Thursday, 7 June 2012


Just as you thought this blog was becoming Green Lantern’s one trick pony I’m going to sneak up on you with a little Batman... sort of.
We all know the story - Bruce Wayne broods in his study following his first less than successful crime fighting mission.  He calls on the memory of his father to send him a sign as a black bat hurtles towards the study window… and is startled from its course by a flash of green light.  In the distance a massive glowing meteorite falls to Earth.

Welcome to Elseworlds where DC Comics tell you what could have been, should have been or never will be.  Batman: In Darkest Knight is a one-shot brought to you by the creative team of Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham, whose notable works together include Batman: Son of the Demon.  The book follows the adventures of an alternate world Bruce Wayne in his mission to fight injustice as the Green Lantern of sector 2814.

The twisting of the Batman: Year One legend on that first page gives the early promise of an adventure abundant with references from both character’s back catalogues.  It is enough to bait the interest of any confirmed geek. They will happily spend the next 46 pages proving what an excellent comic book knowledge they do have, if they may say so themselves.

The title of the book plays on the original 1940’s version of the Brightest Day oath which referred to ‘darkest night’ rather than ‘blackest night’.  It’s a wonderful coincidence that no self-respecting writer could pass on.

Mike W. Barr did writing stints on both Batman and Green Lantern throughout the 1980s and so In Darkest Knight sits easily between the two.  A great little piece within the narrative picks up on Joker’s origin story as seen in The Killing Joke.  In this version of events the new Green Lantern thwarts the Red Hood’s chemical plant robbery without any loss of life, and more importantly, without the Hood falling into the chemical bath that created Batman’s arch-nemesis.

The main thrust of the book follows Bruce’s attempts to capture Sinestro on his escape from the antimatter universe.  As in the original Green Lantern comics, Sinestro blames the protector of sector 2814 for his fall from grace and travels to Earth to exact his revenge.  He stumbles across Commissioner Gordon investigating an unsolved murder in Crime Alley and deduces that Joe Chill was responsible for the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  He somehow interprets the murder as a stroke of genius planned to torture Bruce and tracks Chill down in order to merge their minds together. Cue the two maniacs in one body dialogue.

The villains are written with Barr’s tongue wedged firmly in his cheek.  As well as the hapless Sinestro/Chill we are introduced to two characters who read like escapees from the Amalgam universe.  Binary Star is a cross between Two-Face and (I assume) Evil Star created by Sinestro for no reason other than a villain needs his henchmen.  He is accompanied by a character called Star Sapphire who is loosely insinuated to be Selina Kyle, possessing all the powers of the traditional Star Sapphire but with an unexplained leaning towards feline fetishism.

The voice of Bruce Wayne comes across strongly, narrated as it is in his often seen diary note style.  Although surrounded by comedic references for the reader, his mission is a very serious one – to fight injustice on Earth, and particularly in Gotham.  The only problem with his plan is that Sinestro is travelling through sector 2814 wiping out all manner of alien life that could have benefited Green Lantern’s protection.   The Guardians of the Universe, taking an unusually liberal approach, devise a plan to coax Bruce into expanding his remit to include the whole of his sector.

The little blue immortals decide to drum up a bit of support for their champion and induct a number of other Earth dwellers into the Green Lantern Corps.  But don’t expect an appearance from Guy Gardner or John Stewart, or Hal Jordan himself for that matter.  The Guardians go right to the top on this one, handing rings to a farm boy from Kansas, an Amazonian monarch and a forensic police scientist with a timekeeping problem.  Despite the fact that none of the three have ever been in the hero business before they elect to wear uniforms that are strongly reminiscent of the main DCU’s Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash.  In fact the only thing that denotes them to be GLs at all is the symbol on their chest, a green domino mask, and, of course, their power rings.

When all is said and done, Batman: In Darkest Knight is a fun tale that understands its audience and delivers exactly what it promises.  It tells a credible Elseworlds story that is accessible to most readers and peppered with more than enough in-jokes to keep the most well versed comic book fans happy too.

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