the_mighty_monarch's Batman: The Dark Knight #18 - Devil's Bargain review

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Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

I am seriously, just, loving these Mad Hatter arc covers. They're incredibly trippy in the best ways, and pretty dark and terrifying. The interior art's pretty good, some of the more normal scenes look a little weird, but Mad Hatter's movements and facial expressions are simply AMAZING.

I think I've figured out the key factor to what's preventing Hurwitz from truly blowing me away. He needs to stop trying to get into Batman's head. From the completely pointless and inexplicable lack of a 'Batman Exit' last issue, to an equally befuddling moment in this issue where he thinks to himself that he's going to take a calm approach.... and then decides not to for no apparent reason; I can't figure out what Hurwitz think's he's doing with Batman. He's making all these arbitrary departures from his usual m.o. without any kind of logic or explanation, seemingly for the sake of comedy, perhaps. But it just comes across as uncanny and awkward without any suggestion of a greater purpose. It suggests Hurwit doesn't know how to write Batman, which becomes a more and more likely explanation with each passing issue. There's an especially terrible scene right at the end that borders on equalling the first arc in terms of s****ing all over classic Batman stories, but there's a chance that scene is simply a dream or hallucination or something, considering that scene has an odd slightly rushed pacing. It damn well BETTER be a dream or Hurwitz can pretty much say goodbye to my recommendations.

Which is a shame, because Hurwitz really DOES excel at writing the supercrazies of Batman's rogue's gallery. The more I think back on it, the worst scenes in the previous arc were all ones involving Batman directly, every Scarecrow-centric scene was pure gold, and the same can be said here with Mad Hatter. He gives the Alice-obsessor a nice new little twist with his mood-altering teas. It's making Mad Hatter a more well rounded villain, when he's normally known simply as 'That guy WAY too much into Lewis Caroll' or 'The guy who mind controls people with hats.'

Though, as much as I love the way Hurwitz writes the more unstable villains (here's hoping for a Maxie Zeus arc), his handle on the others seems a little... Catwoman shows up in this issue... for no really good reason. I mean, I get the supposed 'epiphany' Batman has after meeting her this issue, but the way the issue is written it doesn't make it look like Batman thinks it had much effect. Not to mention that it just comes out of absolute nowhere and fades as such. It's just like "hey look. Catwoman. Bye." And then what is she doing when Batman finds her? Rubbing salt in the wound of the altered Jason Todd origin by stealing the tires off the batmobile. It's just a stupid useless terrible scene.

Jervis Tetch is given a having his origin shaken up, moving away from the more played out and generic 'social outcast' kind of childhood, to one more internal and personal. He was a popular kid with his circle of friends and was well on the way to winning the heart of his love. But he doesn't even just 'lose it all in an instant' or even lose it all to one factor; but instead an unspoken isolation is created. It appears he still had his friends, but something wasn't the same between them when they started to outgrow him. You can see the young Jervis feeling rejection and internalizing it, while on the surface his school life seems the same. It makes his pain feel more 'real.'

And more pieces of his puzzle start to come together, as Jervis deigns to face the true face of his obsession, no longer hiding behind the fairy tale. It's an interesting reversal of what was done to Mr. Freeze, where instead of obsession over any 'Alice' he could find, there really IS one central 'true Alice' from his youth, something which was probably a big piece of the catalyst that drove his Caroll-obsession. But reality is cruel. The preppy Alice who once cared for Jervis and later rejected him due to his height has befallen the fate of many a high-school queen bitch. Dumpy, chain smoking, too many kids, crap house, etc. It's all such a brilliant surgical dissection of Mad Hatter's madness, and a perfect boost to his undeserved arguable B-List status. I can't tell how to take Alice's line to him though, that everyone grew up except for him. Is she STILL being such a stupid stuck-up bitch despite being two steps from the gutter, or is it a deeper observation of his self-confinement in the past and childhood?

In Conclusion: 3.5/5

I'm torn right down the middle on this issue, and I might retroactively reduce the score if Batman's really awful ending scene in this issue proves real and not a hallucination of sorts or a dream. But Batman, overall, was just... so... off, in this issue. I found myself caring little about what he did, and I kept waiting, on the edge of my seat, to see where the life of a young Jervis Tetch went wrong. I'm following Mad Hatter down the rabbit hole, and so I say this at the very least. This is a definite can't-miss for any Mad Hatter fans.

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