BatWatch Review: The Dark Knight #19
Pool of Tears
The Dark Knight has been impressing me recently with some good quality Batman stories. Last issue revealed that the Mad Hatter's psychosis was started as a side affect from an experimental testosterone replacement, and we saw the grisly end of his Tetch's crush, Alice, but though we know Alice's final end, I'm very curious on seeing what other events from the past made Mad Hatter the lunatic he is today. In the present aspect of the plot, Batman revealed his identity to Natalya, and sadly, it appears as if Hurwitz (former writer of Vengeance of the Moon Knight and Penguin: Pride and Prejudice and current writer of The Dark Knight) is going to pull the typical, “Let's kill or otherwise get rid of the new girlfriend,” routine, and this bores me, but perhaps I will be surprised.
Does The Dark Knight #19 succeed in making The Mad Hatter a significant villain in the Batman universe or is this issue flailing to wrap up a story with more promise than substance?
In this issue, things grow worse for the young Jervis Tetch and Batman spends more time with Natalya.
Ow! My Eyes!
What the crap is going on with the art in this issue?
Ethan Van Sciver (former artist of Impulse, cover artist for The Fury of Firestorm, and penciler for Superman/Batman and current cover artist for The Dark Knight) has taken a couple issues off, and he has been replaced with Szymon Kudranskia (former artist for Detective Comics, Pain and Prejudice, Streets of Gotham, and Spawn and current artist for The Dark Knight and Green Lantern) who is not without his own skill in the art department, but his visuals literally hurt my eyes in many panels. It's not that they did not look good when I could see them, but he, presumably in coordination with colorist Hi-Fi, (former colorer of Birds of Prey and Booster Gold and current colorer for The Dark Knight, Worlds' Finest, Green Arrow, Threshold, Firestorm, Stormwatch, Sword of Sorcery, and Legion of Super-Heroes) created a sort of glare effect which made the otherwise nice art all but impossible to see in many scenes. In the present, darkness is the norm, and you would be hard pressed to find anything visible on a panel other than the things in the foreground. All else, and even much of that which is in the foreground, is obscured in shadows. The past, on the other hand, is painfully bright to the point that viewing it is like trying to stare at a light bulb after waking up in the middle of the night. The bright light occasionally obscures the images either by a distortion effect or by casting long, ever changing shadows over the characters. It's a headache, and I'm not sure why these talented writers wanted to cover up their own work. If the entire arc had been drawn this way, it would be less annoying, but since this is not the style used in the previous issues, this really stands out.
To give the art team props, the art is sometimes given a layer of psychedelic colors to show the altered mental state of Tetch. Also, the final panel of the issue is both beautiful and chilling.
The Origin of the Mad Hatter
Something about the origin of the Mad Hatter has really connected with me. I've always had an appreciation for the fear that your body could betray you and cause you to lose control of yourself, and that fear has been heightened in the last couple years when I've had various health difficulties and discovered just how much a tiny things like a prescription drugs, side affects, and hormonal imbalances can effect you. Coupling this fear with a typical story of being a misunderstood child makes for a chilling origin story in my book, but given my personal investment in some elements of this origin, it may not move others as much as it does me.
Mad Hatter's schemes in the present are a mixed bag. We finally discover what Mad Hatter has been building in this issue, and it is both beautiful and creepy. Beyond that however, he seems pretty generically villainous.
1. I'm not sure a tall hat would have been my first choice if I were losing my hair, but I guess this could easily be explained as part of Tetch's obsessive tendencies.
2. Part of the preview for this issue made the art appear completely incomprehensible. I'm glad to see that it does actually make sense. What was confusing was that it was a two page spread that was presented as two separate pages, and read as two separate pages, it makes no sense.
The present story is pretty typical and a tad trite, but the origin story continues to impress. I only wish that the art were better in this issue.
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