Erick Von Erich
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August 6th, 2014, 4:51 pm #61

Detective Comics #665 (Knightfall Part 16)
Azrael's first official outing as the stand-in Batman. He's very violent and uses much more intimidation than Bruce would. Robin is concerned as tension begins to develop between the two. Az's tactics get mob boss "Tough" Tony Bressi to break and talk about Bane's operation. Az is intent on going after Bane.

Bruce Wayne goes over to the Drake house (next door to Wayne Manor) to see Dr. Kinsolving and Jack Drake. But a mysterious group of thugs is in the process of kidnapping Kinsolving and Drake. Even in his wheelchair, Bruce attacks the thugs, but he's no real problem as they get away.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 8th, 2014, 4:19 pm #62

Shadow of the Bat #16-18 (Knightfall Parts 16.1-16.3)
An "Unofficial Official" Knightfall tie-in, as it deals with (the new) Batman hunting down the Scarecrow. Scarecrow goes gonzo-bonkers and activates his Fear Gas all around Gotham, demanding to be known as the "God of Fear". He brainwashes a group of college kids, including the son of his first murder victim. Good background on Scarecrow and he comes off as incredibly creepy. They really get the point across that this guy gets off of scaring people; he's not just a silly gimmick.

Anarky is also around, as he determines that Batman is the cause of all of Gotham's Bad Stuff. He indirectly leads Batman to the low-level villain the Hood Brothers (who, I'm pretty sure, were never seen before or again). When Batman finally finds Scarecrow, Anarky reveals himself to make it a 3 Way Dance.

The final battle is quite telling. Anarky and Batman are hit with more fear gas, but Batman is able to overcome it and attack Scarecrow. To get away, Scarecrow tries to play to Batman's ethics and orders the brainwashed kid to jump off the roof. Batman IGNORES the kid and continues beating Scarecrow! Luckily, Anarky is there to save the kid. Batman tells Anarky that if he gets in his way again, he'll squash his head like a grape. You think Regular Batman is a dick? Try Ruthless Azrael Batman.

Few words on "Shadow of the Bat". It was a monthly book, which is why this 3-parter was not branded with the "Knightfall Part ___" banner. It has the banner, but no numbering. Detective and Batman went bi-weekly for "Knightfall", so the logistics of making "Shadow" part of it, would've pissed off both fans and creators. This story might actually fit in as "Parts 15.1-15.3" instead of 16.1-16.3

"Shadow" was still new, but basically the "C-Level" Batman book. "Legends of the Dark Knight" is still running, but is unofficially off-limits as it typically featured flashback Batman stories (indicated by no yellow circle around Batman's chest emblem).

"Shadow" was written by Alan Grant for the first 50 issues or so and was usually pretty good. Grant seemed to have a good handle on writing "crazy". It was almost a team-up book, as Batman was typically a secondary character. The by-lines were always "The Shadow of the Bat falls on...." It was mostly villains, as the stories were often told from their perspective. Once the whole "KnightSaga" is over, it becomes more prominent in Batman's world.
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Erick Von Erich
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Joined: May 13th, 2005, 9:06 pm

August 11th, 2014, 6:21 pm #63

Batman #499 (Knightfall part 17)
This is sort of the transition for the final parts of "Knightfall" and sets the stage for the next year. Bruce deciphers the trail of the kidnappers and finds them connected to Santa Prisca (Bane's birthplace). In a hurry, he takes Alfred along on the Wayne Corporation private jet to investigate. Bruce has a brief encounter with Jean-Paul, basically telling him: "things are cool? Great. You're in charge until I get back. Gotta' go, bye!".

When Bruce takes off, he's surprised (pleasantly) that Selina Kyle has snuck on-board. This is where the new "Catwoman" series takes off, as it starts out with her investigating Bane's past. Not an essential part of the overall story; but there were some implications that Bane had something of a crush on Catwoman.

Jean-Paul goes into a daze and designs some new clawed gloves; very reminiscent of Azrael. It's also sort of a shot at Wolverine and 90's heroes with the big claws.

Batman (Jean-Paul) coerces Tony Bressi into working with him. He's able to get Bressi's kids freed from Bane, then beats the crap out of Bane's 3 flunkies with his new gloves. Robin finally decides to tell Bruce about Jean-Paul's increasingly violent ways... but when he gets home he finds his dad missing and a note from Bruce that he and Alfred have left.

Robin also asks where Bat-cave residents Harold and ACE (yes!) are. Jean-Paul has no idea; they've simply disappeared.

