Before we get into the comic itself let’s take a moment to appreciate how cool this cover is. Ethan Van Sciver really put a lot of detail into this so take a few minutes to note all the mushrooms, the white rabbit holding a gun, the skull flowers, the Cheshire cat that is now a Cheshire bat, and is that Thomas and Martha Wayne dead on the staircase? As crazy-cool as this coer is, it’s Hi-Fi that really brought this baby home. Compare the black and white variant with the full color version:
Without the distinct colors it’s sort of a busy mess, isn’t it? And the psychedelic effect added to the sky really gives it a wonderful finishing touch. This is a perfect example of colorist and artist coming together beautifully to deliver a superb cover.
Alright, on with the show.
I really expected to hate this comic after the hyper-violent reveal of Mad Hatter in last month’s issue. In fact, even though I was enjoying the comic as I read it I always had this feeling like I was going to turn the page and something crap-tastic was going to happen, but it never did! It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read that appears to be excelling in ways that the previous Scarecrow arc didn’t.
It follows the same structure as Hurwitz’s Penguin: Pain & Prejudice and his previous Scarecrow arc where we cut between Batman doing detective work and the villain putting his plan in motion while reflecting on his childhood. But thankfully it’s not the same sad and predictable story of abuse you might expect and there were quite a few surprises there. After last month’s comic I fully expected a despicable gore-fest but the violence was toned down quite a bit. Yes, there are some jarring moments of Mad Hatter being overly nasty and physical and those were a nuisance but overall I found him to be interesting enough. His plan and greater motivations are still far from clear but this comic managed to regain my interest again. There were even a few moments in which Mad Hatter made me laugh. And surprisingly, Batman had me cracking up as well.
Batman does some good detective work here and there are some nice scenes between him and Alfred and, as you can see from the image above, Gordon. One of the best scenes though is an action one in which Batman must rescue a kidnapped child. Nothing captured my imagination as a child quite like seeing Batman smash through a skylight! The only thing about Batman that I found off is something I’ll put in spoiler tags.
Besides the book being a pretty enjoyable read it also has some phenomenal art! It doesn’t just stop at the cover. The two page spread of Batman surrounded by projections from the batcomputer is a really unique top-down perspective that made for a very creative way to deliver the title page and opening credits. Great coloring again too with the bluish/green glow coming from the countless hovering tabs. Be sure to note how the color palette changes to very faded tones during the flashbacks that come later. The comic has some really, really great images. Batman looks iconic in pretty much every shot without it seeming overdone and Van Sciver never hesitates to add as much detail as possible to decrepit buildings, school halls, theme parks, and other settings.
I almost hate to hype up Batman: The Dark Knight since it’s let me down so much in the past, but this comic was totally worth my $2.99. It looks great, it’s funny, it’s thrilling, and there are quite a few unique twists on Tetch’s origin that have me curious about what new direction Hurwitz is going in. I’m still nervous that he’s going to write something that’s overly dark thus bridging the gap between Tetch’s picturesque past and neck-snapping present but as far as this issue goes I like what I saw.