By: Adam Basciano
“But the forces of justice will not go quietly into the night. Instead, a successor to the mantle of the Bat must be chosen to carry on Bruce Wayne’s war against crime. Who will be the new Dark Knight? Can he succeed where his predecessor failed? Or will Bane’s campaign of terror continue unabated, laying waste to Gotham City?” (DC Comics)
The Story: The story continues with Batman battered and broken, lying motionless on a city street, while law enforcement try and hold the crowds back.
Alfred, Tim Drake, and Jean Paul Valley pose as medics and transport Batman back to the cave via ambulance. After a battery of tests, Alfred concludes that Batman’s back is broken. Most of the opening chapters of “Who Rules the Night” deal with Bruce Wayne dealing with his present condition. He is demoralized. This is one of the highlights of the story for me. Most writers seem to write Batman as being someone who is not affected when he doesn’t succeed. He just seems to keep going. To me that doesn’t make too much sense, especially for someone as driven as Bruce Wayne. This is the first time he has been beaten in face to face combat, and he feels as if he has failed everyone.
He is in a state of depression. This is a more natural reaction and only amplifies the fact that Batman is merely human, which after all is one of the many reason’s people are drawn to the character. Bruce Wayne decides to start his road to recovery due to his doctor, Shondra Kinsolving, a woman he clearly has feelings for.
This aspect of the plot allows the writers to effectively illustrate why Bruce Wayne doesn’t enter into romantic relationships. He is too consumed with his duties and devoted to the Batman. Now that he can no longer perform those duties he wants to explore such a relationship and is even considering being honest with her about every aspect of his life, including his identity as Batman. When I came across this, I immediately likened Bruce Wayne’s relationship to Batman to a priest. Just as a priest cannot enter a relationship because he is married to the church, Bruce Wayne cannot be in a relationship because he is in effect married to his identity as the Batman. Speaking of Batman, Bruce Wayne decides to pass the mantle of the Bat to Jean Paul Valley, otherwise known as Azrael.
To me this choice is out of character and was a bad decision by the writers. No matter how skilled he is Bruce would never hand over such responsibility to a man who he has little experience with and doesn’t know all that well. It would have made more sense to bestow the responsibility on Dick Grayson, regardless of whether or not he has become his own hero or not.
The writers do a good job of highlighting the differences between Jean Paul’s approach to Batman, compared with Bruce Wayne’s. At first he is content on duplicating Bruce as Batman. As time passes he wants to solidify himself as the one and only Batman, and he begins to discard Bruce Wayne’s policies and rules completely. He tells Robin to stay out of his way, and even creates a more armored costume with claws on the gloves.
Jean Paul’s Batman threatens criminals and intends to act out that threat. If the situation warrants it the new Batman won’t hesitate to kill. The differences are not only in terms of violence. The new Dark Knight also rushes into battle without thinking and has no patience for detective work. By the middle of the book the reader sees the new Batman from Robin’s perspective, feeling a general discomfort whenever the new Batman is around. The writers begin to redeem Jean Paul Valley at books end when despite having the opportunity to kill Bane, he refuses and instead hands him over to the police.
My only other issue with this chapter is Bane’s involvement. Repeatedly the writers point out that Bane controls Gotham’s underworld, yet the only evidence we have of this is that Bane has solidified all of Gotham’s mafia’s under one umbrella, which he controls. Most of the book focuses on Scarecrow causing chaos to Gotham City by releasing fear gas into the water system, making Scarecrow seem like the major threat in Gotham City.
The Story Grade
The Art: My initial opinion on the artists of the book still remains. They both mesh extremely well with Batman. If a casual observer would skim through the pages and just see the images of Batman they would know that something is different about him. Before the costume change, both artists use shading and lighting that allow the reader to differentiate between the two Batmen. Also the use of lines on Jean Paul’s face and around his cowl really emphasize the violence that lies within Jean Paul. I also have to give credit to the colourist of the book, the use of reds in the fight between Bane and Batman really intensified the situation as overtly violent, and possibly deadly.
Graham Nolan did an excellent job of portraying the effects of Scarecrow’s fear gas. The swirl effect he used made me disoriented and confused, which is probably the effect the gas has on its victims. Graham Nolan did have more work in this chapter, and sometimes his work suffered slightly. In the previous book his work always had backgrounds. In this chapter some images had just a blank background that was coloured. That empty space detracts from the work. Overall, the quality of the work was maintained from the previous chapter to this one.
The Art Grade