Brandon Borzelli's Geek Goggle Reviews
Batman #500 (From The Vault)
Moench, Aparo, Austin & Manley
Knightfall part nineteen, is the 50+ page, blowout anniversary issue published back in the fall of 1993. This comic was heavily hyped, but with Bruce Wayne already out of the picture there seemed to be little steam heading into this comic book. What follows is a tremendous story that illustrates out exactly how the Bruce Wayne-Batman is different from any other person in the suit. It's a classic comic book that stands up today just as it did twenty years ago and because it was so heavily printed it is very easy to get a copy. Give it a try and see how entertained you are with a dreaded 90s comic book.
The comic book looks gimmicky from the Joe Quesada gatefold cover but that is no reason to be scared off. With the regular Batman costume giving way to the new one, the contents of the issue seemed to be spoiled right on the cover, but the process of getting from one to the other is worth the price of admission.
The comic is divided into two parts: The Fall and The Descent. The issue picks up at the tail end of Bane's fight with Batman from the previous issue. Batman is dangling from a balcony by a rope that is wrapped around his ankle. Bane looks to end the fight once and for all but Batman reveals his latest trick. You see, Bruce Wayne is gone and the bat suit is occupied by Jean-Paul Valley. Jean-Paul has no problems with using weapons on a criminal and he begins to shoot shuriken after shuriken at Bane from his new claw gauntlets. This is not your father's Batman. The fight ends and both head to their corners to lick their wounds.
Jean-Paul retreats to the cave where he decides the entire costume needs a work over. During his obsessive makeover, Tim Drake (Robin) comes to try to talk some sense into the ultra-violent Jean-Paul. Valley makes it clear that Wayne's time is past and a new and tougher Batman is needed to take back and keep Gotham. Drake leaves and runs into Nightwing. This allows the pair to interact and divulge a key piece of information for the reader: Jean-Paul was picked to succeed Wayne by Wayne and Nightwing was left in the cold. This essentially leaves Jean-Paul to fend for himself. Partially because of Valley's attitude and partly because Wayne helped to alienate his own allies by selected Valley over Dick Grayson.
Batman completes his costume in a day and heads back into Gotham looking for Bane. This battle is an epic. The pair fight in front an electronic billboard, through the billboard, on the streets and in an elevated train car. Bane is angry that he's already beaten Batman and is being pestered by an imposter. Valley is simply angry that someone else controls Gotham. The ending is a turning point for Valley and it occurs in front of nearly all of the supporting cast: Gordon, Bullock, Drake and more. This issue launches the bat line into the Knight Quest storyline that runs for about a year throughout the Bat books.
The comic hits all the right notes in a variety of areas. For those wondering, Wayne and Alfred are in the comic in a brief exchange that sets up Bruce's mission while in the wheelchair. He seems unaware of the events in Gotham. The comic book provides dense character work on Bane and Valley and their interactions with each other and their interfaces with Bruce Wayne. The book also manages to squeeze in how Gordon is dealing with all of this and it would appear that he is pretending that Batman is still the same one but it can easily be that Gordon is lying about what he believes. The book covers an awful lot of ground.
Aparo and company on art is terrific. The comic shies away from epic splash pages and overly flexed muscles. Instead, the book goes for more sensible storytelling that happens to have an extended fight scene and it works extremely well. What's also impressive is how the book looks so good with the heavy rain that occurs over the second half of the book. The art captures how the onlookers are struggling to hear the words being spoken while straining their eyesight to see just what Batman is wearing. The book definitely looks like it could have been published today and I would dare say it is more detailed than many books being published today.
I wasn't sure how this book would hold up. I am happy to say it's a classic and is just as entertaining now as it was twenty years ago. The comic book makes fantastic use of its fifty-six pages and manages to tell a great story that closes the book on one era and launches the book into another. This is a classic comic book.
5 out of 5 Geek Goggles