The 50's/60's Ace was kinda' corny, but I LOVED the concept of the modern Ace (introduced circa 1990). He was a big mangy mutt from the desert whom Batman took in. He never rode along in the Bat-mobile or anything; he was a subtle character who just lived in the Bat-cave and made Bruce happy. They carried him over into the animated "Batman Beyond". The scene where Old Bruce found that particular Ace is a real tear-jerker.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 13th, 2014, 11:41 pm #64

Detective Comics #666 (Knightfall part 18)
Jean-Paul continues on with his hunt for Bane. He dupes Zombie, Trogg and Bird into thinking it's Bane who's freeing them from their holding cells, so they foolishly run home to Bane, giving away their headquarters. Batman arrives and starts a big ol' fight with Bane. Batman has the early advantage, but Bane catches him on a cable and dangles him from a skyscraper ledge. Just a set-up for BATMAN #500, the finale' of "Knightfall".

Fun scene where Batman visits Commissioner Gordon in his office. Gordon freaks out when Batman actually stays for the conclusion of their conversation. Gordon suspects that it's a different Batman, but as always he doesn't care who's behind the mask.

In keeping with the issue numbering, this story is entitled "The Devil You Know".

The theme they're emphasizing more, recently, is basically "fight fire with MORE fire". Again, they're proving that the character of Batman doesn't work as a Wolverine/Punisher/blood-thristy type. Or as a 90's "Image hero". But we'll have another 10 months or so for the point to get hammered home.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 14th, 2014, 5:50 pm #65

Batman #500 (Knightfall Part 19/Conclusion)
Batman survives the cliffhanger by somersaulting into the the hotel's pool. Feeling hampered by the traditional Bat-costume, he returns to the Bat-cave to create a new one.

Bane escapes, temporarily, then takes over the jumbotron in Robinson Square to issue a public challenge to "Batman" (he includes the name in quotes). Batman arrives in his new armored suit and beats Bane to a pulp as they fight on an elevated train. GCPD and Robin are on-hand and everybody is watching to see if Batman will kill Bane. Instead of killing him, Batman condemns Bane to Blackgate Prison. Robin begrudgingly acknowlegdes that Jean-Paul has proved himself and is the New Batman-- like it or not.

Nightwing makes an appearance to talk to Robin. Officially, Nightwing says that he would not have wanted to be Batman, but would have taken over if Bruce needed him to. Robin also feels some guilt over maybe turning Jean-Paul to violence, since he designed the "Junior Batman" costume somewhat similar to the villain Metalhead (from the issues pre-Knightfall and Bane).

We see that Harold and Ace have retreated to a remote corner/level/wing/whatever of the Bat-cave.

The dialogue in this issue is key. Robin and (New) Batman argue about stooping to the level of villains and "becoming darker". Robin counters that: "only lightness stops the dark". THAT line proves to be significant in "Knightquest" (a fact which a LOT of readers missed and, subsequently, were pissed off about. Most notably Wizard Magazine). Oh, and the letters page is full of readers comparing "New Batman" to "New Coke". They're also now referring to him as "Paul Valley", dropping the "Jean-Paul" part.

So...that's it for Knightfall. It now splits into "Knightquest", with two distinct parts: "The Search" which follows the adventures of Bruce Wayne and Alfred and "The Crusade" which follows New Batman with occassional splinters into other (new) titles. A little weird that "The Search" runs through "Justice League Task Force", "Shadow of the Bat" and "Legends of the Dark Knight". Maybe some issues of "Catwoman", too, I forget.

Looking at this, now, I'm wondering if they had originally planned for "Knightfall" to include the entire Batman/Azrael/Bane story. No "Knightquest" or "Knightsend". But sales were great and they had to expand it/milk it. Also led to the launch of the "Catwoman" and "Robin" titles. Despite what we want to believe, comics are always based on sales. If something sells, do more of it-- that's the mantra.

Is this a good story, overall? I'll say "yes", but only because we now know the eventual ending. At the time (Fall 1993), the fact that Bruce Wayne had been replaced by a 90's hero really depressed me. I remember thinking: "dammit, this is what people want. I guess comics aren't for me anymore". I mean, they were messing with BATMAN! Call me a sucker, because that's what they wanted me to think.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 18th, 2014, 3:56 am #66

Marvel Two-in-One #45
Captain Marvel guests, as the Thing is abducted by some old Skrulls who are obsessed with 1920's gangster films. Works to have Mar-vell in there, as it plays into the whole Kree vs. Skrull thing. A satisfying self-contained 70's comic. I enjoy that Thing call Marvel "Marvin".
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Erick Von Erich
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August 18th, 2014, 4:50 pm #67

Justice League Task Force #5-6 (Knightquest: The Search)
Now things get out-of-hand, with "Knightquest" extending to several books. Bruce Wayne actually...gasp... calls up the Martian Manhunter and asks for help. Manhunter sends Gypsy, Bronze Tiger and Green Arrow to back-up Bruce & Alfred in Santa Prisca.

