By Alex Batts — A few months back I wrote a piece talking about my hype for Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathon Glapion, and FCO Plascencia’s then-unreleased Batman: Last Knight on Earth. We're now two issues in, and the series has exceeded my high expectations. Snyder has said often in interviews that advice Grant Morrison gave him about Batman has stuck with him: give his Batman a beginning and an end. If Zero Year was the beginning, Last Knight on Earth is the end, and this outstanding creative team is pulling no punches for its conclusion.
Releasing under DC’s Black Label imprint, the confines of continuity are cast aside, giving these creators free reign to do what they want with Batman and the entire DC Universe. We got a taste of the magnitude of this story with the first issue, but issue two puts into perspective how vast and epic this story truly is. Normally in my reviews I like to go through the issue and talk about pretty much all of the things that happen, but since this book is longer than a standard issue (50 pages) and those 50 pages are packed with story, I’m going to take a slightly different approach. To avoid this review reaching 3,000 words (that length is reserved for an inevitable analysis piece on this series), I’m going to brush on the main plot points and hone in on a few specific details.
At the end of the first issue we see Bruce walking through the desert, out to find help in a world that we’ve been told was destroyed. We were told a story by Wonder Woman, holding Bruce partly responsible, for believing in people to do the right thing, resulting in much of the Justice League being murdered by mobs. We also learned that this Bruce is not the original Batman, but a clone from a machine Batman created (this idea was first established in a short story Snyder wrote in the back of the Detective Comics #27 re-release for Batman’s 75th anniversary, and was expanded upon at the end of Snyder’s Batman run).
The opening of this issue begins much like the first one, with Batman investigating the case regarding the dead young boy he came across at the start of Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1. In that issue we see the boy kill him, and then Batman wakes up in Arkham Asylum, which we later discover is just an elaborate ruse constructed by Alfred to try to get Bruce to give up being Batman and prevent him from facing the destroyed world outside. In this issue, Batman confronts Joe Chill in an apartment, interrogating him about the boy in Crime Alley.
“You, or the new one?” Chill remarks snidely. Their entire interaction is chilling, terrifying, and extremely cryptic. There must be more to Batman’s death in Crime Alley, but we just can’t see the full picture yet. The scene ends with Batman jolting awake in the desert next to Joker’s head in a lamppost, which is where we left off last time.
Batman’s objective here is to reach the Plains of Solitude, where he will hopefully find Superman. As Batman and Joker trek across the country, we get glimpses of the war that has ravaged the planet. There are speed force storms, plains of Animal Men and soldiers at war, the Green and Red at odds, there’s an imp deathground, a graveyard of otherworldly machines that tried to help, god engines and zeta canons, Thanagarian, Tameranean, Coluan, and more have ships scattered across the grass, leaking stardust. The war involved nearly every party in the vast DC Universe at some point or another, and the good guys clearly lost.
Intercut with their journey is a scene of Alfred in Gotham, where he’s confronted by distorted (or enhanced) versions of Scarecrow and Bane. Scarecrow drugs him, and a man in a Batsuit with red accents approaches. It’s Omega, and he controls the anti-life equation. As he approaches Scarecrow and Bane bow, reciting “Hail, Omega.” Alfred reacts as though he knows who this is, saying “After everything he meant to y-“, before being cut off. Omega puts Alfred to sleep and that’s the last we see of the series’ villain for now.
Batman and Joker finally reach the Plains of Solitude and find a Superman. This Superman isn’t the one we know, though. He’s a machine made by Lex Luthor, who greets Batman and explains how the world ended. Luthor says one morning he simply challenged Superman to a debate in front of the world. A debate of good versus evil, and whoever the people chose would live, the other would die. Luthor remembers how grand Superman’s speech was, and that no matter how hard he tried, they both knew Superman won. But the people chose doom, and Superman died. Luthor rambles about the people turning on the villains too, and the subsequent destruction of the world.
The idea that Luthor got what he wanted—Superman dying, the world turning to doom—yet all Luthor spends his time doing is searching for a way to bring Superman back, is so compelling. It shows how connected Superman and Lex are, and that the adage, “Be careful what you wish for” rings true, even for supervillains. The Justice vs. Doom debate is also a nice tie-in to the story Snyder is telling in his Justice League run.
