Batman: The Dark Knight #1
Writers: Paul Jenkins & David Finch
Inks: Richard Friend
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Sal Cipirano
Cover artists: Finch & Friend
Editor: Mike Marts
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
I figured when it came time for me to write this New 52 review, I’d be able to refer to my review of the same comic book (at least in name and number) from several months ago. Yes, this is the second Batman: The Dark Knight #1 released by DC Comics this year, both meant as vehicles to spotlight artist David Finch. But this comic book doesn’t suffer only from the fact that it’s a mirror image of itself — it also reflects two other solo Batman comics to be released by DC as part of its New 52 line. The plot is clearly meant to jibe with Scott Snyder’s script from Batman #1, and it unintentionally offers almost identical scenes as Tony S. Daniel’s Detective Comics #1. Whether one enjoyed those comics or not, it begs the question: what do we (or DC Comics, for that matter) need Batman: The Dark Knight #1 for? All that’s left is Finch’s artwork, and while it’s appropriately dark and intense, it borrows heavily from other influences and offers a ridiculous gratuitous vision of a young woman with apparently no qualms about the potential for public (and pubic) exposure.
Bruce Wayne continues his efforts to inspire the influential members of Gotham society to work with him to transform the city into a better place, and he earns some political support for his efforts. However, Wayne’s recent efforts — specifically, his funding of Batman Inc. — has drawn the attention and ire of a faction of the Gotham City Police Department that sees police complicity with a costumed vigilante as crossing the line. Meanwhile, things have gone south at Arkham Asylum yet again, as dozens of men inside the facility find themselves in peril as the madman incarcerated there launch yet another violent breakout attempt.
Jenkins and Finch introduce a new love interest for Bruce Wayne: Jaina Hudson. But unless I miss my guess, she’s not completely new. Her look confirmed form me what her name hinted: this is the New 52 incarnation of Jayna, half of the Wonder Twins. I expect it won’t be long before we meet her twin brother, Zan. If it’s a coincidence, I’d be amazed. Sure, I could accept the similarities could get by one creator, but the entire creative and the title’s editors? Not a chance. Tweaking a Wonder Twin to fit in Batman’s world seems like an odd choice, but it’s so offbeat, I’m kind of curious. While I enjoyed her confidence and articulate portrayal in the script, Finch’s visual presentation of the character is laughable. No woman of such upbringing and intelligence would wear something so ridiculous to a formal fundraiser. Finch draws her dress so short that if the woman was to lift her arms, her panties (and probably her navel) would be visible to anyone who happened by. Why do some artists think “sexy” means “slutty”? Sure, Bruce may be wearing a tux, but that doesn’t mean he needs a 1960s, gogo/Bond girl hanging around.
Finch’s exhibits its usual Marc Silvestri/Michael Turner influence throughout the book, and unfortunately, it’s also clear he has a limited repertoire when it comes to people’s faces. Lt. Forbes and Bruce Wayne could be the same man; only hair color distinguishes them apart. The double-page spread — which contributes to the page count but not the story — could’ve been ripped right out of Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush. In the Arkham escape scene, the villain designs are confusing. Other than Mr. Freeze and Clayface, the bad guys aren’t all that recognizable. There’s a crazy clown, but it looks nothing like any Joker I’ve seen. There’s a towering, top-hat-wearing zombie that could be a re-interpretation of the Mad Hatter, and a bald, tattooed, snarling figure that could be a modern, grim-n-gritty take on Zebra Man. Of course, you know when you use the phrases “Zebra Man” and “grim-n-gritty” in the same sentence, something’s gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The shame of it is the gratuitous and redundant elements in the comic distract from a couple of truly interesting ideas. The notion Bruce Wayne could come under the scrutiny of the police department’s internal affairs division because he supports a vigilante who’s clearly getting unauthorized help from inside the force is an intelligent one. Mind you, it doesn’t quite work in a world in which everyone knows Commission Gordon has placed a Bat-Signal on the roof of police headquarters, but hey, it’s nevertheless intriguing. I also appreciated Paul Jenkins’ script early in the book. His musings about the nature of fear work well in the context of the Batman’s dark world, but due to a shift in the letters, it’s not clear if that narration is meant to be a part of Bruce’s fundraiser address.
I’m guessing the speech Bruce gives in this issue is meant to be the same one as the speech in Batman #1, but the dialogue and the events depicted therein don’t jibe at all. Furthermore, another potential breakout at Arkham Asylum in the wake of a similar scene in Detective #1 is redundant and immediately boring. Arkham loses all credibility as a plot element if all of the Batman’s enemies are in the midst of breaking out every other day. The scene, however, does serve to punctuate the theme of fear in the narration, and the title character’s efforts in conjunction with the cops also serves as an important contrast to the confrontation with the IA investigator. Ultimately, I don’t see why this title exists, given the Batman stories that are unfolding in other New 52 titles. 4/10
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