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WHttDCnU? – Batman The Dark Knight: Knight Terrors

WHTTDCU-Titles-044

‘Hello, and welcome back to Gotham’s Night Life. I’m your host, David Walsh, and I’m joined by the heir to the Pendleton fortune, and author of ‘A Self-made Man’, Chad Pendleton! This week, we talk about Gotham’s Favoured Son, the one, the only, Bruce Wayne!’

‘More like Gotham’s Biggest Fop, David. I mean, the man spent most of his formative years jet-setting around the world, and no-one seems to know where he went. The tragedy that visited him when he was eight was terrible, and yet the Wayne Foundation sees larger and larger parties. I mean, he’s made charity the in thing! But we do love him, don’t we?’

‘He has and we do, but tell me this, have you ever seen him arrive without at least one woman on his arm, and leave with the same woman later that night? Because I’ve attended countless dinners, parties and social gatherings, and I’ve yet to see Bruce manage it. There goes a man with a very spirited night life, if you catch my meaning.’

‘One wonders where he gets the time, in between managing Wayne Enterprises, attending all those gatherings, and the sporting trips he goes on. I mean, that man must be booked solid. Unlike that ruffian terror of the night, Batman.’

‘Yes, that excuse for a flying rat is rumoured to be embroiled in another scandal, along with the two visiting heroes Wasusa and the Fighting Panda. I often wonder why we tolerate someone styled as The Dark Knight, but he’s back yet again in another book. This time we shall see how he fares in Batman – The Dark Knight: Knight Terrors!’

WHTTDCNU-synopsis

wasusa-rWarning: there is a lot to summarise. The first arc of B:TDK is 9 issues long. So while I’ll be making this brief, there’s still a fair bit to cover. That said, let’s dive in.

It’s dark. We’re in the Batplane. We’re racing towards an unsuspecting…. Gala award dinner, featuring rapid pre-event costume/suit change over. We have a speech, a confrontation of the “I know what you’re doing but don’t have evidence to do anything about it” kind, though only on the “you’re financing the Batman” front, interrupted by an attractive female related to someone from the past. We then jump to Arkham, which is being broken out of, run into a White rabbit Costume, and a Hulkified Two-Face.

Batman gets the gourd beaten out of him by Hulk-Twoface, who then passes out for unknown reasons. We jump to a rooftop meeting with Jim Gordon, light discussion about him being reinstated because of some appeals process, and the same person who confronted Bruce at the Gala comes up as being the person hounding Gordon for helping the Batman as well. We zoom to various locations, see assorted Bat-allies and enemies going at it, all the enemies hopped up on hulk juice. Batman goes and questions Harvey, catches a lead, chases the white rabbit then runs into… the Joker, on steroids, in a train carriage.

Batman again gets the pants beaten off him. Though apparently the Joker retired, and is now unretired and on steroids. I’m not entirely sure how all these bat plots are meant to coincide. Anyway, lots of fighting, and turns out that Joker is actually Clayface on steroids. Batman is wiped, almost gets injected with the serum, but Flash shows up and his approach spooks the rabbit, so she bails. Bruce then goes and pays IA investigator Stickybeak a visit, dropping Clayface on his car and saying “Stay out of my business and away from my people”. We then cut to dinner with the formerly mentioned attractive female (She’s appeared twice, so her name (Jai) might be important), Get a text from someone saying the white rabbit is somewhere I presume to be not Gotham, then jump to the Batcave. Minor plot exposition, apparently anything fluid related must relate to Poison Ivy, so Bats and Flash go pay a visit. Flash thorns himself, so Bats tells him to sprint it off, and Ivy’s place is an absolute overgrown mess.

Then… not a lot happens. Batman fights some plants, Ivy left a clue as to who she was helping refine the serum, Batman has icecream and Deathstroke lands on, then cuts the Batplane in half with a sword. Batman lives, obviously. On landing, he finds a hut with Scarecrow in it.

Batman fights scarecrow, and the threads of doubt that have been seen as internal monologue come out, some through scarecrow talking some from images shown. In any case, they fight, and Batman resists scarecrows fear toxin which “He has beaten before”. He still loses the fight, and having rejected Scarecrows “Gift” of fear, is instead injected with the serum and loses all fear. Then Superman shows up to help, and Batman attacks him instead, shouting half insults the whole time. He loses this fight as well.

