For the first time in both the 5-issue pre-52 AND New 52 run of “Batman: The Dark Knight” we have a MUST BUY issue!
With Gregg Hurwitz taking over writing duties, this book is finally readable. David Finch is a great artist, but a poor writer. Seeing him write this series was like watching Shaquille O’Neil act. Hurwitz’s darkly psychological writing combined with Finch’s detailed drawings and brilliant use of shadows (pay close attention to them so you fully appreciate how scary Crane is) turn “Batman: The Dark Knight” into something new– a book deserving of the name The Dark Knight.
The Scarecrow is loose again and he’s targeting children. This isn’t really out of character for him, the guy is obsessed with inflicting any amount of terror and is a monster almost as irredeemable as the Joker in my book. The issue’s opening pages show Jonathan Crane stitching his lips together before heading to a deep, dark basement to frighten a girl he’s captured. It’s creepy and unsettling and 100% Scarecrow. I never thought of Crane as the type to inflict pain on himself like that, but he’s also psychotic enough to do anything if it means instilling fear in another. How he manages to enunciate properly, however, is a mystery.
From then on we are introduced to Natalya, Bruce’s new love interest and surprisingly she isn’t annoying, a cheap knock-off of Vicki Vale, or the type who is going to walk right into a situation where she’s guaranteed to be a damsel-in-distress anytime soon. She’s smart, she has a life of her own, and she, like Damian later on this same issue, brings up an important flaw that Bruce needs to meditate on and rectify in this arc: that he doesn’t give enough attention to those closest to him.
Gordon also gets plenty of face-time here and is handled better than he has been in any of the other New 52 bat-titles so far. You see him and the GCPD do some real police work and fully cooperate with Batman in a sting operation that’s very captivating. And that’s what’s so great about this issue: there are horrifying moments and action packed moments like this, but it’s also filled with quiet moments between Bruce and his son, Batman and one of the rescued girls, or Bruce and his new girlfriend and they are equally as interesting. Nothing ever felt tedious and I was never bored.
My only problems would be when Batman mocks a thug who threatens to sue him for police brutality, “No. It’s vigilante brutality. If you want to sue me, serve me a summons.” it’s funny and it would’ve been great for Batman before Grant Morrison came around but now that Bruce Wayne has admitted to funding Batman and he’s started Batman Inc. –Batman getting sued is now a real possibility (and part of the reason why I don’t like the whole Incorporated concept. It makes Batman more employee than vigilante). But that’s more of a problem with how Batman is being handled in general and not this issue’s fault at all. My only other complaints would be that #1 I wish it had been longer. And that’s a great thing to mope about. #2 would be that by the end of the issue, Scarecrow is still stitching his lips together. Once was enough. He doesn’t need to walk around with a bloody mouth all the time. It’s just not the way I would like to see him depicted. Still creepy as hell, though. #3 is that Hurwitz doesn’t get Damian’s voice quite right. Gordon, Bruce, Batman, and Scarecrow all sound perfectly in character but Damian doesn’t sound like Damian. Not even close.
But those are only nitpicks and they are small–as most nitpicks are. This is a great issue where we see a Batman who is both bad ass AND compassionate, an incredibly scary and threatening depiction of Scarecrow, and a Gordon done right! It’s an issue that not only has me excited about the future, but it’s saved this entire series.