By Joe Strange
Batman is by and large the most popular DC superhero; he’s not overpowered and ridiculous like Superman and many of the other cosmic scale DC heroes, and while he, like Green Arrow, is based somewhat off of a famous figure (Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest detective) he doesn’t patrol his city in a deer stalking and pipe.
I know, Green Arrow doesn’t wear that silly green hat so much any more, still wears a hood though. and he’s one bad wash away from being little pink riding hood.
Batman is human. Sure, he’s a billionaire, close combat master and a tactical genius, but he’s still human. He’s also a complete badass and the goddamn Batman. He also has some of the most iconic villains in comics, which makes his conflicts even better.
Anyway, it’s because of the Bat’s popularity that this week’s Watch List is the 2008 animated anthology Batman: Gotham Knight.
Sitting pretty at an hour and a quarter, it’s a really short collection of stories about Batman, and the myth and legend surrounding him, as well as some more insight into the character of Bruce Wayne.
The collection was originally meant to be set between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and though it’s not canon, the atmosphere of the stories is very inkeeping with that of the Nolanverse, even if some stories do approach some of the less realistic villains like Killer Croc, (Side Note: how cool would it have been to see Nolan’s take on Croc?)
Each of the six stories is done in a different art style, those who have seen the Animatrix will know what to expect on that front, but there is some consistency, the voice of Batman is constant throughout, Kevin Conroy does an excellent job as both Mr Wayne and Batman, and each tackles a different side of the Batman.
The first, Have I got a Story for you? is possibly my favourite, it follows four kids, three of which all had a separate encounter with Batman that day, the twist is that they each see him differently, one as a shadow creature, able to disappear at will, one as a combat robot and one as a hideous Man-bat. This one really focuses on the mystery surrounding Batman, and helps to give a more civilian interpretation of the vigilante, as well as having fun with kids’ habit of over exaggerating for effect.
Crossfire is next, this one is told from the point of view of two of Gotham City’s finest. We’ve no reason to believe that these two cops are crooked, and they’ve been picked by Gordon to be in the MCU (Major Crimes Unity, not Marvel Cinematic Universe). The two officers have differing views on the Batman, one sees him as a force for good, while the other only sees him as a vigilante, who should be helping in more orthadox ways. When the two cops get caught in a gang war, and are saved by the Batman, the latter sees him as a hero, and Batman is comforted, saying that he can see why Gordon picked them to be close to him.
Next up is Field Test, this is the first one that deals with Batman personally; after a brainwave Lucius Fox gives Bruce a strong electromagnet, capable of repelling bullets to an extent. After an incident with a bystander, Bruce announces that he’s willing to put his life on the line, but only his, and hands the device back. It shows off how seriously Bats takes his mission, especially his no kill rule, at a huge risk to himself.
In Darkness Dwells is a familiar-ish story that focusses on fear toxin and the like, a Cardinal is abducted from church Batman pursues the kidnapper into the sewers where he happens across Killer Croc who’s been afflicted by Scarecrow’s fear toxin. Batman defeats him but is affected by the toxin himself, we then see him struggling against that to complete his mission. It’s a more straight forward story, and in my opinion, not one of the best in the collection.
Working Through Pain is particularly good one for those who are fans of Batman’s humanity. Following on from In Darkness Dwells, Batman has a run in with a crazed gunman in the sewers, who shoots Batman out of terror. The subsequent story reflects on Batman’s training to understand and control pain, while he travelled the world. It’s a great look at how Batman became the controlled master of will he is in the present.
The final story is Deadshot, and is, unsurprisingly about the appearance of the infamous assassin. This one, as well as being a great action piece, questions the reasons why Bruce is the Batman, and what his purpose truly is.
The best thing about Gotham Knight is the brevity, each story is 10-15 minutes each, so if you don’t get on with one, it’s not much of a loss. The short stories are very similar to single issue comics, and make for great, broken up viewing, I myself watched the film in four different sittings.
Basically, if you like Batman, and would like to experience more of the Dark Knight, as well as seeing some really cool and interesting art styles and some great stories, it’s definitely worth a watch.