For a while I have been a tad unhappy with the Batman books for the most part. It seems he is always running around invading other countries to get Bane, or chat with the ex and getting caught up in the mayhem that is Metal. If it wasn’t for Detective Comics you could be excused for thinking that Batman doesn’t live in Gotham anymore!
Enrico Marini’s new book, The Dark Prince Charming goes more than some way in resetting the balance. Firmly set in Gotham, this a Batman crime noir story. The book starts out in familiar territory; the Joker is terrorizing a kid, there is a chase, some killing, Harley getting annoyed, Catwoman, Killer Croc and of course Batman. In this book however, it seems that Batman is going to have to clean up after Bruce Wayne, as it seems his alter ego has been a tad indiscreet, fathering a daughter. Of course this is a burden that attracts all sorts of responses from the costumes in Gotham to jealousy, rage, disinterest and of course opportunity!
From the get go, Marini’s writing is stellar. Meeting the current requirement of DC to forgo main continuity, Marini has a felonious Catwoman who is Bruce’s current partner for alternative “night-time activities”. The writing in the book is spot on, with setups that lead into well worked familiarity. Yes the Joker kills his own goons, yes Batman disappears on Gordon. These are by now foibles of a Batman story. The dialogue is also very impressive, from the confrontation with Croc, the vape comment. Where Marini has excelled for me is actually in a couple of places. Firstly, he has made the Joker, an oft used enemy, seem a tad fresher than normal. His reactions to Harley’s mood changes are almost too true and the capricious nature of the Joker is firmly established. True we get another rendition of “what’s my origin?” with the multiple choices started way back The Killing Joke. The other facet I really enjoyed is how adult the book is. There is no disguising that sex plays a pivotal role in the book, there is a tad of begetting begot. But there is more; the emotions in play from the cast seems more of true reflection of how those scenes would play in real life. Selina’s viewpoint about having a competitor, Harley’s reaction to the Joker spending more time with his victim than with her are all examples of the emotional gauntlet today’s nuclear family has to run.
Marini is in full on “do it all” mode as he provides the art work for the book as well as the story. In his hands, the characters are taking to their logical extreme. Batman becomes the sleek all in black vigilante, Catwoman the sleeky thief, Harley the sexy hench-girl and Joker more of a maudlin clown rather the giggle at anything version we have seen so much. By using these designs, Marini has shown us who these characters are without the need to bore us with wordy exposition. True it helps that they are all iconic in their own right, but taking Harley for example, she is besotted with the Joker and no amount of shady presence or ridiculous outfits will change that for her. She wants all of his attention! In Marini’s hands, Gotham is a dark place, where Batman stands looking over his city from a gargoyle. It is safe to say, that with so many influences out there, Marini has used the ones he likes; the Burton looking Batsuit, the Arkham City Gotham, the Arkham Knight Harley are all on show contributing in a more subtle manner than Sean Murphy’s love for BTAS over in White Knight. The colors in the book are exquisite, across the various locations of Gotham.
For me, a long time Bat-fan, this is the sort of book that I have been waiting for. This is absolute proof that Batman doesn’t need to live in the superhero world. In fact, he is better suited to life away from the Justice League. I can only hope that his recent shenanigans in his main book and his actions in Metal will finally get him kicked out . DC should take note, there is room on the rack for a teen + bat book as well as their mainly crowd pleasing titular Batman book.
Writing- 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars
Written, Art & Colors by, Enrico Marini
Published by, DC Comics