Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SPOILERS: Batman - The Dark Knight Annual #1

Dateline: Halloween! It's a classic case of people showing up to a creepy location (in this case, the Arkham Detention Facility for Youth), all thinking the other had invited them. Penguin, Scarecrow, and Mad Hatter, all having had their own problems in their youth are on edge and ready to turn on each other, when they all come to the logical conclusion of who lured them in: Batman.

The three men begin to worry what's in store for the night, but Penguin assures them not to react int he way Batman would expect, that if they stick together, blah blah blah, and a chandelier comes crashing down on their head!

After narrowly avoiding certain head trauma, the three men decide to stick together... elsewhere in the building, seeking shelter. While they walk slowly through the dark halls, they begin to jest with each other about Batman's standard tropes, and Penguin even suggests they should go into business together and open a stained glass repair company.

Being all too familiar with the building, Scarecrow suggests maybe they should head outside, and try and lose Batman in the hedge maze, because that's a brilliant idea, and of course they end up kicking over an old music box that starts to play "Three Blind Mice." Long story short, going outside was a bad idea, as it just freaks them out even more, causing them to run back to the lobby where it all began.

Tensions are high, they all start taking verbal jabs at each other. Scarecrow begins to pull out that reflective thing doctors used to wear on their head, I don't remember what those are called... this leads Penguin to tell him to leave him alone, whip out his umbrella, which breaks open some of Hatter's teabags, and some fear toxin gets throne in the mix, as all three of them start to trip balls.

Familiar with Penguin: Pain and Prejudice? or the first two arcs of this series Hurwitz has written? Well, call back to all those, as we go back to twisted versions of the three men's childhoods, where things are even more messed up due to all the drugs. The three men freak out until sunrise, when they all come to. In an awkward pause, the three bid themselves farewell, and agree never to speak of the night again.

Elsewhere, Bruce Wayne wakes up having spent a rare Halloween night in. Alfred asks if he did any of his usual social calls, but Bruce is honest, he stayed in, as he left the usual riffraff to their own devices... close up, off-brand iPad with invitations to the three men... BAT-TROLLED!


The Good:

This issue was a simple enough story with some entertaining banter between the three villains. Some of the psychological elements of Hurwitz's previous arcs are expanded upon a little bit, but the level of truth one can take away from them is debatable due to the drugged out circumstances. Kudranski's art is dark and moody as ever, with John Kalisz coloring him this time, rather than Hi-Fi, which produces art with tones much similar to the other Batman work Kudranski has produced.

The Bad: 

While it was an entertaining issue, there wasn't much weight to the issue. It was a one off story that doesn't really bring anything in terms of a bigger picture, and that's the problem I have with these annuals sometimes, I'm split on whether I want them to be connected to the story at large, or their own thing. Either way, the story was good, but nothing groundbreaking. Finally, while I enjoy Kudranski's art, it comes with some faults. His stuff is so stylized and shadow drenched that sometimes things you really want to see get obscured. I love his style, and I wanted to see him draw Scarecrow, but in most of the panels you see Crane, he's either covered in shadow, or it's a really close up on his eyes. It's just unfortunate.

The Bottom Line:

If you're looking for a easy to jump into story involving three of Batman's more recognizable rouges, then this is an issue you'll probably be interested in. It's simple, entertaining, and even funny at times (IE the early banter about Batman's tropes). If you're looking for the NEXT BIGGEST STORY EVER THAT WILL SHAKE CONTINUITY... then this probably isn't that. It's an enjoyable, low-stakes story, with enjoyable atmospheric art, nothing more, nothing less.


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