Spinning out of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin series is Knight and Squire, the British Batman and Robin! But this is no “Dark” Knight, the tone of this mini-series is much lighter and the stories often read like sketches from classic British comedies like the Goodies, Blackadder or Monty Python.
There isn’t really an over-arching story to this book which is instead made up of short stories where Knight & Squire take on fascistic morris dancers, a resurrected Richard III, and both the British Joker and the original Joker. But the stories feel British, both stereotypically in their very British subject matter and in treatment with the dry humour Britain is famous for.
The series is also full of visual jokes such as at the start of the second issue where there’s a character called the Organ Grinder who doesn’t speak and has a talking monkey on his shoulder purely so that the person the monkey is speaking to can say the punchline “Next time, I want to talk to the Organ Grinder, not his monkey!” – and I love that Knight’s butler is an American Southern gent called Hank!
Unlike Batman and Robin where Batman is a far more interesting character than Robin, Squire feels more developed and complex a character than Knight. She exhibits more of a personality as we see her home-life, her pleasant relationship with her charming mum, to the boy she meets in the first issue whom she dates over the course of the book, to the strength of her character as it turns out she was the driving force behind getting Cyril Sheldrake to abandon his debilitating sybaritic lifestyle and take up his father’s helm to become the Knight he is today. She’s likeable, interesting, and plays a more prominent role in the series than simply the sidekick.
That said, I found that after reading a few of the one-shot stories, they became a bit too tiresome in their silliness – Richard III brought down by social media? – and it’s easy to see why this series never developed further than the 6 issues collected here: the characters simply aren’t interesting enough nor do they have a distinct and involving narrative to sustain a lengthy run. That said full credit should go to Paul Cornell for creating an intricate world for them that genuinely feels like you’re reading a series that has been going on for years.
The notable exception to the comedic nature of the stories is the final 2-part story where the real Joker shows up in England to kill the British Joker, Jarvis Poker. Jarvis is a Joker imitator superficially, he isn’t nearly as evil as the real thing, but for a character whom the reader has known only briefly, his sacrifice at the end brings much needed substance to the book.
While not of the same quality as Morrison’s Batman and Robin, Knight and Squire is still an imaginative and colourful addition to the Batman Universe that’s good fun so long as you’re a Batman fan in the mood for something a bit less serious and a little bit quirky.
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