He’s okay though. Somehow, being beaten to a pulp got the toxin out of his system. He sends Superman off to find Flash, and then chases the white rabbit until he gets the crap beaten out of him by Bane. It’s been a rough night, he’s been beaten to a pulp three times and is still standing, somehow. Oh, and the toxin is some kind of purified venom which Bane uses.

Running away, he manages to find Ivy and free her. He then taunts Bane from the top of a lighthouse, and Bane responds by… jumping all the way to the top from the ground, and punching Batman in the face. Anyway they fight, Flash is better, shows up, and the somehow manage to feed Bane the Antidote, even though by all rights Batman should be dead for the fourth time that day. We then jump to a bathroom. Jai is having a bath, and a conversation with the white rabbit. They then combine, so it seems like they’re the same person, and she just has the ability to split forms.

We then have Gotham, Ft. Alice in Wonderland. Tweedles Dee and Dum surprise Batman in the subway, after a carriage of people seem to have killed themselves. There’s a fight, they lose. Commissioner Gordon has his subplot pertaining to his potential suspension advance – he has to go see a shrink. A senator commits suicide on live TV, and they finally work out mind control is involved and track down Tetch, or The Mad Hatter. They fight, they win.

Then, we’re on to a completely different story. In Nightwing and the Batman comics, they’ve been following a storyline involving the Court of Owls. This issue of Dark Knight follows a member of this court, who seems to be near invulnerable, operating as their assassin. Him, and a whole bunch like him attack Gotham, but we see a glimpse of his past and how he should be dead, but somehow isn’t. In any case, we follow him and get his internal monologue this issue.

WHTTDCNU-art

fighting-panda-lBefore I get into the meat of this comic I just wanted to point out one thing about the cover. Batman’s facial expression. I swear I don’t think it’s humanly possible to grimace that much, it’s unnatural. And what is up with that pose?

I’m not going to sugar coat this. The art in this comic is terrible. The character models are horribly drawn, it’s like the artist doesn’t know how to draw faces. Anyone under the age of 40 look like models, but horribly plastic looking models that took one too many botox injections. Anyone 40 seems to be worse off. Just in the first comic, there’s depictions of varying people in Gotham that have been drawn with way too many lines and wrinkles that it looks like their faces are falling off. It’s really off putting. Paul Jenkins needs to relearn how to draw faces.

There are 3 people in the entire arc I would consider being drawn properly, and yes there is a little bit of room for a few others, but the only ones that come to mind are Poison Ivy, White Rabbit, and Commissioner Gordon. Considering Ivy and Rabbit are practically beautiful women, and Gordon being mostly Moustache it’s pretty hard not to mess them up.

This story arc does provide a neat little fan service to the readers, for ever since the original Arkham Asylum game there has been a bit of fanart going around about what different members of Batman’s Rogues Gallery would look like under the influence of Bane’s Venom. And this gives a decent look into that.

The only solace in the art is the backgrounds, and the designs of Scarecrow and Bane. I loved how they looked, but sadly not even that seems to help much.

wasusa-rThis is The Dark Knight: The grittiest and most serious of all the Batman incarnations. The art matches that tone, with the colours generally being more muted, washed out, or generally darker. I’ve bagged some other comics for doing this, but it works for TDK because not only is it appropriate, but the panels detailing means that whichever effect is being used is actually appropriate. The consistent detailing in the panels themselves, the little things that you’ve seen me rag on other comics for – Shadows, attempting realistic settings, straight up proportioning – all of these were done right, and the comic shines for it.

Of course, I can’t let TDK off scot free. I just praised it for its general detailing, but where TDK really falls down is on the faces. In places, with the character faces taking up the same amount of panel, we can go from Incredible detail – with every wrinkle and whisker clearly delineated – to plain – a blob of flesh colour with nose, mouth, and eyes – to something in between. There’s no sense to them doing this, and all it does is pull me out of immersion. I’d have been happy with the inbetween, had it been consistent, as it was still better quality art than most of what I’ve reviewed.

Overall though, TDK stacks up very well in the art department.

