Friday, March 2, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight - Golden Dawn (comics)

Writer: David Finch
Artists: David Finch, Jay Fabok
Collects: Batman: The Dark Knight #1-5, Batman: The Return, material from Superman/Batman #75

Man, was this comic ever the ongoing joke of 2011. The delays were verging on ridiculous; it was originally solicited to start in the fall of 2010. Over the next six months, give or take, it only managed to get out two issues. It took something close to a year to get the five issue story finished; not only did they have to rush it just to finish before the relaunch, but it required Jay Fabok to pinch hit on the art.

So, nothing approaching high hopes for this book from me. Having a fill-in on art just made it worse. The book was launched as a vehicle for David Finch to do whatever he wanted with Batman; without his art, what was the point?

Anyways, one of Bruce Waynes childhood friends - Dawn Golden - turned up missing. Apparently she was the one who made him reconsider the whole "girl" thing as a kid; turned out they were pretty rad. Batman, thoroughly pissed off, decides to smack Killer Croc with a sign or two in the midst of his search. Then the Penguin decides to waddle his way in and Etrigan throws fire around while mystical elements start cropping up and I guess Ragman was possessed by a demon and things just kind of got out of control.

The writing is all over the map. Artists that double up have worked magic in the past. Finch isn't one of the success stories. The plot is a mess that lacks general consistency, with elements just kind of popping in for what seems to be no other reason than that's what David Finch felt like drawing that day.

The first half of the plot is essentially a kidnapping caper, but the whole thing - along with Croc and Penguin - is essentially forgotten the second Dawn is rescued. Apparently, it's irrelevant to the real issue - which makes you wonder why we blew two and a half issues on it - which is that Dawn is targeted for sacrifice. I guess Batman figured a giant Croc-man roaming the city wasn't a pressing issue.

Loose threads that go nowhere are all over the place, like an asskissing rookie gunning for Gordons job, some kid stealing the Batmobile, the demon Blaze vanishing from the story without even being defeated and so much more. Other questions involve how Etrigan got his status as a Rhyming Demon back midway through the story and just what's up with Ragman after having his body hijacked. Then there's what I suspect is a dropped plot point; on a certain page, the amount of emphasis on the amulet and linking it with the rage* from prior pages seems a bit too much to be a coincidence, but if there was a plan for it, we never see it. On top of all that, the story seems to just stop, like Finch was running out of pages and needed to "conclude" things with all due haste. This story explains absolutely nothing; there's no guarantee of a follow-up either, because I haven't heard anything about these plot threads returning in the relaunch volume.

The whole thing kind of resembles what you might get if you gave a kid a bunch of DC action figures and told him to come up with a story; any number of random cool moments, but nothing resembling structure or even coherency.

To top it off there's the central figure of the story, Dawn Golden. We don't get a sense of why Bruce is obsessed with saving her. I mean, sure, she was obviously the first girl Bruce wanted to, err, have relations with before he even knew what went where, but other than that, we have little idea what their connection was. Worse still, it's unclear why we should care about her; while the plot essentially revolves around her, we spend little time actually with her. The one hint of character we see comes from the flashback scene; the only thing we get out of her after the rescue is an infodump on why demons are suddenly after her with no prior warning in the story.

Now, this wouldn't be such a huge deal if David Finch did all the art. As important as story is to comic books, some folks will buy a book even if it's lousy if their favorite artist is on it. But as I mentioned earlier, delays forced them to employ a fill-in artist just to get the books solicited issues out there before the relaunch. Not that Jay Fabok isn't talented - he is - but a lot of the draw of this book to start was David Finch drawing Batman. With the story being something of a mess, it's left to the art to carry the weight. In this case, managing two thirds of five issues just isn't going to cut it; especially considering the fact that they gave it the Deluxe Hardcover treatment.

What's there is pretty though, I'll give it that. Since Finch is not on writing duties for the relaunched book and it's been hitting on time, I may check it out. His work is nice to look at.

Since the story ended up wrapping in five issues, the trade department apparently figured it would have been a good idea to throw something else in. On tap is a two page short story from issue #75 of Superman/Batman and the "Return" one shot Finch drew that served as a bridge between Morrisons Batman & Robin and Batman Incorporated. The Return has the opposite problem of Golden Dawn; the script's pretty good and sets up Incorporated well, but the artwork is Lesser Finch.

It's clearly there for no other reason than to pad the book out, though; the issue was already collected in one of the volumes of the story it's relevant to, so it's not like this is the only place to see it.

The Score: 5 out of 10

It's not that great. Way too many problems and not enough depth to any of the important parts of the story. Might be worth a look if you're really into Finchs artwork, but be forewarned that he only managed two thirds of the main story. Otherwise, I'd recommend giving it a pass.

* Seriously, we're talking blinding rage. He breaks Penguins limbs even as Penguin cries for him to stop. It was a very uncomfortable scene to read; it came across as unnecessarily cruel and not at all like Batman. I know Penguin was trying to kill him just a few pages prior, but it was completely overboard to the point I was feeling sorry for the Penguin.


  1. A nonsensical story with characters and plot threads that go nowhere, created purely as a vehicle for a superstar artist? Sounds remarkably like Superman: For Tomorrow, one of my least favorite comic book storylines of all time. And the girl's name is "Dawn Golden"? Really??

  2. I forgot to mention too that your comment about a chld playing with action figures made me laugh, in part because I said something very similar in my yet-to-be-published review of Marvel's Secret Wars Omnibus. I ended up shelving it when I was blogging regularly since it was probably the rantiest thing I had ever written, sitting somewhere around three single-spaced pages(!). But if I ever get back to a regular reviewing schedule, I might have to parse it down and post it, if only for comparison's sake to this review.

  3. I've yet to read "For Tomorrow". I've been kind of avoiding it. By all rights it sounds like a trainwreck. Which is kind of shocking, because didn't Azzarello write that?

    If you ever decide to post it, let me know. I may give it a read.

  4. Azzarello did write it, which makes it all the more confusing. I'm guessing it was one of those situations where a superstar artist just gives the writer a list of things he wants to draw without really caring whether it makes sense.

    I checked out the trades from the library when they first came out, and I was appalled when they announced an Absolute edition a while back. Sure, it was Jim Lee art, but it was still sort of weird -- there were a lot of reds, browns, and out-of-place earth tones in general, to my recollection. It was presumably set in Metropolis, but between the color pallette and the fact that Superman spent half his time whining to some priest in a church, I'm half-convinced it was actually some weird superhero version of "The Power and the Glory."