Batman: The Dark Knight Annual #1 Review

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Posted by Undeadpool (726 posts) - - Show Bio

The Good

Batman is based entirely on striking fear into the hearts of the superstitious, cowardly lot that he defends the weak from. He’s known as the dark knight, the caped crusader, a stalker in the shadows and an avenger of the night, especially known for his stoicism and humorlessness. Which is why I was absolutely delighted to find myself laughing LITERALLY out loud in public while I read this oversized annual. The book follows Oswald Cobblepot, Jervis Tetch, and Dr. Jonathan Crane as they’re all summoned to one of Scarecrow’s old haunts, apparently by invitations from the others on Halloween Night. It’s not too long before they realize they’ve been lured there under false pretenses and that The Batman is stalking them from outside. They scramble hither and thither, trying to marshal their meager resources into a fighting force capable of taking down the Bat, but they’re thwarted by apparently brilliantly placed traps and misdirects until...well you’ll have to see.

One of my favorite things that Gregg Hurwitz does in this issue is also one of my favorite comic book tropes: having supervillains casually chat with each other. Marvel’s Bar With No Name is the best example, in my opinion, of this trope taken to its logical extreme, but the relish with which Hurwitz seems to write these three between scares is an absolute delight. They trade war stories, swap tactics, and just plain vent throughout the course of the book, like workers in the service industry who dislike one another, but hate the disgruntled customers even more.

Szymon Kudranski handles pencils and ink, while John Kalisz provides the washed-out, watercolor-like colors, and both fit the tone of this book perfectly. Kudranski draws so many “dramatic close-up” panels that you’d think it would get old, but it’s half played deadly serious and half played for laughs and it works on both levels each and every time. Seeing every little facial tic of these villains play out in agonizing detail is an absolute delight and Kalisz’s colors only enhance the dark comedy, setting a color palette that’s business as usual for a Bat-book (though in this case, it’s actually quite a bit better than “usual”), but with the dual tones, it works wonderfully.

The Bad

I can’t think of anything major to complain about, this book was my most pleasant surprise of the month. There’s a musical interlude that goes on perhaps a LITTLE too long, the book at times leans on well-worn tropes of super-villains (guess what? Bad guys come from awful families!), but neither of those complaints are substantial enough to warrant not buying this book.

The Verdict

I’ve only kept up with Dark Knight sporadically, but this is a perfect stand-alone issue and a great excuse to pick up the book. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone try to make Batman funny without sacrificing tone or setting or even descending into full-on camp. Sure, he’s said funny things, but that’s almost always being serious to a fault, this book is actually pure comedy with some very effective horror moments. Shaun of the Dead is the closest analog I can draw in terms of tone, as both the comedy AND the terror are extremely effective, and that’s great company for the book to keep as far as I’m concerned.

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#1 Posted by BatWatch (5485 posts) - - Show Bio

Wow! I disagree almost entirely.

I'll give you two good points the book had. It looked great. I don't even usually like Szymon Kudranski's art, but it really worked well this time. Second, it was fun, at least at first, seeing the villains discuss things especially when they were razzing Batman.

However, there were some big problems.

The issue is fun just watching the villain play off each other, but that gets old after about ten pages, and Hurwitz obviously knew he needed something to happen in the book, so what happened, these three monstrous villains who Hurwitz has spent so long building as credible threats turn into complete boobs who engage in slapstick antics. It's not smart, it's not clever, and it's not particularly entertaining.

The issue spends over a quarter of its pages going over the origins of these villains once more, and the origins of Scarecrow and Hatter were just established in this very series. A rehash was hardly needed.

Finally, the ending is completely uncharacteristic and immoral of Batman if you actually think about it.

The BatWatch Review is up.

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#2 Posted by Saren (27534 posts) - - Show Bio

I agree completely about the art --- this is a very atmospheric story and the colors and shadows bring that out very effectively. The ending is uncharacteristic of Batman, sure, but I found it funny nonetheless.

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#3 Edited by Mucklefluga (2653 posts) - - Show Bio

I thought this was awesome! I've never read a New 52 The Dark Knight comic and this, as my first, was superb!

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#4 Posted by lmothander (140 posts) - - Show Bio

Pretty good read but would have been cooler in October, closer to Halloween.

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#5 Posted by batarang614 (186 posts) - - Show Bio

my favorite this week

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