“I didn’t overcome fear. It was obliterated from me.”
If you’ve been enjoying DC’s Metal event the one shot origins we’ve been getting for the “Dark Nights” have been doing a nice job of providing the background details on the demented versions of Batman from the Dark Multiverse. Being a big Green Lantern fan I’ve of course been looking forward to today’s Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1 to see what led this version of Bruce Wayne down the dark path towards being one of the unredeemable.
Admittedly I approached this book with some apprehension because I count myself squarely among those who have a strong dislike of Sam Humphries’ work on the Green Lanterns series. But while I don’t like what Humphries has done from a narrative standpoint I do recognize his strength with character development and in this one shot is fertile ground for him to display his talents. I have to say – he doesn’t disappoint with this one.
Bruce Wayne as a Green Lantern is something that’s been played with by writers and fans for many years, but Humphries proceeds from an interesting consideration – how does a young Bruce Wayne, raw with emotion in the moments following the murder of his parents, respond as opposed to an adult version of himself who has the benefit of emotional maturity behind him? Earth -32’s Bruce Wayne doesn’t deal with all that power suddenly handed to him particularly well and moments later Joe Chill gets the kind of treatment that one would expect from the Spectre.
There are concessions that Humphries makes that I’d normally skewer him over if this were a book set on Earth Prime, but this isn’t “our” universe so I can excuse some of the implausible moments by chalking them up to things being different from how they are in the DCU proper. Sure it’s rather convenient that the power ring comes to Bruce just at the moment he’s in shock in Crime Alley, and the notion that the Guardians would let him get away with murder for two years afterwards pushes the boundary for suspending disbelief, but at the end of the day I feel okay with it.
Once Earth -32 crumbles to dust the Dawnbreaker, as Bruce calls himself, is recruited into the Dark Nights and it’s off to our Coast City to impose his ring’s unique “blackout” ability, only to be met with opposition in the form of Hal Jordan. Humphries’ handling of Hal isn’t all that great, with clunker dialog like, “No one defaces sing in MY city!” that make me very happy he’s not writing the character very often. But all of this is minor compared to how Humphries interweaves the Batman and Green Lantern mythologies.
Seeing a young Bruce Wayne cross the line is fascinating to say the least and as he deals with Gotham’s criminal element, or anyone else who rubs him the wrong way, he reaches the point of no return. No one is safe from the deadly combination of Bruce’s grief fueled willpower from members of Batman’s incredible rogue gallery to those who could have been his staunchest allies. While the journey could have been more tragic if Humphries made Bruce more sympathetic it’s not hard to relate to him given how much his origins are ingrained in our culture nor is it difficult to see the wasted potential of a Bruce Wayne who’s life is derailed before the support structure of Alfred shapes the young man into the Dark Knight we’re all familiar with.
Joining Humphries on the creative team is Ethan Van Sciver, who unsurprisingly turns in an incredible effort. We’re used to seeing Ethan convey the majesty of the Green Lantern Corps and seeing him play around with the darker elements from the Batman universe is a real treat. Van Sciver does a fantastic job portraying all the terror, horror and gore as Bruce dispatches retribution instead of justice to anyone who gets in his way. I also dug Ethan’s subtle nod to Showcase #22 as Bruce is taking on the Scarecrow, and the way in which Ethan showed Bruce’s costume evolving from the Gil Kane Silver Age version to Ethan’s modern version. Kudos also to Jason Wright who frequently colors Ethan’s pencil work and does a strong job in showcasing the brightest days and blackest nights of this particular tale.
Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1 is not required reading for those who are following the “Metal” event but it does add some background to the event, plus it’s a macabrely satisfying story that shows readers how Bruce Wayne’s life could have been even more tragic than we already knew. With a strong script from Sam Humphries and even stronger art by Ethan Van Sciver I recommend it highly. Nine out of ten lanterns.