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Comic Book / Knightfall

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"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. Longtime Batman writer and editor Denny O'Neil planned out a storyline wherein Bruce would face each of his major foes one last time before being crippled and replaced with a Darker and Edgier Batman-For-The-Nineties, before eventually being healed and taking back the cowl. The prelude to the storyline took place from September 1992 to February 1993; this part 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 √úbermensch (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.note  Born and raised in a prison, the super-intelligent Bane underwent experiments to turn him into a nearly-unstoppable Super-Soldier. Those experiments worked, but they also made Bane dependent on a drug known as Venom to achieve his full physical potential. After escaping from his "home", Bane makes it his goal to rule Gotham City; to achieve his goal, he must dethrone Gotham's "king" — The Batman.

Shortly after The Death of Superman, Batman loses his edge when he becomes unable to meditate and unwilling to rest. Bane watches from a distance as Batman begins to break down and undermine himself, then ups the ante by interfering a bit more directly (he sends both Killer Croc and a Venom-enhanced Riddler after the hero). His biggest move comes when he busts open Arkham Asylum and gives the escaping inmates enough weapons and supplies to terrorize all of Gotham. An ill and sleep-deprived Batman 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 a huge toll. After The Joker and Scarecrow push him to his limits, Batman returns home to finally rest his weary body. When he arrives, 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 that ends when Batman is lifted into the air by Bane, who then uses his knee and a healthy dose of downward momentum to break Batman's spine.

Bruce lives through the attack, but he can no longer assume the role of Batman. He tells Jean-Paul to assume the role of The Batman — Gotham still needs its protector, after all — but also tells him to avoid a direct confrontation with Bane. Az-Bats does a serviceable job as Batman (even though he tries to keep Robin sidelined), but exposure to Scarecrow's fear toxin causes "The System" to kick in and "protect" Jean-Paul. He begins to lose control of his violent inhibitions, which makes him more brutal in his confrontations with criminals. He also re-designs 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, which further re-designs help fix.

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. His suspicions increase when the newly-armored Batman fights Bane once again, seemingly with the intent to kill him. Gordon stands ready to order his men to fire upon the "fake" Batman, but when Az-Bats spares Bane's life, Gordon spares his.

Between Az-Bats losing his grip and the general Fan Backlash against Az-Bats, a healed Bruce Wayne eventually takes back the cape and cowl — forcibly, of course, and mostly by outsmarting his mentally unstable protege.

For a long time, rumours competed over whether DC/O'Neil had planned the whole thing from the start as a way of sticking it to readers clamouring for a Darker and Edgier Batman, or had seriously intended to replace Bruce Wayne as Batman. Since then, many of the series' writers have been upfront about the fact that Az-Bats' rise and subsequent fall had indeed been planned from the start, at least in part as a Take That, Audience! towards the "Batman should be like The Punisher!" Misaimed Fandom. In retrospect, it's rather obvious, particularly when they introduced Shondra Kinsolving and her healing powers fully months before the start of the crossover.

The story received a Spiritual Successor in Tom King's Batman (Tom King) titled "I am Bane".

See also Batman Doom, a Doom Game Mod loosely based on the Knightfall plot arc, and The Dark Knight Rises, which lifts many plot elements from this storyline.

Not to be confused with the 2017 historical drama of the same name.

Knightfall contains examples of the following tropes:

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  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • 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.
  • And Then What?: Bane literally had no plans for what to do after beating Batman. He decides to take over Gotham's underworld and crime families by brute force.
  • Anti-Hero Substitute: Az-Bats. If not the trope maker, certainly an early codifier and currently the trope picture. Notably, this is one of the few times it is treated as a bad thing.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Clayface III and his wife, Lady Clay.
