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Comic Book: Knightfall
"All very interesting, gentlemen - one man fighting another over the right to repeatedly risk his life attired like a bat..."
Some random crime boss, Batman #510, summing up the climax of the arc.

Around the time of The Death of Superman, DC started publishing Knightfall, a Bat Family Crossover featured in Detective Comics, Batman, and other related DC titles in the early 1990s. DC wanted to replace the aging Bruce Wayne as Batman, so it drew up a storyline wherein Batman would face each of his major foes one last time before bowing out. The prelude to the storyline took place from September 1992 to February 1993 and focused on introducing several new players in Gotham City and showing the mental state of Bruce Wayne. The main storyline took place from April 1993 to August 1994, and follow-up storylines lasted from August 1994 to February 1995.

The storyline truly begins with the introduction of Jean-Paul Valley, a blond haired ‹bermensch (code-named Azrael) trained to serve as a killing machine by The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. Batman and Robin tried, with some success, to undo the brainwashing he suffered at the hands of the Order (called "The System"). Jean-Paul stayed on the sidelines during the prelude, but popped in now and again to remind readers he existed.

DC then introduced readers to Bane. Born and raised in a prison, the super-intelligent Bane underwent experiments to turn him into a Super Soldier — and while they worked, they also made him dependent on the drug known as Venom to achieve his full physical potential. Once he escapes from his "home", he makes it his goal to rule Gotham City, but to achieve his goal, he must dethrone Gotham's "king": The Batman.

Shortly after The Death of Superman, Batman starts breaking down. He starts losing his edge when he becomes unable to meditate and unwilling to rest. Bane watches from a distance as Batman begins to undermine himself, then decides to up the ante by interfering a bit more directly (he sends both Killer Croc and a Venom-enhanced Riddler after the hero). His big move — the moment the excrement impacts the rotating device — comes when he busts open Arkham Asylum and gives the escaping inmates enough weapons and supplies to wreak havoc all over Gotham. Batman, suffering from both the flu and sleep deprivation, forces himself to find and take down almost every last escapee.

Batman manages to take down most of his major foes in quick order before they can cause too much damage (some of the more obscure ones don't get captured, and Two-Face doesn't even make an appearance in the first arc, publication-speaking-wise), but doing so takes its toll on the Caped Crusader. After The Joker and Scarecrow push him to his limits, Batman returns home to finally rest his weary body. When he arrives home, however, he finds Alfred lying on the floor and Bane standing over him. Thanks to Batman's exhausted physical state, Bane wipes the floor with Bruce in a mostly one-sided fight — which culminates in Bane lifting Batman above his head before bringing him down on his knee to break Batman's spine.

While Bruce lives, he can no longer assume the role of Batman, so Bruce tells Jean-Paul to assume the role of The Batman — Gotham still needs its protector, after all — while forbidding Valley from directly confronting Bane. Az-Bats does a serviceable job as Batman (though he keeps Robin sidelined), but after being exposed to Scarecrow's fear toxin, "The System" kicks in to "protect" Jean-Paul, and he begins to lose control and become more brutal in his confrontations with criminals. He also starts re-designing the Batsuit, first by adding clawed mechanical gloves armed with mini batarangs. He later bemoans his inability to fly and lack of protection against projectiles after a fight with Bane.

Commissioner Gordon becomes suspicious of Az-Bats (who he doesn't know has replaced the real Batman) when he fails, to, well, pull a Batman on him after they talk. Gordon's suspicions grow when the newly armored Batman fights Bane once again, but seemingly with the intent to kill him. Commissioner Gordon begins to order his men to fire upon the "fake" Batman, but when Az-Bats spares Bane's life, Gordon spares Az-Bats'.

Between Az-Bats losing his grip and the general Fan Backlash over Az-Bats, a healed Bruce Wayne eventually retakes the mantle of the Bat — forcibly, of course, and mostly by outsmarting his mentally unstable protege.

These days, everybody involved says DC planned the whole thing from the start to stick it to readers clamouring for a Darker and Edgier Batman. True? Who knows?

See also Batman Doom, a Doom Game Mod loosely based on the Knightfall plot arc.

Knightfall contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Distillation / Pragmatic Adaptation: Given the sheer amount of material he had to work with, the Dennis O'Neil novelization managed to do a pretty good job condensing the storylines.
    • There was also a pretty good BBC Radio drama of the arc, which made it understandable even to people who weren't familiar with the comic storyline. Heck, it even managed to work in the Crusade sub-arc.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: A large portion of Detective Comics #660 takes place in one.
  • Abusive Parents: Shondra Kinsolving's foster father, a BRUTAL racist (but with the public appearance of a kind, generous pillar of the community), actually adopted her just so he could beat her.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Az-Bats uses one to ambush his foes.
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: Bane's Venom switch
  • Anti-Hero
  • Anti-Villain: Clayface III and his wife, Lady Clay.
    • Trogg, whose only real crime was killing a corrupt cop for raping his wife.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: For some reason, the ears on Batman's costume in the covers for this arc, but not in the actual comics, are about two feet long.