WHTTDCNU-writing

fighting-panda-lThere comes a time as a Batman reader where you can just guess who the main villian will be by the end of the first issue. This is one of those times. Why? When the main story revolves around ‘fear’ and a poison, toxin, or gas that is used as a means to spread terror around Gotham it comes down to one or a combination 3 suspects; Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Bane. It gets repetitive. For once I’d like them to freshen it up a little bit and use something unconventional of their usual bag of tricks to throw Batman off.

To be fair I did like this arc, storywise. I loved the theme of it, and I did like the introduction of the White Rabbit to throw Batman off a little bit. What I DIDN’T like, however, is the abrupt end this book contains. There’s the revelation of who White Rabbit is in the seventh issue, but that’s it. It’s left unfinished. No closure, no monologue telling how Batman is inferior, or how much better or smarter they are, to which Batman usually proves otherwise immediately after, it’s just… done.

Issue 8 is a side story about Mad Hatter that had the White Rabbit on the cover but wasn’t in the issue. That’s like going to a wrestling show and your favourite wrestler isn’t even on the show as they’re falsely advertised.

Issue 9 is a start of a new arc revolving around Talon and the Court of Owls. What? Really? That’s what you’re going to give me after 8 issues of investment? It’s like a show getting cancelled before the season is ended. It’s just an insult to the reader.

wasusa-rTDK does a few things very well, and a few things very poorly. It’s almost upsetting the way in which they managed to create such an intricate layered story, with subtle nods towards suspicions and intrigue, yet have the actual overarching plot held together with fragments of string held together with chewed gum.

Let’s start with the good. The plot arc itself is interesting. You have some kind of injectable weapon giving hulklike powers, but it’s unstable. Bad guys obviously want to refine it, but also need to test it. You have the agent running around doing the testing, drawing the attention of Batman deliberately as he’s both a good person to test it on and against. This agent is also introduced at about the same time as another character who, being a discerning comic book reader you tend to automatically assume will be one and the same. There is a message in the one of the early issues which indicates this can’t be the case, though it’s never explicitly stated by any main character. That was their assumption too. It’s shown to be the correct assumption at the end of the arc, but it’s just very clever writing and framing. That sort of attention to detail, had it been used everywhere, would have made this a nigh unbeatable comic in the new 52.

However, the way the plot itself is pulled together is much more haphazard. In some ways, it almost feels like the writer was given a quota of how many other characters they had to shoehorn into the first arc. There’s something that makes people unafraid and superstrong? Sounds Jokerish. Wait, it was just a clayface pretending to be joker. But fear… that’s Scarecrow-ish right? And hang on… it’s a toxin? Ivy must have something to do with it. But she’s been kidnapped, and flash got poisoned and is running, and Superwoman can’t help me, so Superman rocks up after I’ve been injected so we fight till he Punches it out of Me, then goes to get Flash, but it’s actually a Venom not a poison… BANE USES POISON! So let’s go pay him a visit, but Deathstroke is going to attack for no reason, then disappear again just as quickly then we fight Bane… Oh and then the other plot from the other Batman comic happens. Yes.

Look, I get that Dark Knight is meant to be the gritty, action, dark world of Gotham. But it needs to be more than a contrived series of events. I read this, and it feels like an overeager Dungeonmaster, who’s come up with all these cool encounters he wants to happen just bouncing the player (Batman) between them, not having properly thought out how he actually gets there.

Don’t get me wrong, the interactions, dialogue and characters are still all entertaining and well written, but the shoestring along which the entire sequence is mounted could have, and should have been executed so much better.

WHTTDCNU-characterisation

fighting-panda-lBatman’s going through a bit of an internal struggle in this arc. As the Main theme of the comic suggests fear, it means many factors come into play on his psyche. Fear of letting go, fear of what Gotham will become without him, fear of his inner demons, fear of the bats that spawned his crimefighting career, the fears instilled by Scarecrows Toxin, and the sheer might of Bane, and also the fear, of actually admitting that under his cool calm demeanour, he is afraid. I like that, there’s not many ways left to show off Batman’s vulnerability, and I believe it was pretty well done, at least on paper anyway.

I like Jaina Hudson’s character. Sexy daughter of a Bollywood actress with equal levels of sass, who has the ability to make a copy of herself with that copy being the White Rabbit. I like the reference that was made between her and Harley Quinn, being a former Psych expert falling for the crazy ones. The ‘come chase me’ line was a dead giveaway there, even with they tried to throw off the reader with the ‘can’t be two places at once’ trick, but there was a neat sense of acceptance once it was finally revealed. More of her please!

