In Review: Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1
The cover: I stopped buying Batman titles after Issue #6, I’m not a fan of that Owls storyline, but I was always a big fan of the Ventriloquist, so I had to give this issue a shot. When I saw this cover, I knew I was going to pick it up. Outside of the character becoming female, I knew nothing of this New 52 redo. I really like this image by Pat Gleason, Mick Gray & John Kalisz. She is one guant, twisted looking villain. Looks like a mash up of Gollum and characters created by Clive Barker or appearing in Silent Hill. The dummy is very Jigsaw-ish from the Saw films. The background is neat, too. The hanging dolls give it a nice voodoo flavor. Batman on the floor comes off as an afterthought, he’s so small and unnecessary for the image. The coloring is eerily creepy with the whites, greys, and blacks in the puppet and its master. Since I don’t normally purchase this title, I didn’t pay the extra dollar for the 3D Motion Cover. Overall grade: A
The story: I was not pleased by author Gail Simone’s “A Rising Star of Red!” A majority of the story is set in the present with the Ventriloquist putting on a show for several unlucky people who have wandered into her theater and the rest of the book focusing on her–or should I say “their”?–origin. I loved how we’re shown little Shauna wasn’t exactly right in the head before she found her doll, though the implications of her having an actual ability beyond ventriloquism (Page 8) was too much. How she met little Ferdie was good, though the second panel of Page 11 showed the unnecessary ability, again. The scenes with the audience and the unwanted gatecrashers devolved into rote killings one would find in a made for cable movie on SyFy or Chiller. This was by the numbers boredom. Page 16 takes things too far for me: panel three was a dredging up of Full Moon’s Puppet Master schtick. One of the joys of the original Ventriloquist was he was a “normal” guy, while the dummy was the brains. This Ventriloquist is a knock off of Stephen King’s Carrie, but without the sympathy. Since the “real” Lobo is appearing soon to kill the “fraud using his name,” I can only hope that the original Ventriloquist will appear and take care of this weak revision. Overall grade: C-
The art: I was not happy with Derlis Santacruz’s pencils. I’ve been a fan of Karl Kesel’s inks for years, so I know the look of this book does not fall on his shoulders. The exterior scenes look good: Santacruz is more than able at setting a scene. But his characters just don’t look right. I think he’s overusing his line work to create age/worry lines, especially on Shauna. I think she would have been more terrifying had her eyes not been shown, as she is on the cover. When we’re in flashback and dealing with younger characters, Santacruz is ten times better. But older, present day Shauna doesn’t look good. There are also perspective problems: Page 3, I thought the individual being addressed was standing up; Page 11, Shauna looks like a midget; and Page 13, Denny’s hand is huge! This was an average art job for an issue intended to be a stand out for a character. Overall grade: C-
The colors: Hot and cold work from colorist Brett Smith. His work on those unfortunate souls who make their way to The Melodian is bright and strong. They seemed real, but they’re not the book’s focus. Shauna and Ferdie are, yet when they appear their colors are too white washed against an already dim background. When flashbacks begin on Page 6 the coloring is perfect: oranges, brown, and yellows state the aged past, yet the flashback that begins on 5 is in full color. Whoops! This makes the story initially confusing. When the bloodshed begins on 16, things are colored so darkly the details in the art are lost. Page 20 is the saddest page. When we saw the audience members earlier in the book they were as bright as day, but now they’re colored darkly, muting the horror of what’s occurred. Overall grade: D+
The letters: Lots of dialogue, lots of narration, and a few effective sounds (I loved Page 14 and how the art took precedence over the sound) from Dave Sharpe. Overall grade: A
The final line: A letdown in practically every way. Overall grade: C-
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as possible, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.