    • It's a staple of Kelley Jones' (the cover artist) drawings of Batman. Once Jones also starts doing interior art in the mid-to-late 90s, Batman gets two-foot long ears in the comics themselves as well.
    • In-Universe: Jean Paul notes the cape of the traditional Batsuit just kills momentum, a flaw that almost killed him and inspired him to alter the cape. It's later commented that all the armor Jean Paul added to his version of the costume, while useful, makes him slow and unable to maneuver tight spaces.
  • Ax-Crazy: At least half the parties involved in the crossover. Joker, Az-Bats, etc. One story that takes place during this crossover is even titled "Murdering Maniaxe".
  • Back from the Dead: Mr. Freeze was brought back to life during this arc, having been killed off beforehand in the Robin II: The Joker's Wild mini-series. His death was handwaved by explaining that there had been a failsafe feature in his suit when Joker "killed" him. This was because he had been recently revamped in Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Badass: Multiple examples:
    • Police officer Renee Montoya breaks into the Bates School For Girls and attempts to apprehend Zsasz all by herself (as described in more detail below).
    • Killer Croc picks a fight with Bane while nursing two broken arms (!) and actually manages to hold his own for a while.
    • The Riddler straps a (fake) bomb to his waist and takes an entire TV talk show hostage all by his lonesome - just so he can have a platform to broadcast his riddles to Gotham City's viewers.
    • Bane has men with guns kidnap Catwoman and Leopold and haul them before him, whereupon he threateningly asks Catwoman if she will be willing to work for him. "No," she tells him. "But I will work with you."
  • Bald of Evil: Zombie, arguably the creepiest of Bane's Quirky Miniboss Squad.
  • Banana Republic: Santa Prisca, Bane's homeland.
  • Bat Family Crossover
  • Bedlam House: Though Arkham Asylum doesn't exactly get a lot of screen time in the story, Jeremiah Arkham himself (the place's director) gives it this flattering description:
    "The incessant laughter alone, echoing through the dark steel corridors, is enough to make one doubt the very existence of sanity. Add to that all the shrieks and whimpers, the snarls and whispers, all the cunning and drool-garbed incantations of paranoia and revenge, and one sees that this is NOT, in fact, an ASYLUM. It is, simply and unarguably, a MADHOUSE."
  • Berserk Button: Batman's, as mentioned below, is reliving the death of Jason Todd. Az-Bats is also pretty pissed off when Nightwing yells that he'll always be inferior to Bruce as Batman.
  • Body Horror: Clayface III's condition, which forces him to stay inside a containment suit at all times. Also, Deke Mitchell AKA The Corrosive Man, whose skin literally exudes powerful acid. Which he can feel every second.
  • Bottled Villainous Reserve
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Scarecrow, disguised as a college professor, brainwashes half a dozen teenagers into becoming his loyal henchmen using a combination of fear gas and virtual reality helmets. How crazy are they? One of them doesn't hesitate to kill another student when commanded to, and yet another one (the only one who demonstrates awareness that he is being controlled, but cannot help it) is told to jump off a roof, which he does (Anarky saves him, though).
    • Jean-Paul Valley fits under this as well, especially towards the end of the arc.
    • Mad Hatter and Poison Ivy also both utilize these as henchmen at points in the arc.
  • Breaking Out the Boss: The entire violent psycho wing of Arkham; Bane's minions.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Sorta; the good guys wear black arm badges with Superman's "S" shield in memory of Superman, who had just died.
  • Breaking Speech: Zsasz gives this to Batman during their fight. Batman, already exhausted both physically and mentally, snaps when he suggests that they are Not So Different, and almost beats the guy to death.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: Az-Bats' first encounter with Abattoir involves a literal school bus of innocent children.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Nightwing to Batman after he reclaims the cowl, for not calling for (Nightwing's) help, for letting a non-Batfamily member be Batman, and for leaving Tim Drake (Robin) with a complete headcase who might have killed him.
  • Cardboard Prison: Excusable in this case, since Bane had attacked Arkham with a small country's worth of firepower.
  • Cool Car: In addition to the Batmobile, this arc introduced the 90's-tastic Subway Rocket - a bulletproof, streamlined monster that can go to 200 MPH in seconds and do 180-degree turns on a dime.
    • Cool Train: The Subway Rocket doubles as one of these.
  • Covers Always Lie: A bit of a variation here, but the "next issue" tag at the end of Batman #491 bills Scarecrow in Batman #492, the first "official" part of Knightfall. Scarecrow doesn't appear anywhere in said comic except on the Batcomputer's list of escapees, and the villain that Batman faces in it is, in fact, Mad Hatter.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Paul is Genre Savvy enough to fully expects Cassius Clay Payne, the son of Clayface 3 and Lady Clayface, to return as a villain when he grows up. He's right, and Cass eventually returns as Clayface 5.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Batman (Bruce) vs. Bane.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Shondra's healing power. When employed Up to Eleven, it actually kills by sending the body into system shutdown as too much healing occurs.
  • Cycle of Revenge: What Bruce was HOPING to avoid by not having Nightwing be Batman. Oops.
