Ethan Van Sciver teams up with Gregg Hurwitz for the next big Dark Knight arc featuring The Mad Hatter as the villain.
Too often I see people wondering ‘What is the point of this book?’ or ‘Why do we need so many Batman books? What is this one doing that the others aren’t?’
Well I for one will never complain about having too many Batman books as long as they’re well written, and given that some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching Batman movies, it will come as no surprise that I’m eagerly anticipating Hurwitz’s second arc of what are essentially big bombastic movie pitches in comic form.
Normally a comic that doesn’t take full advantage of the comics medium for storytelling and instead tries to storyboard a movie would suffer creatively. The addition of Van Sciver helps alleviate this problem significantly with his creative layouts and strong panel composition really making the pages shine. Of his more notable work this issue is the relationship of Bruce and Natalya playing out on piano keys. It puts a unique spin on what otherwise might be a routine superhero love squabble.
Some of the writing moments don’t shine quite as bright. Bruce’s characterization in this arc continues to be questionable at some points just as it was in the Scarecrow arc. For instance, Bruce gets caught up in an awkward moment tinged with romance after saving a woman from being kidnapped by Mad Hatter’s hypnotized henchmen. Neither the horrible fiery death of those henchman, nor the need to collect vital evidence can interrupt their starry eyed gaze.
Bruce then returns to his mail-order girlfriend who reminds us that she’s Ukranian once again, and that she’s very upset that Bruce is clearly keeping things from her. My guess is she’s a glutton for neglect, as she’s had the same complaints since they initially began dating.
Bruce, with an excuse to storm out of the room once again dresses up to go beat criminals up. After the 1 millionth cameo by Penguin in the New 52, Batman returns to the now carefully police-examined crime scene in which they too overlooked the bright red wig laying on the road. Batman finds the mind control device in the wig and narrows his eyes.
Over in the ‘Wild Hare’ nightclub, an alarmingly wall-eyed Mad Hatter seems to be creating some sort of horrible wonder land in the backroom, and using the kidnapped citizens to construct it.
The issue closes as one of the victims accuses Jervis of being mad as a hatter. Jervis orders one of the tweedles to fetch him a stepping ladder, which he uses to get face to face with the taller man. He then shoves his fingers into the man’s eye sockets in a scene of gratuitous violence.
Yes, I like my Batman comics dark and atmospheric, or even occasionally campy, but excessive violence or depressing nihilism (*cough* Nightwing, Batgirl) isn’t something that adds to that, and in fact can often detract from the experience.
If you’re a hardcore Batman fanatic, you’re going to pick this up anyway, but if you’re just curious, this might be a story you wait to check out in trade form. Not to say it’s a bad story by any means, but it’s clearly written and paced for the trade, and reading Hurwitz month to month can be an experience of feeling stretched too thin. It seemed like Scarecrow had Batman trapped in that basement for years.
This arc is off to a great start, and if you can turn off your brain a little and appreciate blockbuster fun, then you’re going to want to check it out in one form or another. Let’s hope that Hurwitz sticks the landing this time.
Batman: The Dark Knight #16:
Reviewed by Micah Evans