They track Shondra Kinsolving and Jack Drake's kidnappers and almost save them... but not before the mysterious "Mr. Asp" arrives via helicopter to getaway with the two victims. Shondra had a chance to leave, but went along with the kidnappers to follow and help her patient, Jack Drake.

Bruce uses a new super-chair ("The Bat-Wheelchair"?) which is fitted with all sorts of gadgets. He gets the Task Force to think he's somebody impersonating Bruce Wayne, since the "real" Bruce is known as klutzy, pampered playboy.

Nice to see Bruce reaching out to Martian Manhunter. They developed a good rapport during the "Bwah-ha-ha" Justice League relaunch in the 80's. And even, for a few months, in the final days of "Justice League Detroit" (Batman came back and took over, for a bit).

"JLTF" was sorta' like a mix of Justice League: Europe (b-level JLA characters) and Suicide Squad (covert/"black ops" missions), with a little bit of Marvel's Defenders (rotating cast), thrown in.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 22nd, 2014, 5:24 pm #68

Detective Comics #668-670 (Knightquest: The Crusade)
From a broad view, it's a 3 issue story about the new Trigger Twins robbing Gotham's "money train". Yes, a good two years before Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes made a movie of the same name, with essentially the same plot. Batman uses the newly-found "Bat Subway Rocket" (designed by Harold) on the case. They immediately deal with the limitations of such a vehicle-- like "what happens if Batman miscalculates and a train is coming"?

Deeper into the story, Batman and Robin finally have a physical confrontation and a falling out. Batman tries to strangle him, but then apologizes, blaming "The System". Robin gets his new "Redbird" vehicle and runs off to his new solo series. Batman bricks-off the tunnel that connected the Bat-Cave to the Drake residence.

Batman's also suddenly tormented by visions of St. Dumas telling him how much he sucks. St. Dumas wants to be go beyond the "avenging angel" and become a "demon" to tame to the "dark city". In case you missed the point of New Batman, here it is again.

There's also a subplot developing about Joker producing an autobiographical movie.

Bruce Wayne is mentioned, but this MAY be the first time since... issue 27... that we have an issue of Detective Comics with NO appearance by Bruce Wayne.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 26th, 2014, 10:34 pm #69

Batman #501-502 (Nightquest: The Crusade)
Batman gets caught in the middle of a mob hit involving the assassin "Code name: Mekros". He's a basic villain with a gun and armor, but his background is kinda' neat. He's the product of the 60's and a joint mafia/CIA program to create a self-hynotized perfect killer.

It's a basic feeder villain (or "squash match") for the New Batman. It's unclear whether or not he actually kills Mekros, as he leaves him hanging on a meat-hook. Mayor Krol meets with Jim Gordon and tells him he approves of Batman's new methods.

These books seem to have really fallen off with New Batman. Now that Bruce, Bane and Robin are all gone, it's kinda' crappy. It's also getting repetitive how Gordon, GCPD, villains or anybody else keeps saying: "he seems different, now, somehow" whenever talking about or seeing Batman.
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Erick Von Erich
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August 27th, 2014, 11:34 pm #70

Robin #1-2 (1993)
Picking right up from Detective Comics #668, Robin sets out on his own, encountering a gang of car thieves called the Speedboyz (don't forget the Z). Very Marvel/Spider-Man-ish feel to this, as they include Tim's life at high school (which applies to just about ANY super hero comic about a teenager. Spidey's still the standard).

Robin's allowed to drive because he got a special license for carting around his disabled dad. So this would make Tim about 14 or 15, arguably.

The Drake's housekeeper, Mrs. McIlvaine is still around, so Robin has his own version of Alfred. There's also a subplot with Dr. Simpson Flanders at Blackgate prison. He's duped by the Cypher (remember him?), along with Cluemaster, Electrocutioner and a guy named Czonk (did he used to play for the Dolphins in the 70's?) into helping them escape. Cluemaster kills Cypher during the escape.
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