New 52 – Batman: The Dark Knight #4 review

Rather than walking away angry or annoyed like I did in the previous issues of this series, I actually enjoyed part 4: Welcome to the Jungle. Perhaps that’s because I’m finally getting into the right mindset of this comic, much like how it took me a while to warm up to the supernatural Batwoman series. Or maybe the pretty pictures won me over this month.

Penciller and co-plotter David Finch draws an incredible Batman. Heck, he draws an incredible almost everything and I suspect that’s what the book’s main draw is. Batman: The Dark Knight puts story 2nd and serves as a platform for Finch to draw as many DC characters as possible whether their inclusion feels forced or not. We’re only 4 issues in and we’ve already seen:

Two-Face, Ventriloquist, White Rabbit, Joker, The Cavalier, Zsasz, Robin, Nightwing, The Birds of Prey, Clay-Face, Deathstroke, Scarecrow, The Flash, Wonder Woman and probably a few others that I’m forgetting. It’s a bit much, but if you’re looking for an action packed comic that’s more interested in cameos that character development, then Batman: The Dark Knight is the bee’s knees.

The writing really isn’t its strong suit, just look at how the story starts: Batman gets tangled up in sentient vines that hoist him over a giant Venus fly trap. Wow, we’ve never seen that before. And then Batman gets a call from Wonder Woman who just wants to update the reader on what’s happened so far and to tell Batman that she can’t bail him out. Since when has Batman been so eager to get help from The Justice League? And where is the drama? What’s the point of reading about a hero who calls up exceedingly more powerful, more capable heroes for help and advice as soon as things get harry? That’s not Batman. Still, Finch’s Wonder Woman looks good. In fact, I think Wonder Woman is being handled the best out of all New 52 characters across every title she’s made an appearance in. A character who isn’t handled well at all, though, is Jim Gordon.

In one of the book’s worst scenes we get to see a whiney Jim Gordon leaving a 7th message on Bruce Wayne’s voice mail. He’s calling to complain about Batman trashing Forbes’ car in the last issue. And that’s one of my many problems with the Batman Inc. idea—it turns Batman into an employee. To Gordon, it’s not that “Batman has no limits” or is making “dramatic examples to shake people out of apathy” or anything like that. Gordon believes that Batman was sent by his boss, Bruce Wayne, to intimidate Forbes. The cool thing about Batman is that he’s not supposed to answer to anyone. Now everyone believes that he does.

But as much as that scene aggravated me, I was immediately reminded that this is not a series meant to be taken seriously. What reminded me was this silly moment where Batman and Alfred are eating ice cream cones together while watching the bat computer. By the way, Batman is seen eating what appears to be sherbet, mint, or possibly pistachio ice cream, which makes sense because as we all know…

It’s an over the top comic that features hulked-out villains showing up just because the artist draws them well. That’s a bad thing if you’re looking for a deep story that sparks discussion, a great thing if you just want to see new artwork featuring your favorite villains and lots of explosions and fist fighting. You get plenty of that in this issue. My favorite moments were:

[SPOILER]1. The really cool 2 page spread of Deathstroke chopping the Batwing in half while lighting strikes in the background and Batman falls. However, the super nerd side of me has to point out that Slade has a regenerative factor which should have countered the negative side effects of White Rabbits serum and he should be invincible from here on out, really. 2. The final image of Scarecrow. It’s one of the best Scarecrow images I’ve seen in years. The coloring, lighting, everything about it is magnificent.[/SPOILER]

Like the last issue, there is one really good scene that stands out. It’s a moment in which Batman laments about all the people who rely on him and how he knows he will let one or all of them down eventually. He even ponders how he will function not if Alfred dies, but when. It’s a good scene that feels kind of out of place after just seeing Batman and Alfred eating ice cream and then Alfred making a couple dirty-old-man jokes, but still, it’s a very nice moment…even if Batman forgets all about Damian, his son. Which is odd for this series which does the best of any Batman comic when it comes to cohesion. No other Batman series does a better job reminding us about Batman’s involvement in the Justice Leauge, Batman Inc., and his fight with The Dollmaker in Detective Comics, and what happened when Dick Grayson was under the cowl during the Black Mirror series. And maybe that’s why I have such a hard time enjoying this series: it’s the only one that’s aware of what is happening around it– it reminds me just how thin Batman is spread and how convoluted his story has become.

SCORE: 5.5/10