The Dark Knight #15
Cross to Bear
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Over the past several months, The Dark Knight has devolved from a fairly entertaining Scarecrow story to a festering pile of crap. The entire plot is too long, sloppily constructed in parts, and derivative of other better Scarecrow stories. Our hero did manage to escape bondage last issue, but sadly, things just got worse. The last glimpse we see of Scarecrow if of him ripping off his origin tale from Batman: The Animated Series by piloting a blimp filled with fear toxin over Gotham. Does this issue float high like 99 red balloons, or does go up in flames like the Hindenburg?
In this issue, Batman tries to contains the panic on the streets but soon realizes he is fighting a losing battle. Knowing he has no other option, Batman sheds his own blood to save the city.
Here I got myself all worked up to write a scathing review of Dark Knight 15, and the creative team goes and ruins my buzz by pumping out a great issue. Those jerks.
Seriously though, this is a massive improvement on every issue of this series since Zero. Whereas all the previous issues were mostly derivative, this issue had a lot of fresh ideas I had never really seen play out in a Scarecrow story.
The main difference between this issue and every other Scarecrow story ever told is that we actually get to see Scarecrow win, at least for a time. Normally, Scarecrow only manages to affect a few people with his fear toxin before escaping or being put down. Occasionally, he might release it in a public space and infect a whole room full of people, but that still pales in comparison to what he pulled off in this issue as he successfully causes panic among five city blocks of Gotham. We saw a little bit of that in Batman Begins, but it was soon off screen and forgotten. This issue puts the ensuing chaos on full display, and Batman's frantic efforts, Alfred and Damian's powerlessness, and the constant updates via news broadcasts actually made this seem like a very dangerous and frightening situation.
The conflict was also resolved in a unique way. Thematically, it was quite classic messiah imagery which was echoed by the title of this issue, Cross to Bear, but unlike Matrix Revelations where the symbol of the cross was literally seared into viewers retinas, I felt this issue benefited from the concept mostly because of the deal this forced between Robin and Batman. That being said, I suspect the science of Batman's actions might not pan out so well, but if you want the scientific analysis of this issue, you will have to wait for a Batman reviewer with a Bachelors in Science rather than English.
Not All That Glitters Is Gold
This issue still had some problems though they were only minor detractors from the story. First, Scarecrow was still shown to be bleeding from the mouth at the end of this issue. I know Scarecrow does not have any superpowers, but doesn't he have any regular human powers like the ability to clot? Bruce's injuries also caused some eye rolling. Last issue, Batman impaled himself in the center of the chest with Scarecrow's scythe. This issue, his wound is shown to be on his shoulder. Furthermore, Bruce's solution to the super toxin, though cool, should have killed him, and I think it is really poor form for every one of Batman's titles to have him beaten within an inch of his life every issue. Can't he win without major injury sometimes? Finally, the issue ends with a scene with Natalya who is apparently Bruce's girlfriend even though I do not remember her in the slightest from any previous issues. I did miss The Dark Knight ten and eleven so possibly she was featured there. (Spoiler) Another odd things was that she is shown to stop playing in the midst of a concert, yet no clear explanation is made for this.
Shortly after opening this issue, I found myself stunned at the beauty of the art work. I know David Finch is good, but somehow, I keep managing to forget just how good he is between every issue. Great stuff.
The cover deserves praise. The image of Batman and Scarecrow playing Chess with Gotham City is pretty cool even if similar images have already been done. I do question Scarecrow drooling though. Is he rabid?
This issue is quite good by itself, but I find myself scratching my head as to the quality of this entire arch since it varies wildly from issue to issue. I guess if someone put a gun to my head and made me assign a grade, I would give it a 7/10. If you like as many decent Batman stories as you can handle or you are willing to shell out money just for David Finch's art, then this is worth your money, but if you only want to spend money on the best, there are better Batman comics on the market.
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