  • Damsel in Distress: Many, including Mayor Krol, Shondra Kinsolving & Jack Drake, etc. Invoked by The Joker during Az-Bats' stint as protector of Gotham, where he actually HIRES a college-age girl to act this part for Az-Bats. It almost works, too.
  • Death by Irony: Leopold, Catwoman's assistant, thinks that Smoking Is Glamorous and part of his charm. Catwoman told him he has no charm, and that some day smoking would kill him. Then she had an adventure in Santa Prisca, and Bane was already defeated and jailed when she returned. She sent Leopold to visit Bane and tell him some unpleasant things she discovered. While talking, Leopold took a cigarette and began to smoke... and Bane, who does not like the smoke, killed him. Leopold, Leopold... didn't Catwoman tell you that smoking would kill you?
  • Death by Secret Identity: Benedict and his Dragon learn Bruce's identity. Both die. Shondra Kinsolving reverts to childhood.
    • Averted with Bane.
  • Death Trap: Several, though the one built by Abattoir is the most disturbing.
  • Deconstructed Trope: You wanted a Darker and Edgier mainstream Batman? You got it. Enjoy your psychopath.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Look, no one's denying that Bane had a nightmarish childhood: growing up in prison, seeing his mother get raped (to death!), getting knocked into a coma for an entire month, doing solitary in a pit full of seawater and rats, being forced to fight other inmates night after night, and finally being unwillingly injected with "Venom" in an unbelievably cruel For Science! experiment that the doctors are almost certain will kill him. But are we to believe that he'd truly want to go to all the trouble of breaking out of prison, traveling to a foreign city he's barely even heard of, and concocting an elaborate scheme to physically and psychologically break down a man he's never met all because that man wears a costume that makes him look like a creature that terrified Bane in nightmares when he was a boy? And just so he could beat the biggest, baddest dude in Gotham, because he could never beat the bat in his dreams.
    • It's rather astonishing that there was never a retcon that had otherworldly forces of some kind be behind Bane's dreams and what they led to: It almost comes off as the universe purposely making a man to destroy Batman otherwise.
      • Bane's entire life has been shaped by this as well. His entire childhood was spent in prison because of a crime his father committed before Bane was even alive.
  • Dumb Muscle: Played straight by Amygdala. Killer Croc is pretty dumb but has the cunning to break Bane's injection button during their fight, putting them on equal footing.
  • Easter Egg: A quick eye will spot writer Doug Moench and artist Norm Breyfogle (who had contributed massively to the arc) amongst the Batcomputer's list of escapees from Arkham Asylum.
  • Einstein Hair: The Mad Hatter - which is fitting, considering that he's mad and is a master of electronic mind-manipulation.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Director. Joker. OM NOM NOM.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Mad Hatter's chimpanzee (eh, close enough) actually took down a trained and highly dangerous falcon.
    • And a frightened monkey keeps Batman company as he rests following his capture of Firefly at the Gotham Zoo.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Well, more like Anti-hero, but mweh.
  • Expy: During the aftermath of while Azrael is filling in for Bruce as Batman, Jean-Paul's darker and edgier (and crazy) version of The Dark Knight starts off as a commentary on comics of the time, but slowly he explicitly becomes Frank Miller's Dark Knight, cemented when Jean-Paul makes himself gauntlets with metal claws.
  • Fanservice: Zsasz infiltrates the Bates School For Girls in the middle of the night, so all his potential victims are wearing skimpy nighties and undies.
  • Faux Action Girl: Officer Renee Montoya. She sneaks into the Bates School For Girls (undeniably gutsy, especially since another police officer and a SWAT team member have already been butchered by Zsasz for daring to do so) and tries to capture Zsasz all by herself. Only Zsasz ends up taking her hostage, too, and only Batman's intervention saves her from getting her throat slit.
    • Batman's arrival only stalls things. Montoya ultimately frees herself from Zsasz's grip with a headbutt.
  • Flash Back: Classic-Bats' entire fight with Two-Face is told this way, as the writers apparently forgot (or didn't have the room) to show Two-Face in "present time" before they had Batman face Bane.
  • Follow the Leader: Coming on the heels of The Death of Superman arc, one could see Knightfall as DC Comics' attempt to continue pulling in revenue during what was a boom period of Comic Book readership by making drastic changes to an iconic character.
  • From Bad to Worse: In Part 3 of Knightfall, Batman walks away from stopping Zsasz looking physically and mentally exhausted. And by this point, he only put away two others before him - Mad Hatter and Amygdala. It gets worse from that point - kicking Poison Ivy in spite, driven to the same mental exhaustion after stopping Firefly and the long gauntlet of the Joker, Scarecrow and Bane's goons would be the finishing touches.
  • Freudian Excuse: Quite a few: Garfield Lynns (The Firefly) and his sister were put in a foster home at a very young age. Harvey Dent (Two-Face) was abused as a child. Bane and his mother were imprisoned for a crime his father had committed, and during that time Bane was subjected to a cruel medical experiment. However, Batman does not buy into the trope: "A tortured childhood is no excuse for being a monster. I know."
