This is the year of the Bat. Not only do we have the fevered anticipation the Joker’s return in The Dark Knight to come,but also there’s a new animated feature winging its way to you. Gotham Knight is an animated feature which serves as a link between Batman Begins and Chris Nolan’s second outing as director. Renowned comics author Louise Simonson has penned the novelisation and produced a fast-moving, highly palatable early tale of the caped crusader.
Attending a civic reception for redevelopment scheme in downtown Gotham, Bruce is present when a local campaigner opposed to the plans is murdered. Immediately, he sets out as Batman to investigate the incident and becomes embroiled in darker, deadlier deeds. Not only is there a growing storm of gang warfare between Italian and Russian gangsters, but the remnants of the Scarecrow’s early fear-inducing experiments are uncovered. Added to that, he has to tackle the growing menace of the vicious Killer Croc and the sharpshooting assassin, Deadshot.
The delight of the story is in Simonson’s grasp of the character and more importantly in the landscape of the city. She paints an elaborate picture from the buildings above ground to the derelict, forgotten underground tunnels and abandoned engineering projects. It’s a land inhabited by the dark secrets and the city’s forgotten people. However, her understanding of the dark knight is considerable and her descriptive powers bring flesh to the legend. The novel is set after Batman Begins and as such, it elaborates on his origin, and describing in depth the whole makeup of his costume and arsenal, as well as giving some psychological depth. The added presence of Commissioner Gordon and Alfred shows love for the supporting cast who make up the extended Bat family.
However, there are additional rewards for the real Batfans with many of the supporting characters and city locations named after writers or artists such as (Jim) Aparo Towers, Robert (Bob) Kane Memorial Bridge; Ronald Marshall (Rogers) Bill Finger Country Club; All proof that she’s having great fun writing it as much as we’re reading it. Then again, Simonson is no stranger to superheroes having penned many comic books, sometimes those illustrated by her husband, Walt Simonson.
Choosing the Scarecrow is an effective way of taking threads from the first film and weaving them into a story of their own that in turn leads into the new movie, fuelling anticipation. Whilst it may be an elaboration of an animated feature by the team who brought the latest TV cartoon version, Gotham Knight is told with vigour and fun. The legend and mythology are nourished with dark shadows of his past from his parents’ murder to training under Ra’s Al Ghul as well as Bat signals to the future. That Knight in kevlar armour is keeping the streets of Gotham safe, just in time for the Crown Prince of Crime’s movie escapades.