By Dan Abnett, Philip Tan, Tyler Kirkham, Dean White, Arif Prianto, and Tom Napolitano
The Dark Knights one-shots continue within the larger Dark Nights arc, this time focusing on The Drowned, Bryce Wayne, the Aquaman analog from Earth-11 in the Dark Multiverse. On that Earth, due to that Batman’s extreme distrust of metas, a war broke out with Atlanteans. Through that war, Bryce went to great lengths to end it. Then, of course, a familiar figure came calling…
Unfortunately, this has the been the weakest of the Dark Knights one-shots that have been released. It’s a real shame because it has an extremely strong creative team behind it. Writer Dan Abnett crafts a solid story, with short, succinct narration/dialogue, but the plot just doesn’t feel like it has anything really fresh, poignant about it. The driving force for this Batman is that she mistrusts metas and lost a loved one. If the Dark Knights are supposed to physical embodiments of each of Bruce’s darkest fears, then this is a pretty weak one. Overall, there just isn’t enough meat on the bones, narratively speaking. Also, it’s becoming irritating, by this point, seeing the Batman who laughs pop-up in every issue and know everything about that world’s Wayne and they go right along with his plan. It’s a little too deus ex machina and also completely out of character for any world’s Bruce Wayne. It seems as though this event, despite being heralded as “crazy” and “wild,” is being executed lazily just to get to those “metal” moments.
The real strengths and positives of this comic come by way of the artwork. Philip Tan and Tyler Kirkham share pencil and inking duties and, in collaboration with colorists Dean White and Arif Prianto, are able to have relatively seamless transition between their art styles that doesn’t disrupt the reading and progression of the book. This art team was well selected and brings a real ferocity and sorrow to the work that words couldn’t really convey well. The use of stunningly detailed close-up panels absolutely helps serve that end. The various shades of green really present the contrast between Aquaman’s bright, shining spirit and the decay of Bryce Wayne – it’s a fascinating study. In the first few pages, there appears to be some repetitive panels, depicting the same actions, but from different angles. As strong as they are visually, they can be a detriment to propelling the plot and capturing the reader’s attention.
The one-shots have been very strong, up until this issue. The illustrations have a lot at play and honestly carry the book, but due to some storytelling issues, it can’t save the material overall. For those invested in this DC Comics event, then, by all means, pick it up, but just know that doesn’t hit all the right chords.