Friday, June 28, 2013

Batman: The Dark Knight #7

"The Final Curtain"

Paul Jenkins Writer/Co-Plotter
David Finch Penciller/Co-Plotter
Inker: Richard Friend
Colors: Jeromy Cox
Letters: Sal Cipriano
Assistant Editor: Rickey Purdin
Editor: Mike Marts
Batman created by Bob Kane

This issue didn't need a Dialogue Assist, and it did feel more like a Paul Jenkins story. But that doesn't mean I liked it, though ...

The cover is by Finch, Friend and Cox, and I can't stand it. Bane just looks awful. The coloring was a little weird — what's with that burnt orange background? — but the black-and-white version doesn't help at all. It's weird. David Finch is a great artist, but every now and then, he'll just fail. I think he had about a 50% success rate with Bane, with most of that success coming in the last issue.

Our story picks up on Harmon Island, Gotham City, where Batman and Bane are still battling. Bane picks up a big rock (again) and throws it at Batman. Somehow, Batman is able to hide in the splashing water and manages to escape. He quickly makes his way to the lighthouse, where he finds Poison Ivy trapped in a glass tube. He frees her, and she tells him that Bane created an antidote for his new venom. Batman says he already has the antidote (which he found in his Bat-plane). Ivy stresses that Bane needs to ingest the antidote and Batman formulates a plan.

Batman heads to the top of the lighthouse, and gets Bane's attention. Bane leaps from the ground to the top of the tower and beats up Batman. Bats uses some kind of taser gun to burn away Bane's mask, but Bane pounds him pretty good and knocks out the Dark Knight.

In Kansas, Superman is encouraging Flash to keep running, even though he's already been going nonstop for over a day. Flash eventually collapses in a cornfield and finds that he successfully burned off the toxin. Superman wants to take him to a hospital, but Flash insists on helping Batman.

Batman, meanwhile, is being dragged down the lighthouse stairs by Bane. Bane takes him to the edge of the cliff and prepares to throw him into the sea. Batman pulls out the antidote, but drops it. Before the vial hits the ground, Flash catches it and makes a joke about littering. Batman then shoves the antidote into Bane's mouth, then pushes the enormous man off the cliff. Bane hits the rocks hard, and Flash says, "Well. He really let himself go, didn't he?" The villain is then carried away in the surf while Batman and Flash watch from above.

Later, we see Jai taking a bath. She receives a message from Bruce Wayne, who wants to break up with her. White Rabbit enters the room, and we find out that someway, somehow, the two girls are the same person.

The Good:

It's over! No more Batman: The Dark Knight for me — at least for a while. This issue was quite terrible, but I did learn something recently in an interview with Paul Jenkins on the Word Ballon podcast. Predictably, he spent most of his time talking about the current failures in Marvel and DC with their storytelling techniques and how they treat their creators. It is really interesting, and he made a lot of good points. Also predictably, he avoided going into too much detail to protect the innocent. But he did say a few things that helped me understand this disappointing run on The Dark Knight. He said David Finch was originally supposed to write the series alone, but he was having trouble with the script, so he called up his good friend, Paul Jenkins, and asked him to help out. Jenkins said his initial plan was to start with a big, splashy arc with lots of characters to attract some attention, then he'd start to write the kind of stories he wanted to write. He listed issues #2 and #3 as his highlights, and said the real trouble started with issues #5 and #6, when he got sick of being told to re-write his work, and flat-out refused to do so, hence the Dialogue Assist credit. Jenkins also admitted that he rarely reads comics and is unfamiliar with current continuity and many characters. When he was asked to write Deadman, he had to look him up on Wikipedia.

So what does this all mean? It means I probably never would have enjoyed Jenkins' run even if DC didn't interfere too much and give him ridiculous instructions like preventing Batman from sitting down (that's a whole separate issue). I hated issue #3, but Jenkins spoke fondly of it, so I think there is a major disconnect between what he values in a comic book and what I value. I also was a little shocked to hear of a comic book writer who doesn't read comics. I think is evidence that Jenkins very likely did not realize the current Flash was Barry Allen, and had Wally West in mind with all his quips and moments of immaturity. I can't confirm this, but it makes sense, doesn't it?

The Bad:

Lame resolution for Flash. So, for the past four issues, Flash has been circling the globe, while Batman has desperately sought a cure for him. Turns out, all he had to do was run a little bit longer. That's it? He just ran and ran and ran, then collapsed, then immediately hopped back up and was 100% fine. There's a lot more to the Flash than that! They could have solved his dilemma in so many more interesting ways. And again, what was the point of having the Flash in this story at all? The only constructive thing he did was catch that vial. Seriously, that's it. Here's a quick re-write: Batman does not drop the vial and never gets the Flash involved in this story, and we don't have to suffer with a Flash that doesn't act like the Flash.

Heroes that don't act like heroes. The first was Superman, who declined to join Flash in helping Batman fight Bane. Why didn't he go there? Flash new who Bane was, so Superman surely must have, as well. I guess he figured an exhausted Flash and a beat-up Batman would be enough to take down Bane. He was right, but he still should have helped. Our next unheroic moment comes from both Batman and Flash. Batman shoves Bane off the cliff and the two heroes just sit there and watch the bad guy wash away with the tide. Yes, we know Bane wouldn't die from such a fall, and Batman says, "He'll be back," but isn't it the heroes' responsibility to apprehend the villain and lock them up so they won't come back and cause more harm? Just knocking him off a cliff and hoping he survives doesn't cut it.

What was Bane thinking? Now, I only read half of this story arc, so I might be missing the finer details to Bane's plan, but what was the point of him creating an antidote to his new and improved venom? Just in case he got tired of being stronger and smarter? And speaking of being smarter, all he did was mindlessly beat the crap out of Batman while delivering long-winded, rambling speeches. Yeah, are you sure this venom actually made you smarter? I mean, it made him strong enough to jump to the top of a lighthouse (a bit of a stretch for me), but it didn't make him smart enough to realize he could have conceivably thrown Batman into the sea from the lighthouse. Instead, he wasted a lot of time dragging him down the stairs and holding him over his head on the edge of the cliff. At that point, he was just asking for Batman to beat him. I also have no idea how Batman got that antidote, but I'm going to give Paul Jenkins the benefit of a doubt and assume he answered this in his last issue on this title, #8.

Over-sexualized art. Finch flirted with crossing this line in earlier issues, but here I felt he went out of his way to throw in some eye candy for his 13-year-old male fans. Poison Ivy was naked for no apparent reason, then we got nice, big shots of White Rabbit and Jai taking a bath. And after Jai got out of the tub, she wrapped herself in a tiny towel, that barely covered the important parts. I find this kind of tactic to be off-putting and it takes me out of the story. It's just like a great movie that has a random and unnecessary sex scene. The story should be interesting enough without having to resort to such practices.

Final score: 1 out of 10

Next time: I'm quickly approaching my 50th post on this blog, which I plan to celebrate with something special. But before I get to that, I will review the brief, yet interesting hallucination of the Flash in Resurrection Man #12.

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