When it comes to characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman, their origins are almost as memorable as their iconography. A back alley stick-up turned tragic, abdicated responsibility leading to the loss of a loved one, or the last son of a dying world falling into the hands of a kindly couple. We’ve read and watched these tales be retold over and over, and yet their narrative power still remains. This is where Batman: The Knight comes in to once again revisit the tragic origin of Batman and take a more psychological approach.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Batman: The Knight #1!
The issue opens on a therapy session between Bruce and the infamous Hugo Strange as they discuss how best to channel Bruce’s sadness and anger. This forms the backbone of the rest of the issue as we bounce back and forth across Bruce’s life throughout the conversation. It’s a smart way to allow the story to pick and choose which parts of Bruce’s life to revisit, while not having to reiterate every single part of the well-trodden origin.
The issue does a good job at depicting Bruce’s rage as his solution to his trauma. Whether it’s schoolyard squabbles, psychologically tormenting bullies, or backstreet brawls, he sees pain as his only outlet for his inner demons. It’s only when his loved ones challenge him to be better that he begins to find other opportunities to achieve justice. The writing here is engaging and each character reads distinct. In particular, the dynamic between Bruce and Alfred comes across best and cuts to the heart of their relationship.
While a lot of the book is characters sitting around talking, the art is consistently great. Carmine Di Giandomencio balances equal parts brutality and dramatic expressiveness. In particular, the way light and shadow are cast across the characters adds a level of realism and almost a cinematic quality to the issue. The few bursts of action here also work well at breaking up the dramatic beats. The backstreet brawl especially is rendered with captivating grit. You feel the weight of each hit between Bruce and his opponent.
However, despite the great artwork and engaging writing, the issue fails to feel like a must-read. At the end of the day, it’s a story we all know by heart, and despite the added introspection, it’s still a retread. It offers very few surprises or defining characteristics to set itself apart. Especially when placed alongside other origin tales like Year One, Earth One, or even Zero Year, all of which are completed stories offered at just about the same price point, there are stronger books competing for one’s money.
This is just the first issue, but Batman: The Knight has yet to solidify why this origin redux is necessary or what it will contribute to the character. Unfortunately, there’s too little new here for Bat-fans and not enough promise to recommend to new readers over other time-tested origins.
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