Legends of the Dark Knight #63 (KnightsEnd part 10)
The Conclusion! Azrael and Batman try to talk it out, but Az grabs the painting of Thomas Wayne and smashes it over his knee, a la Bane. Azrael runs down int the Bat-cave, but it's suddenly booby-trapped and only accessible from the usual method of going behind the big wall clock--- despite the fact that we saw no clock and the area only covered by smashed bricks in THIS ENTIRE STORY ARC.
Batman enters the Bat-cave another way-- he remembers the tiny hole he fell into, as a kid (recreated in the opening of "Batman Begins"). He sneaks in that way and confronts Azrael, again. Batman goads him on, getting him to follow him back into the small crevice. Azrael has no choice but to remove his bulky armor, so he can get closer.
Batman lures him in and then, opens the hatch to the outside. Light comes pouring in (remember: "only light can cure the darkness"). Azrael is blinded and suddenly realizes he is not Batman. Bruce and Azrael then have a bonding moment and all is (mostly) forgiven. Bruce lets Jean-Paul walk away, saying they've both "been in the darkness too long". Bruce heads towards Wayne Manor as "today he walks in the sunlight".
People were PISSED about this ending, but it works. Azrael was full-force frontal assaults, bigger guns, bigger weapons, bigger everything. Batman beat him with what he's really known for: his planning and wits. Just beating Jean-Paul to a pulp would not have been appropriate for Batman. He's not about "vengeance" or "punishment". He's about "justice" and trying to be fair. During "KnightsEnd", he realized Jean-Paul's messed up and that he needs help, not punishment. He'll actually get it, now.
Some of the themes of how you can't go EXTREME and fight fire with fire would be used again in "Kingdom Come" in 1996; only applied to all of DC's characters.
I noticed that they let Denny O'Neil (longtime "Batgroup Editor") write this story, which was significant. I've said it before, but he really understood the character of Batman. The titles lose quite a bit when he leaves, circa 2000. I don't usually teabag creative staff, but whenever someone asks me: "well how would YOU fix Batman, jackass?" I always say: "get Denny O'Neil back in there".
My only gripe was that Bane was not involved, aside from the one-page cameo which was never followed-up on. I realize now, it would've been too tidy if Bane had been included and EVERYTHING was wrapped up. DC would continue to tease us with Batman vs. Bane for the next few years. I think they had originally planned to use him in KnightsEnd, as the rematch keeps getting pushed off. They never really have a direct one-on-one rematch. Closest thing is maybe "Legacy" in the summer of 1996.
This starts a new era of, well, happiness for Batman. There's a tease in this LOTDK issue that they'll be using the old 50's Batmobile for awhile. Biggest (and coolest) thing is that Bruce takes some time off and hands the role over to Nightwing. Yes, "Nightwing as Batman". Fans finally get what they want in the resulting "Prodigal" storyline, which lasts about three months. The story itself isn't too amazing, but it's such a high to know that Master Dick IS Batman (kinda' funny how his lengthy stint in "Teen Titans/New Titans" turned out to be a whole lotta' nothin', in the end).
Azrael is initially sent to comic book limbo, but gets his own ongoing series in the middle of 1995. He's given Bruce Wayne's backing and sets off to find out the Order of St. Dumas. As a straight-up superhero comic, it kinda' sucks, but as a weird globetrotting near-fantasy adventure, it works.
Nightwing gets his own mini-series in 1995, then his own ongoing series in 1996. There's also a 1995 one-shot called: "Nightwing: Alfred's Return" which does exactly that-- Nightwing goes to England and gets Alfred to come back.
I have a few more "KnightsEnd: Aftermath" issues to babble about, but this is essentially the END of the "Knights Saga". I'll say it: Best. 90's. Crossover. Ever.
Very entertaining and, at times, thought provoking comics that ask you: "just what should the superhero genre be about"? If you've read a good sample of DC and Marvel comics from the 60's to 90's, I definitely recommend these. Understanding what was going on in the comic world in the early 90's makes these all the better.