Down, Down, Down
I have been enjoying the origin tale of Jervis Tetch. Quite frankly, I don't care very much about the part of the story set in the present despite the high body count and “Bruce's first love” being put in mortal danger. All of that is okay, but I'm really much more interested in how Jervis Tetch went from normal kid to Mad Hatter. As Tetch loses more and more control over himself, we've seen him taking steps down a dark path, but we still have not seen his obsession with Alice in Wonderland fully form, his first murder, or his first attempt at professional crime. I'm hoping we get to see all of that before this arc is finished.
Is The Dark Knight #20 an insanely good time or is it just plain crazy?
In this issue, Batman gives up the cowl for Natalya not realizing that Natalya has already been kidnapped by The Mad Hatter.
Come on, man! I had just begun to like your writing, and you pull this?
As I've said, the part of the story in the present is okay, but the really cool part is in the past where Jervis slowly becomes the Mad Hatter. There are plenty of moments in him turning into a criminal nut job which have yet to be explored, yet the origin story is apparently at an end, and all we get is the present in this issue which puts an early end to the best part of the arc.
As for the present, it's pretty bad unless you are brand new to comics. For anybody who has read many comic, especially Batman or Spider-Man, you've seen this story a million times and could probably predict it almost perfectly. From the Batman side, we have Bruce falling in love with a damsel who immediately becomes distressed as a super villain targets her, and from Spider-Man, we have the hopelessly tired, “I'm going to retire,” spill which lasts all of about thirty seconds until the hero gets back into the game.
I will give props to Hurwitz (former writer of Vengeance of the Moon Knight and Penguin: Pride and Prejudice and current writer of The Dark Knight) on this. At least Batman did not leave people to die as do many heroes. “Oh, there is a monster storming across NYC. Oh well. I' sad, so I quit. Sucks to be you poor innocents underfoot!” At least Batman planned to finish up his current projects, and in fact, he just said, I will not do this forever. He might have continued for years based on that statement. That seems a better way to do this story than the more whiny rage quit of most superheroes.
I also did like this line from Alfred about Batman's inability to live a happy life: “I fear sometimes, dear boy, that if you don't give this up, you'll have nothing. You can't have darkness and light at the same time, Master Bruce. One exterminates the other.”
Darkness and Light
Speaking of just that, darkness and light is visually painful to my eyes in this issue. I thought 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 and artist for Green Lantern) was coming back on art duties this issue, but perhaps that is next issue because issue features the same guy as last time, Szymon Kudranski, (former artist for Detective Comics, Pain and Prejudice streets of Gotham and Image's Spawn and current artist for The Dark Knight) and I don't really like his style. To be fair, it is not technically bad in any way, so this is just a criticism based on my own personal preference and nothing more, but from my own personal feelings, I strongly dislike it. Two-thirds of the characters in panel are not even seen and are instead mere silhouettes with the barest traces of distinguishing details. Background images do not fair much better with a minimalist approach at creating settings, and any object that dares transmit light such as a television is blindingly bright as if the lens on a camera is opened too wide while somehow making everything in the foreground still completely dark. I can respect it as an artistic technique, but as entertainment, it doesn't hold up.
1. The cover is pretty cool with Batman being pulled into the Bat Signal by the villains. The trippy colors also add a bit without becoming ridiculous such as with the cover of The Dark Knight 18.
(Spoilers until Conclusion)
2. The way this entire story plays out in relation to Natalya is just so painfully formulaic that I am honestly dismayed Hurwitz write it. After the death of Robin and the Death of the Family, did we really need yet another blow to make Bruce bitter and whithered emotionally?
I can't recommend this to anybody but those dedicated on finishing the arc and those who have only been reading comics for a couple years.