Overview: Batman vs. Omega with the future of the world in the balance.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): The issue opens with a flashback to the case of the boy in the alley. Batman is giving Gordon details on the case and Gordon tries to get Batman to switch on the new Bat-signal.
In the present, an old and blind Gordon feels Batman’s jaw and realizes it’s actually Batman. They are located in the cave (now the owl-cave) underneath the old Wayne Estate along with Dick, Barbara, Duke and the rest of the resistance against Omega. Dick and Barbara get Bruce up to date with what has happened over the years as well as how many of his former allies have died (Jason, Kate, Cassandra, Damian, Steph, and Tim). They are doubtful of Batman’s ability to take on Omega, but Batman responds by saying he is the right Batman for the job because he is idealistic. Bryce, Dick and Barbara’s daughter, suggests going to someone who may decide to help them now that Batman is back.
At Wayne Tower, Omega prepares to activate the amplifier device with Bane and Scarecrow.
Dick, Wonder Woman and Batman pay a visit to Selina Kyle who agrees to help them. She also reveals that she had previously cut a deal with Omega to let him know if they ever came to her but will no longer honor it. Selina gives them access to an armory and returns Diana’s lasso to her.
The owl resistance splits into two teams with Diana leading everyone to go after the signal amplifier and Batman and Joker (now the new Robin!) going after Omega in Wayne Tower. While Batman and Joker-Robin fight their way through obstacles, Diana and her team infiltrate Arkham Island. They crack open a high-security vault at Arkham just as Batman enters Wayne Tower. The inside of Wayne Tower is filled with trophies of Omega’s conquest and Omega captures them as they examine the trophies.
The high-security vault at Arkham is revealed to contain Martian Manhunter who is the amplifier as he is capable of telepathically connecting everyone on the planet. Diana tries to get him to snap out of it but the vault door closes leaving Diana inside with him as he attacks.
Omega strips Batman down and straps him into a repurposed Mobius Chair with the intention of rewriting his mind. Joker-Robin tries to intervene but is beat close to death by Omega. As Bruce chastises Omega for being an embarrassment to the original Bruce Wayne, Omega reveals himself to be the original Bruce Wayne. Omega reveals that he was merely broken at first but rebuilt himself with a vision to “save” humanity. He reveals that he wants Bruce to take his place once the chair re-writes his memories. He leaves for the roof while the chair does its work. A dying Joker reveals to Batman that it was he who designed the case with the boy in the alley for him to solve. He also tells him that he is the real Batman and not Omega. Batman spits a coin into his own palm in response and starts his plan to escape.
Back at Arkham, the resistance’s cloaking devices stop working and the Gotham villains can see who they are. Omega contacts them via radio and tells them to take down them without pain. A fight ensues on one side of the door as Diana fights J’onn on the other side.
Batman appears on the roof to fight Omega as Omega tells Batman about how the people enjoyed hurting him. Omega stabs Batman through the stomach with a stake topped with Darkseid’s severed head. The fight rages on at Arkham as Duke and Dick go down to Scarecrow. J’onn connects to the signal and starts amplifying. Omega rejoices that the world will soon feel no more anger or pain and have no need to fight, when he is smacked on the head by Batman who is holding the stake with Darkseid’s head. Batman kills Omega and J’onn comes to his senses.
An unspecified amount of time in the future, Batman, Joker-Robin (he survived), Wonder Woman, Nightwing, Batgirl, Signal, and Bryce stand out on a street. A rocket spaceship comes hurtling towards the spot they are standing. Batman reaches in and pulls out a baby Kal-El.
Analysis: This issue concludes not just this story, but also Snyder and Capullo’s time making Batman stories. This story has also been billed as the culmination and finale of all the work they’ve done on Batman. As such, this review will also look back at their time spent “in the Batcave” as well as try to figure out this story’s place within the totality of their work.
Last Knight on Earth has been an interesting journey across a dystopian future in the DC Universe. While I think the story was intended to make a definitive statement about what Batman means or represents to the creators, I found myself far more intrigued by the setting and all the subtle references to different things that happened in this future. What are the Clay Wars? What happened in the Season of Demons? While the creators are adamant this is their last Batman story, there is fertile ground here for future stories or spinoffs set in this world. This is not particularly surprising as Snyder’s work with the Justice League title, and by extension, the ripple effect it has had throughout the DC Universe features mythology that is very layered with new things to discover around every corner. The setting across the three issues of this story was clearly well thought out and very inventive.
