Review: Dark Nights – Batman: The Red Death

The Dark Night event continues apace this month, with the Dark Multiverse’s evil Bat entity starting to make itself felt.  The impact here, is some what of a mish-mash of a good idea wrapped in a colourful tale that doesn’t feel ashamed to use the familiar, some would say cliché, to make its mark.

Batman is once again in obsessive mode; this time determined to take the Speed Force from Barry, which after all the personal loses he has suffered, will allow Bruce to not just save Gotham, but to save whole world!  What follows is a contest, a contrast even between compassion and control; between the selfless and the selfish, with enough thrills and spills to generate a sense of doom in an exciting manner.

Current Flash writer Josh Williamson is on hand, providing a story that seems to be more a Flash story than a Batman story.  As the antagonist in the piece, Bats certainly holds sway, proving again just how formidable he is against his super powered Justice League colleagues.  Williamson’s familiarity with the world of the Flash shines through, as well it should.  Yet despite his recent work with Batman (on The Button crossover), Williamson’s Batman lacks the nuances that bat-fans would expect.  Instead, Bats comes across like a spoilt brat, wanting to take away the Flash’s power in a thuggish manner.  The problem for me in this is that I generally don’t think Batman ever wants to be super-powered. Sure, he can take down the Justice league single-handed; can take on Darkseid on his home turf in a robotic suit.  So why now does he need the Speed Force?  Other than that Williamson keeps the differences between the two characters at the forefront, even having the time to drop the old “Flash and a crisis” line in for good measure.

Carmine Di Giandomenico provides the art on the book adding to the feeling that this is actually a Flash book.  Looking through the book, despite his recent work on the aforementioned Flash book, Di Giandomenico’s style may seem put of place.  True, there is gritty artwork that is reminiscent of Klaus Janson and yes, some of the Flash poses have a Carmine Infantino vibe, but overall the two do not mix well.  This artistic juxtaposition could be part  of the highlighting the difference between the two heroes and if that is the case I applaud the effort.  There are a couple of artistic issues to highlight however.  The first is quite annoying and distracting; I can appreciate that this may be an alternative would, yet with so many conveniences, such as the cosmic treadmill, I would like to know why the Batman we see seems to be wearing his old Batman Incorporated suit.  Now I know that is hard to show the same character consistently, especially as some appear in more than five books a month, but surely having them in the right costume should be easy, right?  What next, will the Wonder Woman tie-in feature Diana in her white jumpsuit from the 70’s?  The other issue is the obvious Dark Knight Returns “lifts”, “homages” or “steals” that appear in the book.  I am not going to point them out, but they are in there.

From a creator point of view, the star of the book is colorist Ivan Plascencia who details the book in a number of ways.  For example, we get the traditional stark darkness for Batman, the traditional red streak for the Flash, both inhabiting an over the top digitally coloured book with red skies, lightning fields and dark backgrounds, giving the impression that the characters are not actually a part of the world, rather they are apart from the world.  The work towards the end of the book, highlighting the stories impact on the heroes is well-coordinated, giving the books a vibrant energetic feel.

DC are definitely ramping up the stakes across their books, with various heroes dealing with Rebirth repercussions, a darkness encroaching that may not be just about the Dark Night falling and of course there is a certain Doomsday Clock on the horizon.  With so many big ideas there comes the risk of a drop in quality, over saturation of the market (have you seen how many tie-ins books accompany the main book?).  Still, this is the course we are on and we are have to put out trust and faith in those that have entertained us, fortnight in fortnight out since the start of Rebirth.

Writing – 3.5 Stars
Art – 3 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars

Written by; Josh Williamson
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colors by; Ivan Plascencia
Published by; DC Comics


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