Bane and Scarecrow were used really well here. I’m assuming Ivy isn’t a villain hence the whole captured part, but these guys have always been two of my favourite Batman villains, and I loved reading an arc about the both of them in it. They both looked very strong in this as well.

wasusa-rHello, my old friend, Internal-Character-Monologues-To-Explain-The-Character. How are you, you lazy old goat?

I’ll say the same thing here I’ve said for many of the other comics. For a reboot, TDK sure didn’t do a lot of rebooting. All of the relationships are assumed and rarely explained (I think, with the sole exception of Poison Ivy, and only because it’s a She-was-bad-but-now-not-really-but-maybe-still-idk)
Batman is still Batman- Brooding, but slightly more conscious that maybe he’s not doing as much as he could be, and more filled with self-doubt.

Commissioner Gordon appears to be fighting some kind of battle with Internal Affairs over his relationship with Batman, and actually has one of the more interesting personal progressions that we’re shown. He knows he can generally count on Batman crime wise, but comes to discover that he can’t count on him worth shit when it comes time for personal support. The scene with the shrink, where he unloads a bucket of personal history (Possibly to help frame exactly where the reboot universe sits in terms of previously locked down DC Cannon) provides a little more to previous readers than new ones, but it still makes him exist as more of a character than I’d previously thought him to be. To me, rather than a real person he was always just the bat signal button pusher, whereas now he’s real.

Everyone else more or less falls into the cookie cutter moulds. Bad guys are bad, Good guys are good, misguided IA guy is a dick. We are dealing with a comic and limited space, so overall I can’t fault the characterisations. I would however have liked to see a little more come through on the hero-villain interactions.

WHTTDCNU-conclusion

fighting-panda-lI believe I was 10 when I read my first Batman comic. The villain there was my first introduction to the Ventriloquist. This old guy walking around with a puppet being ‘forced’ to drill a corkscrew into his victims. Terrible art, the story was pretty bad too. I’ve always thought it was the worst drawn Batman comics I’ve ever read. Then I read this one.

The one thing I don’t like when I’m invested in whether it be a comic, a movie, a television show or what have you, is when the pacing and layout of your story becomes to be left to be desired. It’s left unfinished. Sure there are good as cliffhangers to keep you invested in the story to tune in next time to see what happens, but that’s not how it’s used here. What happens here is the equivalent of a show being cancelled after 11 episodes when there’s still 3 eps before the end of the season.

And it was disappointing in that regard too, and as when it changed to the first issue of the Court of Owls story when you’re expecting the end of the White Rabbit arc, it felt a big middle finger. Why they didn’t decide to end this first book after the seventh issue, I have no idea, as that would’ve made more freaking sense to do that, as the White Rabbit reveal was one hell of a Plot Point to leave the reader wanting to come back and get that face off with Batman, but, nothing. Where’s the sense of closure?

The funny part about this is, a bad as the art was, and it was very very bad, I would still keep reading. It’s like one of those horrible car crashes you just can’t turn away from. Except this time, you want to hang on just a little while longer to see what comes next until your satisfied. I enjoyed the story, for what it was, even if it was just a strand of repetitiveness in there. I liked the concept, I like Flash and Superman’s cameos. The sense of vulnerability it showed Batman was unlike I’ve seen before since having his back broken by Bane.

If you’re not invested in this story, I’d stay away from it, just to save you from the artwork. But if you are like me, and unfortunately are, Let’s hope it goes somewhere so it won’t even matter how plastic looking Bruce’s face is. Let’s hope Gordon’s face doesn’t melt off in his old age.

wasusa-rTDK, despite its numerous flaws is actually one of my top contender for comic of the new 52. Despite being predisposed to being the dark, gritty, woe is me side of the Batman universe, it doesn’t wallow in it.

It takes its story and runs with it, and while occasionally tunnelling on maintaining the tempo of the action still manages to be compelling when it does break from the action. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but based on the first arc, it’s certainly something I intend to do.

WHTTDCNU-comic

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A note from the team.
This will be Funky Panda AKA Ben’s last review with Badly.Productions as he will be departing from the group and going his own way from now on. We want to thank Ben for his contributions to the site and wish him luck for the future.