New 52 – Batman: The Dark Knight #11 review

We may have seen a Dark Knight rise, but that doesn’t mean that the sun has set on our time with Batman.

“Batman: The Dark Knight” is the only Batman comic out this week (not counting the digital stuff) and with “Dark Knight” right there in the name, I’m sure a lot of new readers, fresh from seeing the recent film, will pick it up without knowing or really caring what they’re in for. And even though it’s the 2nd part of a Scarecrow story, it really isn’t that bad of a jumping on point for those newbies testing the waters. Much of what happened in issue #10 is summed up nicely so the uninitiated can keep up. But if you are one of those new readers then I suggest you pick up issue #10 instead. It’s a far better comic and I feel that even though you’ll be able to follow what goes on here, issue #11 is not a good enough comic on its own to keep you coming back for more.

Issue #11 slows things down considerably. So much so that it doesn’t really feel like much happened when you compare it to the previous installment. Last time we had a sting operation gone wrong, Bruce/Damian drama, Bruce/girlfriend drama, Scarecrow terrorizing a little girl, Scarecrow terrorizing Gordon, Batman having a sentimental moment with a victim, etc. etc. There was a lot of content packed into those 30 or so pages! This issue, however, retreads the same scenes from the last issue. You’ll have to watch a similar Scarecrow terrorizes little girl scene again that takes up most of the issue and another 2 pages is spent reminding us that girlfriend Natalya is feeling ignored and neglected by Bruce. The story never actually moves along until the final 3 or 4 pages. The things we don’t already know from last issue are scenes we already know because they’re from one of the most loved Batman films of all time. It borrows a scene from “Batman Begins” in which Bruce falls into a well and is terrified by bats and it’s sort of like “Yeah, we get it. We’ve all seen this before. Move it along!”

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any good scenes. The Scarecrow has a particularly terrifying moment and there’s a creepy scene in a public park that you need to look at closely otherwise you’ll miss the subtleties. A shot of Batman speeding away in the batmobile was especially cool. BUT everything else is mediocre or outright bad. The bad comes from the final 4 pages, which I’ll cover in spoiler tags.

As for the artwork, I thought it looked good. Finch makes the Scarecrow’s scenes as grainy and dirty as possible so they feel extra unsettling, he brings us one of the best shots of the batmobile I’ve seen yet in the New 52, and the most impressive thing about the art for me was easily the variety. Variety in settings from flashbacks to Wayne manor to flashbacks to Crane’s childhood home, one scene takes place in a serene park while the next takes place in a dingy dungeon– no two settings were alike. And even though the Scarecrow is the one character wearing a full mask, he’s also the most expressive. Finch did a great job of conveying a variety of emotions like excitement, madness, anger, and my favorite, the momentary realization of being a monster before snapping back into nightmare incarnate–you’ll see what I’m talking about. The negatives regarding the art would have to be A) the cover, which is easily the most boring bat-cover since Jim Lee’s variant for “Batman” #2 and B) the final 4 pages.

Here are the problems I wanted to talk about in spoiler tags:

The issue spends a lot of time addressing Scarecrow’s origin but I thought it was handled pretty poorly. Typically we’ve seen a scrawny child who is constantly bullied at school. The boy starts torturing small animals and things and becomes a major introvert. Rather than becoming a serial killer, Crane decides to go to school, get a doctorate and get paid to torture people full time in his experiments until he is ultimately discovered and thrown out on his ass. That doesn’t seem to be quite the same story we’re getting here. Writer Gregg Hurwitz has Scarecrow being the subject of experiments conducted by his own father. His tormentor is now his dad and his dad is now exactly like grown-up Scarecrow. By showing us that his father was exactly like him and put him through fear experiments it doesn’t so much explain Jonathan’s adult behavior as it passes the buck! It turns “Why is Jonathan Crane obsessed with fear?” into a two-part question because now the answer is “Because his dad was obsessed with fear.” Now we have to wonder why his dad was so obsessed with fear and how he came to be. It passed the buck–I hate that expression but it’s the only thing that comes to mind. The burden of Scarecrow’s motivation has been shifted from himself to his dad and I doubt we’ll get a story all about Papa Crane anytime soon.

My other complaint about this issue is that the final five pages are awful. Just awful. Hurwitz has so far done an excellent job of writing an intellectual Batman. But for some reason we see Batman charging full speed at the front door of Scarecrow’s house in broad daylight. What the hell was that? Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. First of all, I feel like there had to be an art mix-up here. There’s on way this scene should’ve taken place in the daytime because Batman is wearing NIGHT VISION GOGGLES. I tried to reason it away and think that maybe he was just using them to look for heat signatures or something but he even says “Activate night vision” and it’s still broad daylight. It is in no way dark enough for night vision goggles in the scene that is being depicted. Colorist Sonia Oback tries to make it look like the sun is setting, but that’s just not good enough. It’s too bright for night vision. It’s my understanding that the conditions must be night-like in nature, correct?

And another problem comes from the shadows. The shadows of the car clearly show that the sun is somewhere to the left of the panel, but the shadows of the house in the foreground show that the sun is setting in the background, which is what it looks like according to the background colors.  So where exactly is the sun? And why does Batman say “drop heat sig. Take mag to Ten-Ex” when in the next panel our perspective hasn’t moved any closer to the house and the infrared appears to be cranked up. This is only the first of the five awful pages!

After seeing that Gordon is inside the house, Batman jumps out of a tree and swoops down to the front door. Scarecrow immediately jumps out and blasts Batman with a shotgun. Good. He deserved it for being so stupid. You can brush off Scarecrow already being ready by saying he’s paranoid and watching by the door constantly…but you would also have to admit that Batman would’ve seen Scarecrow’s heat signature as well when he looked for Gordon. Batman falls back in just the right trajectory to sink into Scarecrow’s carefully disguised (he put a tarp over it) pit of despair. Batman falls through and lands…in a mine cart. The next thing you know, we’re borrowing the syringe glove from the Rocksteady video game “Arkham City” and the book is over. The book is really taking a bad turn.

Things were off to a good start in issue #10 so much so that I overvalued it at a 9/10 just to shake people out of apathy and give this series a chance after 9 horrible, horrible comics in a row. But this issue here falls flat. Still better than anything from issues #1-9, but definitely mediocre. The worst thing about all of this is that a lot of potential new readers are going to be coming into comic shops this week after seeing “The Dark Knight Rises” and this book is going to make for a very forgettable first impression.

SCORE: 4.5/10