    • Trogg, whose only real crime was attacking a mobster (with Dirty Cop ties, natch) for raping his wife.note 
  • Archangel Azrael: Jean-Paul calls himself "Azrael" as part of his "'90s Anti-Hero vigilante with no compunctions about killing" shtick, as he believes that God is commanding him to kill criminals.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Bruce refuses to name Nightwing as his successor, as he knows that Dick would immediately go after Bane. Dick is insulted to have been passed over for the mantle of the Bat, but Tim bites back with this:
    Robin: Would you have wanted it?
    Nightwing: No.
  • 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. Abattoir, Joker, Az-Bats, etc. One story that takes place during this crossover is even titled "Murdering Maniaxe".
  • Back for the Dead: Film Freak, a minor Batman villain from the mid-80's, is reintroduced and killed by Bane early on.
  • 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 Bookworm: Zombie spends most of his page time acting as Bane's chemist, but he's also a skilled knife-thrower who puts up a good fight against Batman.
  • Badass Normal: 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. "Never!" she tells him. "But I will work with you."
    • One of the students Zsasz has taken hostage dispatches of Zsasz by herself (albeit with peripheral help from Bats.) Alfred says she'll be given all the credit. Bruce replies she deserves all of the credit, since it was his fuck-up that put them in that position in the first place.
  • Bald of Evil: Zombie, arguably the creepiest of Bane's Quirky Miniboss Squad.
  • Banana Republic: Santa Prisca, Bane's homeland.
  • Bat Family Crossover
  • Batman Gambit: An infamous villainous example. Bane takes advantage of Batman's Chronic Hero Syndrome while knowing that he's sick to bust out the most violent criminals in Arkham, and just wait for Batman to tire himself out while he observes him from afar. By the time Batman returns to Wayne Manor he is exhausted, Bane has discovered his Secret Identity and is waiting inside the manor for him. The fight is basically over before it even begins.
    • Batman also assumes that one or more of Arkham's escapees are key to Bane's plans, which is part of the reason why Batman's focus is on the other villains instead of Bane himself. Batman spends his time fruitlessly trying to find an ulterior motive to Bane's attack on Arkham.
  • Becoming the Mask: This is a problem Jean-Paul Valley suffers as he reaches the end of his Sanity Slippage, declaring that if he wasn't Batman, he was nothing.
    • Foreshadowed by Alfred, in talking about the Bruce Wayne/Batman dichotomy in the Novelization. He explains to Tim that Bruce held the belief of tribal shamans, that when you wore the mask of a god, you literally became that god, and to wear it frivolously was to put yourself in great peril. Later, Bane confronts Bruce in the Batcave unmasked. When Bruce puts on the cowl, Bane demands, "Stop hiding" — Bruce replies, "I'm not hiding — I'm becoming." (To Bane's credit, he accepts this and basically says, "Okay, game on.")
  • 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.
    • Az-Bats does NOT react well to the Joker turning round and walking away from him.
    • In the Novelization, Bird gives a "Well, you didn't ask" answer to Bane's demand of why he didn't tell him about the organized crime power structure of Gotham. Trogg sighs "Wrong answer" to himself, and Bird does some major Verbal Backpedaling to avoid being killed. Had Bird not been one of Bane's three trusted followers, he'd had been offed immediately.
  • Body Horror:
    • In the Novelization, it's noted that Bane had surgery to prep him for Venom inoculation. Subcutaneous shields were put over most of his muscle groups, making unnatural bulges all over his body. Despite looking hideous, Bane decided they only made him more regal.
    • Clayface III's condition, which forces him to stay inside a containment suit at all times. Also, Deke Mitchell a.k.a. The Corrosive Man, whose skin literally exudes powerful acid. Which he can feel every second.
    • After Bane breaks Batman's back and throws him tumbling down to the street, we see a full shot of Wayne's broken body. Two of his ribs have visibly suffered compound fractures and are poking out from his flesh under the costume.
  • Bottled Villainous Reserve: Bane's Venom setup. Normally, it's just to give him his incredible Super-Strength, but at the end of Knightfall, he uses it to close the wound inflicted by Jean-Paul.
