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Plot

Part 1: Knightfall

In the quasi-medieval Caribbean nation of Santa Prisca, an unborn boy is convicted for the crimes of his absent father. Once born, the boy is sentenced to life imprisonment in the infamous facility known as Peña Duro, where he is soon dubbed Bane. Against all odds, Bane survives to adolescence and beyond, training himself to extraordinary heights of strength and intelligence and gaining the respect of virtually every other prisoner. After one such prisoner tells him of Gotham City and Batman, Bane becomes obsessed with conquering both.

Eventually, Peña Duro's officials take notice of Bane, and allow foreign scientists to experiment on him with an unstable steroid known as Venom. These experiments leave Bane stronger than ever before, and he soon escapes, taking with him the three prisoners who had served him best during his adolescence. Together, the quartet travel to Gotham City, where Bane thoroughly observes Batman in action.

From his observations, Bane concludes that Batman possesses support from both civilians and police, and must be defeated through measured attrition. To this end, Bane murders numerous prostitutes and carves bat silhouettes into their bodies; while Batman and the police are occupied with these murders, Bane and his confederates raid a local Army depot, and use the pillaged weapons to free and arm the inmates of Arkham Asylum.

Batman - true to Bane's predictions - insists on pursuing the inmates by himself, refusing help even from his new Robin, Tim Drake. Over the next week, Batman successfully recaptures most of the escapees, but severely overtaxes his mind and body doing so. At Alfred's repeated pleas, Batman finally allows assistance from Robin; further pleas persuade him to also enlist Jean-Paul Valley, a mysterious young man who had saved his life several years ago.

Meanwhile, through a combination of detective work and intuition, Bane deduces Batman's civilian identity of Bruce Wayne. Subsequently, Bane invades Wayne Manor and lays an ambush for Batman. Already exhausted from his many battles (particularly an unsuccessful hunt for the Joker), the Dark Knight largely fails to defend himself against Bane, who beats him senseless and ultimately breaks his spine.

Part 2: Knightquest

The crippled Batman is found and rescued by Robin and Jean-Paul, who rush him - in the guise of Bruce Wayne - to the Drake family physician, Dr. Shondra Kinsolving. Under Dr. Kinsolving's care, Bruce survives his injuries, but remains paralyzed. In desperation, he allows Jean-Paul - once an indoctrinated assassin for an ancient, quasi-Christian cult - to succeed him as Batman.

Jean-Paul soon proves an unbalanced crimefighter, favoring raw brutality above all else, refusing to coordinate with Robin, and callously incorporating assassin weapons into the Batman costume. Nevertheless, he successfully stems Gotham's rising crime rates, and eventually deals Bane a brutal - but non-lethal - defeat, winning the hesitant acceptance of both Robin and the police.

Meanwhile, Bruce begins to fall in love with Dr. Kinsolving, whose unconventional treatments mend both his body and mind at unprecedented rates. Though Dr. Kinsolving reciprocates his feelings, she remains frustrated by his dishonesty and many alibis. As a result, Bruce resolves to confess everything and embrace civilian life, but is forced to delay these plans when a band of British mercenaries kidnap Dr. Kinsolving.

With Alfred's reluctant help, Bruce assumes a new identity and pursues the kidnappers across the globe, uncovering many dark secrets along the way. In truth, Dr. Kinsolving is a metahuman with vast psionic powers, her mind able to destroy as well as repair the human body; her abduction had been ordered by her stepbrother Benedict Asp, who possesses similar powers but none of her compassion. Together, they stand capable of telepathically killing any human on Earth - a capability Asp means to exploit for personal profit.

As the journey wears on, several of Bruce's injuries reopen, much to Alfred's horror. When Bruce refuses to abandon the pursuit, Alfred resigns, unwilling to further enable his master's self-destruction. Undeterred, Bruce forces a confrontation with Asp in the Florida Keys, during which he confesses his feelings to Dr. Kinsolving. The shock of this confession, coupled with the stress of her captivity, causes Dr. Kinsolving to release one final burst of psychic energy, killing Asp but permanently regressing her own mind into that of a child.

Part 3: KnightsEnd

Bruce returns to Gotham in the midst of its harshest winter, fully recovered in body but still exhausted in mind. His arrival relieves Tim, who warns him that Jean-Paul is growing more and more unhinged, to the point of outright barring Robin from the Batcave. Indeed, the new Batman has become consumed by jealousy and bitterness towards his predecessor, especially after a recent failure to recapture serial killer Arnold "Abattoir" Etchison; when Bruce attempts to negotiate, he finds himself violently ejected from the Batcave.

Shortly after, Jean-Paul locates Abattoir's hideout, and pursues the serial killer into a nearby foundry. Jean-Paul is in turn pursued by Robin, who sees the new Batman deliberately let Abattoir fall into a vat of molten lead. This incident - which prevented Abattoir's latest captive from being found in time - convinces Bruce that Jean-Paul is unfit to be Batman. Unfortunately, his own abilities have dulled too much to pose an adequate challenge, forcing him seek training from the infamous Lady Shiva.

Under Shiva's ruthless methods, Bruce regains his fighting prowess, including his appetite for violence. After a month of this training, the former Batman confronts his successor anew - first in the heart of Gotham, then in the Batcave. Though Jean-Paul is larger, stronger, and better-armed, his mind has only deteriorated further, obsessing itself with the ideal of Batman; anticipating this, Bruce lures Jean-Paul into a set of increasingly narrow tunnels, forcing the new Batman to shed his armaments until only the mask remains.

The pursuit ends in a small chamber mere inches below the topsoil - the means by which Bruce had first discovered the Batcave, decades ago. As Jean-Paul prepares to strike, Bruce tears open a hatch to the surface, blinding Jean-Paul with sunlight. This forces Jean-Paul to remove his mask, leaving him completely unarmed before Bruce, a Batman in full regalia. Overwhelmed by the sheer contrast, Jean-Paul admits himself unworthy to be Batman, and surrenders.

Bruce accepts the surrender, aware of his own guilt in the whole affair and unwilling to further punish Jean-Paul. Instead, he sends Jean-Paul away with blessings - blessings to find peace at last, tempered with a warning to kill no more.

Epilogue

As spring begins, Bruce and Tim reconvene and survey the aftereffects of the past year. Though Bane is still incarcerated, several of Arkham's inmates (including the Joker) remain at large; Jean-Paul has left for Europe, apparently in good health; Alfred remains unreachable; and Dr. Kinsolving, while apparently incurable, has been given the finest caretakers money can buy.

When questioned by Tim, Bruce admits that the future - particularly Batman's future - remains, at best, uncertain.

Notes

Trivia

ISBN

  • ISBN-10: 0553096737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553096736

Links and References

  1. Exclusively called "darts" in the novel.

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