Batman: The Knight has been an intriguing look at how Bruce Wayne trained to be Batman. So far, he’s trained with master fighters, detectives, and even magicians, but what about the mind? Chip Zdarsky and Carmine Di Giandomenico take things to a new level while also closing in on the final piece that’ll make Batman truly perfect. The question remains, though: can Bruce Wayne fully commit to the goal of being the best? The latest test with a man who has mastered the ability to control how you think puts him to the test.
One reason why Batman: The Knight #8 works so well is because it’s less of a chapter in Bruce’s journey and more a culmination of the story coming to a head. Anton comes back into focus after being absent as Bruce takes his studies to a new teacher while a major confrontation tests Bruce more than any teacher could. Early on in the issue, Bruce suspects Anton is messing with him, but he soon focuses elsewhere with a new teacher.
This new teacher is quite intriguing. He’s dark – not quite as pure good as other teachers, but just as mysterious. Zdarsky makes it clear Bruce is considering losing himself and controlling his emotions to the point of losing sight of being good. The idea comes up that even when he does this, he doesn’t lose sight of being a good person or doing things for the right reason. It’s an intriguing element as Bruce tests himself and considers being able to shut off all thought to achieve a goal. Is it right for him to do so, or should he consider not losing himself so completely to ensure he’s doing the right thing?
There’s a lot in this issue, so much so that I wondered if I was near the end only to discover I had many more pages to go. After the opening scene, Bruce is tested, has moments of doubt, and is tested again. This leads to a major confrontation after he believes a major death of someone close to him has taken place. That leads to an action-packed scene drawn perfectly by Di Giandomenico.
This issue does well to realign Bruce’s goals, as well. That includes his relationship with Anton, but also his overall mission. Zdarsky and Di Giandomenico are making sure to set up Bruce so he can reach his final goal, but even though we know there are more tests for him he can’t fathom, he’s being tested here in an exciting way. It’s hard to know how the story will play out, even though the series is a prequel and we know where Bruce ends up. That’s pretty impressive, given prequels tend to feel stuck within the confines of already knowing what’s to come.
Another element of this issue – and the series as a whole –that is done well is how it intimately depicts Bruce. Along the way, we see he’s not the perfect fighter or detective but a boy growing up to become a hardened vigilante to serve the purpose of finding justice in the dark. There’s also an intimacy that Zdarsky can explore due to this more raw version of Batman that’s refreshing. Not yet hardened and closed off, this is a man who is more open to friendships, love, and accepting others for who they are.
Ivan Plascencia colors the book in a way that feels romantic, especially the case given the setting on a coast amongst high cliffs. The kiss of the sunset is particularly well done. You also have to respect Pat Brosseau’s hand lettering that gives every word a valid and genuine feel.
If I were to find a gripe, it’d be in how Bruce seems to forgive Anton too easily. Since he murdered a teacher, it seemed like it’d be impossible for Batman to forgive him. It’s his one rule you never break, after all, and yet it’s fairly quick to forgive and join forces once again in the end. More attention to how they mend this mistake of Anton’s would go a lot further in making Bruce forgive him, or at least understanding how they could carry on.
Batman: The Knight #8 is an impressive chapter in a series that continues to somehow make the prequel format exciting, surprising, and valuable. Not only does this series delve into how Bruce has perfected every aspect of himself, but it does so in an intimate way rarely seen with Batman.
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