  • 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 aren't 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.
  • Call-Back: Part 9 of KnightsEnd (the last issue before the final confrontation between Bruce and Jean-Paul) ends with a reflection of the same image Part 10 of Knightfall (the last issue before Bane breaks Batman) ended with: a full-page splash of Bane/Batman standing in front of the Batcave's Wayne Manor entrance pointing at the reader in a representation of Bruce/Jean-Paul.
  • 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.
  • CamelCase: The title for the final third of the story is written KnightsEnd to make clear it's not supposed to be read "knight-send".
  • Cardboard Prison: Excusable in this case, since Bane had attacked Arkham with a small country's worth of firepower.
  • Complexity Addiction: Deconstructed. Part of the reason Batman works himself to exhaustion to capture all of the Arkham escapees is because he assumes some or all are in on Bane's plans. While this would be true of most of Batman's villains, Bats never suspects Bane's just using them all as red herrings just to wear Batman down. Had Bruce prioritized neutralizing Bane early instead of undermining an assumed plan, it's less likely Batman would have lost in that confrontation.
  • 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.
  • Cop Killer: 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Crossover: The first Batman crossover with The Punisher happens during Jean-Paul's time as Batman and at the start of KnightsEnd, Jean-Paul even mentions Jigsaw.
    • Several years after the storyline, there was a Worlds Finest crossover during the second half of World's Finest (1999) #9 in which Azrael-Bats teams up with the resurrected Superman to stop a vigilante Copycat Killer inspired by Jean-Paulnote . The Man of Steel even lampshades all the two heroes have gone through in the past year:
      Superman: Sorry, it's been a while, hasn't it? First I was dead, then Bane broke you- at least that's what I heard. Nice to see you back on your feet again.
  • 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 doesn't die, but due to the overwhelming mental trauma she's put through, suffers a mental breakdown and reverts to a childhood mental state.note 
    • 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.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Novelization only - Bane hires a bunch of hookers for the "usual" purposes, but once he's done, unceremoniously kills them and carves bat-symbols into their bodies in a crude attempt to tarnish Batman's reputation (especially with the police).
  • 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. In fact, 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.
  • Dramatic Spine Injury: The climactic moment of the story is when Bane breaks into Wayne Manor and confronts a thoroughly exhausted Batman, then beats Batman within an inch of his life and breaks his back over his knee. Bruce Wayne has to deal with the resulting paralysis for a while, but eventually is able to be healed and returns to take down Azrael, who has taken up the cowl in his absence but ended up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and became as much of a menace as Bane had been.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: A young Bane in his solitary confinement dealt with swarm of bats, and then on, dreamed of a bat attacking him. He comes to Gotham because Bird often told him tales of a "Batman" there.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: One of the most entertaining ways the novelization differs from the actual comics - in the novel, Bane breaks Batman around three in the morning, so he can't find any audiences aside from a few bums. As a result, Gotham's underworld continues to ignore him until he starts resorting to even more drastic measures.
  • 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.
  • Everyone Has Standards: In the novelization, Alfred is so incensed by Bruce's inability to just hang them up, he cleans the mansion one last time - and leaves forever.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Jean-Paul's alteration of the Batsuit teeters on this trope, but ultimately crosses it with the third iteration which, after the blue is burnt off in favor of red due to a Too Dumb to Live moment, resembles Azrael much more than Batman.
  • Evil Is Petty: Bane really has no qualms with killing people on either side of the alignment spectrum. In the novel, he tells Bruce that he'd kill a baby to stop it from crying and, in the finale, casually murders both a electronic sign worker and a subway train conductor because they're in his way.
  • Evolving Credits: The first self-titled arc of Knightfall featured the black and yellow of the classic Bat-logo slowly being eclipsed by purple and red before the debut of the Az-Bats logo on the cover of Batman #500. While Knightquest features the golden and black Az-Bats logo throughout, KnightsEnd featured a shattered version of the Knightquest logo fall away, revealing the classic Bat-logo.
