Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 2: Cycle of Violence Review (Gregg Hurwitz, David Finch)

The first volume of The Dark Knight didn’t do much to separate itself from the other Bat-titles but, judging by that first entry, you’d think this was a dumping ground for all of David Finch’s bad ideas - that lingerie-wearing bunny character sticks out as one of the most horrendous additions to the Batman universe in quite some time! 

But with Gregg Hurwitz jumping on board to write, the title seems to have some focus as a series that looks at Batman’s rogues gallery, specifically the lesser characters. I’d already read The Dark Knight Volume 3 before this one (it doesn’t matter, each volume is self-contained and can be read in order or not) and that one was a Mad Hatter story that, believe it or not, was really good. 

Hurwitz seems to be DC’s go-to guy for writing Batman villain books. Besides the Mad Hatter, he wrote an excellent miniseries called Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, both of which I recommend. So, The Dark Knight Volume 2: Cycle of Violence is Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow’s turn - and unfortunately it’s not as good as the other villains’ books. 

The story is that Scarecrow is abducting young kids and messing with their heads; Batman has to stop him. I should emphasise the “dark” part of the title because this is an excessively bleak and grisly book even by Batman standards. Scarecrow’s sewn his lips together just enough so he can talk for no other reason than it’s disgusting and it makes him look more like a scarecrow. And then there’s the kid element where you have to watch as Crane plays sick head games with the poor little buggers. It’s a very unpleasant read. 

Hurwitz attempts a half-assed revision of Batman’s psyche, that Bruce chose to be a dark hero than a light one because he’s as dark and nutty as any of his rogues except Hurwitz doesn’t really go much deeper than this so it’s not a very convincing argument. And the final issue that looks at Bruce’s first encounter with Joe Chill, his parent’s murderer, was underwhelming when it should’ve been a more emotionally charged meeting. 

The supporting cast play their usual roles (Gordon needs Batman, Alfred is the competent servant, etc.) while there’s another bland love interest for Bruce in the form of Generic Eastern European Concert Pianist Who Loves Bruce and He Loves Her Because Plot. Never met this one before but it doesn’t really matter. 

It’s surprising Hurwitz is able to squeeze almost an entire book from the Scarecrow given how linear and one-note the story is. There are a few flashbacks to Crane’s childhood explaining how Crane got so weird but it’s not a great origin. And just when I thought the book couldn’t get any more grim, the finale happens and I was unexpectedly HOWLING with laughter! 

Anyway, Cycle of Violence was too simplistic a story and much too dark to be enjoyable. The horror came off as dumb, especially the ending, and I was glad to put the book down at the end. I don’t like David Finch’s art either which uses too much black and makes the figures look grotesque, but I suppose it fit the script. 

If you’ve ever wondered why Scarecrow doesn’t usually take centre stage, here are all the reasons in this one book. While this second volume is a bust, like the first, do check out the third volume of this series which is also dark but kinda brilliant too.

Batman: The Dark Knight, Volume 2: Cycle of Violence

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