Bat-Breakdown: David Finch Goes Writer

Greetings near-end-of-year Newsaramites! Brendan McGuirk again subbing for David Pepose, who still found time in his vacation to the Negative Zone to lend his thoughts on David Finch's new Batman: The Dark Knight series. We've also got reviews on Echoes, the new series from Top Cow/ Minotaur, and Wildstorm's latest Red one-shot. So strap in and enjoy our Wednesday Three-View!


Batman: The Dark Knight #1

Written by David Finch

Art by David Finch, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair

Lettering by Dave Sharpe

Published by DC Comics

Review by David Pepose

Click here for preview

Maybe it's just me, but you know what I couldn't get out of my head as I read the first issue of Batman: The Dark Knight? How much it reminded me of Batman: Hush.

And depending on where you stand on that statement, it'll likely affect what you think about David Finch's first issue as a writer/artist combo. While I wouldn't call Batman: The Dark Knight a revolutionary new take on the Batman, but when you're standing alongside Grant Morrison, maybe that's not the smartest tack to take, anyway. This first issue instead feels more like comfort food, a more focused take on Bruce himself, of straightforward Gotham action.

But back to that earlier observation. Tonally, visually, even structurally, the story that Finch brings to the table made me think of Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's Hush. But considering how much that story sold, maybe that's not a bad legacy to try to emulate. Whether its introducing an hitherto unknown childhood friend (Dawn Golden, rather than Tommy Edwards) or even squaring off against a strung-out Killer Croc, it's double-edged — it's a formula that certainly will work for a lot of people, but it's also one a lot of people have seen before.

As far as Finch's artwork goes, well, it does come full circle, evoking some of those seminal Bat-artists like Jim Lee or Andy Kubert (perhaps not surprising, as he's working with Hush's inker and colorist, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair). Considering how many balls Finch has to juggle, it's pretty surprising to see how consistent Finch is with the artwork — while there are a couple of missed opportunities with the composition, the dirty, shadowy style is a perfect fit for the back alleys of Gotham City. There are some missteps with the design, however, with Killer Croc seeming a bit flat for my tastes. But he also brings in some striking design choices when he wants to — particularly for a villain at the last page, who looks more fearsome in this book than he has in a good long while.

But I bet you want to know — what about the writing? Believe it or not, Batman's got a "voice" in comics that's pretty distinctive, particularly drawing from sources like Jeph Loeb or Kevin Conroy. It's a good launchpad for Finch as a writer, letting him get a feel for dialogue that doesn't feel out of place: "His stagger tells me he's been strung out for days." It might not bowl you over with new innovation, but there's definitely a "mainstream" quality to the characterization that's noticeable, even if it doesn't necessarily make you forget the too-close similarities to earlier storylines.

Even if the story arc itself takes us down familiar territory, there's something to be said for David Finch's first turn as both writer and artist for Batman: The Dark Knight. That might be that it's an uncomplicated, superheroic alternative for those who find Grant Morrison too avant-garde for their tastes — or it could be a story that's just retreading old ground, that's not ambitious enough to find its own voice. Either way, it's heartening only because Finch plays it cool, not hanging himself with the creative latitude in his hands. Whatever you decide about this book, it's certainly feels like Batman: The Dark Knight wears its influences on its sleeve — but when you're emulating a book like Batman: Hush, there are worse comics to look up to.


Red: Eyes Only

Written by Cully Hamner

Art by Cully Hamner and Val Staples

Lettering by Wes Abbott

Published by Wildstorm

Review by Lan Pitts

"The only thing that ever let me sleep was that we do it for a greater purpose. And now that's gone." — Paul Moses aka Bruno Frank

No doubt it's been a good year for Red and its creators. The movie adaptation was a hit at the box office, and garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture. The comic itself got more attention than it has in a while and reached a new audience. Red: Eyes Only adds another layer to the story as it is the prequel to the Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner original. 

It's been a minute since I've read Red, but lucky for me, you can easily enjoy this story without having to scratch your head on what is going on. Paul Moses wants out of the job. His family has practically disowned him and has he carries a sense of loneliness and just doesn't care for the line of work. When Moses tells his employer that he wants out, it's not as simple as he thought. There's a process that slowly takes him out of the circuit, but that only leads to even more disaster and a revelation that Moses was not expecting. 

Cully Hamner is taking the reins as writer and artist on this one as Warren Ellis did not participate. The violence is still there and the action is plenty, but there are still good character moments. I like Hamner's wink to giving Paul the alias of Bruno Frank, a nod to Bruce Willis. Hamner has solid panel construction and honestly some of his best work to date. The amount of detail put into every panel looks clean and crisp, the level of attention to the backgrounds is terrific. Even the detail of the Atlanta skyline and downtown Vienna just looks great on the page. 

Colorist Val Staples joins in on the action. Usually, you'll find Hamner being colored on by Dave McCaig or Laura Martin. Staples has a more muted and softer pallet than what I'm used to seeing from him. Especially compared to his work on X-Men: First Class Finals. Though the colors do the suit the story, especially the more subtle moments.

Whether you're a new acquaintance or an old fan of Red and possibly weary that Ellis' exclusion will hinder the overall story, don't be. Hamner and company will satisfy your need for action, suspense, and quite a solid read.


Echoes #1

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov

Art by Rahsan Ekedal

Lettering by Troy Peteri

Published by Minotaur Press/ Top Cow Productions

Review by Brendan McGuirk

Click here for preview

Echoes is a haunting launch to Top Cow's new suspense line, Minotaur Press. In it, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Rahsan Ekedal team up to tell a tale of one son's darkly disturbing foray into the sins of his father.

Brian Cohn's father is dying. A new dad himself, Brian is struggling to find acceptance with the end of his old man's life, while also battling his own schizophrenia. But there is unfinished business that needs attending, and Brian is sent on an errand that pits him against both his own anxieties surrounding his father, and his own weaknesses.

The steady pace and Brian's terse inner monologue sets a paranoid backdrop, while Ekedal's black and white atmospherics lock in the mood. Echoes is an effective suspense story; quiet when it needs to be and thunderously punctuated in the corresponding beats. It satisfies as a single story, but sets the course for what could be a truly harrowing yarn.

Where adventure comics are an exercise in visceral bombast, and horror comics excel with the grotesque, suspense requires a certain nuance to engage that more analytical part of the mind. It is there where logic and dread set their collision course, and it is there that Echoes finds its niche.

Have you read any new comics so far this week? Have you read any new comics so far this week?

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