Warning: SPOILERS for Batman: Last Knight on Earth
When Batman: Last Knight on Earth was announced as Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's 'final' story, the premise seemed to make sense: the last tale of Batman, finally brought to the end of the world. But this final epic isn't telling the story of Batman emerging as the world's last hope. Last Knight on Earth asks if the Dark Knight has any hope of saving the world after it already ended.
It won't be the start to Last Knight on Earth that fans expected to see, but that's been true of Snyder and Capullo's Batman since they took the helm with DC's New 52. Now they've brought their talents to DC Black Label's standalone imprint, promised to be a refuge for stories that can't really be told in the larger, official DC continuity. Book One demonstrates why, reminding fans that no villain in the world could bring down heroes like the Justice League. But if the world itself turned against their brightest beacons? If the world the heroes dedicated themselves to saving eventually chose darkness themselves... then there would be nothing left to save.
Only when the dust of that doom settles does Batman: Last Knight on Earth begin: a warning for the next century only Batman can give.
Lex Luthor Asked The World To Die
Any Batman story worth its salt includes supervillains, and reality-stretching fantasy. Snyder and Capullo have proven that theory with more than fifty issues of Bruce Wayne's plan to achieve 'immortality' and secure the future for age after age. And more recently, Scott Snyder's Justice League relaunch has made Lex Luthor's desire for godhood a main conflict. But Lex's efforts to harness the power of cosmic doom and darkness don't seem to be the reason for Earth's collapse, or the fall of its heroes. To achieve that, Lex chose a different, more disturbing, and undeniably more timely path.
When Batman awakens to find the world lost in Last Knight, he's rounded up by what remains of DC's superheroes (living beneath the surface, preparing to leave this world behind for good). It falls to Wonder Woman--well, now just Diana to tell Bruce how the world died. As it turns out, Lex Luthor simply appealed to the same desire and anger as any podium-slamming politician or dictator. He didn't 'turn' the world evil, he simply told them to stop being good:
That's just it, Bruce. It wasn't the villains... It was everyone else. It happened on a Tuesday. Lex Luthor came on every screen and just... made a case to the people of the world. 'Everything is falling apart,' he said. 'The world is heating, resources are gone, the powerful tighten their grip... you feel it, just as I do. Still our leaders say: 'Be good... and you win in the end.' See, goodness is the oldest lie there is,' he said. 'Be good and you stay in the pretty garden. Eat the apple, learn the truth and well... But I say: eat all the apples you want. Clark tried to stop him but... people chose doom, Bruce.
Batman Killed The World... By Believing in It
Lex Luthor, like modern readers--at least those paying even half-attention to the world around them--know that it takes little to drive some people to do the unthinkable. And that the road to Hell being "paved with good intentions" has come to say less about those intending the goodness, than how those intentions may doom the paver instead. Diana confirms that the heroes began to fall, as "one by one we were picked off by the people we were supposed to be saving." The heroes soon gathered to decide just what mission the Justice League should pursue: wage war on those they once protected? Abandon the planet for another? In the end, it was the least likely member of the League who let hope and optimism guide his actions.
According to Diana, it was Batman who refused to accept the darkness consuming the world, spread by human hands (serving nothing but their greed, rage, and most primal instincts). It's a perfect conclusion for the version of Bruce Wayne that Capullo and Snyder molded for DC's New 52: that the hero most seen as a cynic would be the last to give up hope. Bruce believed that the League should spark a light against the darkness by opening the doors to the Hall of Justice, and offering what power they had to be shared. Diana reveals what came next:
It was the only way we'd win, he said. So he opened the doors. They tore him apart first. Then Arthur. Oliver. Dinah... Luthor thought he'd won... until the people turned on him too, on his villains. Eat all the apples. It was Hell...
The Final War for DC's World
With heroes and villains dying to common people seemingly accepting their doom, and raging in response, all that remained organized for one last battle. Apparently one figure born out of Gotham emerged to lead the battle on humanity's side, but with the Anti-Life Equation harnessed on the world gone mad, his side claimed victory. When Batman--this new, awakened version of Batman--is taken by Diana to witness all that remains of goodness, he sees that it amounts to around 100,000 people being guarded by Diana's Amazons (formerly Supergirl, Vixen, Poison Ivy, and Donna Troy). Considering the world of billions that the League once believed in, it's easy to see why Diana now tell Bruce that the surface world no longer wants to be saved... and perhaps never did.
The words are meant as something of a comfort to Bruce, offering him the chance to be a hero for those who still deserve, and need his protection. Of course, with the title Batman: Last Knight on Earth, and a villain to set his sights on, Bruce has other plans. And as Bruce sets off for Gotham City to find out if the world can be pulled back, or even saved from its worst impulses and betrayals, he remains DC's last chance. And just in case Batman marching across the desert towards parts unknown as a last champion of hope seems a little out of characters... the Joker's head in a jar that he carries with him confirms this tale will uphold the Snyder/Capullo legacy until at least Book Two.
Batman: Last Knight on Earth #1 is available now at your local comic book shop, and direct from DC Comics.