I should preface everything I am about to write, by saying I have never been a fan of DC Comics (heresy for some people I know). That being said, I absolutely loved the “Knightfall” story arc, which ultimately saw the introduction of JEAN-PAUL VALLEY as the all new, all dangerous BATMAN. I know a lot of people hated him, but for the first time as a comic book fan, I was totally engrossed by this even darker ‘Dark Knight’. Of course, it couldn’t last, and indeed it didn’t … so read on.

“Batman: Nightfall” is a spectacular masterpiece of a story arc from DC Comics that every fan of the Dark Knightshould read. The introduction of two new characters, Azrael and Bane, added depth and complexity to the series’ plot.

Azrael is a captivating character, a graduate student who discovers his unconscious training as an assassin for an ancient religious order. Bane, on the other hand, is a ruthless orphan born and raised in a Central American prison who undergoes an experimental operation to become a new type of super-soldier. His goal is to take down Batman and become the new king of Gotham City.

The build-up to “Knightfall” is brilliantly executed, with Batman dealing with several villains, including the returning Black Mask and a sharpshooter assassin hired to murder Commissioner Gordon. Batman’s fatigue and inability to focus are expertly portrayed, and the introduction of holistic therapist Shondra Kinsolving adds a unique and intriguing twist to the story.

Bane’s plan to weaken Batman by forcing him to deal with numerous high-profile villains simultaneously is executed flawlessly, with each criminal being put away one by one, leaving Batman weaker and weaker. Bane’s final brutal assault on Batman, sees him literally breaking Bruce Wayne’s back over his knee, is a defining moment in the series and left fans in shock.

Jean-Paul Valley’s introduction as the New Batman adds a hugely exciting new dimension to the story. His experiences as Azrael make him a hugely formidable but unstable character, and his questionable behaviour adds massive tension and complexity to the plot. His redesigns of the Batman costume, adding more gadgets and genuinely lethal weapons, and his increasingly vicious encounters with various villains, including the Joker and Catwoman, are expertly executed and keep readers engaged throughout.

With Robin, Alfred, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Commissioner Gordon all completely side-lined by the ‘AZbat’, it falls to still uncertain Bruce Wayne to return to the Batcave and to Gotham, to try to defeatand depose Jean-Paul Valley once and for all, and to regain the Batman mantle for himself. The finale is an astonishing showdown between the warring Dark Knights, there can and must be only one winner … the one true Batman.

Overall, “Batman: Nightfall” is a masterful work of storytelling that keeps readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish. With its unforgettable characters, expertly executed plot, and captivating twists and turns, it is a must-read for any fan of the Caped Crusader. It is the one DC story arc that kept me engrossed month after month. I still maintain Jean-Paul Valley’s Batman is THE definitive one … here comes the hate mail!