As the years rolled on, Batman, Bruce Wayne’s Batman that is, became something much bigger than what he was originally intended to be. This wasn’t a bad thing, just a natural progression of the character as he became more popular. Batman’s adventures became bigger, his missions with the JLA became alien or supernatural, and the gritty crime fighter fell by the wayside. With Batman: The Dark Knight #1, the new entry to the Batman titles from writer/artist David Finch, the original idea of Batman is reborn. Since the death of Bruce Wayne and throughout his return, the rebirth of the entire idea of Batman has taken the Dark Knight it all kinds of new directions. In this instance, that new direction is to take a step back.
Dark Knight #1 follows Bruce Wayne as Batman. With Detective Comics and Batman angled towards Dick Grayson and Batman and Robin and Batman Gotham Knights mixing the characters up, Dark Knight is the only title that allows us into the mind of the fully returned Bruce Wayne. This issue centers on Batman looking for a childhood friend, a girl who he knew just before his parents were murdered. The plot may seem thin but it isn’t, it’s the type of adventure Batman has been missing out on. Finch takes that plot and weaves other elements around it to give us a full picture of the new Bruce Wayne. For one thing Bruce is more driven, harder than ever. The battle between Batman and Killer Croc, warped on the drug Venom, is a good indication of that.
Outside of the action, Finch weaves in the returning notion of Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective. The Dark Knight is following clues here, moving from scene to scene using as much his brain as his brawn. Dark Knight is a slow roll peppered with spikes of action, like any good noir novel or film. There’s also solid dialog going on here, something that isn’t always a given. The running inner monologue from Batman is brooding, while the banter between him and Alfred is light and enjoyable. Fincher is at ease showing the varied sides of Bruce Wayne rather than regulating him to a one-dimensional menacing mope. The final scene, when the Penguin makes himself known, is a stark and gruesome revelation. Finch’s first issue gives Bruce Wayne his own place amongst the Batman Incorporated story arc.
While the writing is wonderful, the art in Dark Knight is breathtaking. Finch is a master with a pencil, crafting each panel with dark perfection. He draws with great confidence, using bold lines to craft backgrounds and bodies, as well as lighter touches for facial expressions. I was particularly impressed by Finch’s use of shadow for the storm Gotham scenes; it gave the whole issue an ominous sense to it. Some of the best work done is wrapped in the smaller details. The facial expressions of Batman tell everything about his mood, and Finch even draws in some subtle new weaponry that you might miss if you don’t read the issue several times. With all of the new and old Batman titles firing on all cylinders, Dark Knight adds another layer to that excellence. I’m hoping that both Dark Knight, and David Finch, sticks alongside Batman for the long haul.