It’s over. Batman: The Dark Knight #29 marks the end of my least-favorite solo Batman title. Before I get started let me just briefly point out where this series went wrong: It originally started before the New 52 during the height of Nolan-mania, hence the title “Batman: The Dark Knight.” But instead of trying to channel the core values of the Nolan films in an effort to attract new readers, this all-new series was similar in name only. It wasn’t character driven, it wasn’t a realistic approach to the mythology, it wasn’t complex in any way… it wasn’t anything of note. Then when The New 52 began it was rebooted as something even stranger with hulk-ified villains (One-Face. Remember that?), a Batman who frequently called the Justice League for help, and a teleporting Playboy Bunny who got away scot-free. Then Gregg Hurwitz, the writer of Penguin: Pain & Prejudice took over and it appeared as though things would get better, but instead Batman: The Dark Knight became “Batman: Sad Kids Grow Up to Be Violent Villains” as each new and over-long arc told the origin tale of another Batman villain using a repetitive formula detailing childhood trauma. It was always terribly slow going too until we reached a final issue that suddenly cranked the action up to 11 with total Armageddon coming to Gotham. The series had the most attractive name and it had it at the best possible time. We didn’t need all the blood, gore, beasts, and boobs. We needed character development and not just with childhood flashbacks. If it wanted to tell origin stories then it needed greater variety in the details and it needed to get to the point faster. Using villains that weren’t over-used in other series would’ve been nice too. This closing arc is the biggest offender, using Man-Bat, a foe we’ve seen every month for the past year in multiple titles.
As you’ll recall, last month’s issue ended with Batman falling to his death after a fight with an all-new and much bigger Man-Bat. It was a spectacularly illustrated issue by Ethan Van Sciver and this issue, which picks up exactly where we left off, grabs your attention instantly with its dynamic artwork and harrowing action. At least until Batman figures his way out of certain death in one of the least exciting and perhaps foolish ways possible. Batman really isn’t much of a thinker in this final issue. Not at all. Since it happens in the first five pages I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you: Batman is falling, he sees the Bat Plane (we can’t say “Batwing” anymore) is too far away and acknowledges that his cape is too shredded to glide so he’s in for certain death. Tension rises as he gets closer and closer to the city below, but then Batman remembers– I have a bat-grapple, the only gadget I use more than a batarang, built directly into my gauntlet, I’m sorry, BOTH GAUNTLETS. What’s the suspense of him falling if he has not one but two tools designed specifically for such situations? It’s not like it’s a new device either, he’s been swinging by a rope for 75 years… and yet somehow he forgot until just now. But wait, it’s not like he just fires it and swings. Nope, he instead shoots in both directions and nearly snaps both arms. He even goes into detail about the unimaginable pain as he hears tissue snap and bones pop. However will he get home? However will he be able to fight Super-Man-Bat with 2 broken arms? Nevermind, he’s fine. The next page has him getting bandaged up and going right back out on the street the very same night.
It’s instances like that that make me say “Good riddance.” to this series. Nothing that happens in it matters. Oh no, he’s falling to his death– wait, got a grapple! Oh no, he’s horribly injured– wait, he’s apparently superhuman. Conflict is what makes a story interesting. There needs to be struggle and none of Batman’s struggles every carried any weight in this series. Hell, even the impossible to defeat Abraham Langstrom is ultimately brought down in eerily similar fashion to the ending from Hurwitz’s first Batman: The Dark Knight story.
It’s the second time Hurwitz wrote a Batman story in which the villain’s downfall depended on Batman’s blood. Seriously? This is the best plan Batman had? It feels like Batman did everything the hard way in this issue. Why swing on a grapple line when I can rip both of my arms from their sockets? Why administer the antidote through Man-Bat’s mouth when I could just inject myself with it, arch my back, and let him plunge 6-inch fangs into my chest? How hard could it be to puncture an artery, really? I’m sure he’ll miss my heart and I won’t bleed out before I can put the cuffs on him afterward. I’m Batman! Jesus, Bats, it’s not like with Kirk Langstrom, who is a nice guy when not monster-ized, Abraham could easily have choked a weakened Batman to death soon after being transformed back to human form. That would’ve actually been a really cool scene.
To make matters worse, we lose Ethan Van Sciver 5 pages into the comic and he’s replaced by Jorge Lucas whose Man-Bat (and everything else) pales in comparison. His inks seem to bleed and every figure is consumed by shadows with all the little details and characteristics being lost to the blackness. Batman himself looks decent, but that’s the only element that measures up. Abraham Langstrom is the most disappointing figure. Not only is he no longer imposing as a human, but his Ultra-Man-Bat appears to be 1/4 the size of what Sciver delivered and just doesn’t look scary at all. Lucas gives a haunting final page, but it’s not enough to salvage the overall artistic quality of the series’ final issue.
- You’re just one issue shy of owning the entire Batman: The Dark Knight collection
- It doesn’t get any better than Batman fighting a monster
- You’ve loved Gregg Hurwitz’s run from the start
My interest gradually faded more and more after artist Ethan Van Sciver left (which only took 5 pages). There were some amusing moments with Alfred and Gordon, but mostly this story felt all too familiar and Jorge Lucas’ art failed to make any of the over-the-top action interesting. A Man-Bat story needs an artist who can draw a cool monster.