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Comic Book Review: "Batman: The Dark Knight: Knight Terrors"
The “Batman: The Dark Knight” series is a brooding and darker view of Batman and his battle against crime in Gotham City. The first story arc of this New 52 title, “Knight Terrors”, concentrates on the meaning of fear; especially the fears of Bruce Wayne/ Batman. Bruce has to balance his life as Bruce Wayne and his work as Batman is a precarious way. He’s told the world that Bruce Wayne is funding Batman, but although everyone accepts that they are not the same person, there are those who believe that Bruce Wayne is covering for others who are helping Batman. This leaves Bruce as a target as well as Batman of those who wish to undermine the Dark Knight. In this story, Batman has to face a few old enemies as well as a new one to unravel a mystery surround supercharged villains while Bruce Wayne is navigating trying to have a love life and dodging an Internal Affairs agent who’s out to get Commissioner Gordon. “Knight Terrors”, written and drawn by David Finch and Paul Jenkins with inks by Richard Friend, is an intriguing view of the psychology of Bruce Wayne and Batman.
As issue 1, “Knight Terrors” begins, Batman is pondering what fear is as he disembarks from his Batplane above Gotham City and descends onto a secluded rooftop. He quickly changes out of his Batsuit into a tuxedo. He then he swing over to another building and enters a gala. He, as Bruce Wayne, gives a rousing speech to a glamorous crowd about the Gotham economy and his philanthropic plans to help the city. He understands that the unknown future can be frightening, but he’s not afraid. Afterwards, he is approached by Lt. Forbes of the Gotham Police Department, Internal Affairs. He doesn’t think that Bruce Wayne could be funding and providing logistics to Batman alone. He believes that someone high up in the GCPD is assisting, and he wants to know who. Jaina “Jai” Hudson, the daughter of the Mumbai diplomat who is hosting the fundraiser, interrupts them. She reminds the two that her father’s charity is no place for bad blood. Forbes leaves telling Wayne he’s not done with him. Bruce thanks Jaina for getting Forbes off his back. They flirt with each other before they go about mingling with other guests. He hopes to run into her again. She tells him to “try and catch me”. Bruce talks to a few people and checks his watch and leaves. Three hundred inmates at Arkham Asylum have mangles to break out of maximum security. Batman shows up to assists the guards. He rushes into the building looking for, Harvey Dent (Two Face). He helps subdue a group of inmates, and heads to the maximum security doors. He runs into a woman, White Rabbit (scantily dressed in a white and purple corset with rabbit ears, bunny tail, long gloves and thigh-high boots), who runs off into the shadows. As he follows, there’s an explosion. Out of the smoke, fly Dent’s coin. It lands scarred-side up. Behind a door, Harvey Dent, hopped up on a super-steroid, comes out. He tells Batman to call him, “One-Face”.
Issue two, “A Rush Of Blood”, begins with Batman being beaten by the muscle-bound Two Face. Harvey tells Batman that he has learned that fear keeps people from living. As he talks about freedom of inhibition his eyes begin to bleed and he passes out. Later, Batman is talking to Commissioner Gordon. Gordon says that there were reports, by the inmates, that they were injected with kind of drug. Some claim to see a white rabbit. There seems to be fear of a major lawsuit against the asylum for experimenting on the inmates. Batman is convinced it was someone outside the faculty not inside that injected the patients. Gordon is afraid of Forbes; he’s been insinuating that Gordon is the rat. Gordon gives Batman a sample of the super serum. Batman leaves and calls Alfred. Alfred says that the serum is a similar concoction to Scarecrow’s fear toxin. There are reports showing up all across the city of super-strengthened criminal. Batman asks about the woman; Alfred says he’ll look it to it. Alfred reminds him that Bruce Wayne has a dinner reservation with Jaina Hudson. Batman goes to speak with Harvey Dent. Batman arrives at Gotham Hospital to speak with him. Harvey refuses to tell Batman who gave him the injection. Batman promises that he’ll find out and take the drug off the street. Batman gets a call from Alfred. The drug removes fear from the person’s mind. But their system quickly rejects the drug causing the bleeding eyes. The Joker has commandeered a train. Batman goes after him. He enters the train to find many of the joker’s thugs dead. White Rabbit appears and tells Batman to chase her as she runs through the train car. Batman follows and finds her with The Joker, who is juiced up on the drug.
