Monday, December 3, 2012
Batman: Knightfall (Volume I)
DC Comics, 2012
Plot Summary: There is a new threat to Gotham City that is out to get Batman. When an explosion at Arkham Asylum results in a number of criminals breaking free, Batman has to push himself to his limits as he has to fight and recapture numerous villains one right after another. He faces the Joker, Poison Ivy, the Riddler, Scarecrow and Killer Croc plus many other minor villains as well. Unbeknownst to him, the villain responsible for the break out is Bane—a ruthless killing machine that is watching his every move and studying him. Bane is waiting for the right moment in which to approach the Batman for a final showdown. Pushed to him limits and near exhaustion, Batman and his fight with Bane results in Bane delivering a crippling blow that changed the Caped Crusader’s life forever.
Critical Evaluation: At nearly 700 full-color pages, this graphic novel collects nearly 25 issues in the first story arc originally published in 1993 that told the epic story of how Batman was paralyzed by Bane. Any comic book fan today or Batman fan needs to be introduced to this historically important comic book storyline. I love how it is full color (most of the DC’s other “Showcase” line of large reprint graphic novels are all black and white to keep the cost down—which is evident at the $30 price tag of this volume) and it brings back a lot of memories for me as I grew up as a comic book collector when this story was first published (and have the original issues in my collection). The volume starts out with the “Batman: Vengeance of Bane” special which introduces readers to the back story of Bane and how he came to be, which is sad. It allows readers to realize that Bane really isn’t a criminally mad villain but was forced that way because of the circumstances of his life. He becomes that rare sympathetic, yet evil, villain. The book shows how Bruce Wayne, of the few superheroes that doesn’t have magical powers and fights crime with his own physical limits, is pushed to his limits by fighting villain after villain and falls at the hands of Bane. As he recovers, he entrusts Robin to place Jean Paul Valley, formerly known as Azarael, in the shoes of Batman but since Jean Paul has a bad past of being brainwashed by a secret society to be the vengeful Azarael he turns the symbol of Batman from a man of justice to a mockery of pain and brutality, which leads to the story continued in the other volumes Knightquest (which focuses on Jean Paul’s reign of terror and Bruce Wayne’s absence in Gotham as he recovers) and Knightsend (in which Bruce Wayne finally comes back to reclaim the cowl from the crazy, out of control Jean Paul). Since the comics of the 1990s featured a lot of crossovers, the only downside to these volumes is that sometimes things mentioned in passing refer to issues that weren’t critical to this storyline and so readers might be like “what the heck” to mentions of these stories. Also jarring might be the constant change in writing and art styles since the issues all come from different comic book lines that had different artists and writers creating each issue. The only other thing that might be different to today’s comic book readers is the art style of the 1990s which might seem archaic compared to today’s glossy eye catching comics. However, true comic book and Batman fans can look past these issues (hey, they are teens they can easily Google for any of the missing back story information they need) and this is an important story to the history of comic books that they need to be exposed to. For three total volumes (reaching about 2,100 pages) the narrative is really engaging and it tells an excellent story in the Batman mythos that will engage readers.
Reader's Annotation: Read the pivotal story arc of the Batman mythos where Bane destroys the Batman.
Author Information: N/A (too many writers, illustrators, etc.)
Genre: Action (Graphic Novel)
Curriculum Ties: Important stories/moments in comic book history
Booktalking Ideas: The historical importance of the story arc—where Batman is paralyzed—and maybe read a few scenes of the history of Bane, which is moving and sad as he totally was a product of his environment and not just a crazy evil dude.
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14+
Challenge Issues: Violence, language, sexual images (mainly in costumes though these are much tamer than they are nowadays)
Challenge Defense: If this book were challenged, I would make sure the library has a Challenge Defense File ready for such a situation. Inside the Challenge Defense File, librarians and the public could find:
· A copy of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill)
· A copy of the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at http://www.ala.org/offices/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/freedomreadstatement)
· A copy of the library’s own selection policy (my library, the La Vista Public Library, has a policy but it is not online so I can’t link to it as an example).
· A copy of the library’s citizen’s complaint/reconsideration form (my library, the La Vista Public Library’s, form is called the City of La Vista Service Request form).
· Copies of reviews—both good and bad—from reputable library and publishing services to justify why a book was selected for inclusion in the collection. These include not only reviews from such journals as School Library Journal, VOYA, Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, but also any mention of books on YALSA lists and other copies of articles about any awards or nominations such books may have received.
· Include a short rationale file for other coworkers so if the librarian in charge of selecting materials is not available when a challenge occurs the other staff members have some information to go by (the rational would include such information as a short summary, what could be challenged, reviews, awards and nominations, etc.)
· Include for staff members a copy of “Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials,” a document written by the American Library Association. Make sure that staff reviews this document periodically so they are prepared and know how to face such situations. (Can be found and printed from ALA’s website at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/challengeslibrarymaterials/copingwithchallenges/strategiestips)
Reason for Inclusion: This historical importance of the story arc. Batman and general comic book fans will be intrigued. Also, great value for the money—three huge volumes (700+ pages each) in full color unlike many other DC and Marvel omnibus editions. Also get the other books in the trilogy—Knightquest and Knightsend. Would also recommend the purchase of the anniversary edition of A Death in the Family, in which readers actually voted for the Joker to kill off Jason Todd, the current Robin. What may be confusing to some readers reading Knightfall is why Batman is already so defeated and worn down. The reason, which isn’t explained well due to the collective nature of the volumes, is because of Robin’s death so this volume is kind of a prequel to the Knightfall story arc.