Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Batman: The Dark Knight vol. 1 by Paul Jenkins & David Finch

Reading all New 52 Bat-titles this year is self-obligatory which was why I knew that I was going to pick this up--granted, later rather than sooner because I was quite aware of the lukewarm response a lot of fans and critics share when it came to Paul Jenkins and David Finch's first nine issues collected in this particular volume misleadingly entitled Knight Terrors. It took me only two nights to finish this entire thing and even while I was midway through, I was already patting myself in the back for making a wise decision to simply review it later as a volume as oppose to the usual per-single issue quota that I've been doing since April. And I'll tell you why:

Knowing that the quality of writing for this one was subpar due to my research on other comic book websites, I decided that The Dark Knight might be best reviewed as a collected work for the most understandable reason ever: I DO NOT WANT TO REPEAT THE SAME INCIDENT WITH TONY DANIEL'S DETECTIVE COMICS which, if you've read my reviews for each of his issues in that title before, WAS LIKE WILLINGLY STEPPING INTO A CIRCLE OF HELL TO GET NEEDLESSLY TORTURED FOR A SIN I HAVE COMMITTED IN ANOTHER LIFE. It had been such a depressing week for me since I read Daniel's run last month, and I vowed from then on (after deciding to read and review his second volume as a collected work though it was already too late by then; the damage has been done) that I will NEVER READ AND REVIEW whatever heavily criticized Bat-title INDIVIDUALLY again. Hence why I am only posting this review for the first volume and for the second one before the year ends. And boy, I can't tell you how relieved I am right now while calmly typing this review.

Just like with Daniel, the quality of artwork for this title was the only best thing it had to offer consistently. Jenkins and Finch's nine issues were beautifully drawn with luscious illustrations colored splendidly. I loved Finch's depictions of Batman in a lot of panels and there are strong visual choices that really made me pause reading (which is probably not that difficult to do, mind you) just so I can stare at a particular landscape or an entire page filled with the most minuscule yet interesting background details. There is a great energy and motion in Finch's art that I admired all the while the writing end of the spectrum made me laugh so hard aloud once or five times while reading. And this is actually a good thing for me. The writing wasn't shitty enough if I compare it to Daniel's which HAD NEVER MADE ME CRACK A SMILE. Jenkin's writing at least made me throw my head back and laugh. And that's because the first five issues of this volume are "RIDONCULOUS" which is an adjective I hope to never use again and yet it seemed to be the best one to describe what I just read in their scope, dialogue and plot. I even screencapped some panels and posted them on my Goodreads notes because I felt the need to share to the rest of the cyberspace the absurd bullshit fun I was reading.

My favorite moments include that roided-up Clayface-as-Joker hugging Batman ("Come on, hugs!" he says which made me almost spit out the coke I was snorting drinking); and that random shot of Batman HOLDING A FUCKING ICE CREAM CONE which Alfred had given him one night while they were talking about the mission at hand. I will forever wonder what happened to that ice cream cone. It was never shown again in the next panels. Did Batman just finish it in one gulp and not get a brain freeze, like the badass he is? Or did he spend some time licking the damn thing off-screen while he as inside the Batmobile? These are just the many questions I never thought I will ask and then get frustrated when they were never answered. And who am I to rob you of these pristine beauties? It would be an injustice so, here, allow me to bequeath you with the said panels:


A notable thing that I want to bring up for this volume is the fact that it made use of the Alice in Wonderland allegory which I was actually fine with. I'm an avid Lewis Carroll fan, especially his Alice character, and the fact that we have Mad Hatter as part of the rogues gallery here in Batman is a treat for me. However, I don't think Jenkins did a good job applying this allegory on his stories for this volume, especially his incorporation of the White Rabbit lady whom I loathed because she was so uncomfortably blatant in the pages. She's basically a sexy girl in a white lingerie and bunny ears, like some Playboy knock-off prancing around coquettishly, making suggestive remarks to Batman about how far down the rabbit-hole goes. Her insertion in the issues was confusing and forced, and did not help me appreciate what I was reading, truth be told.

By the sixth to seventh issues where Bane was the focus, I was shockingly happy about it because I retain that those issues have to be the most enjoyable ones I have read for the volume--and judging from my previous review of the Knightfall Omnibus volume one last July, y'all should know that I am not the biggest fan of the venom-totting guy. That said, I loved Bane and Batman's confrontational fight scenes, and the tonality of the dialogue sounded better too whereas in the previous five issues they were often out-of-character (most particularly Gordon's. He's a bit weepy and clingy with Batsy, by the way. I don't understand why he's acting like some scorned ex-girlfriend or something). The eighth issue was plenty of exciting read too with a few moments to criticize in between. Again, we get another Alice allegory but it was pretty acceptable with the plot. Finally, we have the Night of the Owls tie-in for issue #9 which I remember reading way back so I didn't bother reading it again because I also recall it was one of the weakest of the tie-in bunch too. So that's Knight Terrors, ladies and gents.

With a fabulous artwork by David Finch, the volume was a visual achievement but the writing by Paul Jenkins and Finch themselves lacked any kind of memorable moments except those that were utterly ridiculous and out-of-character. Still, there is some potential here and pieces of the plot that can be salvaged and improved upon. Since I didn't have to individually examine each issue, it helped me enjoy even the most irritating bullshit this volume offered, hence why I can give it a generous rating  below and just happily walk away so I can start reading Grant Morrison's New 52 line-up for Batman Incorporated by next week.


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