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BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #3
Author: John Bierly
July 15, 2011
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SYNOPSIS: Trapped with childhood friend Dawn Golden deep beneath Gotham City, Batman's only hope for escape also happens to be one of his worst enemies! Meanwhile, Etrigan the Demon turns against his masters and confronts a twisted, evil incarnation of Ragman with the help of Alfred. Only Batman knows the secret to defeating the demon possessing Ragman – but The Dark Knight is nowhere to be found!

Four months after issue #2, which arrived three months after issue #1 (which itself was months late), we finally get 20 pretty pages of more befuddling character moments and arbitrary narrative jumps in BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT #3 by artist/writer David Finch.

The possessed Ragman story finishes fast in a monster mash of bloody mumbo-jumbo with an equally out-of-sorts Etrigan before careening into the cockpit with the teen girl who stole the Batmobile. Then we get Bullock (whom Finch is thankfully no longer drawing like the Mr. T wannabe from issue #1) and Gordon griping like a couple of Golden Girls in a greasy spoon across town. First Gordon moans about how tired he is and basically concedes his job to upstart top cop Forbes, but seconds later he's threatening to give the suddenly present Forbes "a spanking you won't forget." Yikes.

Then we're in a basement, where Killer Croc has Batman tied to a bomb-laden chair while Finch's hideous Penguin finally reveals the reason why he kidnapped Bruce's childhood friend, Dawn Golden.

Are you ready?

Dawn and her pretty socialite friends arranged a lavish ball at the Iceberg Lounge, and Dawn invited Oswald as her date. But when they arrived at the party, he realized all the girls had invited the ugliest man they could find. Humiliated by the joke, he kidnapped Dawn.

So, not only do these preening socialites take the time to arrange a fake party for the sole purpose of humiliating ugly men, but the men they choose to humiliate are Gotham's most notorious mobsters (and on the mobsters' own turf, no less) who will no doubt take quick and furious revenge?

Now that we've established this is all happening because Bruce's obviously vile childhood friend hurt Oswald's precious feelings, Oswald reveals he's going to blow up Batman AND Croc, which leads Croc to tell Batman he's "on his own." Rather than making sure Batman dies, which would be pretty easy given that Croc has Batman tied to a chair and entirely at his mercy, Croc runs off to get even with Penguin while Batman naturally escapes.

Behind the first door he opens, naturally, is Dawn Golden. Mystery solved. It's seriously that easy.

Meanwhile, The Batmobile's pretty young thief has fled the vehicle and just so happened to park it outside the very place where Batman now is. Maybe it was ushered there by Alfred, but Bruce doesn't know that as Batman carries Dawn out of the burning building, sees the car, and says, "The Batmobile? Odd. But a lifesaver, nonetheless."

In other words, "Gee, that's weird, my car is just magically here, and I don't know why or how, but surely there's nothing wrong with it, and surely no one has tampered with it or anything, so I'll just place myself and Dawn in it without question, because I'm Batman and I'm never careful. And I see the thief running away from the car and she's, like, 15 years old, and only half a block away, and I could catch her in, like, five seconds, but instead I'll just drive off with Dawn, because she's such a kind and wonderful human being. Besides, when have loose ends ever been a problem for anyone?"

Three more pages (with two of them being a splash of a single face) of supernatural shenanigans and it's another issue of BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT in the can.

Despite some of Finch's questionable designs (especially his grossly exaggerated Penguin and impractically designed Batmobile), the man can draw. The image of Batman atop page 12 is as fine and as formidable a rendering of Batman as I've ever seen, and I wish the rest of the book's colors were as dark and as moody. (I still feel this book is way too bright for a title called “THE DARK KNIGHT.”)

But his writing remains a mess, and I have to question what's going on with DC's editors. A good editor would say, "Okay, David, you have some really great story ideas here, but let's smooth out some of the rough spots and fine-tune some of the character stuff and we'll really have something special."

Then again, maybe the book is so far behind schedule that they're sending the thing to press as soon as all the pages arrive.

I don't know, and I don't care. It would be one thing if these issues were worth the wait, but their diminishing quality is just one more slap in the face. Two more issues (another this month and another at the end of August) are scheduled before DC reboots this book back to a new #1 in September, and I hope they actually arrive on time.

The first issue of the re-launch is said to be written by Finch but drawn by another artist, and it really seems like this would work better the other way around. Finch is a talented artist. Let him work with a co-writer and focus on the art while someone with a better grasp of character and narrative does the heavy lifting on the script. But what do I know? I'm just a guy who's feeding the problem by continuing to buy a lame book that can't be bothered to arrive on time. - John Bierly

GRADE: B+ (Art)/D (Story)

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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