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Knightfall: Bruce Wayne's orginal return to the cowl. Pt. 1

Cover for "Knightfall Part Three:Knightsend

For those who are fans of DC Comics, specifically Batman, Knightfall may or may not be new. However, with the "Return of Bruce Wayne" beginning in the current monthlies, it seemed fitting to look back at another time when Bruce Wayne was unable to be Batman and had to select a replacement.

Knightfall was originally published from 1993-1994 in three arcs: "Knightfall," "Knightquest," and "Knightsend," all of which are now available as collected editions (The first arc now being published as "Part One: Broken Bat," the second arc as "Part Two: Who Rules the Night," and the third arc as "Part Three: KnightsEnd.")

Prior to the Knightfall story, two major characters were introduced: Azrael and Bane. Azrael, aka Jean-Paul Valley, is a graduate student who learns that he was secretly trained from birth to be an assassin for a religious order. Bane, who was introduced in Chuck Nolan's Vengeance of Bane is now a very famous Batman rogue: a super-steriod fueled genius bent on destroying Batman.

Also taking place before Knightfall is Batman taking Azrael under his wing and training him to become a superhero. At the same time, Batman becomes very sick and tired after beginning to undergo a mid-life crisis and begins to lose his edge.

Enter the Knightfall story arc. Bane intends to take Gotham from Batman by force, showing the world that Batman is nothing. He wants to break the bat, but he knows that, despite Bruce's weakened condition, he is not yet ready to be broken. Instead, Bane breaks free all the inmates of Arkham Asylum knowing that, even in his weakend state, Batman can will not rest until they are caught.

Against the advice of all those close to him, Batman refuses almost all help, even from then-Robin Tim Drake, and takes on villains all by himself. Being sick and tired already, it takes everything he has to bring in even the "easiest" of these villains and he becomes even more exhausted, physically and mentally.

All the while he is chasing down villains, Batman is being closely monitored by Bane and his henchmen. Bane patiently awaits the time when he believes Batman is ready to be broken. After Batman narrowly defeats the Joker, Bane decides it is time for him to face Batman and arrives at Wayne Manor (having figured out Batman's true identity) and forces Batman to face him. Of course, Batman is no match for the steriod-fueled Bane and is defeated, the fight ending when Bane breaks Batman's back and takes his body to downtown Gotham where he tosses it from a building for all to see.

Barely alive, Batman is taken by a disgusied Alfred, Jean-Paul and Robin back to the Batcave where, despite Robin's protests to Alfred that Bruce should be in a hospital, Alfred begins to nurse Bruce back to health.

Once Bruce is well enough to speak, he names Jean-Paul Valley as the new Batman. What comes next, however, Bruce could never have imagined.

In the next article: the conclusion of the Knightfall spotlight. If you've never read Knightfall and decide you can't wait for the next article, you can find the collected editions at most bookstores, including Boarders and Barnes & Noble in Burlington, or perhaps your local comic book shop carries it.


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