A funny thing happened while reading this issue — I found myself interested in what was going on! Issue #8 is easily the best issue of “Batman: The Dark Knight” but that’s not exactly high praise. I’ve found this whole series to be pretty terrible and the highest score I’ve ever given any issue is 5.5 and that was mostly because the art was so good. What you get from #8 is a mildly entertaining stand-alone story with a hardboiled feel and some quality time with Jim Gordon, a character who hasn’t been used enough in any of the bat-titles. Sure, it feels rushed but what can you expect? The White Rabbit thing was going on and on and on and DC saw how much praise “Penguin: Pain & Prejudice” was getting so they brought that writer over here, kicked Jenkins to the curb, and nipped the so-far seven issue long White Rabbit saga in the bud. And even though it feels rushed, it manages to not be disappointing. I know my expectations were really low going into this so I was pleasantly surprised. I won’t say it’s worth $2.99, but it definitely has more of a claim to that price tag than the previous seven issues.
Let’s start with the cover. It’s pretty misleading because The White Rabbit, the lame and oversexed new villain whose identity was finally revealed in the last issue, plays no part here. None whatsoever! In fact, we’re probably never going to see her ever again because next month Judd Winick is serving as guest writer to handle a “Night of the Owls” tale and then the month after that we start a whole new Scarecrow arc by new series writer Gregg Hurwitz. We’ll likely never see White Rabbit in a bat-story ever again unless it’s some small background Easter egg. I would be fine with her fading into obscurity like other lame villains such as Orca and Absence. Jenkins and Finch had seven issues to make her an interesting character, but in those seven issues the only thing we ever saw her do was push her boobs in Batman’s face and say “chase me” and then Batman would follow her to the next location where she would be draped over the shoulder of a random rogue. That story getting canceled isn’t a terrible loss.
The other villains you see on the cover (Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee, and Tweedle Dum) ARE in the book, but there still is one small bit of false advertising to be had: the credits. Although Finch did the cover, he didn’t write the story and he didn’t pencil a single panel. Instead, this stand-alone adventure was written by Joe Harris and drawn by Ed Benes, whose art looks strikingly similar to Finch’s stuff. I almost didn’t realize there was a different artist on board. The writing, however hit me like a ton of bricks. After 2 pages it was evident that this was not Finch or Jenkins. Batman wasn’t getting his ass kicked by everybody he encountered, he wasn’t calling the Justice League for help every five minutes either, heck he was even visiting with Jim Gordon and talking about a mystery! There was an actual case that needed solving and Gordon had to turn to Batman for help…it felt right.
One thing that definitely did not feel right, however, was The Mad Hatter. I’ve ranted about the characterization of Mad Hatter before, here. In this issue, Mad Hatter doesn’t even use hats to control peoples minds. Instead, he employs Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum to adjust a giant dish at parts of the city. Those unlucky enough to be in line with the dish’s frequency go mad and try to kill each other. Why he’s doing it isn’t explained beyond the fact that he’s crazy (mad as a hatter). Also, he never references “Alice in Wonderland”, instead opting to rant about “the final act” and “being in the sequel”. Oh, and he carries a harpoon gun. Does that sound like The Mad Hatter to you?
It’s a passable book, but I wish that Harris had not gone for such a big spectacle with this one-shot. The same thing happened in “Detective Comics” earlier this month. If your story is going to be self-contained in under 32 pages, it’s probably best to keep the story small. The best parts of the whole comic are the quiet moments with Gordon at his therapist’s office. Why not use these one-and-done episodes to develop character rather than waste one of the A-list Batman rogues (I’m sure some may debate his A-list status, but I think he’s a pretty memorable and formidable foe) on a half-baked plot to destroy all of Gotham?