In issue 3, “Catch Me If You Can”, as The Joker throws punches at him, Batman points out that the real Joker is left-handed. The Joker gets angry and then transforms into Clayface. But he quickly begins to bleed from the eyes and passes out. He falls on Batman; pinning him. He’s dazed as White Rabbit tells him that she’s going to inject him with the drug, but the Flash shows up and she flees, telling Batman to chase her. Later, the police (lead by Lt. Forbes) inspects the train and found no one expect some of the bodies of Clayface’s men. There was no Batman, Clayface or the Joker. Forbes is livid. As he walks to his car he says he’s going to put Batman away for 15 years for compromising the investigation. Suddenly Clayface, tied up and unconscious crashes onto Forbes’ car. Batman appears and warns Forbes to leave him and his people alone. If Forbes messes with Batman’s people he’ll come after Forbes. Forbes says that he’s just a thug running protection for Bruce Wayne. Batman dismisses this and he leave. Later, Bruce Wayne is having dinner with Jai Hudson. Something about her reminds Bruce of White Rabbit. Alfred sends a text telling him that White Rabbit was spotted four minutes ago. Bruce is satisfied it’s not her. Later in the Batcave, Batman is studying the serum. It seems to be the reverse of the Scarecrow’s fear toxin. It removes fear instead of instilling it. He’s isolated the secondary compound in the serum. It’s a rare plant that only Poison Ivy would know and have access to. She supposed to have given up crime and working with Birds of Prey, but she could have gone back to her old ways. Batman takes Flash to investigate her lab. They find traces of the toxin in the air. Flash pricks his thumb on a thorn. Ivy put the toxin in the thorns. Batman realizes that if he runs fast enough, Flash will never metabolize the serum. Flash starts running. As Batman enters Ivy’s office; he finds it destroyed by overgrown plants.
As issue 4, “Welcome To The Jungle”, opens, Batman defends him from the attacking plants Ivy employs as defense mechanisms for her lab. Batman gets a call from Wonder Woman saying she can’t help Flash, She busy trying to round up two dozen drugged criminal from Arkham Asylum. Batman realizes the best way to help is to find the person responsible for the toxin. It’s not Ivy; she’s only perfected it. It’s not White Rabbit, she’s either a pawn or a wild card. Batman finds an odd magazine on Ivy’s desk. It seems out of place and opens it to find a slip of paper with writing on it. She left a clue for him. Elsewhere, Gordon calls Bruce Wayne and leaves a message berating him. Forbes is after Gordon because Batman attacked him for going after Bruce Wayne. Gordon is mad at Bruce because he thought they were friends. Sending Batman to intimidate Forbes was the wrong move; it made things worse for him. Meanwhile in the Batcave, Batman is studying the code that Ivy left him. It’s an access code of some kind. He uses her chloro-pheromone signal to find her. She’s on Harmon Island and Batman sets off in the Batplane to find her. Batman ponders his life: can he save Flash, can he trust Jai, is he pushing Alfred too hard, is he letting Gordon down? He notices a little gift box in the plane with him. He opens it to find a bottle of pills. He tells the computer to check to security camera in the cave. Suddenly, a huge sword slashes through the cockpit and Deathstroke (drugged) attacks him. He throws Batman out of the plane. Batman manages to glide to safety on Harmon Island. He sees an empty cabin nearby and enters it. Out of the shadows steps Scarecrow. He tells Batman he’s going to show him what fear is.
At the start of issue 5, “Handful Of Dust”, Scarecrow throws fear dust into Batman’s face. He tells Batman he knows his secret: that he really is scared. He uses his heroism to hide how truly afraid he is. The fear dust begins to work on Batman as he tries to fight Scarecrow. He sees shadows and hallucinations. Scarecrow tells him that he’s afraid that he can’t save everyone who needs saving. As Batman starts to succumb to the effects of the dust, he claims he can beat it; he has before. Scarecrow says that maybe the new serum (anti-fear one) will work. He injects Batman and leaves. Superman arrives to help. He tries to help him up but, Batman tells him not to touch him: he’s an alien that no one wanted. Batman is super-powered by the drug and starts fighting Superman. Superman tells he’s been drugged. He’s not in control; the drug controlling him. Batman doesn’t listen and keeps punching Superman. Finally, Superman has had enough. He grabs Batman and throws him through the cabin. Batman lies lifeless in the rubble.
