Just Take Batman Out of This Series, But Keep His Villains
I'm not really sure what to make of the cover. The original version made it look like Batman there was a statue, and the solicit implied he was missing. The Bat-Signal behind his head works great, but when it's actually Batman taller than buildings it's weird, especially when Mad Hatter's on the other side normal sized. And at first it was just kind of cool, but absolutely no shocking twist to the other half; but then when you get to the end of the issue, you realize that what seemed like cool imagery actually WAS a spoiler for the end.
Szymon Kudranski usually has very solid and atmospheric artwork, but it feels a little rushed in this issue, and it's got a very whiplash contrast to Ethan Van Sciver's artwork on this arc. And no story reason for the artist change. It's a little hard to get used to when comparing the progression of Mad Hatter's backstory.
To be fair though, Kudranski DOES do a good job with the crazier parts of his past. The tone for his stuff at school is a little off, but his descent into madness, taking more pills, drinking more tea, looks amazing. Most of what happens here is pretty expected after what we've seen, but that doesn't really make it any less effective. It's harrowing and has a touch of realistic relateability to it.
But my fears from last issue are given life. Batman revealing his identity to that pianist DID happen. And it's incredibly dumb. Batman's done it enough times in the past, but never before has the love interest mattered and stood out so little. I have no idea what would push him to reveal the truth to her, she doesn't seem to truly stir up true emotions in him, nor does she seem to have any kind of story to tell by finding out EXCEPT for the cliche and played out "She's going to get killed" because Mad Hatter sees her as a perfect Alice for.... some reason. Despite her not even being blonde.
But that's the only weak writing for Mad Hatter, Hurwitz writes Batman bad, but the villains amazingly. Mad Hatter is becoming desperate and erratic, he needs to get his big show ready. It's such a selfish and personal goal for the cost in lives. The true face of a violent sociopath. He doesn't kill for fun, but the other human lives hold no meaning to him. This leads to an intense calling to all his sleepers across the city.Considering Batman knows about One Size Inc., I kinda feel like he should've suspected the hats they sold would be rigged, but whatever. This scene itself leads ultimately into the end which has a pretty heavy impact, enough to hit me hard even when I was severely disappointed by the middle.
In Conclusion: 2.5/5
All the Mad Hatter portions were excellent as I've come to expect from Hurwitz. But the middle had such a piss poor Batman scene that threw a damper on the entire arc. It's unfortunate because I love the villain developments in this arc, but based on the events of this issue, I'm probably going to want to pretend this arc never happened, just like the truly atrocious first arc of this series.