (and certainly less daunting) to both new and experienced readers. Please remember to keep last week’s post handy as a reference for some of the concepts and jargon I’ll be using as I move through this phase of the column. In order to make this task more manageable for all of you as readers and me as the authority (or something like it), I’ll break down these posts by universe-altering event (usually called a Crisis), and work my way through the most salient of them from over the past few decades.

Cover to The Flash #123 (September, 1961) by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Flash_v1_123.jpg

Cover to The Flash #123 (September, 1961) by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Flash_v1_123.jpg

I’ll begin with what is likely the largest shift in comics continuity in either big company to date—1985-86’s 12-issue maxi-series entitled Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. DC had established near the beginning of the Silver Age that its titles existed in a multiverse—the shift from Golden to Silver Age itself was determined to be a shift from one universe to another, after all. 1961’s “Flash of Two Worlds” story by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino established that the Silver Age characters (characters we’re more familiar with today—Barry Allen as the Flash, Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, etc.) existed in what was then called Earth-1 before several shifts in the numbering scale. DC’s stable of Golden Age characters (a Flash named Jay Garrick, a Green Lantern named Alan Scott, and older yet familiar versions of such characters as Superman and Batman) all existed safely tucked away on Earth-2, which, despite numerous reboots, is still largely true today.

Epic wraparound cover to a recent edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths by Alex Ross. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://images.sequart.org/images/Alex-Ross-cover-to-the-collected-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths.jpg

Epic wraparound cover to a recent edition of Crisis on Infinite Earths by Alex Ross. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://images.sequart.org/images/Alex-Ross-cover-to-the-collected-Crisis-on-Infinite-Earths.jpg (Click for larger image)

By the middle of the 1980s, this idea of a multiverse had grown almost out of control. It had become a crutch both to explain away continuity errors and a way to tell unique stories free of continuity’s constraints. Because of this, the DC multiverse was quite literally infinite by 1985. This was the point where the powers that be decided to simplify the playing field, trimming away the excess worlds and creating a much narrower canon.

I’ll say this right now: Crisis on Infinite Earths is a big and confusing story, even to someone who has put some time into studying DC’s many universes that predated it. With that in mind, I’d like to try to break down some of its major points to make it more digestible without outright summarizing and spoiling the entire story. And, to be fair, this story is nearly 30 years old; you’ve likely already been exposed to its effects whether you knew it or not if you’re a DC fan.

The central conflict actually arises between entities called the Monitor and Anti-Monitor. The Monitor was the prototype for the omnipotent beings that watch over the entire multiverse that I referenced last post. The Anti-Monitor is quite literally the Monitor’s opposite number, and is even made from antimatter. It was the Anti-Monitor’s goal to destroy and consume universe after universe until it was the only being left in all existence. The Monitor attempted to discreetly push various superheroes into positions where they could conceivably oppose the Anti-Monitor, but ultimately played a smaller part than one might think when the event really took off a couple of years after his introduction into several DC titles.

Cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Perez. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c5/Antimonitorcoie.png

Cover to Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 by George Perez showing the battle against the Anti-Monitor. Image courtesy of DC Comics and found at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c5/Antimonitorcoie.png

The Crisis itself was a huge, mind-boggling series of splash pages with dozens upon dozens of characters battling across them. Let it suffice to say that there were some surprising upheavals brought about by all of these battles. It became clear as the story went on that not everyone was going to make it out alive, and many characters didn’t. For example, both Supergirl and the Flash (Barry Allen) died during the events of the crisis and stayed that way for years. In fact, Barry stayed dead for over 20 years—something nearly unheard of in comics. Many fans believed he would never return (though he did in Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, which will be explored in a future entry in this column). The fate of reality was decided with a final attack on the Anti-Monitor by the Superman of Earth-2, Alexander Luthor of Earth-3 (the greatest hero in a world of villains), the Superboy of Earth Prime (the only superbeing from our own world who may also get his own post in the future), and the one and only Darkseid.

With the threat eliminated, events the Monitor had already set in motion came to fruition; out of the remaining broken worlds, one solitary earth was created—the Post-Crisis DC Universe of the late 1980s and 1990s. This world was an amalgamation of Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-4, Earth-S (the home universe of such characters as Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and other characters powered by the wizard Shazam), and some of the more favorable pieces of Earth-X (a world where the Axis had won World War II and superheroes carrying on the fight for truth and justice were rare but beloved). As you can imagine, this created an entirely new set of contradictions within continuity. For example, which aspects of the Golden Age and Silver Age versions of Batman and Superman were kept and which were thrown out? You begin to see how truly complex this issue becomes.

And this was the structure of the DC Universe until the reintroduction of the multiverse later on in its history. But that is a story for another post. What did you all think of this rundown? Was it easy enough to follow? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t forget to follow my personal blog at quaintjeremy’s thoughts, and feel free to tweet me @quaintjeremy.

My comic picks for this week:

Batman Eternal #18

Earth 2 #26

Grayson #2

New Avengers #22

Moon Knight #6

She-Hulk #7