  • General Ripper: Mayor Krol is a very mild version of this; instead of the normal "they're just misunderstood people" Gotham bureaucrats, he flat-out tells Gordon that if his men want to minimize casualties, they should shoot to kill.
    • Strawman Has a Point: He did get elected on a strong law-and-order platform, and he points out that hundreds of Gothamites will die at the hands of serial killers if Gordon's men don't employ lethal force.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Bane started out as this, (though he did at least get an issue to explain his backstory beforehand), rolling into Gotham, easily breaking Batman's Rogues Gallery out of Arkham, quickly deducing Batman's secret identity, before ultimately breaking his back and, having served his purpose, gets thrashed by Azrael in what almost seemed like a bit of an afterthought. Eventually the writers fleshed Bane out more, giving him an identity beyond being "the guy who broke Batman's back once".
  • Genius Bruiser: Bane. He is one of Batman's most intelligent foes.
  • Girl of the Week: Shondra Kinsolving, perhaps Bruce's only serious love interest that's black. Her... reasons for dropping out of the running stir up more than a few Unfortunate Implications.
  • The Gloves Come Off: Bullock thinks this when he sees AzBats' new costume during the big showdown with Bane. He thinks otherwise when he decides to spare Bane.
  • Go Among Mad People: The Death Trap that Joker puts Dr. Arkham at Arkham Asylum (where else?) is hinted to have driven the good doctor mad by the time Batman rescues him.
  • A God Am I: One of Az-Bats' first opponents is The Scarecrow under this delusion. This sort of personality for Scarecrow is rarely, if ever, brought up again.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: The spirits of Saint Dumas and Jean-Paul Valley's father (the former Azrael) are "nineties comic book" versions of this trope. Specially when Batman had to decide the fate of Abattoir (see "take the third option"). Not that Jean-Paul Valley wants non-existent ghosts guiding, confusing, ordering and harassing him at every step, even in the middle of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. This became subject to heavy amounts of Depending on the Writer between the arc's three principal writers; no one could seem to keep track of which spirit supported which position. By the time of the climax, the spirits are actually in agreement with one another.
    • Considering they're the products of a literal System of brainwashing/hypnosis that's gradually breaking down after being exposed to Scarecrow's fear gas, inconsistency is almost to be expected. They're basically elaborate versions of Az-Bats' brain, sculpted since he was young to serve solely as a heartless weapon of terror, crashing up against his attempts at morality and decency and throwing up error messages.
  • Gun Porn: The "final" story that takes place during Knightquest, featuring Gunhawk, features an ungodly amount of this. Fitting, considering that its writer, Chuck Dixon, is a self-proclaimed gun enthusiast.
  • Handicapped Badass: A crippled Bruce Wayne still takes down several armed terrorists trying to kidnap his neighbors just by knowing where and how to hit them.
  • Harmless Villain: While the Riddler may have been helped by Venom beforehand, he's considered so inconsequential compared to the other Arkham escapees that Robin takes him out by himself. Heck, Mad Hatter was given more priority than he was!
    • Maxie Zeus. The Novelization explains it best:
    "It is my will that I be thus bound [in a straitjacket]," he told his loyal subjects, the grass and trees. "It pleasures me to deny myself my omnipotence as it pleasured me to bring wrathful lightning bolts upon the place where it pleasured me to be incarcerated. They thought to imprison a god? Ha! Do the fools not realize my might —"
    One of his loyal subjects, a maple tree, reared up before him and he ran into it. He broke his nose and fell unconscious.
  • Heroic BSOD: What almost happens to Batman once he hears that Arkham's been busted open.
    • Bruce does slip into one for a while after Bane beat him.
  • Heroic RROD: What actually does happen to Batman that leads to possibly his most devastating defeat.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: When the Scarecrow douses Jean-Paul with Fear Gas, the System kicks in to snap him out of it. However, it pretty much stayed on until Jean-Paul's final fight with Batman.
  • He's Back
  • Hoist Hero Over Head: Bane does this a lot, but never more strikingly than in this storyline, when he hoists Batman over his head and slams him down on his knee, breaking Batman's back. He also does this a second time, throwing Batman's broken body onto a Gotham street for people to see. The latter time is currently the trope picture.
  • Hollywood Acid: The Corrosive Man's "self-sustaining acid-based metabolism".
  • Hulk Speak: Amygdala.
  • Human Popsicle: Mr. Freeze, deprived of his usual refrigerated suit, has undergone a more ordinary version of this trope when he's first found by the police.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: Cornelius Stirk and Abattoir.
  • I Have Many Names: In regards to the Saga itself. Despite the use of "Knightfall" to talk about the whole saga, the title was only used to describe Bane's reign of terror, his attack on Bruce Wayne, and Jean-Paul Valley taking up the identity of Batman. Then you've got "Knightquest", which was was two story arc under the same umbrella name. One was "The Crusade" which details Jean-Paul's tenure as Batman and descent into madness, though outside of these elements, most of the stories published were standalone stories. The other was "The Search" which follow Bruce Wayne's search for Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving and his recovery from his injuries. Lastly, there's "Knight's End", where the first half deals with Bruce Wayne's retraining and getting back into shape, and the second half deals with Bruce redonning the Batsuit and—with Nightwing, Robin, and brefly, Catwoman—confronting Jean-Paul and taking back the identity.
