Batman the Dark Knight Volume 1: Knight Terrors
$24.99, color, 208 pgs.
Writers: David Finch, Paul Jenkins, Judd Winick, Joe Harris
Artists: David Finch, Richard Friend, Ed Benes, Rob Hunter, Jack Purcell
Collecting Batman the Dark Knight #1-9
I love David Finch’s Batman art. His Batman stories a little less so.
Finch’s Batman looks powerful, formidable, and even plausible. He is clearly part of Gotham, which Finch also lavishes a lot of attention on; Batman and his city are all of a piece. It’s not just art on a page, but a gritty, larger-than-life experience.
But the stories, co-written by Finch and Jenkins, are the opposite. They’re disjointed, almost incoherent. The book begins with the hoary cliché of all the Arkham residents being let out at once, which sets up an episodic villain-of-the-month routine. Clayface! Scarecrow! Bane! Also, mysteriously, Deathstroke! (Wait, what’s he got to do with Arkham?) Also, there’s a hot new potential girlfriend for Bruce Wayne and a hot new villainess for Batman! (Gee, could there be a connection, like there has been every other time this old plot device has been used?) Speaking of creaky plot devices, Finch and Jenkins have resurrected the dogged, relentless cop determined to bring down … well, someone, in the form of Internal Affairs Lt. Forbes, who hounds both Batman and Bruce Wayne, despite the fact he has no jurisdiction over either. There’s also a subplot about a new Scarecrow gas with bad physical side effects, but I kind of lost track of that – it gets resolved, I think, amid all the endless, endless fight scenes.
In which Batman gets bloodied a lot. I mean, a LOT. His face spouts geysers of the stuff. You begin to wonder how he ever survived this long. But thankfully, Batman has a few friends; I’m pleased by the writers placing this book firmly in the DCU, where Flash and Superman guest star, and where the Justice League is called out to fight all those Arkham escapees.
So maybe this book isn’t incoherent so much as it’s old-fashioned. It acts like a Bronze Age book, eschewing the huge, epic storylines of today (See: “Court of Owls”) in favor of a series of issue-long vignettes guest-starring A-list heroes and villains, loosely linked together with an ongoing Macguffin. If I think of it as a modern Brave & Bold, it makes a lot more sense.