  • Expy:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Why Bane didn't just kill Batman. He wanted him to live knowing Bane broke him, in every sense of the word.
  • 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.
  • Flashback: 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.
  • 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."
  • Gatling Good: Gunhawk inspires Azrael's last Batsuit upgrade by firing a minigun at Jean Paul, damaging the suit.
  • 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. However, Jerkass Has a Point as he was 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.
  • Genius Bruiser: Bane. He is one of Batman's most intelligent foes.
    • Bane's henchman Trogg also counts. He's a tenacious brawler who killed twenty men at Pena Duro and doubles as an electronics expert.
  • Girl of the Week: Shondra Kinsolving, perhaps Bruce's only serious love interest that's black.
  • 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.
    • Bane considers himself this with his freakish enhancements.
  • 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.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: When Shondra is treating Bruce for his "car crash injuries", she notes than the wounds aren't consistent with a crash. She also notes that "playboy" Bruce has many old scars from stabbing, gunshots, and so on. He asks offhandedly what she thinks he is instead of the Idle Rich. She replies, "A warrior."
  • 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! (The reason is that The Riddler requires a ton of setup for his capers, so there was time to capture him before he became a threat.)
    • 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.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Shondra Kinsolving's healing power seems benevolent, doesn't it? Her adopted brother uses her to weaponize healing.
  • Heroic BSoD: What almost happens to Batman once he hears that Arkham's been busted open. However, 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!:
    • Bruce, after Shondra heals his back, his training to get back into shape with Shiva, and reclaiming the cape and cowl.
    • In jail, Bane sees bats flying by, and comments "He's back", referring to Bruce-as-Batman.
  • 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 Have Many Names: In regard 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 two story arcs 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 follows Bruce Wayne's search for Jack Drake and Shondra Kinsolving and his recovery from his injuries. There's "KnightsEnd", 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, briefly, Catwoman—confronting Jean-Paul and taking back the identity. Following that is Prodigal, about Dick's tenure as Batman while Bruce finished resting up and reevaluating stuff. Lastly, there's Troika, where Bruce comes back as Batman permanently.
  • I Have Your Wife: Abattoir gets Clayface to kidnap Graham Etchison by holding Clayface's wife and son hostage.
  • I Know Karate: Scarecrow. No, really. It's, of course, crane style. Crane's combat style, at least per other comics from the '90s, 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 it's more I Know Mortal Kombat.
  • I Owe You My Life: After Batman saves Mayor Krol's life under difficult circumstances, Krol is left in tears, muttering about how much of a Determinator Batman was. This leaves him determined to support Batman for the remainder of the story. Unfortunately, since Jean-Paul Valley is standing in for Batman for most of that time period, this has negative consequences.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Cornelius Stirk and Abattoir.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: While Bruce is training to regain his combat abilities, he is taught by Lady Shiva, who gives him the Mask of the Tengu to don. When Bruce arrives at the place she told him to meet, he remarks that Chinatown is the most fitting place to wear such a mask. The problem is that Tengu are Japanese deities. The most similar beings in Chinese lore are called tiangou, and are still quite different.
  • I Work Alone:
    • The treatment Robin gets from BOTH Batmen throughout this series.
    • In fact, it's this attitude that Bane counts on: Bruce refuses to get serious help from others to get the Arkham escapees, and is worn down enough for Bane to take him.
  • Insane Troll Logic: In the Novelization, Jean-Paul starts believing that Bruce Wayne was never meant to be Batman, and starts inventing beliefs Wayne Manor was usurped by Bruce somehow, and that the Batman was created Saint Dumas, and Bruce intentionally defied Dumas and defiled the cowl to mock him.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: The first The Punisher / Batman crossover featured Az-Bats instead of Bruce. The start of KnightsEnd even sees Jean-Paul namedrop Jigsaw as the enemies he's fought during his time as Batman.
