batwatch's Batman: The Dark Knight #18 - Devil's Bargain review

BatWatch Review: The Dark Knight #18

Devil's Bargain

It's time to see what The Dark Knight has cooked up for us this week. I was pleasantly surprised with last week's issue. Whereas I generally find Gregg Hurwitz (former writer of Vengeance of the Moon Knight and Penguin: Pride and Prejudice and current writer of The Dark Knight) stories to be lacking, I actually enjoyed the cat and mouse game between our fearless hero and his short stack villain last time around, and though I know some horrible tragedy is doubtless on its way in the tale of Jervis Tetch's past, I found myself investing in his origin. Ethan Van Sciver's (former artist of Impulse, cover artist for The Fury of Firestorm, and penciler for Superman/Batman and current penciler for The Dark Knight) artwork has also grown on me, and Sciver keeps saying in interviews that something is coming in this arc which is really crazy and that DC almost did not let them do, so that's piqued my interest.

Does The Dark Knight #18 prove that I am mad as a hatter for expecting great things, or does it prove to be an amazing adventure though a dark Wonderland?

In this issue, Batman continues to follow The Mad Hatter down the rabbit hole.

Playing with Expectations

Last issue caught me off guard from the beginning with two moments that played off typical Batman tropes. The first came when Commissioner Gordon turned away from Bats assuming he would disappear only to turn back around to see Bruce still standing there saying, “What?” The second moment came when Bruce referred to his data-mining software as bata-mining only to receive mockery from Alfred on the name. S IHurwitz is pulling our legs regarding the disappearing Batman and the call everything a Bat-object? Alright, I'm game. Batman needs to have his world pulled apart every once and awhile. This sort of meta analysis is a nice little wink to fans who have seen these moves pulled over and over again, and maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but it seems like a little bit of a hint to other writers to move on.

This issue also started with two such moments that kind of poked at the seams of the Bat verse. The first was kind of a two in one as Tweedledee calls Bats on his grand entrance and more or less says, “Oooh, so impressive.” The other part came immediately thereafter as Tweedledee points out that all these amazing take downs Batman does on villains frequently have more drastic effects than what the comic art conveys. The second scene was when Bruce said he was going to approach things stealthily only to take the fight right down the villains throats which I think is meant to dismantle the idea that Bruce is always careful and thought out in his actions.

If these types of scenes become too common, it might become snarky or undermine the seriousness of the story, but at the moment, I think this level of picking apart Batman's typical moves is a heck of a lot of fun.

Shoo, Cat! Go!

Why is Catwoman in this issue? At first, her appearance seemed to serve absolutely no purpose to the larger story, but I eventually realized that there is a purpose at work here even though it is an unnecessary one. (Spoilers) Later in the issue, Batman gets back together with the pianist chick, Natalya, he dumped in the last arc, and I think Selina's appearance was just meant to show that Bruce was now over Catwoman and had given his heart to Natalya. The main problem with this is that Bruce and Selina never really had a relationship. They hooked up once, and they've barely seen each other since. It's not like they were dating.

For clarity here, I'm not trying to encourage random hookups. Casual sexual encounters have actually been proven to detrimental to women, and I suspect it can cause some issue for guys as well though that's just a hunch. However, it does not change the fact that these sorts of things happen often, and I do not think it is a prerequisite to have an encounter with your one time hookup before dating someone new.

Also, Selina comes off as rather nuts in this issue. Stealing Batman's hubcaps could be seen as playful, but considering she hits him upside the head with it, I think her actions lean more towards psycho. Also, the licking is a bit creepy. Uninvited licking is not sexy.

A Tale of a Tetch

The Mad Hatter's origin is visited once more, and I do not want to give anything away, but I will say that I approve. I know Tetch has had past origin stories, but quite frankly, they suck. This one does not suck, and in fact, I would go so far as to say that it's actually pretty cool. Tetch in the present is growing on me as well. I still do not like his tendency to randomly kill people because its simply so cliché, but the way he handled his house call towards the end was cool. He's a man who has constructed a mental world for himself, a vision of who he wants to be, and he will not be satisfied until that vision has been reached.

Bat Droppings

1. I do not care for the cover. The colors in the background remind me of nausea, and it is reminiscent of the last trippy cover. As far as the foreground goes, it's kind of gross with The Mad Hatter apparently cutting himself out of Bruce's chest, and I cannot say that it makes any kind of metaphorical sense to me, so...

2. It just occurred to me while reading this issue that Bruce should probably have some security with him at all times. Can people that famous really just walk on a street alone? Maybe. I am trying to think of a real life equivalent. Would Bill Gates walk down the street alone?

3. I would have to go back and compare, but I believe Van Sciver's pencils are making Batman's cape progressively more bat like as this series continues. It is nearly two separate wings now rather than a cape.

4. You can actually see Bruce take Tweedledee's phone if you look carefully at the scene. I like it when artists include this stuff rather than have it happen off panel. I missed it the first time.

5. I don't much care for the big two page spreads' colors. All the villains are in orange for no apparent reason. Honestly, this looks like the colorer, Hi-Fi, (former colorer of Birds of Prey and Booster Gold and current colorer for The Dark Knight, Batman, Incorporated, Green Arrow, The Human Bomb, Team 7, Threshold, Superboy, Sword of Sorcery, and Legion of Super-Heroes [this is assuming ComicVine is feeding me correct information. They just remodeled so things are a little messy]) was just in a hurry.

6. I'm not sure what I think of Tetch's superpower bestowing teas. The jury is still out on that one.

7. Tetch is evil because he has low testosterone. I have low testosterone too! I guess I'll have to start planning my first crime spree.

8. I tried to look at how long testosterone supplements have been around, but I could not find any easy answers. If they existed thirty years ago or so, then that's a moderate hole in this origin story.

(Spoilers until Conclusion)

9. The way Tetch managed to get time alone with Alice without killing someone was great. That is much more entertaining that The Mad Hatter leaving behind a trail of bodies.

10. The flashback to Bruce's past was wonderful, but it led to Bruce revealing his identity to Natalya which is stupid. We know nothing about this character, so it is really hard to even care about this plot line. Also, everybody has a freaking camera these days, you moron. You are in the middle of the city with a freaking Bat Plane between two buildings. Everybody will be taking pictures. You've just made Natalya a giant target, and there is no way you will be unrecognized. Dope.

11. Jervis Tetch, once again, just piles up bodies at the end. Boring. I get killing the original Alice because she was not perfect, and he was saving her, but killing off random others is just excessive.

Conclusion 8/10

There is a lot to love in this issue. I think Tetch's origin story is really cool, and I'm enjoying it immensely. It is certainly better than any other origin story I have heard for the character. The art is nice as a whole, and there are some great scenes and neat concepts explored. On the other hand, Catwoman broke the flow of the story, Bruce telling Natalya his secret is a fairly stupid move we have seen countless times before with more interesting girls, and Tetch's general psychopathy is at times annoying in its typicality. Overall, it's a good issue worth picking up if you are a big fan of Batman or The Mad Hatter, but know that the issue has a few little problems.

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