Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia
Lettering by Tom Napolitano
Published by DC
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
After a decade of being one of DC’s most bankable and prolific writers, Scott Snyder’s work on Batman: Last Knight on Earth brings an excitement and enthusiasm for the DC Universe that makes it seem like it’s still his first day on the job.
Teaming up with his longtime Bat-collaborator Greg Capullo, Last Knight on Earth may be a dystopia, but that doesn’t mean it’s an unhappy one — instead, Snyder and Capullo gleefully slam together their toys in a way that feels celebratory rather than deconstructive, resulting in something that reads like a twisted take on a Silver Age storyline. While this storyline isn’t necessarily as cohesive or focused as their work elsewhere, Snyder and Capullo double down on the crazy nicely in Batman: Last Knight on Earth, delivering a wild and entertaining read.
Bringing Batman across a fractured future DC universe, you can’t help but think of books like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again, or even Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis when reading Last Knight on Earth. Like those stories before him, Snyder’s not looking to impress people with his deliberate plotting — instead, his narrative is a kaleidoscopic tour of a world gone horribly wrong, and it seems like Snyder is having a blast just throwing as many ideas at readers as possible.
It’s the kind of approach that takes years to earn, but Snyder showing a battlefield of Unknown Soldiers battling Animal Men is just a wild spectacle, as are bits like a Speed Force Tornado (comprised of Barry Allen, Bart Allen and Jay Garrick) aging everything in their path to dust. He even gets to tie off his previous runs with the Man of Steel, with a side plot featuring Lex Luthor that feels like a nod to his current Justice League work. Granted, critics might see this as indulgent, and they wouldn’t be wrong — if you’re looking for a deeper meaning, well, you’re looking in the wrong place, at least for now. But seeing the ways that Snyder remixes properties that you (and he) clearly love is what’s going to be the price of admission.
That said, Snyder is starting to get into the meat of his storyline here, featuring what’s become a staple in his recent work: alternate takes on Batman himself. But whereas The Batman Who Laughs was a simple inversion on the Batman-Joker dynamic, the new villain Omega seems to promise ties to a deeper connection in Snyder’s previous work — I usually forgo such conjecture in a review, but it’s hard not to see a connection to Bruce Wayne’s cloning machine with this new-and-“improved” Dark Knight lording over the city. A monkey’s paw clearly has nothing on a Batman’s cape and cowl.
But I’d argue that while this series is Snyder as his wildest and most playful, it’s also Capullo at his best. Teaming up with the smooth inks of inker Jonathan Glapion, Capullo seems to exude a wild glee in his redesigns for all of these characters, in particular the horrific reimaginings of Scarecrow and Bane. Because Snyder is taking a looser approach with his scripts thanks to his expanded page count, Capullo is able to have all the room he needs to really flex his muscles — but even in the more compact scenes, such as Omega’s meeting with Alfred, Capullo is really able to milk as much emotion out of his pages as they’re worth. Yet with all these new characters, Capullo still takes the time to remind us why he’s one of the seminal Bat-artists of a generation — despite all the change around him, Batman stands unchanged and unbroken, a hard and grizzled champion trying to make sense of a world gone catastrophically wrong.
That said, Batman: Last Knight on Earth is not a book that’ll appease everyone — there are going to be readers who find Snyder’s plotting too loose and perhaps even indulgent, skipping from locale to locale in a way that might be seen as disconnected from his central character. It’s not an incorrect read, but I’d argue that’s not really the point of an issue like this — Snyder and Capullo have told plenty of cohesive and tightly focused Batman stories elsewhere, so this is the story where they just get to have fun and build a crazy new world removed from the constraints of continuity and storylines elsewhere. If you read Batman: Last Knight on Earth for what it is rather than for what it isn’t, even in Gotham City’s darkest timeline, it’s hard not to find a smile creeping across your face.