In the beginning of issue 6, “Run Rabbit Run”, Batman wakes and Superman apologies for injuring him; Batman tells him understands. They need to help Flash. Batman’s realized that the toxin will kill Flash if he relaxes. Like Two-Face and the others, once they relax, the serum causes them to bleed out of their eyes and go into comas. Flash has been charging this effect like a battery while running. The second he relaxes, he’ll die. Superman pushed Batman over the edge, that’s how he overcame it. He needs to do the same for Flash. As Superman leaves, White Rabbit appears. She asks if Batman is up for a chase. Back in Gotham, the cops are rounding up the last of the criminals, while Gordon is on the phone with Forbes. Forbes is threatening to go to the mayor. Gordon tells him off. Back on Harmon Island, Batman is chasing White Rabbit. She runs to Scarecrow, who Batman quickly subdues. Elsewhere, Superman has caught up with Flash. He tells him that he needs to burn the toxins out of his system. Flash says he’s circled the globe six times. Superman tells him to think of it as a snake bite; he has to find a way to get the venom out. Flash realizes that Batman has got it all wrong; they need to get back to him. Back at the island, Batman demand White Rabbit to explain what all the villains are doing on the island. He’s taken them out before and was never afraid of them, so now he wants to know what the plan is. Bane suddenly appears. He tells him that he used the others to test and prefect his new Venom serum. It makes him smarter and now, He plans to kill Batman and begin another reign of terror.
Issue, 7, “The Final Curtain”, starts with Bane throwing a huge bolder at Batman. Batman dodges it and escapes. Bane yells out that it is only a matter of time before he finds him. Batman finds a research building and finds Poison ivy locked up inside. He releases her. She tells him about the antidote to the serum, but Bane has to ingest it to work. Batman says he figured out the formula and has some with him. Outside the lab, Bane finds Batman. Batman tells him that he’s really afraid of him; that’s way he’s obsessed with killing him. Bane attacks Batman and knocks him out. In Kansas, Superman and Flash work together to cure him of the toxin; overdoing it worked. Flash speeds off to help Batman. Back at the island, Bane is dragging Batman lifeless body to a cliff. Bane picks him up and is going to throw him off. Batman, too weak to fight back, drops the antidote. Flash suddenly appears and grabs the serum. Bane is quickly distracted. Batman uses his last bit of strength to punch Bane in the Adam’s apple, and shoves the serum down his throat. He starts gagging and Batman pushes him off the cliff. Bane lands hard on the shore below. The waves come up and wash him out to sea. Batman tells Flash that Bane will be back. Later, at her apartment, Jai is listening to Bruce’s message about not being able to see her for a while. White Rabbit casually walks into the room and asks if Bruce or Batman has found out about the two of them. Jai doesn’t think so. The two women touch hands. White Rabbit disappears in a flash of light, leaving Jai hold one of her white gloves. Jai muses how she can be in two places at once.
This story and series is much more psychological than the other Batman titles. It harkens back to the classic stories of the “Legends of the Dark Knight” series; tackling the darker side of evil and fear. It also has inklings of the “Knightfall” story: Bane using other members of Batman rogue gallery to weaken him both physically and mentally so that he, fuelled by the super steroid Venom, can complete destroy him. Finch’s inclusion of Flash and Superman as supporting characters, to help Batman, is interesting. Both of them mirror some of Batman’s personality issues. Superman shows Bruce his insecurity about not being super powered like the rest of the Justice League, and Flash as a kind of Robin sidekick (which Batman seems to have a need of at times). White Rabbit is a fascinating new character. Although how her powers work are not explained, it’s interested how Jai can seemingly be two people at once. Her motives are completely obscured. Which, of course, makes her that much more interesting. The dark tone of the series lends itself to incorporate a lot of the imagery of Alice in Wonderland into its pages. Leaving the reader with the nagging question of what is reality and what is a dream. It will be interesting to see how this darker, nightmarish, take on Batman plays out in future issues.
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