Read the first harrowing chapter of epic comic Batman: The Last Knight on Earth for free
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo aren’t finished with Batman yet. The writer/artist duo first took on the Dark Knight in a beloved five-year run on the flagship Batman comic that became the main highlight of DC’s controversial “New 52” relaunch period. Even after that epic story concluded, Snyder and Capullo teamed up again for Dark Nights: Metal, a universe-changing event series that pit Batman and the rest of the DC pantheon against a bunch of monsters that look like they popped right off heavy metal album covers; in the process, they introduced the Batman Who Laughs, who has quickly become one of the DC Universe’s primary mega-villains. A follow-up to that series, titled Dark Nights: Death Metal, is currently in the works. But in the meantime, Snyder and Capullo teamed up for one more solo Batman story, Batman: The Last Knight On Earth. Originally released as three super-sized issues from DC’s Black Label imprint, The Last Knight on Earth hits stores in collected edition this week, and you can read the first chapter of the story here from EW.
Well okay, The Last Knight On Earth isn’t just “a” solo Batman story. It’s the solo Batman story — the endpoint to Snyder and Capullo’s version of the character. Set decades in the future, where the DC world has degenerated into a post-apocalyptic landscape, it follows the Dark Knight at the end of all hope.
"It was always kind of the end of our Batman’s mythology. I thought of it back when we were doing Zero Year, which was our retelling of Batman’s origin," Snyder tells EW. "When we started on Batman I was so nervous, because he’s my favorite character and I was still pretty green. I happened to bump into Grant Morrison at San Diego Comic Con, and he saw how scared I was. His advice was, 'in order to make Batman your own, create a birth and a death for your version -- or a beginning and end at least.' Zero Year was the beginning, a retelling of that origin in a way that was about things I wanted him to address for my kids, from super-storms to gun violence and terrorism; all these things that were marked in crazy comic costumes, with the Riddler and the Red Hood Gang, but were actual fears that I have for my kids. And then the end was going to be this story, that showed what happens if Batman is wrong about people. What if the heroism he sees in us isn’t really there, and at the first chance we would side with the villains if things really got bad? My hope was we would get to do it in the series, but Greg and I decided we had done so much Batman that we needed some time away. He did Reborn with Mark Millar, and I went and started on Justice League, but my hope was we could get back together and do it sometime. So when Black Label started as an imprint, I just knew it was the right format for it. To be able to do stuff that was a little more unleashed, a little outside the month-to-month grind we were on with Batman, that could give us more time do something really special."
Before the story’s post-apocalyptic nature kicks in, though, we get a very harrowing sequence in which Bruce Wayne is tricked into thinking he’s a patient at Arkham Asylum, and moreover always has been. His Batman cowl was just an electro-shock bridle, he’s told, and all his “villains” were just orderlies, doctors, and nurses tending to his delusion after he (not Joe Chill or the Joker or anyone else) killed his parents in Crime Alley. The implications are as disturbing as any of the outrageous visuals in Metal.
"The idea that Batman is crazy, and he’s always been the one in Arkham, and this whole Batman thing is a delusion he’s created to shield himself from the truth, is the argument that Batman was always this fallacy," Snyder says. "In the present-day comic and all throughout our run, there’s a futility to being Batman. You can’t save everybody, your body is mortal, Batman is impossible to maintain. You might have a good night, but Batman is doomed. The thing that makes him special is he’s human, he's fallible, but that’s also what dooms him; he’ll never be able to achieve what he wants to achieve. That to me is a lot of the human condition, which is why he’s such a rich hero. Here, showing him as the crazy one cuts to the heart of things we were trying to explore in our run, because there is some lunacy not only to the idea of dressing up like a bat and all that stuff, but that you can inspire people to be better than you’re supposed to be. If you’re gonna go out there every night and make your body the sacrifice to the city to say 'I believe in you,' there’s a ridiculousness to that and deep down a worry that it’s a pointless, futile act. That’s what the villains of the story, and even Alfred, are telling him: You did this for years and it didn’t work, nobody showed up for you. They’re not who you thought they were, and so you’re the crazy one, you’re the one who belonged in the asylum all along."
Capullo adds, "The most fun bit of that was when Scott had written that he’s feeling along the rubber walls of the padded cell, finds the tear there, and pulls out the dinosaur and the penny. I love that scene so much. I added him smashing his head and biting the cushions. I’m just thinking of a descent into madness; I was picturing myself there and I’d definitely be biting the cushions. It’s lots of fun to draw that stuff. Scott always gives me great scenes that spark my imagination, so I just try to amplify whatever he gives me. That for me was one of the most fun scenes I had in there."
With everyone stuck at home during quarantine, reading good comics feels like a better use of time than ever. As we did with Dark Horse's No One Left to Fight last month, EW has made the first chapter of Batman: The Last Knight on Earth free to read here. Check it out below. If you want more, the collected edition is available now from booksellers.