  • Journey of Reclamation: KnightsEnd is about Bruce reclaiming the Batman identity. When he gets back to Gotham at the end of Knightquest, he considers giving up being Batman and letting Jean Paul continue full time — then he hears about how Jean Paul acted, he letting Abattior die, and how Abattoir's death led to Graham Etchinson's death. After his confrontation with Jean-Paul failed (the result of being out of shape thanks to being in a wheelchair for months), he decides to go to Lady Shiva to retrain and regain his edge, which the first half of KnightsEnd is about and the second features Bruce in full Batman costume fighting to stop Azrael.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: This is averted at first. The build-up to Paul's failure to save Abattoir 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.
  • Karmic Death: When Bane was a small boy, the Warden of Pena Dura dumped his mother's corpse into the ocean "to be eaten by sharks". Adult Bane tosses him out of a helicopter "to be eaten by sharks".
  • 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 too late.
  • 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
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: The novelization subtly implies this is one of the side-effects of Venom addiction.
    Bird: I told [the hookers Bane hired] to bring oysters. Lotta oysters.
  • 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.
  • Magical Negro: Shondra Kinsolving has literal magic powers, and mostly exists as an excuse for Bruce to bounce back from his crippling (that said, she doesn't provide a whole lot of spiritual guidance - that part mostly goes to Alfred). While one might think it was why Denny O'Neil did his best to keep the Search part of Knightquest out of print, it remains in the Novelization (which O'Neil himself wrote, so it's probable he felt more comfortable with her in prose.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, Bruce's decision to take be the mantle of Batman back after recovering is motivated by his considering Jean-Paul letting Abattior die, which in turn caused another man to die, to be this.
  • 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lady Shiva. Bruce comes upon her in the forest in the dead of winter completely naked. She warns him that if he steps closer she's quickly kill him. Bruce replies she's probably the sexiest thing on Earth, but he prefers to keep his bones intact and he only wants to be trained by her. (This immediately intrigues her, especially when Bruce indirectly tells her he's Batman.)
  • 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 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.
  • '90s 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!
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Bruce hunts for Lady Shiva and finally finds her - sitting naked in the snow, her back to him. Without turning around, she informs him that if he takes a step closer, he'll be killed quickly. Bruce shrugs and says he has no interest in dying, nor her. He just wants her training. Shortly after, Shiva has Bruce strip naked to examine him professionally. She then has him sit in the snow, because this is the part of his training where his ass freezes (although he is allowed to wear his mask so long as it doesn't cover that part).
  • Not So Stoic: The end of Knightfall Part 3 had Bruce huddled up beside a chimney, looking like he's ready to pass out right then and there. It gets worse from that point.
  • Novelization: Two - Dennis O'Neil did Batman: Knightfall for adults, while Alan Grant wrote Batman: Knightfall and Beyond for younger readers; both conclude with "KnightsEnd" and lack the followup storylines "The "Prodigal", "Troika" and "Alfred's Return" arcs. Differences between the two include:
    • Grant's version portrays Batman's defeating Mad Hatter, Killer Croc, Cornelius Stirk, Poison Ivy and all three of Bane's henchmen before his back-breaking battle with Bane himself, and Jean Paul Valley's defeat of Scarecrow and later Clayface III and Lady Clay, and includes Dick Grayson returning to Gotham as Nightwing to help out. These are barely (in the case of Croc and Ivy), or not at all (for the rest) mentioned in O'Neil's version. In the case of Grant's version, the omission of Alfred's Return can be excused even beyond it being published before the one-shot in question as Alfred never quit in it.
    • Neither version portrays the battles with Riddler or Bruce's fight with Scarecrow, Joker's fight with Jean Paul (his fight with Bruce is included in O'Neil's version though), or Catwoman's role during the events of "KnightsEnd".
