When I first saw Tales From the Dark Multiverse coming out, I wasn’t really interested. I figured it may be too offbeat or a limited horror run for Halloween. When I saw that issue #1 is Batman Knightfall I had to check it out. I didn’t know what the new series was about, as not only am a Batman fan, but Bane is my favorite Batman villain. Once I realized this book is basically an Elseworld’s Batman tale, my excitement soared. The Tales title is going to be ongoing and revisit various classic DC moments and tell the story with a new twist. This issue is a double-sized trip into what if Azrael defeated Batman and became Gotham’s new guardian.
Revisiting the classics and using them as a springboard to sell books isn’t my favorite idea. I like new stories and pushing forward with creativity. The truth is, though, that some of these stories only told as much as they could at the time. These Tales From the Dark Multiverse can tell us more about the original event and possibly provide us with a new well-written story. So far, we know Knightfall, Death of Superman, and Blackest Night will be turned on their heads and squeezed for some new material. If there is some effort put into writing something fresh, I’m willing to give these twists a chance.
I’m not the biggest Azrael fan as I prefer Batman, but I have read some of his comics over time. He has made a comeback recently appearing in Batman: Curse of the White Knight, and this appearance falls in line with that one. I think his dark multiverse story is an exciting avenue to explore. Azrael is a fallen angel. He may have had good intentions at some point, but he is always on the wrong side of right. In this tale, we see that Azrael snapped when Batman tried to take the mantle back. He took Batman’s role as protector and overseer of Gotham and instead rules with an iron fist. This book surprised me. I found myself much more interested than I thought I would be. This could be a boring throwaway story, but all the new angles and elements make it fun. I think the character evolutions are what really sold me. I like seeing what these well-known characters turn into after 30 years in this less than ideal world. There’s plenty of Batman mythology woven into these creations and throughout this dark future story. The issue is also well balanced with a good amount of action to accompany the moodiness and drama.
I found the characters in this world to be dark but complex and, therefore, more fulfilling. Ironically, Saint Batman uses venom even though it was the tool of his first real enemy, Bane. It shows Valley’s desperation to appear like the mighty savior that he wants to be. His new costume also lends to a much darker world and a need for a firmer grip. It shows that he is now a creature of fear and no longer a version of Batman. He surprisingly still tries to be the hero, though, as he sacrifices himself to try and save the city from collapsing. It seems he is torn between trying to be what he saw lacking in Batman and what about Batman-inspired him.
We get to see how far gone he really is through his visit to what’s left of Bruce Wayne. Learning Valley visits with an unwilling Batman every year to try and gain acceptance that he is right is the most shocking and darkest aspect of the story. It shows how far Azrael has fallen into his obsession and how bad the world is if Batman is a prisoner for 30 years.
Another horrifying moment is Batman’s turn once he is rescued and given a second chance to be a hero. We see Bruce broken and defeated as Saint Batman’s prisoner and can’t imagine he will play any further significant part. Once he’s given the Nano-Bats, though, he becomes raw vengeance. Bruce is no longer Batman, but instead, something much worse than Valley could ever be. Not only does he get a chance to get justice for the last 30 years, but the twisted person that he became while being held captive and tortured has been given superpowers. We see that this dark world creates and calls for a darker Batman. In the end, Batman’s twisted psyche and his new powers win out to rule Gotham even more harshly than Saint Batman.
The story really showed us what Batman could be. It’s a complete changeup with the mantle of Batman becoming a controlling force rather than a guardian. It expresses the strength and dedication of the character of Bruce Wayne in the actual DC universe to stay true to his mission. I am somewhat inspired to go back and see how many indications of this version of Jean-Paul Valley there was in Knightfall. I can honestly say I am more interested in the character now than ever. Although his story is over, I’d be glad to read more about the new Batman that rose from the ashes of this story. I hope the Tales From the Dark Multiverse continue, and the characters and worlds live on more than just in these contained one-shots. I give Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Batman Knightfall 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to fans of Batman, Bane, and dark future worlds.