During Lex’s rants about reviving Superman, one of the Super clones attacks. Scarecrow and Bane break into the barn Lex lives in. Scarecrow has drugged all the Superman clones, and they’re to bring Batman to Omega. Scarecrow speaks of Omega as a god Batman has angered. When all seems lost, Wonder Woman enters and brutally wrecks one of the clones, but there are too many, so they make a quick escape. Batman and Wonder Woman flee through the cape and cowl of The Spectre, travelling through Limbo on the river of the dead.
During this ride, Batman asks about Omega and says he feels connected to him. That it’s either a clone of him, someone he trained, or someone he made. It’s someone he feels responsible for, but Wonder Woman responds that no one knows who it is. In one of the best moments in the issue, Batman is doubting that he’s doing the right thing. He ponders if the world doesn’t want to go back to the way it was, and that maybe he’ll get everyone killed. Wonder Woman jokes that he probably will, after all he’s the one who held the door (to the Hall of Justice) open that one time (for the mobs). Batman, irritated, asks why she would follow him. Wonder Woman responds, “Because you’re the one who held the door open that one time.”
This exchange highlights the best of Batman. Bruce doubts himself, but he’ll never doubt people’s capacity for good. No matter how intimidating, scary, paranoid, and prepared he is, Batman always wants to believe that given the choice people will do the right thing. This is one of the reasons the greatest heroes on the planet respect and follow him. As dark and brooding as Batman is, he has an immeasurable capacity for hope. After all, if he doesn’t, why does he fight?
Wonder Woman and Batman eventually make it to Gotham. Upon arrival, Batman can’t believe his eyes. The city is completely under Omega’s control, with his Anti-Life signal (which is present on each of the chapter title pages of the series) shining over the city. The symbol is a Bat symbol turned into the Omega symbol—exactly as awesome and terrifyingly-epic as it sounds. As the two make their way through the city they’re ambushed by The Court of Owls. I have to admit: I had the ultimate fanboy moment here. The Owls are one of the biggest and best things Snyder and Capullo have added to the Batman mythos, so it’s only fitting they appear in the duo’s final Batman story. We’re then treated with a final page splash, a shocking reveal of who is leading them, and while I’ll refrain from spoiling it, it is game-changing to say the least.
I’ve gone through this review without mentioning art for the sole purpose of hitting the main narrative points quickly, but the art elevates this book to an absurdly high level. Capullo, Glapion, and FCO appear to have hit some new stratosphere of unbelievable artwork. They’re an all-time favorite Bat-team for me, and they’re currently producing their best work for the character. The speed force storms are mesmerizing, the Plains of Solitude bleak and grand, the group shot of the heroes of the DC Universe in Limbo breathtaking, and, of course, seeing them render Batman in the Rebirth suit designed by Capullo is nothing short of amazing.
There’s one splash page with Batman and Superman that’s reminiscent of one of the most iconic moments from Crisis on Infinite Earths, and my jaw dropped when I saw it. The action is brutal, masterfully-composed, inked to perfection, and the colors leap off the page. The art pulls everything together and sets the tone for the series. While this may be the last time we see this team working together on a Batman title, they’re certainly not going to let us forget it.
There’s a lot to unpack with this series. The depth of worldbuilding Snyder has achieved in just two issues (albeit extra-sized) is astounding. There are so many questions, and answers that lead to more questions. The entire DC Universe is involved in some capacity, and while it’s a grandiose story in scope, it remains at its core a Batman detective story. Who is Omega? How is he connected to Bruce? Is this all really happening? How long has the world been like this? Is this the first clone of Bruce? How will we find a resolution? These questions have me re-reading both issues, which is a testament to the strength of these creators.
Overall: Last Knight on Earth #2 ups the ante and expands upon the debut issue. An intricately-woven and daringly-epic tale involving Batman and a DCU apocalypse, this book perfectly balances mystery and insanity, all while featuring top-tier artwork. 10/10
Batman: Last Knight on Earth #2
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Publisher: DC Comics - Black Label
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Alex Batts is from Texas. A lifelong comic book enthusiast and movie lover, if he’s not talking about comics, he’s probably not talking. You can find him on Twitter by following @BatmanFiles