  • I Know Karate: Scarecrow. No, really.
    • It is, of course, crane style.
      • Crane's combat style, at least per other comics from the 90's, was actually a self-taught and designed style, 'violent dancing', based around weaponizing his Crane's namesake crazy dancing from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, part of a popular trend of retconning a lot of Batman villains during those years to have studied hand to hand combat at some point, to explain how they could actually fistfight Batman and last longer than three seconds. So perhaps its more I Know Mortal Kombat.
  • I Work Alone: The treatment Robin gets from BOTH Batmans (Batmen?) throughout this series.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: This is averted at first. The build-up to Paul's failure to save Abbatoir is very gradual...after that he plays this trope straight.
  • Kangaroo Court: A Flash Back that Robin has briefly after Batman has been broken depicts Batman being put on one by Two-Face, providing further explanation as to why he's so tired during the events of this arc.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Once the Joker surrenders to Az-Bats and goes on about "next time", he is interrupted by Az-Bats breaking his arm. Abattoir's death avoids this because his death made it so the police found his last torture victim be found too late.
  • Knife Nut: Zsasz.
    • Zombie is one as well, being a professional knife-thrower and such.
  • Laughing Mad: Joker, Joker, Joker.
  • Licking the Blade: Mr. Zsasz in a woman's dorm does this after killing one of his hostages.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Bane
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Seriously, this arc reaches into the deepest depths of C-List Fodder, fishing out guys like Abattoir, The Cavalier, and The Ratcatcher when they've run out of big-name villains.
  • Lost in Character: Bruce only asked Jean-Paul to be Batman while he healed. Too bad no one realized he'd take it way too far.
  • Master of Disguise: While Az-Bats protects Gotham, Bruce really gets to show off his disguise skills during his globe-hopping trip in search of Shondra Kinsolving and Jack Drake.
  • The Merch: The few figures in the Hasbro's Legends of Batman toyline that didn't correspond to the Elseworlds theme of most of the figures could be called Knightfall: the Toyline, as they were based on the characters in the comics at the time and the events were mentioned in a few of the figures bios. Included were Crusader Batman (a normal Bruce Wayne Batman figure), Nightwing, Catwoman, the Joker, the Riddler (Bane injecting him with Venom was mentioned in his bio), and a few figures of Azrael as Batman. Despite this, Bane never got a figure, but the Bane figure from the Batman & Robin toyline was based the comics version of the character rather than the movie one, so that figure should fit in quite nicely. DC Direct later did a toyline based on the story featuring Bruce in the Tengu outfit, Nightwing, Catwoman, Bane, and Azrael-Batman.
    • Misaimed Marketing: Hasbro's Legends of Batman toyline was marketed towards children. Thankfully, they showed some restraint by not doing figures based on characters like Zsasz or Abattoir. Still, making three figures of Az-Bats for kids and mentioning the events in quite a few of the figures' bios does enter "WTF" territory.
    • Comic Accuracy/Toy Accuracy: The first Azrael-Batman figure, Knightquest Batman, was colored in Azrael-esque colors rather than the colors of his Batman armor. Lapses into Hilarious in Hindsight as years after both Knightfall was over and the the toyline's run had finished, Azrael briefly sported a version of his Batman armor in a similar color scheme to the figure during the "Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" arc.
    • Toyless Toyline Character: Everyone else who was in the story? Outside of Tim Drake getting a figure in the Total Justice toyline and the aforementioned Bane in the Batman & Robin toyline, they never got figures.
  • Missed the Call: Things would have been so much easier if, after his defeat, The Call to be a new Batman was made to Dick Grayson.
  • Monster Clown: The Joker.
  • More Dakka: Tally Man fires way more shots than needed to kill his targets.
    • And Gunhawk. Dear lord, Gunhawk.
    • AzBats's shuriken launcher in its final form. Single shot, semi-automatic and puree.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast
    • Abbatoir - French for "slaughterhouse"
    • Amygdala - part of the brain responsible for feelings of primal rage
    • Bane - old-fashioned term for "scourge"
    • Killer Croc
    • Poison Ivy
    • Zsasz - The other wiki suggests that he might be named for the Russian wrestler Alexander Zass, although his creator named him after Thomas Szasz, the famous anti-psychiatry activist, who believes there's 'no such thing as mental illness'.
  • Never Be a Hero: Jean-Paul tells Joe Public, a hero created in the Bloodlines storyline, to stop being a hero in Gotham or he'll end up dead after an encounter with the Corrosive Man.
  • Never My Fault: Gordon told Batman that he had killed Abbatoir (see "Take a Third Option") and asked, What the Hell, Hero?. Jean-Paul replied that he did not break the Thou Shall Not Kill rule: he did not kill Abbatoir, he simply let him die.
