Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: Batman: The Dark Knight Volume 1: Golden Dawn

David Finch writes and draws a Batman comic.

Unkindly, my first thought when I heard about this a couple years ago was, There's no way that can be good.

Perhaps even more unkindly, when I saw the hardcover at a library the other day, my first thought was, Wow! I can't wait to read this so I can feel justified in hating it!

This was a bad comic, even by DC standards. I get that Finch is popular artist, but I honestly don't think he's a good one. Or at least he doesn't have a style that appeals to my sensibilities. I can stomach his art if the story is interesting enough (see Moon Knight with Charlie Huston, or Ultimate X-Men with Bendis), but nothing about his drawing and storytelling has ever, ever indicated to me that he could possibly be a gifted writer. Golden Dawn is evidence enough; it's your standard, run of the mill Batman story, only with a lot more gritted teeth, furrowed brows, and veins pulsating through clothes.

Dawn Golden (Yes. Her name is Dawn Golden and the story is titled Golden Dawn. David Finch clearly learned from Jeph Loeb - that's their idea of subtlety and wit.) is a girl from Bruce Wayne's past. She's been kidnapped. It's up to Batman to save her. He encounters Killer Croc and the Penguin. There's also a side plot with Etrigan the Demon and Ragdoll that eventually crosses over into the main plot. Now, I've given you some of the general beats of the story. Use your imagination and create a story using those points.

Unless you're mentally retarded, you've just imagined a comic better than the hardcover open in front of me.

Finch crafts the most basic, generic superhero story full of all the tropes you've come to expect from a Jeph Loeb or Judd Winick comic. It kind of reminds me of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man: Torment from the early nineties; that was one of the first really art-driven big name superhero titles, and it was a piss poor comic (unless you were simply satisfied with T-Mac's art). Finch relies on splash pages to punctuate his story beats, but without any genuine emotion and drama behind the story, it all ends up being a series of meaningless moments captured in panels. His art is detailed but the details rarely seem to serve any stylistic purpose. Unless they're fighting, his characters are poor actors and don't convey any real emotion.

Oh yeah, there's also a subplot involving a teenage girl (at least I think she's a teenage girl - with Finch's art, she could just be a really short adult) stealing some tech that ends the ordeal with a cliffhanger. I have to admit I'm not really interested in seeing how it all turns out. And there's a good chance that I'm going to forget everything in this comic by next week. 

The sad thing is, I really wanted to hate this comic a lot, but it was so bland and insipid that I don't have the strength to unleash my unbridled disdain. I thought it would move me to new heights of rage, but it was such an uninspired piece of work that I've got nothing...

I always wonder, whenever I read a bad comic, where do they get the pull quotes that they slap on the covers to try and sell people on the book? I mean, the front cover has a pull quote from IGN that says, "David Finch is a master of superhero comics; The Dark Knight is further proof of that." Did that reviewer actually think this was a masterfully executed superhero comic - that out of all the superhero comics ever made since the dawn of time, this is as sterling an example of the genre in all existence? Or was he just being sarcastic and his quote taken out of context? I have to believe it's the latter; the alternative is just too depressing a thought.

The best thing I can say about the Golden Dawn hardcover is that at least it collects a story from Batman #700 written by Grant Morrison (which has nothing to do with Finch's story). It's probably Finch's finest moment since his Moon Knight run.