  • Odd Friendship: Child-like Amygdala is entranced by Socko (and perforce The Ventroquist), and become a Brains and Brawn team.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Azrael's behavior quickly inform or at least raise the suspicions of Commissioner Gordon, Catwoman, the Joker, and even Superman once he returns to inform them that they're not dealing with the true Batman.
  • The Old Convict: Zombie has been a prisoner in Pena Dura since before Bane was born (rising from the janitor of the medical wing to a Mad Scientist charged with making Venom serum). He serves as the narrator of Bane's origin story, and is one of the men who escapes alongside Bane decades later.
  • 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: Bruce tries to do so, but he makes the wrong choice.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Pretender Diss: Having easily deduced that Jean Paul wasn't Bruce, when he calls him out for the final fight, he types in the message "Batman" Come. It takes Bullock a few minutes to realize that there were quotation marks around the name after Bane jumped through the sign.
  • 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).
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Amygdala, when off his meds. He's very childlike, and is fascinated with "Socko". However, with Arkham in chaos, Amygdala has no access to drugs, and has a Hair-Trigger Temper that only The Ventriloquist and "Socko" can soothe.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Jason! Todd!
  • Pyromaniac: 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.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Deconstructed and defied. Robin sees Abattoir's death and is traumatized by it. Bruce is glad that Robin is, and tells him to never lose that revulsion to killing.
  • 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 Skies 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.
  • Related Differently in the Adaptation: Kenyon Etchison and his children are the brother, niece, and nephews of their murderer Abattoir in the comic, but are just more of his many cousins in the novel.
  • Ret-Canon: In Troika, Bruce's real return sees him don a costume based on the ones from the Burton films.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: How does Bruce deal with a fully armored, psychotic Jean-Paul Valley? He retreats into one of the narrowing caves, that forces Jean-Paul to remove the costume piece by piece til there's only the helmet left. Bruce then has the full force of sunlight shine into his face; since the helmet was adjusted for dark, it temporarily blinds Jean-Paul, and also removes the hypnotic state he had been in, and when he removes the helmet, he has a mild My God, What Have I Done? Bruce defeats Azbats by having him remove his costume and see the light with clear eyes.
  • Run the Gauntlet: Dear lord, this gauntlet puts the ones that Jeph Loeb came up with to shame!
  • Sadly Mythtaken: In KnightsEnd, Bruce dons the mask of the Tengu, which is repeatedly referred to as a "bat" demon. Tengu are actually depicted as birds, with beaks and feathers.
  • Sanity Slippage: Throughout the Knightquest portion of the storyline, Jean-Paul is haunted by the visions of St. Dumas and his father, both of them acting as his Shoulder Angels. It is heavily suggested that his encounter with Scarecrow triggered this, as the System kicked in and never allowed him to fully overcome it.
  • 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. And also, it could be Scarecrow was convinced his new mixture would work, since his work on perfecting the gas hasn't stopped).
    • 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 cliffhanger. 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.
  • Shown Their Work: When Bane is ready to break the Batman, Bruce realizes what's about to happen, and twists his body so his spine doesn't actually break, so he's rendered with paralysis that isn't necessarily permanent, and at least isn't fatal.
  • 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.
      • The arc also can be seen as one to a 1960s-era Batman issue where Joker pulls silent-film-themed crimes under the guise of shooting a silent comedy for an eccentric millionnaire. The issue was adapted note  into an episode of Batman (1966).
  • Signature Headgear: 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.
  • 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.
  • Skewed Priorities: When Abattoir targets his second cousin Graham, Graham's incarcerated father Henry is less concerned with the fact that his son might fall victim to a sadistic Serial Killer than with the fact that Graham's murder will cause his trust fund to revert back to the state, while Henry will have a chance to reclaim it in the future if Graham stays alive. Henry's attorney lampshades how Henry has never been one for fatherly concern.note 
  • Slasher Smile: Not only The Joker, but Tally Man as well.
