Gregg Hurwitz, the new scribe for DC’s Batman The Dark Knight, is a welcome addition to the crew. Former writer and current artist David Finch couldn’t hold the writing duties down and the story often suffered. While I appreciate Hurwtiz’s contributions, Dark Knight #11 is not without problems. Though he’s better at overall storytelling than Finch, Hurwitz is still struggling to find the voice for Dark Knight. Personally, I think there are too many Bat-Books out there, and that puts Hurwitz at a real disadvantage.
The Scarecrow has kidnapped Jim Gordon. Apparently, Scarecrow has work to do that involves scaring children into waking comas. While the Sultan of Fear creates mute children that dwell on their trauma, Bruce Wayne is still involved with Natalya, a pianist who is growing tired of Wayne’s bizarre manner and seeming disconnect from real commitment. Most of Issue 11 involves a back and forth between Batman’s search for Jim Gordon and the explanation as to why the Scarecrow has begun attacking children. Turns out Scarecrow’s own father experimented on him in torturous ways in order to study fear. The end of the issue finds the masked villain releasing his fear toxin into Batman as they rocket down a mineshaft.
Dark Knight #11 isn’t a bad issue but there’s nothing that gives it punch. The Scarecrow is abusing children, which is an easy play for dramatic impact. Jim Gordon has been kidnapped, another easy plot point that ramps up Batman’s emotional involvement. There is a lengthy passage about Scarecrow’s father tossing him into a dark cellar to examine the effects of fear, while a young Scarecrow sobs and begs to be let out. Really? Doesn’t that seem just a little cliché?
Part of what makes a comic book work is how the book interprets the hero. Batman is the intellectual side of the character, Detective Comics is the more visceral side of Batman’s life, Batman & Robin is the family part and then Batman Inc. (however poorly) shows the weirder side of Batman’s quest. Dark Knight is left little to work with, and that leaves Hurwtiz grasping at straws.
A villain like Scarecrow testing a potion on children is too easy, it feels like a desperate attempt to give Dark Knight an edge. I like the way Hurwtiz tells a story and his structure is sound, but nothing leaps off the page. In other words, he’s good at what he does, but is what he’s doing worthwhile? At this point, Dark Knight is simply another money-suck at the comic shop.
David Finch’s art is the only saving grace here. I love the way he draws the Scarecrow and how terrifying he makes his costume look. Finch also has a great eye from drawing Batman and using shadow to make the Dark Knight look bigger than life. Finch has a thin line style that he uses to weave lots of small details into larger pictures. Every scene involving the Scarecrow uses this style and it’s incredibly effective. I also love how Finch can cram real emotion into his human faces. As a writer, Finch stood on shaky ground, but as an artist, he surpasses most of his peers.
Batman: The Dark Knight isn’t a bad comic; it’s just an unnecessary one.
(4 Art, 2 Story)