  • Nice Hat: Mad Hatter's all-important top hat, which serves as both a two-way radio and the central controller for his mind-controlling hats. And his exploding bowler hats.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Thanks to Anarky's meddling, Scarecrow almost manages to escape from his confrontation with Az-Bats.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The scarecrow, allied with the Joker, managed to give a full dose of his gas to Batman. Anyone else would see their worst fear, and became a helpless kid crying for mom. But Batman... his worst fear was to remember when the Joker killed Jason Todd. Consequence? Batman got really angry, and gave the Joker the beating of his life.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Mr. Zsasz.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Notably, Az-Bats is one of the few examples of the era that is meant as an explanation of why Batman is actually not one of these.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: During the Joker's "return" during Az-Bats' time as Gotham's protector, he kills two men that look an awful lot like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert...
    • While classic-Bats was running himself ragged, the Riddler took a talk show host and her audience hostage on live TV. The host of the show, Cassie Josie Rudolpho, was basically a blonde Sally Jessy Raphael.
    • Some psychobabbler shills his "I'm ok, you're ok" book based off of the Arkham escape on Harry Mann (Larry King) and Link Rambeau (Rush Limbaugh).
  • No Ending: The Novelization. Alfred is gone and Bruce hasn't decided whether to resume being Batman. The final lines of the book are potent.
    "Bruce, is there still a Batman?" Tim asked finally.
    "Damned if I know," Bruce said.
    • The novel even lampshades this with its opening quote:
      Endings to be useful must be inconclusive - Samuel R. Delany, The Einstein Intersection
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: JASON!
  • The Obi-Wan: Lady Shiva becomes this to Bruce for a while.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Riddler infiltrates the TV studio during the taping of Rudolpho's program by wearing a baseball cap and trench coat over his usual mask and costume.
  • Passing the Torch
  • Perverse Puppet: Ventriloquist's many substitutes for his main Demonic Dummy, Scarface (including "Socko").
  • Pet the Dog: Before Az-Bats had gone completely off the edge, he did get a few of these, most notably the Alan Grant storyline with the illegal immigrant's baby.
  • Pie in the Face: As part of his movie-themed crimes, the Joker ambushes Az-Bats by having his henchmen pelt the guy with knockout-drug-laced cream pies. All the while, the entire scene is set up like a 1920s silent picture - Az-Bats specifically notes that the only sound present is "the tinkling of a ragtime piano".
    • There's also a bit of Uncanny Valley in this scene, as the Joker's men are all dressed in drab grey clothing, have completely bleached-out skin, and are moving in a comically "jerky" manner (apparently in an attempt to look like actual silent-movie characters). As is true of most things with the Joker, this twists the humor into a horrific dimension: you can't tell whether these thugs are human beings, incredibly lifelike robots, or some unspeakable combination of the two.
  • Police Are Useless: Explicitly mentioned by Alfred in the arc's novelization. The one real "victory" for the police, Maxie Zeus, captured himself by running into a tree without even freeing himself of his straitjacket.
  • Power Armor: Az-Bats converts the Batman suit into this.
  • President Action: The president of Santa Prisca, as seen in the Catwoman comic book. He stopped a hitman sent to kill him, Catwoman joined the fight (because the hitman once tried to kill her), the man killed the hitman, the police appears... and then, and only then, we are informed that this badass was none other than the president.
  • Prima Donna Director: The Joker, during his mini-arc in The Crusade. Complete with ponytail!
  • Professional Killer: Lady Shiva and Tally Man (the latter of whom was introduced during this arc).
  • Punctuated Pounding: Jason! Todd!
  • Pyro Maniac: Firefly.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Bruce's disguise as Sir Hemingford Grey during his stay in England is that of an extremely rude, crass Upper-Class Twit.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The eyes of the masks of Azrael's armor as Batman sported red eyes instead of the usual white ones. There's also the lenses of Bane's mask.
  • Red Sky Crossover: In the lead-up to this, Batman and Robin were sporting black armbands in honor of Superman's then-recent death.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted. The crime boss Selkirk had a chip he could use to create an army of cyborgs. Catwoman stole it, and had the bad luck that the bad Batman arrived for a completely unrelated issue, and then the good one to settle things with the bad one. Once the Batmen are gone, to continue their epic somewhere else, she retrieved the chip. But not to create an army of cyborgs: she gave it to people who used it with the construction of artificial legs for the disabled.
  • Relative Button: Scarecrow & Joker (Joker especially) find out that making Bats hallucinate Jason Todd's murder is a VERY BAD IDEA.
  • Rogues Gallery Showcase: Over the course of the story you run across virtually all of Batman's major villains and a good portion of the very minor ones - and they even introduce a bunch of new guys!
  • Room Full of Crazy: Less extreme than usual examples, but Cornelius Stirk - true to character - conveniently writes in his diary that Commissioner Gordon is going to be his next victim.
  • Run the Gauntlet: Dear lord, this gauntlet puts the ones that Jeph Loeb came up with to shame!
  • Save the Villain: Many examples from both Batmen, one notable example being the conclusion of the fight with Two-Face.
