Bat Signal

Issue 664 – “Who Rules the Night”

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Oh boy everybody! Do you see what we have up there? Some crazy-ass 90s nonsense! That’s right, we have our first Knightfall issue so far for this project! What’s Knightfall you may be asking? Why that’s the insane story that took up a large portion of 1993 that introduced Bane. So that means we have yet another square checked off on our Batman Rogue’s Gallery Bingo Game. And it’s a massive story. If I’m counting right the entire saga ran through 84 issues of just about ever Batman-related book at DC. That’s nuts. And this is actually in the earlier part of the saga, and takes place after one of the most famous moments of the series. That’s right, we have the issue after Bane broke Batman’s back. Turns out that moment actually happened in Batman, so we’ll never be getting that crucial moment. But I guess we need some context before we dive in. The Knightfall story starts off with Bane heading to Gotham with one goal on his mind. Taking over Gotham. And the key to that is taking out Batman, who he knows is Bruce Wayne. So Bane waits until Batman has a cold, and stages a prison-break that lets everyone out of Arkham, after supplying them with guns. So Batman and crew have to run  around Gotham, taking out all the various villains while Bane lurks in the shadows, waiting for his moment. And right after Batman was able to stop Joker and Scarecrow from killing the mayor, he heads back to the mansion to recuperate and finds Bane waiting there for him. What proceeds is an insane issue that’s basically nothing but Bane beating the bajesus out of Bruce all throughout the mansion, before finally delivering the final coup de grace where he snaps the Caped Crusader’s back. Which is what brings us to this insane comic.

The issue starts off with Bane standing in some equivalent of Time’s Square where he’s got Batman over his head, loudly proclaiming that he’s Bane, and that the city is now his. And as a crowd of people gather to look at this psychotic luchador, he tosses Batman’s broken body down into the street, letting everyone know that he broke the bat, and that he’s in charge now. And after delivering his proclamation Bane runs off into the night as everyone runs around trying to figure out just what the hell they witnessed. The police, including Renee Montoya, crowd around Batman, trying to figure out what to do about the broken superhero in front of them. But luckily an ambulance shows up to get Batman, and after giving Montoya the run-around they pile Batman into the back and drive off, letting none of them realize that the paramedic was actually Alfred. So Alfred and Robin (Tim Drake at this point) start looking over Batman as they head to the Batcave, and make a startling realization.

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Yep, Batman’s spine is broken. Which is going to prove to be an issue, since they can’t exactly take Bruce to a hospital and let his secret identity out. Even if they came up with some explanation, it’s pretty suspicious when a crazy villain just loudly told everyone he broke Batman’s back, and then Bruce Wayne shows up with a broken back. So they just decide to take him back to the Batcave and do everything they can.

Which is where the issue starts to get complicated. Because this was just after the first major act of the Knightfall series, so there’s a lot of catch-up they have to do in this issue, tying up loose ends. Which means we’re going to be cutting around between a lot of stories. First up is Commissioner Gordon, who is pissed that Montoya let someone who turned out not to be a real ambulance take Batman away. He obviously assumes that it was one of the villains, taking Batman away to murder him, and he’s not happy. But he’s placated a bit when Harvey Bullock tells him that it was probably one of Batman’s sidekicks, which turns out to be right.

And after that little tableau we cut over to a dilapidated amusement park where Joker and Scarecrow are held up, listening to the news about Batman’s defeat. One of my favorite parts of Knightfall was these two teaming up, and it’s here that things are starting to unravel. They’re just bickering like an old married couple. Scarecrow is bitter that their plan to hold the mayor hostage went sideways, because he needed the money for his experiments, and Joker doesn’t really care. This leads to the two arguing, and Scarecrow gassing Joker with his fear toxin. Which shockingly does nothing, other than piss Joker off. So he beats up Scarecrow, ends their friendship, and peaces out.

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And after that we cut back to the Batcave, where things are bleak. Alfred has patched Bruce up as well as he can, but he’s not a spine surgeon, and can’t completely fix things. He’s in a coma and is in grave danger unless he gets some sort of drug called Decadron that can ease the spine’s swelling. Without it Bruce may never get out of his coma, and will probably be paralyzed for the rest of his life. So Robin decides to head out and get some of the drug. With the help of Jean-Paul Valley. Ugh. Folks, if you haven’t read Knightfall, just know that there’s a guy named Jean-Paul Valley in it, who goes by the name Azrael for most of the series, and he’s the worst. He’s like a warrior monk from a Christian cult, and he trains with Batman and Robin down in the Batcave to be a better crime-fighter, and sadly ends up becoming Batman for a while. He’s the pits.

Anyway, Tim and Jean-Paul jump in the Batmobile and head to Gotham to try and track down the wonder-drug that will save Bruce’s life. And they don’t really have any ideas. That is until Robin spots the Bat Signal, and decides to go ask Gordon for help. So they head to the station and Robin has a chat with Gordon, who springs into action, having his cops track down the drug. And they do, delivering it to some shady alley where Robin and Jean-Paul are able to pick it up. Oh, and we get a weird little interjection where the Ventriloquist is held up in a hotel room with his dummy Scarface, and a sock that’s been given a new personality. The three end up arguing and have a shootout that I think kills the Ventriloquist. Moving on! We cut back to the Batcave where Alfred has the drug from Tim and Jean-Paul, and is getting ready to administer it to Bruce. And everyone just kind of crosses their fingers. The end.

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Well that was kind of a weird issue to pull all by itself. I’ve dealt with multi-part stories here on Bat Signal before, but usually it’s either the first part of a two-issue story, or the second issue. So you aren’t missing that much. But this? This is a story in the middle of some complicated shit. If I hadn’t read Knightfall before, I feel like this issue would have been hilariously baffling. Imagine picking this issue up as your first issue of Batman ever. You’d be lost as hell! I mean, it straight up opens with Batman being thrown off a building by a guy, and then being in a coma for the rest of the issue. And the way it was cutting to all sorts of different stories would have been insane. I mean, we see Joker, Scarecrow, and the Ventriloquist in this issue, and they just seem to be doing their own thing, not bothering anyone, and it seems kind of out of place when compared to the rest of the medical drama happening in the Batcave. But despite all of that, it’s a pretty fun issue. It’s kind of a bummer that we’ll never see the issue where Batman and Bane actually fight, but the aftermath is definitely more dramatic,  so I guess that’s a win. Who knows how long it’ll take before I get back to Knightfall, so I guess appreciate this little drop of craziness for what it’s worth.

“Who Rules the Night” was written by Chuck Dixon, penciled by Graham Nolan, colored by Adrienne Roy, inked by Scott Hanna, and lettered by John Costanza, 1993.

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