In “Once Upon a Midnight Dreary” three of The Dark Knight’s greatest foes unite in to tackle the threat of Batman head-on! Will the diabolical scheming of Scarecrow, Mad Hatter and The Penguin be too much for Batman to handle?

SUMMARY

Pros
Great characterization
Strong art
Cons

Not new reader friendly since you have to know who the villains are.

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

READER RATING!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 3.88 out of 5)
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BM_TDK_ANNUAL_1_8tjic9a7v4_BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT ANNUAL #1

Writer: Gregg Hurwitz
Artist: Szymon Kudranski

Letterer: Dezi Sienty
Cover: Alex Maleev

Editor: Mike Marts

Publisher: DC Comics

Cover Price: $4.99

Previously in Batman: The Dark Knight:  Batman has faced these villains many times in the past. This includes Hurwitz’s excellent miniseries on The Penguin called Pain and Prejudice.  All three blame the Dark Knight for interfering with their plans, so they’re happy to battle Batman whenever they can.

A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF BATMAN STORY

The book starts out with the three baddies receiving messages apparently from each other to meet at the Arkham Detention Facility for Youth. When they encounter each other, they discover that they’ve been “had” since someone else must have lured them there. And it’s also Halloween, so the spooky, deserted facility is the perfect setting for this meeting.

As the villains try to figure out what’s going on, they figure that Batman is behind it. As they try to get away, they run into bats and images that could be the Dark Knight. Other things happen to them, including the song “Three Blind Mice” playing in the background, an obvious allusion to the trio as they make their best effort to leave.

Things reach a climax when the three are forced to face their personal pasts, including the Penguin’s mother,  the Scarecrow’s father and the Mad Hatter’s Alice. When they recover, they find out it’s morning, and the three vow to never speak of this night again as they leave the building.

My favorite part is found in the last couple of pages in which we find out just who sent those messages. I would hate to ruin the surprise, which is a good one, so I won’t. I’ll just say that the person who did this wanted “the most relaxing Halloween in history.” Great stuff!

THE PACING AND ART FIT THE TALE WELL

Hurwitz has proven himself to be a powerful Batman scribe, updating villains and telling compelling stories. What I also enjoy is that the author doesn’t have a problem sprinkling in some humor, as he did a few issues ago with Batman NOT disappearing when Commissioner Gordon expected him to! Hurwitz does a great job of using the three villains fairly while keeping the story moving briskly.

Szymon Kudranski’s art is appropriate for the dark tone of the book, varying the look of the pages from multiple panels to double-page spreads. Very good dramatic use!

BOTTOM LINE: A PERFECT FIRST ANNUAL

Sometimes annuals don’t measure up to the monthly title, but this one is a perfect companion. Having three villains appear ups the ante in the book, and the mystery surrounding what’s going will help the Dark Knight’s mystique grow in Gotham’s criminal underworld since I just KNOW one of them will blab about it anyway!  While it’s a great read at any time, I would highly recommend returning to this annual on Halloween when it will be a perfect way to celebrate that holiday! Batman: The Dark Knight Annual #1 earns 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall

Wayne Hall creates the Wayne's Comics Podcast. He’s interviewed Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Kyle Higgins, Phil Hester, Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, David Petersen, Christos Gage, Mike Grell, and Matt Kindt. Each episode also includes reviews, news and previews. On this site each week, he writes his "Comics Portal" column (general comics comments and previews) and reviews comics.

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