    • Averted with Abattoir. During a System-induced hallucination, Jean-Paul lets him die, which in turn lets a prisoner Abattoir had die and caused a recovered Bruce to realize he made a mistake in appointing Jean-Paul to fill in and forces Bruce to take back the cowl.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: Not quite, but Bane does time saying that he will "BREAK YOU!" to Bats just as he delivers the crippling blow.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: Jean-Paul's final armor is this - a magazine-fed shuriken launcher with single shot, semi-automatic and puree, a flamethrower, heavy armor, wing fins that double as extra armor, the works. But, as Bruce and Dick point out, you have to be super strong just to move like Bruce without the armor and it's slow and clumsy.
  • Screening The Call: Bruce invokes this by giving Jean-Paul the Mantle; he knew Dick would attempt to get revenge against Bane and he didn't want him in the same position he was in or worse.
  • Separated at Birth: One of the Trigger Twins suggests this origin to his brother. It's never confirmed.
  • Serial Killer: Mr. Zsasz and Abattoir. Of the two, Abattoir most closely resembles a real serial killer, having as he does a set, obsessive pattern.
  • Series Continuity Error: In Batman #496, Scarecrow openly grumbles that his fear gas won't work on Joker. He apparently forgets this little fact a mere three issues later, in Detective Comics #664, where he sprays Joker with his fear gas. Surprise, surprise - Joker reacts by asking him if he has different flavors, and beats the crap out of Scarecrow with a chair. (And mind you, both these issues were part of the same story, so not even the taken-for-granted loose continuity of different comic book story arcs can justify this).
    • Detective Comics #661: Riddler is seen in his suit-and-bowler hat outfit, in his hideout, and planning a caper. Detective Comics #662: He's shown in his jumpsuit, and it's a given that it's supposed to be the same scene. Considering that Riddler's arm was in a cast during his scene, there's very little reason for him to suddenly change outfits.
    • Another one, involving a lot of the issues already mentioned—Detective Comics #662, Batman #496, Detective Comics #663, Batman #497, and Detective Comics #664 all take place in that order and most, if not all, of them are on the same freaking night to boot. Batman's clean-shaven in the former two and Batman #496 ends on a cliifhanger. Detective Comics #663 picks up where it left off, but suddenly, Bats has stubble. It would be Depending on the Artist if then-Detective Comics artist, Graham Nolan, has done it alone. The problem is then-Batman artist, Jim Aparo, partook in it, too.
  • Shout-Out: One of the Ventriloquist's puppets is an Irish-accented cop named "O'Hara."
    • The arc pitting Az-Bats against Joker is chock-full of references to classic cinema, from Casablanca to Robocop to the silent slapsticks of the 1920s.
  • Single-Minded Twins: The Trigger Twins always seem to be on the exact same wavelength. Hell, they met when they tried to rob the same bank at the same time.
  • Slasher Smile: Not only The Joker, but Tally Man as well.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: When Az-Bats doesn't vanish on Gordon, Gordon almost trips over himself in a double take. First clue, Jim has that Batman isn't himself.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: It's a nineties comic. What did you expect? Joker's ice cream cone of explodey death stands out pretty well.
  • Superhero Paradox: Anarky comes to this conclusion and thus reasons that Batman, however noble his intentions may be, is a bad thing for Gotham in the long run. This leads to Anarky attempting to kill him, resulting in the Nice Job Breaking It, Hero above.
  • Swiss Army Appendage
  • Sword Cane: The Joker wields one during his final showdown with Az-Bats, along with a revolver in his other hand.
  • Take a Third Option: Jean Paul Valley fights Abattoir at a dangerous factory. Abattoir is hanging to a chain, over a tank full of deadly acid, and Batman is in the employees corridor near it. What to fire? Deadly shots, to make him fall, or a rope to save him? The ghost of San Dumas commands him to save Abattoir: Batman leads of crusade of light, even if using darkness as a weapon. The ghost of Azrael says otherwise: if Abbatoir is saved, he will kill again, and that blood will be on Valley's hands. Torn between "save him" and "kill him" orders, he takes the third option: he leaves, letting Abattoir fall to his death.
  • Take That: Az-Bats was a Take That to The Dark Age of Comic Books superheroes, according to the Word of God.
    • Az-Bats' clawed gauntlets and armour seem to make it a pretty obvious dig at Frank Miller's Dark Knight.
  • 10-Minute Retirement
  • That's What I Would Do: The Batmobile is stolen. Batman gets it back, starts the car... and it explodes. Fortunately, he guesses this just in time to leap out of the car. Robin asks him how he guessed the villain had rigged the car. Batman's response: "Because that's what I'd do."
    • Though he adds that he wouldn't have used "so lethal a trap".
  • The Extremist Was Right: A minor example. Although there's no question that Azrael was a psychopath and that Batman needed to retake the mantle, near the end of the Knightsend storyline the mayor mentions that crime has gone down forty-two percent since Azrael took over.
  • Theme Naming: Bane's henchmen, Bird, Trogg and Zombie, are all named for 60s rock groups.
    • In that case, he should've been "Byrd" since the band was called "the Byrds", not "the Birds".
