Wednesday, July 15, 2015

[New 52] The Dark Knight by Greg Hurwitz

Out of all the New 52 Batman titles, The Dark Knight is the only one I never really got into as much as the others. The first volume collected entitled Knight Terrors was written and illustrated by Paul Jenkins but these issues were subpar and lacklustre and their artwork was mainly the most exciting part about the ordeal. When Greg Hurwitz took over the writing duties and Jenkins stayed as the artist, the second volume Cycle of Violence finally had more substance than its predecessor though their is uneveness in the characterization and the overall plot presentation.

Nevertheless, I was impressed that Hurwitz placed enough effort to tell us a gripping tale concerning the Scarecrow and his descent to madness which started with ab awful childhood. On the other hand, Bruce Wayne's love life was also touched upon when he started getting serious with the Ukranian pianist Natalya who seriously gave me Silver St. Cloud vibes. I remember enjoying a few parts in Cycle of Violence and as few as they are, I enjoyed them immensely and they have to be the character-centric moments in the volume.

Now, this third volume called Mad concerns the Mad Hatter himself, a villain in rogues' gallery I honestly did not care about as much. Much like with the Scarecrow, the same formula was applied. Readers get to witness firsthand the struggle and descent to madness that Mad Hatter experienced which somehow gave us insight as to why he is committing crimes the way he had been doing during the present. Basically, he is trying to recreate his happiest memory with his childhood crush Alice and Gotham has to suffer the unbelievable ways he inflicts his unique vision of horror on its citizen just to accomplish this. It really was the same thing as with the Scarecrow narrative in the previous volume about the child abductions although Mad had a much more satisfying pay-off and conclusion. If it wasn't for that vital difference, the two story arcs are easily interchangeable. 

That would have been an unfair generalization though because I believe I much cared about Hatter's experiences which were bittersweet. And I enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland symbolism since I've always been an Alice fan myself. Artist Ethan Van Sciver delivered just as strongly as Jenkins did in the first volume. His body of work in this one was absolutely chilling in spite of the colorful panels depicting Hatter's ugly version of Wonderland. And the Hatter himself looks positively deranged. I wasn't into the Scarecrow sewing his lips shut in the last volume, personally and I like that the Hatter was drawn less conspicuously insane except for the close-ups of those weirdly spaced eyes. Those eyes completely creeped me the fuck out.

Bruce's relationship with Natalya has also reached its expected tragic and disastrous death. Natalya was after all the ghost of Silver St. Cloud right to her demise which actually made me feel bad because those precious small moments of Bruce finally telling her that he is Batman were just so adorable and it sucks hairy donkey balls that the moment he has let another person in is what cost her life. It was a nice change of scenery that was almost nostalgic; to see Bruce Wayne actually try to live his life outside of his vigilante calling. It broke my heart just a little bit to see him hopeful and only to have that hope bashed in its head. Hurwitz made it believable enough for me so when he flipped the fuck out by the last issue, I bought it.

As a standlone title, The Dark Knight can pull of stuff like this without affecting continuity in other titles so don't expect Scott Snyder to talk about Natalya in his own Bat-run because she only existed in TDK, much like the nefarious and city-wide crimes committed by Scarecrow and Mad Hatter in their respective volumes are exclusive to TDK. There's a bonus story in here called Once Upon a Halloweenabout a night with Penguin, Scarecrow and Mad Hatter which was rather interesting to say the least. I was baffled by it but I nonetheless thought it was quirky and fun to see these villains painted in such a light. So, overall, The Dark Knight volume 3: MAD was a great improvement from the last two volumes combined. I certainly hope Hurwitz would continue this upward projectile in his next collected volume which I will get around to reading and reviewing next.


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