By Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, FCO Plascencia & Tom Napolitano
The latest vision of a nightmarish, Mad Max: Fury Road-esque Old Man Batman dystopian future opens after a short prologue with Bruce Wayne in a hospital having just woken up and people treating him as though he is clinically insane. The book is split between two halves, one with Bruce roaming the desert looking for answers about what happened to the world and how it died, and the other trapped in the confines of the asylum. Familiar faces are joined along the way that help give this book all the look and feel of the latest epic from Snyder and Capullo, with Snyder knowing how to tell stories and being able to weave them well, like the best of them. It’s no coincidence that his run on Batman was widely regarded as one of the best of the New 52 and The Last Knight on Earth lives up to that quality.
Whilst this book is not canon like everything under the Black Label, the books origins lie in Snyder’s previous Batman and Justice League work but without the confines of having to play by restrictions. Snyder and Capullo have a whole playground to work with here and the split between exposition to let Bruce and the reader know what happened is tampered by the sheer curiosity of the world building at hand. Part of the mystery is not knowing as much as we do – the audience is kept as in the dark as Batman and we’re finding out what happens next at the same time as he does. The book plays tribute to the fan theory that Batman’s Rogues gallery is just a figment of his imagination and he’s been in an insane asylum all this time and it has a call-back to that Buffy episode, Normal Again, which played with this in the past.
Capullo’s artwork is as brilliant as ever and he really captures the look and feel of this world. Any scene between Bruce and Alfred is made all the more heart-breaking thanks to Capullo’s artwork which captures the mood perfectly, and the creativity with some of the post-apocalyptic costumes of the few members of the Justice League that have survived the end of the world is one of the series’ biggest strengths. Superman’s absence and the possibility of a return is explained and teased, and whilst justification for the heroes losing and the world going mad is kind of thin at this point, it wouldn’t take much of a leap to suggest that more explanation is to come in the future. And even if it doesn’t, do we need that much of an excuse to explore a dystopian future where Batman is Mad Max and Old Man Logan at the same time, carrying around a decapitated and talking head of the Joker with him? It’s a premise that screams ‘must read’ regardless of what you read Batman comics for.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth then is a flat-out masterpiece that hits the ground running in the best way possible. With the help of Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia on inks and colours respectively aided by Tom Napolitano’s letters – which look incredibly slick and dynamic especially in the book’s opening chapter – the prologue before the asylum – the book transforms everything that we know about the DC Universe into a believable alternate reality where anything could happen. And that alone should be enough of an intrigue to get readers interested in what happens next.