Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty Review (Mike Barr, Scott Hampton)

For a Mike Barr Batman book, Dark Knight Dynasty surprisingly isn’t bad!

It’s an Elseworlds story (non-canon, What If…?-type tales) split into three parts: Dark Past/Present/Future. The quality is quite high to begin with but unfortunately gets worse as the book goes on.

Dark Past is the best story. Set in 13th century England, Knight Templar and ancestor of Bruce Wayne, Joshua of Wainwright, is lured to a cursed castle by the ghost of his dead (or is she?) wife to battle the evil sorcerer, Vandal Savage - in a medieval Batman outfit of course!

The story is exciting by turns as Batman infiltrates Vandal’s fortress and fights through his monster army. The fantasy element works quite well with Batman - I’ve noticed that Batman stories set in the past tend to work while the ones set in the future don’t. Scott Hampton’s painted art is pretty decent and a nice change of pace from how Batman comics usually look, if a bit static-looking (like most painted art). This observation is neither here nor there but his Batman helmet design looks like it heavily influenced the Batman helmet in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman movie.

Dark Present is about Bruce Wayne’s dad (this is an Elseworlds alternate-timeline remember) creating a space-laser to destroy a meteor hurtling towards Earth. Shit goes down and directionless Bruce is thrown into the role of masked avenging vigilante!

The story is very silly but likeable for being so. The problem is that it’s very rushed. Suddenly Bruce decides to come up with a Bat-costume and somehow instantly knows how to be Batman?! And then the finale - no, it definitely needed more pages to fully flesh-out. Kudos to Barr for his imaginative, ambitious story but it hangs together poorly. Gary Frank and Cam Smith’s art though is very good.

Dark Future rounds out the book and it’s easily the worst part. Set in the 26th century, mankind has for some reason chosen to give apes the ability to speak and think and they’re now a part of our society! Batwoman takes on Vandal Savage and a meteor’s involved again.

We finally find out Vandal Savage’s goal that he’s been pursuing this entire time and it’s pretty damn flimsy and underwhelming. It also doesn’t really explain his motivation for specifically killing descendants of the Wayne family. I’m not much of a fan of Scott McDaniel and Bill Sienkiewicz’s scratchy, busy artwork though it appropriately complements Barr’s messy plot. Ape Robin was kinda cool, I suppose.

It has its moments, particularly at the start, but Dark Knight Dynasty is just a so-so Batman/Elseworlds book - nothing anyone except fans needing a Batman fix should bother checking out.

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