Bruce Wayne has bled for his city–what will new series artist Ethan Van Sciver, teaming up for the first time with writer Gregg Hurwitz, bring to this new Mad Hatter story? Major Spoilers reviews Batman: The Dark Knight #16 to find out!
Previously, in Batman: The Dark Knight… Batman fought off the madness of The Scarecrow, using his own toxin-fighting blood to dose the entirety of Gotham City and free the citizens from fear.
ALICE IN HORRORLAND
The Mad Hatter is one of my favorite Batman villains; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are among my favorite novels (they are incredibly deep; don’t discount them as just kids books because of the Disney movie), and Gail Simone’s Secret Six showed just how delightfully twisted the character can be.
This issue marks the introduction of the Hatter into The New 52, and I couldn’t have asked for a better writer to handle him. Hurwitz has specialized in Batman’s rogues, making me fall in love with Penguin and bringing me to a point of grudging acceptance of Scarecrow, and seeing him finally handle a villain I already enjoyed means I was incredibly excited for this issue.
ETHAN VAN SCIVER: THE THIRD HEAT
When I read Penguin: Pain and Prejudice I picked it up for Szymon Kudranski’s art, and unexpectedly fell in love with Hurwitz’s writing. With The Dark Knight #16 I picked it up for Hurwitz’s writing and unexpectedly fell in love with Ethan Van Sciver’s art. I’d enjoyed Van Sciver’s Green Lantern and other things I’d seen from him, but I never fully realized what a masterful storyteller he is, in a way far beyond any artist that has done a Batman book since the DC relaunch. While I’ve enjoyed artists like Greg Capullo or David Finch, Ethan Van Sciver blows them out of the water. The amount of detail he puts into every panel, and the way he used panel layouts to communicate action and story pacing is like a more concrete version of J.H. Williams III’s layouts. If you haven’t picked up this issue, you owe it to yourself to at least flip through it at your local comic shop and admire the layouts. The only problem I had with the art (and it’s a minor one, but one that stuck in my craw) is that Van Sciver’s Batman has noticeably longer cowl-ears than the rest of The New 52.
But you really shouldn’t just do that. You should go out and buy this issue so you can actually read the story that Hurwitz is setting up. The Ukrainian pianist from the previous arc makes an appearance, but she is almost immediately written out of the picture. My first reaction was annoyance, thinking that Hurwitz was just tired of her and getting rid of the character, but as things developed and it was revealed how the Mad Hatter was kidnapping everyday Gothamites to shape into a Wonderland cast, I have to believe that Chekhov’s gun will fire and Natalya will be kidnapped, possibly to play the role of Alice.
I’m not entirely certain where this issue is supposed to fit into the current Bat-continuity; The Dark Knight has avoided Death of the Family entirely, and Oswald Cobblepot is present as The Penguin in this issue, which means it cannot be concurrent with John Layman’s current story in Detective Comics.
BOTTOM LINE: GREAT BEGINNING TO A NEW STORY
The Dark Knight 16 is a great start to a new story arc, and while I have a few nit-picky moments, I really enjoyed it. I wish the Hatter himself was a little less creepy looking, and maybe by next issue Van Sciver will have shortened the ears on the cowl, but I have a lot of faith in this creative team and am looking forward to the next issue. All in all Batman: The Dark Knight #16 gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!