Knight Terrors is finally upon us, and it all starts here with Knight Terrors: First Blood #1. This event will take over almost every DC Comics title through July and August, so what is it exactly that we’ll all be reading for two months? Well, in short, nightmares. I know, you’re all shocked. It’s a fairly straightforward concept that needs only the barest justification for how all the characters wind up asleep for a couple issues. This comic serves as that justification, but such a minimalist premise struggles to meaningfully fill its 40 pages.
After a cold open featuring Dr. Destiny (short enough to stick at the back of almost every title last week as a promo) establishing that everything going on is somehow connected to his dream manipulating powers, the story transitions to Deadman for narration and exposition. Since this is meant to onboard as many people as possible to the event, and by extension persuade them to buy as many comics as possible, we’re treated to an overview of the general status quo of the DC universe. Superman is working with Lex Luthor, The Justice League is disbanding to make room for Titans, etc., usually with editor’s blurbs telling you to buy the corresponding issues.
All of these sequences are functional more than anything else. If they’re not establishing various status quos, they’re making sure the characters know what’s going on and why they’re going to need to deal with nightmares for a while. It’s strange to say that it’s rushed when it has so many pages to introduce such a simple premise, but it feels that way nonetheless. There’s an ever-present sense of “let’s just get through all of this” almost out of necessity. One set piece moves to the next, casting as wide a net as possible with the characters that get included. Rarely does it seem like it’s interested in telling a story as much as it just needs to give enough context for the dozens of tie-ins to work off of.
Williamson alleviates this sense of obligation with banter and jokes, but at best I would describe them as hit-or-miss. None of the characters seem like themselves, and instead come off as one-note caricatures. Superman is the nice once, Batman is the grumpy one, Wonder Woman is… also there. Their simplistic characterization more often than not is in the service of comedic beats, like Batman not knowing what a “day off” is. It confuses the tone of the story, which in almost all other respects is meant to be a horror story. “Terror” is in the name. When these jokes are forced into a narrative that otherwise wants to be taken seriously, it comes off as incredibly awkward and misplaced. I think there is no better example than during the story’s climax as their worst nightmares are made real, Batman decides to drop a Beastie Boys reference.
For what it is, the comic is presented competently. I’ve called it obligatory, and as the “first issue” of a massive, line-wide event it is, but it’s able to hit all of those beats well enough that it’s clear what is happening and why. Howard Porter’s sketch-like art creates a disorienting atmosphere which fits the nightmare premise, and delivers some genuinely impressive environmental shots. Where the art can suffer is when, like the narrative, it feels like it’s throwing too much stuff at the page, becoming cluttered. Still, if this is a comic that only exists because it needs to, then it at least does its job.
- You want to know the premise of the event that is taking over DC for two months.
- The idea of a collective nightmare is interesting to you
- You like your stories as wide reaching as possible
Knight Terrors: First Blood #1 is a comic written like it has job to do rather than a story to tell. In many ways that’s because it does. It primarily consists of big set pieces that include as much of the DC universe as possible, strung together with exposition and mixed attempts at humor. If you’re looking for a prologue for the dozens of tie-ins to come, this adequately delivers on that promise but not much else.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.