Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1 // Review
They say “you can't go home again,” that “lightning doesn't often strike twice.” Happily, the first issue of Batman: Last Knight on Earth, which reassembles the creative team on the beloved New 52 run of Batman, bucks this trend with a rollicking and expansive first issue.
The story starts in familiar territory, with a bizarre mystery involving a city-wide chalk circle in present-day Gotham City going weirdly wrong. Then a young Bruce wakes up in Arkham Asylum, surrounded by doctors and patients who resemble his rogues' gallery; this is an old chestnut, but 'it's deployed effectively here. The story really begins when our young Batman emerges in a post-apocalyptic future nightmare world, with the 'Joker's head in a jar as his only companion. Eventually, Bruce winds up with a retired Wonder Woman and her crew of Amazons, who are leading a group of survivors to Hades. Batman confirms what he already surmised—that 'he's a clone of the original Bruce Wayne, grown as a fail-safe after his death—and learns about the events that led to the present state of the world.
Scott Snyder is at his best here, as the story diverges from his superhero work and leans more into his horror writing, particularly in the Arkham Asylum sequence. Using Joker's head as a foil for the silent and stoic Batman is a smart choice, as is having the narration from the Joker's point of view. A running gag about the Joker's poetry is particularly potent, and will presumably be carried throughout the series. This is a Black Label comic, so it's vaguely unsettling to see Snyder put profanity in the mouths of Batman and the Joker, but it works.
Penciller Greg Capullo and inker Jonathan Glapion are licensed to really cut loose here, with the fantastical post-apocalyptic urban nightmare setting. A sequence with feral Green Lantern construct babies with catatonic ring-bearers hanging from them is particularly absurd and disturbing. As always with this team, colorist FCO Plascencia somehow makes the most garish and expansive palette seem like the most natural choice in the world for a Batman comic. Letterer Tom Napolitano has a lot to chew on as well, between different styles for narration and for the Joker and for the despair of Bruce when 'he's trapped in Arkham.
After the controversy of Batman: Damned, 'DC's Black Label imprint needed a hit. Thankfully, DC Comics MVPs Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo were here to provide one. Highly recommended.