After several issues of trying, David Finch has decided to let somebody else write for Batman The Dark Knight while he continues artist duties. The new writer is acclaimed author Gregg Hurwitz, the man who redefined one of Batman’s oldest foes with Penguin: Pain And Prejudice. The last nine issues of Dark Knight have been hard to suffer through so I’m not expecting suddenly glory from the first issue Hurwitz is on board for. That being said, Dark Knight #10 is a step in the right direction.
Lets get the bad out of the way first. The whole relationship Bruce Wayne is having with the gorgeous pianist just doesn’t work. Finch introduced the relationship and sadly Hurwitz has to ride it out. Bruce Wayne doesn’t involve himself with women this way and trying to force the issue leads to clunky dialog and melodramatic scenes that generate maximum eye rolling. The quicker Hurwitz gets this character gone the better.
What does work is the dark storyline Hurwitz plunges us into. If you want to raise Batman’s ire and get fans creeped out at the same time, start messing with kids. Dark Knight #10 opens with a man sewing his mouth up. Not enough to keep from talking but enough to be scary as hell. Our man with the stitched mouth creeps slowly downstairs to where a helpless child begs to be let go. The creepy man sprays here with a gas and says he’s going to teach her about fear.
It turns out this is not the first time this has happened. Children across Gotham are being abducted and then returned blank, their minds wiped by fear. Hurwitz really opens some nice psychological stuff in this issue. Batman’s feelings of being helpless against an enemy attacking children, Commissioner Gordon’s guilt over the fate of his own kids, the estranged relationship between Damian and Batman, these are all things mixed into the Dark Knight gumbo.
Though he’s given a few different names, the villain here appears to be the Scarecrow. The final splash page, featuring a kidnapped Gordon being psychologically tortured, ends with what looks like the Scarecrow all masked up. It would make sense for Hurwitz to reinvent Scarecrow in the same way he did Penguin by taking a generally one-dimensional villain and giving him a new depth. I like how Hurwitz uses a less-is-more style. The scene between Damian and Bruce is only a few panels but shows just how Bruce’s lack of fathering adds to Damian’s attitude.
With only the art to focus on, David Finch shines. Dark Knight #10 is wonderful to look at. Finch’s use of shadow and grisly detail helps set up the horror of the villain from the first page. I love how his strong lines give everything in the story such weight. The two-page spread when Batman smashes through a car window is a perfect example. You can hear the glass shatter and feel the impact of Batman’s foot in the flunky’s face.
There are some great subtle moments here to. The exchange between Batman and the kidnapped girl is very effective and most of it is the art. The panel where the little girl gently grabs Batman’s finger is crushing. It shows how lost Batman is to help her, even with all his power and resources. Finch also blazes with the art once Gordon is drugged and kidnapped. His hallucinations of failure and horror are stunning, some of Finch’s bets work. I think Dark Knight has finally found balance with a team made up of two of the best at their craft.
(3.5 Story, 5 Art)