THIS REVIEW OF ‘BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH’ BOOK ONE IS SPOILER-FREE.
by Brendan Hodgdon. There is true horror to be found in the ending, lurking in the shadows behind its feelings of peace and closure. Perhaps it’s because any ending feels like an existential and emotional dry run for death, a sharp reminder of the fear-inducing unknown. Such dread can seep into one’s soul and leave behind a complicated question: Do you accept the potential nothingness beyond this ending, or do you want to fight it? Of course, when it comes to Batman, the latter option is the only real choice. And so begins Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1, the final Bat-story from Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia and Tom Napolitano.
Snyder once again uses his background in horror writing to great effect here, threading unease through a quilt of old-school, Elseworlds-esque storytelling tropes. Along the way, he constructs a narrative that strikes at the heart of the global cultural meltdown that’s seemingly enveloped every waking moment over the last few years. It’s something that Snyder has also played off of in his current Justice League work as well, but while that book dramatizes the current struggle Last Knight posits a world where that struggle is lost and the world seems all but doomed.
Snyder employs a few marquee DC characters to heartbreaking effect as a means to explore the various (and flawed) ways that people deal with tragedy and failure. Some may turn inwards, trying to preserve or recreate their own sense of happiness, even if it means flat-out denial of reality. Others still do what they can to protect others, but hedge their bets to survival rather than fight back. And then there’s Batman, setting out on an all-or-nothing quest to face the horror of the end head-on. In juxtaposing Bruce’s singular willpower against this grim, all-encompassing landscape, Snyder highlights the qualities of the Caped Crusader that make him an ideal hero for our time (while simultaneously stripping away the qualities like his wealth that don’t suit the present moment).
The art is simply stunning, another high point in a long-running collaboration chock-full of them. Capullo has never shied away from even the most absurd story beats Snyder has thrown at him over the years, and he doesn’t flinch in Last Knight. The artist embraces the chance to craft post-apocalyptic looks for well-established characters while maintaining a mastery of kinetic action and staggering imagery. (Few artists can capture the brutal ballet of Batman’s fighting style with as much energy as Capullo.) Glapion’s inks provide the steady emphasis for the pencils beneath, gifting us with firm lines and sharp contrasts throughout. Meanwhile, the Plascencia colors capture everything from the stark brightness of an asylum to the heat-blasted emptiness of a desert with vivid clarity. And Napolitano makes sure to highlight the intensity (and subtle cleverness) of the dialogue throughout the book.
One of this team’s great accomplishments is their consistent eye for detail, an ability to cram as much information as possible into every panel, dense but never plodding. Snyder has always shown a knack for taking coincidences and recurring patterns and turning them into bits of clever symbolism, and his art team has never failed in making such details tangible. In their hands Batman’s world becomes packed with meaning and significance. In the context of this story, finding meaning in even its tiniest moments feels especially poignant, resonant.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth derives its strength from two major elements: the skilled craft of its creators, and the timely nature of its themes and ideas. And found beneath the fear and uncertainty that such an ending provides: Hope. Hope for new beginnings once the end has past. With what promises to be their final Dark Knight treatise, Snyder, Capullo, Glapion, Plascencia & Napolitano are offering a symbol for that hope, one that we should all aspire to emulate in our days ahead.
DC / DC Black Label / $5.99
Written by Scott Snyder.
Pencils by Greg Capullo.
Inks by Jonathan Glapion.
Colors by FCO Plascencia.
Letters by Tom Napolitano.
9 out of 10
Check out this 11-page preview of ‘Batman: Last Knight on Earth’ #1, courtesy of DC and DC Black Label!