‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ Annual #1: The Comic You Should Be Reading This Week

There were some great comics on the stands this week. Clone continues its superb run. Five Weapons continues to be one of the best action/comedy books on the stands. X-Men has a lot of fun with its all-female team. And yet I find myself coming back to Gregg Hurwitz’s story of the fear Batman inspires in those he fights again and again, told through a classic haunted house story.

Batman isn’t actually the protagonist of this story: That would be the Penguin, the Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter, all of whom show up at the dilapidated Arkham Asylum because they were sent a note…from each other.

They know, instantly, that Batman is screwing with them, but as he refuses to leap from the shadows and beat them up, their anxiety gets worse and their deepest fears come to the fore. And that’s really what makes the story work: Hurwitz, best known for his crime novels is able to find the humanity in three fairly vile characters and demonstrate that, as dangerous and evil as they can be, they’ve got a wounded, fearful side like the rest of us. By the end of it you even feel kind of bad for them; Batman has gotten so far into their heads that he barely needs to bother manipulating them.

Szymon Kudranski, meanwhile, is ideally suited to this story, not a surprise since he and Hurwitz have worked closely together for a while. You might know Kudranski from his work on the Dark Knight ongoing, or his work on Spawn, and he plays this horror story for all that it’s worth:

Meanwhile John Kalisz cleverly limits the color palette to dark, muted colors and vivid whites, amplifying some of the more disturbing moments with contrast. It’s superb, moody art perfectly suited to the story.

It’s a story that stands on its own, and one of the better character pieces we’ve seen in the Batbooks lately. If you’re in the mood for a haunted house story, or just one that looks at how Batman and his villains interact, this is the comic you should be reading this week.