Batman – Dark Projects, review: an excellent starting point for new and old readers

Batman – Dark Projects, review: an excellent starting point for new and old readers

Batman – Dark Projects, review

Batman – Dark Projects collects Batman #86-94, Batman: Secret Files 3 and some Batman #85 appendix stories. These are the first issues of the management signed James Tynion IV as well as those immediately following the end of the acclaimed, much discussed, management signed by Tom King. For the occasion, as happened in the USA, Panini DC Italia also restarts the numbering of the volume collection from 1, moreover it is good to remember how these episodes have already been proposed on the fortnightly stapled Batman. In a Gotham City recovering from Bane's devastating attack, Batman must face a sudden, coordinated attack by a group of assassins led by Deathstroke. The Penguin, the Riddler and Catwoman seem terrified by the attack which they lead back to the plan concocted years earlier by the mysterious Designer while the Joker is about to make his triumphant return to the city.

Batman – Dark Projects: no peace for the Dark Knight

Batman defeated Bane, but the price paid for this victory was very dear: Alfred, the most faithful of his allies, is dead and his son Damian has decided to take another path. The only positive note seems to be the return of Catwoman at his side and the newfound energy with which Bruce Wayne has decided to proceed with the reconstruction and renewal of Gotham City. However, a new wave of violence suddenly seems to pour over the city with a series of attacks coordinated by a group of assassins led by Deathstroke. However, the attacks also seem to be directed towards some criminals such as the Penguin, the Riddler and Catwoman: everything seems to lead back to the mysterious figure of the Designer. It is a legendary criminal who, at the beginning of the activity of costumed heroes and criminals, proposed to the latter to concoct a plan for them to take control of the city.

In this equation, however, no one, either in the present or in the past, had calculated the mad variable constituted by the Clown Prince of Crime. In fact, the Joker is about to return to Gotham and preparing his triumphant return is his new flame, the lethal Punchline. While Batman faces more devastating clashes, Catwoman tries to foil the Designer's plan by falling sensationally into a trap. Who really is the Designer and what ties him to the Joker and his spectacular plan? Did the crazy clown really decide to confirm the urban legend according to which he knows the true identity of Batman by hitting Bruce Wayne? It would seem so because a new and truly unprecedented scenario awaits the Dark Knight.

Batman – Dark Projects: an excellent starting point for new and old readers

Just as Gotham City is propped up with cranes after the destruction caused by Bane, one of the images that opens the volume, so James Tynion IV collects Batman's legacy from its predecessor: a real work in progress in which Tom King had demolished trying to renew the character, inspired by certain stories of the 70s, but then sinning in the (re) construction phase, thus displeasing audiences and critics. It is therefore not surprising that Batman: Dark Projects is a long and, in its way, complex narrative arc that moves in the diametrically opposite direction to what King did where the long reflective passages and the often decompressed pace are contrasted by a story of very rapid inertia and all devoted to action, ideally inspired by the modern classic Hush but also by the Arkham video game series and in which some of the controversial narrative elements bequeathed by King (Alfred's death, the relationship with Catwoman) are reworked to give a boost to the universe in the direction of a new and challenging status quo.

It is neither an easy nor a simple operation. Tynion IV in fact, on the strength of the excellent experience on Detective Comics of the Rebirth era, builds a choral story in which its stylistic trademarks are clearly evident, from the more horror passages to the creative drives towards characters with a background and extravagant designs, but the whose soul is the most classic of detection. Why is a group of villains attacking the city? what is Catwoman's secret? If the premises are simple, the author then plays very well with some apparently secondary tensive lines such as the return of the Joker, which will later prove to be central and to which the introduction of Punchline acts as a corollary - perhaps one of the best recent additions to the gallery of characters from the Dark Knight universe, and the inevitable digression into analyses on the past of Gotham, Batman and his villains.

A game of Chinese boxes, misdirections, false clues, clashes and clue races to foil a plan that was expertly concocted by the Joker and returns Batman in a dazzling and familiar form to the reader. However, it should be emphasized that this is not a static return to the past: in fact, the author does not want to reboot the character but to relaunch him. A subtle but fundamental difference, otherwise the final twist would not be explained, a little derivative but on the other hand it is one of the topos of superhero literature and in any case always effective, with which all the pawns on the proverbial chessboard return to more traditional positions such as the prominent role of Joker, which serves as a prologue for the next narrative arc, or the new escape of Catwoman from Gotham City, a pretext to launch a new, excellent, regular series dedicated to the character. The great merit of Tynion IV is therefore to be able to amalgamate the newest narrative elements with classic inspirations, the aforementioned Hush or the great crossovers of the 90s for example that put Gotham and the figure of Bruce Wayne at the center, in a fast formula and spectacular in which the iconicity of the character is restored and enhanced from an angle that we haven't read for some time.

Side note: among the various short stories present in the appendix to the volume and dedicated to the various mercenaries, the one dedicated to Gunsmith stands out. The story is illustrated by the great John Paul Leon and focuses on the debate on the use and circulation of firearms, the mercenary's specialty, with a very sharp reflection also in relation to Batman's aversion to firearms.

Choral is also the best adjective to best describe the graphic part of the volume where almost a dozen artists alternate (between main episodes and stories in the appendix) among which the work of Guillem March and Jorge Jimenez stands out. The two are united by an explosive style of clear American school (despite being both Spanish) however having heterogeneous and easily recognizable characteristics that blend perfectly.

Acting as an ideal "pencils of conjunction” with respect to the previous management is the Batman veteran Tony S. Daniel whose long and tapered lines give way to the always long but muscular ones bordering on the grotesque of Guillem March who, with his extremely muscular style, enhances the action component of the script thanks to a construction of the table characterized by extremely dynamic transversal cuts of the composition but also by large and detailed squares in which the expressiveness of the characters is always the focal point. The superstar instead Jorge Jimenez first realizes the sequence in analyses starring Designer (his Catwoman version of the 90s with purple costume is beautiful) and then exalts himself in often full-page solutions in which his ultra-detailed style is put at the service of Harley Quinn, Joker, Batman and Catwoman all enhanced by the splendid color work but above all the lights by Tomeu Morey. What is striking about Jimenez is the ability to manage hatching, in fact in his hands it proves to be an extremely effective tool for chiseling the characters, giving them vibrant expressions even and above all when the shots (and therefore the boxes) get closer together, giving instead a sense of statuesque grandeur when the squares widen and the page is dominated by the physicality of the bodies. In general, an excellent work by all the designers including Carlo Pagulayan, Javier Fernandez and Rafael Albuquerque should be noted.

The volume

Panini DC Italia packs a soft touch hardcover volume, standard format 17×26 cm, with a very generous layout, over 260 pages. The chosen paper is the glossy one with a heavy weight that enhances the stroke of the artists involved and the colors. The binding and trimming of the pages is good and allows easy reading even in the spectacular double splash-pages that embellish the spectacular narration. The translation and adaptation are also good, there are no extras except the classic gallery of variant covers. From the point of view of the editorial contributions, however, there is a brief introduction dedicated to the "restarts" of the Dark Knight: some mention of the most important events of the previous management would perhaps have helped to better contextualize the narration.

Powered by Blogger.