The new Batman finally comes face to face with Omega for a fight with the future of the world on the line. As with all Batman stories, the fight plays out with punches and kicks, but it’s really just a way to discuss or highlight an aspect of Batman especially in contrast with the villain. The problem for me here is that I’m not sure what exactly Snyder is trying to say. I could very well just be missing the point, but the message seems muddled and inconsistent with who Batman is. While I find the tenacity and idealism of the new Batman to be in line with how Batman has been consistently portrayed, I find it hard to believe that the original Bruce Wayne would take such a nosedive and become Omega. More specifically, I don’t find the reasons for the change to be consistent with who Bruce Wayne is. Now, I understand that this is a Black Label book and that gives creators a certain freedom (which I think is great), but while this may not be strictly “in continuity”, it is still a continuation of Snyder’s work that was in continuity both in the pages of Batman and Justice League (for example, this issue makes a reference to the Gotham newspaper column mentioned in Batman #1 of Snyder’s run). So, given that it has ties to the “main” Batman continuity and is not strictly an alternate universe version, I think it’s important that the character has some core characteristics that still make him recognizable to the reader.
The reason the original Bruce gives for his metamorphosis into Omega is that humanity turned on him. He’s lost faith in them to choose correctly and therefore seeks to create a world where they won’t have to anymore. While Batman getting too paranoid or obsessed with control is a trope that has been explored before, I don’t think we’ve ever seen a “main” Batman (one who is not some kind of Dark Multiverse variant) lose faith in humanity. While the original Bruce is fighting the new Bruce, the dialogue almost indicates that the original Bruce was expecting some kind of credit from the people he was trying to save. And for me, Batman has never been a hero who saves people because he wants credit or attention or validation. In many cases, he can accept being hated if he is doing the right thing. I guess the counterargument is that this is an extreme example where the people of the world choose “doom” and that decision was enough to overthrow his sanity. I have expressed reservations about this premise before and this issue only made me dig deeper into this position. I feel like Batman would continue to be an example to the world even as it all descends into chaos much as he has been an example to everyone even while Gotham has perhaps the highest crime rate of any city in the DC Universe. I also found the reason the new Batman gives for being able to defeat the original Bruce, that Omega intentionally left the proverbial door open, to be very contrived.
Another creative decision I didn’t quite understand is Joker becoming the new Robin. Joker is one of the biggest villains in the DC Universe with an extensive list of violent crimes in addition to being Batman’s greatest enemy. He also has a very complicated history with Robin and Batgirl (the latter is referenced by Barbara herself in this issue). I get that there is a “trickster” side to the character and that it’s often hinted that he’s committing crimes out of some misguided sense of affection for Batman, but the reality is that he is still committing crimes. Even in Snyder’s run, the Joker has done some horrific things. I know the conclusion of Endgame leaned into their connection, but it still seems odd for Joker to become a Robin when so many of Batman’s allies have died. I liked Joker being present in the story as a narrator, observer and occasional comic relief, but I think making him Robin was going a bit too far.
All of the above aside, it is a very solid issue from a technical standpoint and that’s why it’s so hard to assign any kind of rating to this. I liked everything about it aside from the actual message of the story. I was concerned that Snyder would run out of room to finish this story, but he structures this issue so well that nothing feels rushed. The final plan is straightforward and a bit cliché but it flows well and the fight scenes feel suspenseful even if they are a bit anticlimactic. I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy Capullo, Glapion and Plascencia’s work and they put together yet another issue that meets their high standards. I want to single out the character designs in this issue and the whole story for being really ingenious. They all feel very “metal” which seems very on-brand for Capullo.
While this story didn’t quite land for me, I have no doubt it will have tons of admirers as most of Snyder’s stories do. Since this is the end of his time with Batman, I want to take a few seconds to recognize just how much he has accomplished with the character in the past decade. Snyder has had one of the most unquestionably successful Batman runs of all time. He has also created a villain (the Court of Owls) that will endure in Batman’s Rogues Gallery forever, as well as authored a story that many consider a “must-read” book for any new Batman fan (Batman: The Black Mirror). We at TBU salute his accomplishments and wish him well in his other work.
Final Thoughts: An issue with solid pacing, structure and good art that ultimately does not offer a coherent or definitive statement on who Batman is or what he represents.