Batman has defined himself by his war on crime, with his code stopping him from going too far. But what if he crossed the line? What if there was no coming back from the other side? Dark Knights: Rising presents a look at seven versions of Bruce Wayne who gave into their fears and became the darkest versions of themselves. As part of the Dark Nights: Metal event, this graphic novel tells the stories of the evil Batmen that came from the Dark Multiverse. Each of them have their reasons for going down the wrong path, providing a fascinating look into the mind of Bruce Wayne.
All of the Batmen have powers that are based on members of the Justice League. The Red Death, The Drowned, The Dawnbreaker, The Murder Machine, The Merciless and The Devastator all took on qualities they thought they needed in order to save their worlds. The group is lead by the Batman Who Laughs, a twisted combination of Joker and Bruce Wayne. He’s the narrator of the graphic novel, hopping from world to world, recruiting followers for his god Barbatos.
“He used to call me a Bat-King ruling over my dark kingdom. And what is a king really? It’s a powerful card. The most valued face card in the deck. Not infallible, to be sure. But potent. And the Joker card? On its own? It has no inherent value. It’s defined by what it’s played against. Dangerous in its potential more than anything. But if you hold the two together in a hand, they can hold nearly any value. They can shift and adapt to any threat they face. And so can I.”
Each Batman receives an origin story and most of them have a reoccurring theme of tragedy. The first story focused on the Red Death, who wanted to use Flash’s Speed Force to go back in time and stop his family from being killed. This version stole the Speed Force and used it to wipe out crime in Gotham.
The stories I found to be the most intriguing were of The Merciless and The Devastator. The Merciless was in a relationship with Wonder Woman, but she was overwhelmed by Ares. This version of Bruce took hold of Ares’ war helmet and used it to fight on his own terms. The helmet corrupted him, to the point he murdered Diana when she tried to stop him from wearing it.
The Devastator fought on a world where an evil Superman killed the Justice League. In order to stop Clark, Bruce injected himself with a strain of the Doomsday virus, turning himself into a monster. The Doomsday Batman was motivated by saving the people he loved from Superman. It made his story more poignant, as he genuinely believed he was doing the right thing by invading Metropolis and infecting the citizens with the virus to protect them from Superman.
The Batman Who Laughs had the most chilling story, with him asking the question of what can happen on one bad day. The Jokerised Batman is pure evil, slaughtering his friends and family with a sadistic smile.
I’m glad to say the graphic novel doesn’t feel disjointed. All of the stories connect so it feels as if you’re reading a full story. If you haven’t read Dark Nights: Metal, then you may struggle to understand some of what’s going on. But you can still enjoy Dark Knights Rising as a collection of stories that focus on Batman’s fall from grace. Pick up the graphic novel on Amazon now.