  • Spoiler Cover: The cover for Batman #497 shows Bane breaking Batman's spine, lessening the shock of when it happens inside. All the trade covers also show it happening.
  • Spot the Impostor: Joker and Catwoman each swiftly realise that AzBats isn't the original Batman due to their unconventional ties to the original, but when the true Batman returns, Catwoman is only certain of his identity when he returns to a helicopter containing gangsters because he won't let them die regardless of what they've done, assuring her that the real Batman is back.
  • 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.
  • Straw Nihilist: Mr. Zsasz.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: It's a nineties comic. What did you expect? Joker's ice cream cone of explodey death stands out pretty well.
  • Sucksessor: Despite being appointed by Bruce, Azrael fails to live up to what Bruce wanted, defying orders, becoming more violent, and eventually letting two people die, which clues a healed Bruce that he needs to take back the Batman mantle.
  • 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. Unfortunately for Valley, this proves to be the wrong choice, as Abattoir's death dooms his final victim and convinces Bruce that Jean Paul is the wrong choice to be Batman, resulting in his decision to take back the cowl.
  • Take That!:
  • 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".
  • Theme Naming: Bane's henchmen, Bird, Trogg and Zombie, are all named for '60s UK rock groups.
  • 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.
    • Bane notes Batman is dressed to strike fear, but he refuses to kill. He is amused and confounded by the dichotomy.
    • Bruce remembers a Korean martial arts master who refused to teach him his most secret techniques because he wouldn't vow to foreswear violence. Lady Shiva is annoyed and amused that Bruce won't kill after he's beaten her. Bruce tells her, essentially, "Thank you, and tough shit."
    • In the Novelization, Jim Gordon mentally notes that he only tolerates Batman because he doesn't kill. The second he crosses the line, he will end Batman.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In the finale, KnightsEnd, 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.
  • 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.
  • Wealthy Philanthropist: As usual, Bruce Wayne is dedicated to improving Gotham through legitimate means, but Graham Etchison (who has a trust fund and is the son of a disgraced politician) also counts. Graham is introduced raising money for underprivileged children and personally chaperones a group of them on a camping trip. After Graham's psychotic cousin Abattoir tries to kill all of them, Graham attends a therapy session with the kids and promises to take them on a second trip to make up for the ruined experience. When Clayface shows up to kidnap him for Abattoir, Graham doesn't resist once Clayface promises not harm Dr. Thompkins or the kids.
  • 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. However, The Ventriloquist and Croc loose ends are tied up in the follow-up "Prodigal" storyline. Likewise, the Batman/Spider-Man crossover sees Joker recaptured.
      • Also a lot of stuff is unanswered for the poor souls who have only the original 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.
      • Bird, Trogg, and Zombie are all played up to be co-Dragons to Bane, and that Bane is actually loyal and fond of them. They never appear again after Knightfall. In fact, they don't reappear until nearly 25 years later, in Bane: Conquest, a reboot and soft reboot later!
    • The Novelization concludes with Bruce not deciding whether he will continue being Batman.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Tim Drake's reaction to Jean-Paul'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.
      • Between this and Prodigal, where Dick briefly acted as Batman, Commissioner Gordon was unwillingly to trust Batman for a while for not telling him the truth about Jean-Paul and Dick.
  • 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.
  • Worf Had the Flu: Bane's actual strategy: to tire Batman and break him mentally so Bats is at his worst when he chooses to fight him.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When Bane kidnaps a mob boss' children, he's fascinated with them, never having seen children before. He actually plays with them. When Bird wonders if Bane will have a problem killing them, Zombie answers he wouldn't even blink at killing them.
    • Abattoir plays this straight, planning to kill a dozen or so orphans.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Bird is saved from being killed by Bane at one point because 1) he's been loyal, and 2) he still needs a Gotham guide. Loyalty wouldn't have been enough on its own, because Make an Example of Them was a big part of Bane's rise.