When The New 52 first debuted last September, Batman: The Dark Knight was one of the most poorly received titles, despite ranking among DC‘s top-selling books every month. But maybe now it will actually deserve those sales numbers as a new writer takes the helm. Here’s DC’s official description:
• Welcome new series writer GREGG HURWITZ!
• Kicking off a major story pitting BATMAN against the most deadly version of the SCARECROW he’s ever seen!
• This isn’t about fear…it’s about TERROR!
Gregg Hurwitz surprised me last fall with Penguin: Pain and Prejudice. Where I had expected a throwaway mini-series, I instead got a dark, moody reinvention of one Batman’s oldest foes. Now, in Batman: The Dark Knight #10, Hurwitz goes to work on the Scarecrow, who just so happens to be my favorite Bat villain. This being the new arc’s first installment, we don’t learn too much about Jonathan Crane’s new origin, but what we do see is some messed up behavior that, if it continues, will definitely make him worthy of the title “Master of Fear”.
Much of this issue is occupied by Bruce’s relationships with Jim Gordon, Damian, and his newest girlfriend. While some of these interactions seem a bit out of character, they give the feeling that Hurwitz is going somewhere (unlike early issues of B:TDK, where Alfred spewed random double entendres.)
The best scene of the book, for both the writing and art, comes when Gordon is exposed to fear gas. Hurwitz retraces the previous panels, allowing us to see how the gas alters one’s perception, before forcing Gordon to confront his failures are a father. The fact that the hallucinatory Barbara and James Jr. apologize for having “blemished” Gordon’s life is brilliant, because it means that Gordon doesn’t fear that his children hate him. He fears that they think that he thinks they’ve ruined his life. It’s a heavy idea squeezed into a tiny bit of wordplay.
Previously, David Finch‘s artwork had been this series’ strong point, but in recent issues it has lagged. Thankfully, the new writer and storyline seem to have reinvigorated the art as well. Finch’s figures are strong again, and the aforementioned hallucination is beautiful. But I have noticed that Finch has trouble drawing mouths. Before now we’ve seen some truly terrible teeth; this time it’s men sporting too-full lips.
Keep in mind that Batman: The Dark Knight is still the summer action movie title among the Bat-books. Don’t ask too many questions, such as “how does Scarecrow talk?” That said, while the mechanics are a bit iffy, the tone is pretty deep (check out Scarecrow’s shadow on page 2!) All in all, I really wish this is what we’d gotten back in September.