Batman: The Dark Knight #1
David Finch wears multiple hats while tackling the Goddamn Batman! Suffice it to say one hat fits and looks way better than the other.
The art is the main attraction of this show. From looking at the cover you can tell that Finch is a guy who "gets" Batman's look, his world. Overall he does a great job of capturing the visual elements of Batman and Gotham city. This is particularly apparent during the fight with Killer Croc .
I like that we get a look into Bruce's childhood that doesn't focus on you know..."that night". For once we get to see Bruce just being a kid and that's great. He's outside playing in the sun (seriously did it ever NOT rain there when he was a little batboy?). He's discovering that girls aren't all that icky, real cutesy stuff. And I love that he's playing with an Iron Man action figure, Inc. totally makes since now. He's a normal kid and not the clinically depressed world weary, 3rd gradder we're almost always presented.
After them being gone for so long it's nice to see a traditional Alferdian lecture delivered to Bruce. The best dialog characterization in this issue's given to Alfred hands down.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is just shallow mimicry to me. I can clearly see he wants to capture the feel that made Loeb's Hush stories so great. Batman's detail oriented internal dialog, Killer Croc being the first villain to appear, having him linked to a kidnapping, An unknown figure shadowing Batman, a childhood acquaintance of Bruce's playing a prominent role. It's all here but it all feels hollow and soulless to me.
Really? This chicks name is "Dawn Golden"? Seriously, that's the best you could come up with? Good writers have the ability to insert new characters into an established one's mythos and instantly make us feel like though we've never seen them, they've always been a part of their lives. Jeph Loeb did so with Tommy Elliot, his and Bruce's relationship felt organic, fully authentic. I feel no real connection between Bruce and this chick other than where the writer has created it. It's only the first issue so maybe, just maybe that will change. As of now though, I could care a less what has happened to her. Due to this when Batman says "Find Dawn Golden or DIE trying" I find it a bit melodramatic and silly.
The art is the strength of this comic, BUT I do have an issue with some of it. I don't like how Killer Croc's drawn. He looks like a frog to me or like a baby Visitor. And Penguin is a bit over the top. Cobblepot should look a bit deformed but this is stretching it to me. This is minor but I'm realy, really annoyed by those silly looking guns his henchmen are holding. For a moment I felt like I was reading an EXTREME! early image comic illustrated by Rob Liefeld.
The biggest weakness of this issue hands down is the writing especially when it comes to Batman. When a good writer is on Batman I can hear Kevin Conroy's iconic voice in my head. When I read this, In it's best moments, I hear Christian Bale's oft lampooned "Bat-Voice". The writing of batman is very up and down and just doesn't feel right overall. it's like he's trying to blend Loeb's Batman's intricate, detail oriented internal dialog with the brooding of Frank Miller's. And it just...doesn't...work. The idea of Batman admitting he's obsessed is just counterintuitive to me. We as the reader should see that, his inner circle should comment on it, but for Bruce to admit it (even if only internally) is just not true Batman. Bruce has made some changes under Morrison's pen but I can't buy him changing that much. When he yells at croc and calls him a dirtbag it doesn't read right. Someone who's been exposed to the horrors that he has but rarely bats an eyelash getting so unwound over what Croc tells him about Dawn Golden? I just don't buy it.
Since I'm talking about dialog I gotta say that the appearance of the Penguin was just terrible. Bird puns? Really, man? le sigh. If he had went campy from jump street then I could let that ride. However, he didn't. He wanted to be dark and gritty so it just comes off as laughably silly in the atmosphere of this comic.
My biggest issue with this comic is the fact that I feel like NOTHING HAS HAPPENED!!! The only dynamic moment in this comic is at the begging when he fights Croc. After that it's just some hobos and then Bruce in the Batcave...sitting...Bat-computing or whatever. By issues end I don't feel like I've seen any substantial developments in the plot. The first issue of the arc should set the stage for things to come. In this case I don't feel like I have any clue of what's ultimately going on.
Finch gives it a valiant try, but just doesn't deliver for me with this issue. The writing more often than not comes off as a caricature of how a Batman comic should read. While I give him credit for (almost) getting the supporting cast right, his Batman just doesn't authentically read like Bruce Wayne to me. Especially considering what Bruce has been through over the last couple of years and the internal changes he's undergone. When Batman yells "Dirtbag!" at Croc it just doesn't feel right. When Alfred goes several lines of dialog without inserting his trademark "Sir" I can feel something is amiss. Finch has the broad strokes down, but he lacks the finesse and finish that's vital. His writing lacks those fine details that seasoned writers bring to Batman.