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BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #2
Author: John Bierly
March 24, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: Batman faces the Penguin in the search for his childhood friend Dawn Golden…but what The Dark Knight finds sends him on a far darker and more desperate path. Now he's forced to reach out to Etrigan, the Demon for help – a favor that may come at too high a price!

I don't know whose fault it is that this book is as staggeringly late as it is, and I really don't care. Be it writer/artist David Finch or DC's asleep-at-the-wheel editors, or the g--damn Salvation Army, let's avoid pointed fingers and simply ask the only question that matters at this all-too-late hour:

Was the wait for BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #2 worth it?

I'm sorry to say it, but I just don't think so.

I know most people aren't as weird or as picky as I am, but there are fundamental problems with the script that I simply can't overcome.

I realize villains are supposed to be overconfident, but shouldn't The Penguin know by now that a few goons with guns are no match for a cornered Batman? A few pages later, The Penguin gives Batman a big speech about how his club is a private establishment. "You can't just break in and go through people's things! I'll have you brought up on charges!"

Seriously? Really? This many years later, this many defeats at The Batman's hands, this many times he's been on the receiving end of a Batman interrogation, etc., and The Penguin is still trying to have this conversation?

Speaking of interrogations, this one gets brutally violent. And I know we're supposed to believe that Bruce Wayne has just snapped over a girl he's not seen in years upon years, but the cruelty leveled here is asinine. Finch said in an interview that he's making Batman as dark and as angry as the editors will allow, and that kind of thinking shows a fundamental misunderstanding of who and what The Batman is supposed to be now that he's returned from “The Great Omega Castle in the Sky.”

This Batman rages and raves like a Frank Miller fantasy. I don't like this Batman. Not even a little. (By issue's end we're given a possible explanation, but the MacGuffin doesn't match the timeline of the previous issue in a way that makes sense. He makes an excuse for himself, but I think he's just angry.)

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is on the scene of Killer Croc's escape from a heavily armored GCPD paddy wagon. The narrative of Croc's escape is a long, convoluted ramble made worse by the fact that it's delivered by an on-the-scene news reporter who ends her anything-but-succinct whirlwind of jumbled verbosity with a hilariously blatant editorial on the GCPD's incompetency. No style. No subtlety.

We get a brief follow-up of last issue's attempt by a mysterious teenage girl's attempt to steal the Batmobile, more time with the homeless guys terrified of a monster, the promise of some Etrigan shenanigans, and then a hilariously nonsensical ending with another supernatural DC character who doesn't exactly seem like himself. Dawn Golden still doesn't appear -- at least to the audience! Dun dun dun!

DC's decision to chop out two pages of story per issue (to trick us into thinking $2.99 is a good deal when they're really charging us more per page than ever) has really made all of their comics feel too abrupt, and that's definitely the case here. Then again, the storytelling is awkward enough that another two pages probably wouldn't have mattered.

Finch's art is a technical marvel of great power and detail, but some of the designs are a little too out there. His Batmobile is a solid piece of art but utterly ridiculous from an engineering standpoint, and his bloated, grotesque Penguin can't decide if he's man or monster. Croc's head is a big scaly basketball filled with teeth. And I still think the colors are a little too bright for a book called THE DARK KNIGHT; the darker colors on Finch's pencils in BATMAN: THE RETURN were better suited to his style.

It's one thing for Bruce Wayne to be banished to only two books. It's another that those books' schedules are months out of whack. What's saddest, though, is that Bruce Wayne fans really don't have a place to call home. BATMAN INC. is (literally) all over the place, though at least Grant Morrison can weave a fun (albeit silly) adventure. Finch's Batman comes across as very juvenile; there's absolutely nothing in common between Morrison's and Finch's versions of Bruce.

Meanwhile, Dick Grayson's adventures in his books (particularly in DETECTIVE COMICS) are much more adult and much more involved than what's happening in the pages of this comic.

This was really an unpleasant read, made all the more stale by its lateness. And again, I'm not interested in who's to blame. All I care is that if I have to wait this many months to read something, it had better be worth the wait.

This isn't.

If you're still on the fence about this book, I advise you to wait until the first collected edition is released. That way you can avoid the delays and hope this story reads better in one sitting than it does in installments. - John Bierly

GRADE: D

John Bierly still can't believe he
gets to write for BOF.
Check out JOHNBIERLY.COM to read about the other things he writes about.

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