  • This Is Unforgivable: Bruce Wayne, Robin, Nightwing, Gordon, all agree: letting Abattoir fall to his death was Jean-Paul Valley's Moral Event Horizon.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: This is the main conflict throughout Knightquest, as Jean-Paul, falling further and further into the grasp of the System, finds himself brutally pummeling villains to the edge of death. It's when Abattoir is killed when the Moral Event Horizon is crossed and the decision is made to put him down.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In the finale, Knights End, AzBats and Batman have accidentally caused a helicopter to crash onto a bridge and the two start tangling on a maintenance bridge. Batman gets the upper hand and tosses AzBats off and into the water. As he's falling, AzBats attempts to use his flamethrower in an attempt to kill Bruce. One problem, the helicopter's been spraying diesel since crashing. AzBats erupts into flames.
    • Also, the Siskel and Ebert expies, who criticize a movie directed by The Joker.
  • Too Many Belts: Granted, he did ditch it during one of his modifications to his armor, but what was the point of the utility belt on Az-Bats's leg?
  • Took a Level in Badass: Once doused with Venom, Riddler can go toe-to-toe with Batman, and would've beaten him had Bane's henchmen not shot him (long story).
  • Training from Hell: Lady Shiva's "training" for Bruce to regain his fighting prowess is to have him don a Tengu mask that she herself wore when she killed an Old Master. This prompts said Old Master's seven disciples to come after Bruce, who beats them one-by-one, regaining his prowess bit by bit along the way.
    • In the novelization, he simply trains with her for an extended period, until he can both hold his own and it feels good to fight again.
  • Train Job: The Trigger Twins, a pair of Western Outlaw-themed gunmen, plan to pull one off on a modern-day bullet train.
    • Traintop Battle: What inevitably ensues when Az-Bats catches up with the two.
  • Tranquil Fury: Shondra admits her entire life has been stifling bitter rage. It's the reason she reverts to childhood at the end.
  • Underestimating Badassery
  • Victory By Endurance: The way Bane defeats Batman.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Azrael as Batman goes through this in the end. Bruce manages to snap him out of it, though. Bane suffers from this when Azrael severs his Venom feed.
  • Villain Team-Up: Remarkably few in number, given how many inmates escape from Arkham. Joker & Scarecrow's (brief) partnership is the most prominent. Also, there's the Ventriloquist and Amygdala. This doesn't last very long.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Scarecrow and Joker. In fact, after Joker taunts Scarecrow once too often, he gets some "fear gas" sprayed in his face and retaliates by beating Scarecrow unconscious with a chair.
  • War On Cops: The Joker and the Scarecrow lure a SWAT team into a funhouse and blow it up. This has no bearing whatsoever on their larger scheme; they just do it because they can.
  • Weak, but Skilled/Unskilled, but Strong: How Batman and Jean Paul fight in the finale. Batman is in peak condition but it's his skills that make him dangerous. Jean is no slouch either but he relied more and more on armor upgrades until he was pretty much wearing a smaller Hulk-Buster costume.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Both Batmen do a good job of rounding up the Arkham escapees, but three (Killer Croc, Ventriloquist, and Joker) are still at large by the time the story ends properly, with no resolution to their status.
    • The Ventriloquist and Croc loose ends are tied up in the follow-up "Prodigal" storyline. Joker, on the other hand, does seem to vanish into thin air after escaping down the street in his hospital gurney.
      • Also a lot of stuff is unanswered for the poor souls who have only the three trades to read on the matter. Another example would be that Bruce had seven students to fight but only six appear in the third volume.
      • The Joker was eventually recaptured... in the Batman/Spider-Man crossover.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tim Drake's reaction to Jean Paul Valley's... take on being Batman, even before the costume modifications.
    • Anarky gives Az-Bats one of these speeches for choosing to focus on capturing Scarecrow instead of stopping the kid that Scarecrow's brainwashed from jumping off a roof. Az-Bats tosses it right back at him by reminding him that it's his fault that Scarecrow got that kind of leverage in the first place.
    • Dick Grayson gives Bruce one of these for not appointing him the new Batman.
    • Both Dick and Tim give this to Bruce when he uses a lethal move to defeat the last disciple in his training. It is later averted though, since he only pretended to kill him for Shiva to see, but actually measured his strength to merely knock him out.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Expounded in the Novelization. Training with Lady Shiva, Bruce realizes to his shock that violence was always a part of him, and that he enjoyed it, even when convincing himself that it was a means to an end. Without reveling and enjoying violence, instead of just as a means to an end, Bruce was ineffective.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Literally, in Mayor Krol's case.
  • The Worf Effect: Killer Croc basically boils down to a convenient excuse for Bane to demonstrate his power. Later on, he fights Bane again... and loses.
    • Their second fight was unconcluded due to a flood. Bane resurfaced first, but only because he had to keep appearing in the storyline.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Batman hurls a Batarang at Poison Ivy's head while battling her and her brainwashed slaves, breaking the skin of her lower lip and making her bleed. Then, just before handcuffing her, he kicks her in the face, purely out of spite.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The reaction of Jean Paul Valley to Catwoman.

The Killing JokeDC Comics SeriesThe Long Halloween
HardwareComics of the 1990sSandman Mystery Theatre
A Death In The FamilyFranchise/BatmanBatman: No Man's Land
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alternative title(s): Knightfall
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