Type Comic
Date 2011-09-28

Batman: The Dark Knight #1

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 (2011-11)

Another Batman comic. What should we expect to differentiate it from Batman or Detective Comics? Don't know. Let's see what we get.

Bruce gives a speech at a charity function. He's accosted by a Lieutenant Forbes, part of Internal Affairs at Gotham P.D. He accuses Bruce of secretly funding Batman, with help from someone high up at Gotham P.D., and he wants to know who. Bruce is saved from this unpleasant encounter by Jaina Hudson, the daughter of Tom Hudson, a diplomatic attache to Mumbai.

At Arkham Asylum, there is a breakout in progress, and sixty-five men are trapped inside with three hundred escaped inmates. Batman arrives and leads the police into the asylum, searching for Two-Face, whose release he believes to be the point of this incident. A huge and monstrous-looking Two-Face appears, saying, "Two-Face no longer, Batty Boy. You can call me One-Face now."

Okay, so I'm having some trouble establishing when all these Batman-related stories fall in relation to one another. What's the major stuff, so far, that needs reconciling? Justice League #1, Batgirl #1, Batwing #1, Detective Comics #1, Batman and Robin #1, Batman #1, Nightwing #1, and this one. How do these fit together? Let's see...

JL #1 is set "five years ago." Batman isn't all that well-known--the Green Lantern didn't know that he was real, until that issue.

Batgirl #1 is a little harder to place. The events of The Killing Joke (or something analogous) took place three years prior to this issue, and Barbara has recently regained the use of her legs. This issue depicts her first outing as Batgirl since that time.

Batwing #1 doesn't give us any real clues. We see that "six weeks ago" Batwing was talking to Batman, so probably Batman was setting up the whole Batman Incorporated thing at that time, but it's not clear when that would be.

Detective #1 is again uncertain. The Joker has been operating for six years, at this time.

Batman and Robin #1 again takes place after Batman set up the network of Batmen around the globe. Further, Damian comments that "even Dick" trusted him, so one assumes that Batman was doing all that while Dick was in Gotham being Batman, possibly with Damian at his side.

Batman #1 must take place around the same time as Batman and Robin #1, since Damian is Robin in both of them.

Nightwing #1 takes place just after Dick has spent a year being Batman, so... again probably around the same time as Batman #1.

So... it's hard to tell. JL #1 is somewhere in the past, and all the others are rather closer to the present--the common time when the New 52 comics begin. They could be separated by weeks or months, but I can't tell from just these issues.

The point of this exercise is this: the multiple comics taking place at uncertain times makes it difficult not only to understand a timeline of events, but also to track the evolution of the characters. That's a failure. If DC is going to the trouble of showing us multiple windows on Batman's life, at different times, we can only really use that if we know, at the least, what order events are occurring in. It wouldn't be a problem, if we were in the middle of some ongoing series of indeterminate temporal relation, but since they've gone and started everything over with this New 52 thing, I expect to be able to tell what's happening when. They don't seem to be hiding the order of events for any literary purpose, so I conclude the cause is one of two things: first, sloppy writing; second, they are leaving themselves room to patch up problems, in case they need to send Batman somewhere for a few months to make the stories fit together. Of course, the latter is an example of the former. I'm a bit disappointed.

Enough about the universe as a whole. As for this particular comic, it suffers from the same malady as most of the others. Not enough happens in this issue to make a judgment on the series as a whole, so we'll just have to wait and see how it develops.