Writer(s): Scott Snyder, Kyle Higgins
Artwork: Javier Fernandez
Colours: Alex Guimaraes
Lettering: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 16th October 2019
While its name is admittedly a bit of a mouthful, Tales from the Dark Multiverse – Batman: Knightfall #1 can basically be summarised as “what if Azrael killed Batman and took his mantle permanently?” This oversized one-shot takes a look into the bleak alternate future that comes from this very situation, and while Batman isn’t technically dead here (although he probably wishes he was), the cruel, broken Gotham City that finds itself ruled over by “Saint Batman” is certainly something to behold.
We all know how much Scott Snyder loves playing in his DC toy box, but he and co-writer Kyle Higgins do a solid enough job of keeping the distracting alternate future Easter Eggs to a minimum here – for the most part, at least. That said, this is very much a case of plot over character, with the Venom-addicted Jean-Paul Valley feeling like a fairly superficial centrepiece, and the majority of the supporting characters feeling like single-motivation plot devices. Now obviously I’m not expecting sweeping character arcs in a 50-page one-shot, but aside from the intriguing nature of the central conceit and my personal affection for the Knightfall storyline, there really wasn’t a whole lot here to draw me in, story wise.
One thing that did draw me in, however, was the impressively striking artwork of Javier Fernandez, a name I’ll apologise for not being too familiar with prior to picking this one up. With a scratchy, evocative style and a canny knack for portraying flurries of motion, there’s definitely something of the Rafael Albuquerque to his work, and he helps to give the book a real sense of energy and emotion that the story itself perhaps doesn’t quite earn.
There are some solid beats along the way, such as the reveal of Bruce Wayne’s current predicament and the identity of his would-be rescuer, but the story as a whole doesn’t quite pop the way it should, leading to a conclusion that feels a little too heavily telegraphed to truly shock the reader. There are some fairly heavy-handed parallels along the way, with Bruce, Jean-Paul and Gotham itself all being “broken” in different ways, but things never really get interesting enough to elevate this from the rank of “just another kinda cool Multiverse story.”
Ultimately though, as a “what if?” yarn which asks a fairly intriguing question, Tales from the Dark Multiverse does a solid enough job of spinning a dark, disturbing tale out of the Knightfall saga. And while the story itself never really gets past the realms of superficial spectacle, if nothing else, this oversized one-shot has introduced me to the immense talents of Javier Fernandez, an artist I’m going to be keeping a close eye on from now on.