Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 1: Knight Terrors review

Here is a book that I believe sold well due to its name alone. “Batman: The Dark Knight”, what a great and incredibly timely title for a Batman comic! I see no other explanation as to how this series could have sold so well to be among the 20 top selling comics month after month. Or maybe there are more comic reviewers out there than I thought. I know I’m guilty of buying each issue of this series but I only did that so I could write reviews. If it wasn’t for that, I would’ve bailed on this title as soon as I witnessed this gem at the end of issue number one:

Anyone who reads my reviews knows by now that there’s absolutely no chance that I would give a book that did that a recommendation. Let’s just give Penguin a magic wand while we’re at it! Or what about Robin, he’d sure be a lot cooler if he could teleport, right?

There are too many better books out there. We always hear this debate about how well the comic book industry is doing and how long it can last, but honestly if you love comics I think you can find that the selection these days is greater than its ever been both in store as well as online. I don’t have any numbers on hand and I’m just going off my own personal observations, but really look at them all! You don’t even have to settle for Batman: The Dark Knight as your one Gotham-centric story. There’s Batman, Detective Comics, Arkham Unhinged, Batman Beyond Unlimited, Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman Incorporated, and Batman & Robin–and even though I just rambled those titles off the top of my head I can guarantee that I forgot one!

But perhaps you think I’m being too harsh on this first arc from Batman: The Dark Knight. You may think I’m being unreasonable just because of one horrible Harvey Dent characterization and that if I were to set that one piece aside– just pinch off that moldy patch of bread that surely the rest of the loaf would be salvageable. I assure you, it isn’t.

And if you feel like walking away from this review now because it’s clearly going to be negative and reading an exhausting fanboy rant isn’t how you want to spend your time on this earth, just know that if you are one of those comic fans who reads the graphic novels alone, please believe me when I say that there are MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BATMAN VOLUME 2 AND THE ENTIRE COURT OF OWLS SAGA IN THIS BOOK. So please, if you wish to ignore my advice and buy Knight Terrors anyway, make certain that you hold off on reading the ninth and final chapter if you have yet to see the conclusion of the Batman series’ Night of the Owls.

Content

This is the biggest of the New 52 Batman graphic novels, collecting all 9 of the series’ original run which includes every comic written by David Finch and his occasional collaborator Paul Jenkins. As I said in the ALL CAPS WARNING above, it also comes with the Night of Owls tie-in issue written by Catwoman and Batwing scribe Judd Winick and it has major spoilers for that entire saga which has yet to be published as a graphic novel. Those of you who wait for the trades NEED to know this.

Now, the art in this book is wonderful. David Finch is an artist first and foremost but up until being replaced by Gregg Hurwitz as of issue 10 he was the book’s writer as well. More often than not, when an artist tries their hand at writing a series the results are typically not very good. In the case of David Finch it appears that his love of drawing Batman’s villains, big boobies, and bulging muscles got the better of him and he wrote a story that’s sole purpose was to give him the freedom to draw these things. The story comes second, basically. It’s evident that the book must have been a lot of fun to draw, but unfortunately that doesn’t make very fun to read. The end result is a book about a dumb, but very cool looking Batman who stumbles from one fight with a classic rogue to the next while chasing a new, mysterious enemy. That might sound alright on the surface, but Batman never wins any of these fights and the villains are never portrayed in the manor you know and love; nearly all of them are depicted as giant hulking monsters. Even Bane, who you think DC would’ve made sure to depict as intelligent and formidable what with Nolan’s film coming out at the time, is a giant idiot with the exact same character design as his Arkham Asylum video game form (the 2nd worst depiction of the character right behind Schumacher’s Batman & Robin). Bane does nothing but lob boulders and go on and on about how he broke the Batman once before. He’s like a pathetic drunk who still brags about the game winning pass he threw in high school. The Batman we see is one who only finds victory by default when the baddie passes out due to a drug overdose or, worse for many Batman fans, he calls for help from a superpowered friend like Superman or the Flash. Wonder Woman is the only one willing to ignore Batman’s begging for any kind of assistance because she has better things to do. This Batman is utterly worthless in every situation. And that mysterious villain I mentioned?

Her motivations are never explained, there’s no resolution to her story (which makes for a pretty unsatisfying read), and her character design essentially makes it impossible for you to read the book in public without passerby assuming you love Hentai pornography. If you have a friend or significant other who doesn’t “get” comics or why you like them, you will never convince them to take the medium seriously with a book like Batman: The Dark Knight, Vol. 1: Knight Terrors. It’s a book that is completely without substance but I understand that for some that might be just the sort of escapism they’ve been looking for. If the 10 year old boy inside you squeals with delight at the prospect of seeing Batman and his Justice League pals fight steroid enhanced versions of Batman’s entire rogues gallery while they chase down a playboy bunny then by all means this is the perfect book for you and you’ll likely have a great time. It’s almost impossible not to marvel at awesome images like this:

I personally want something a bit more fulfilling and this story won’t satisfy. As I said, Finch was replaced by Gregg Hurwitz in issue #10 and that left the White Rabbit saga you have here to come off as incoherent and without conclusion. For a more detailed discussion about each issue from this collection, read the individual reviews found here.

Supplemental Material

6 pages of un-inked, un-colored, absolutely gorgeous work by David Finch taken from issues 1, 2, and 6. His pencils are mighty impressive, but no commentary is given whatsoever. It’s six pages of the same images you saw while reading the book only now you see proof that they would’ve looked just as impressive had no black, blues, or purples been splashed on the pages. Seeing as how this is the last of the material that David Finch will write regarding Batman, fans of his would likely have appreciated some sort of essay describing his experience on the title. This is a problem I’ve noticed with all of the New 52 graphic novels to date, a complete lack of insight into the mind of the creators behind the comics. Why not have a few paragraphs describing the creative process? Anything at all. And get this, the very last page of the supplemental material and the entire book as a whole is the original pencilwork for One-Face. It’s almost like it was put there just to taunt readers like me.

Value

It’s so very, very not worth it. This should most definitely have been a softcover book. It would’ve made it a lot cheaper and therefore a lot easier to recommend to people for purchase. But it’s a hardcover and costs $24.99 at your local comic shop. That’s much too steep and even the $16.42 Amazon price is asking too much in my opinion. You could spend two extra dollars and get the 600 page Knightfall Vol. 3 (which includes Prodigal).

Overall

If you’re an extraordinarily large fan of David Finch’s artwork then you will love this and it’s totally worth purchasing. It’s clear that he had fun drawing anything and everything Batman related that he could think of and that makes for quite the spectacle. But if you’re here for story you’ll likely hate it because it makes little sense and features a dumb, clumsy Batman who stumbles into one forgettable, yet cameo-filled situation after another.

SCORE: 3.5/10

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