Batman is currently dominating the DC Comics universe right now with Scott Snyder and James Tyrion VI’s DARK KNIGHTS: METAL storyline. I plan to talk about that soon, but there were a couple of other Batman titles that caught my eye: Sean Murphy’s WHITE KNIGHT and the story I want to talk about today – THE DARK PRINCE CHARMING.
As much as I love reading current comic issues, I find the task overwhelming. There are so many tie-ins and crossovers to keep up with. David and I talked about this in [Infinity of Tie-Ins], so go back and listen to that to hear more. When I saw that there would be some non-canon Batman releases, I knew I needed to track them down.
I do want to let you know that this episode does, in fact, contain spoilers for the book, so if you’re planning on reading it, be sure to pause this episode at the spoiler warning. If that doesn’t bother you, then ignore the warning.
THE DARK PRINCE CHARMING is written and drawn by Enrico Marini, an Italian artist that I’ve never heard of, but would love to see more of.
From the get-go, it’s easy to see this is a Batman/Joker story. Considering Joker has been missing for some time in the mainstream DC continuity, it’s quite a treat. So, what is the storyline here?
That’s a little hard to talk about without spoiling anything, so I’ll read the official synopsis and go from there:
What secret connection do both Batman and The Joker share with a strange and mysterious young girl? After she’s kidnapped by The Joker, Batman must plunge deep into the underworld of Gotham City and race against time to find out where she’s being held. The stakes are high, and for Batman, it’s personal!
What is intriguing about THE DARK PRINCE CHARMING right out of the gate is Enrico Marini’s artwork. For me, great art will pull you into a comic story quickly and he does a fantastic job here. He doesn’t, however, let that get in the way of the story. He takes the characters you know from Batman and makes them fresh.
For instance, when the story begins, you see the Joker. Not only do you get Marini’s visual depiction, but you also instantly get the feeling that he is much more of a gangster who likes to do some of his own dirty work. He isn’t the laughing crazy guy we’re used to seeing in recent years.
Batman is more brooding and angry here, too. I’ve seen him more as an emo character as of late, but Marini brings back the feeling of the dark detective. He brings out the more human side, which is very much needed in the storyline.
I’m finding it very hard to talk about this book without spoiling anything, so let me give you my simplified review: the art is incredible and pulls you in, while the story keeps you intrigued – between seeing how Batman is handling the situation and how the Joker is using it to his own advantage. It’s a dark book without coming off depressing. There is a lot of emotion going on in the first half of this storyline. It’s a $13 hardcover book, but well worth the money. If you like Batman and Joker stories you should pick this up.
Now for some spoilers.
The main plot point in this book is that it appears Bruce Wayne fathered a child with a woman years ago. The mother filed a paternity suit for $100M in addition to public admission. Joker decides he needs to capitalize on this.
The mother shows up at Wayne Manor and confronts Bruce. He refuses to pay any money and turns them away after observing needle tracks on her arm. Later, Joker slams a semi into a car with the mother and daughter (Alina) and kidnapps the girl.
The book seems to suggest that Bruce really is the father of Alina through Alfred’s dialogue, “I’m afraid you won’t like the results.” This, of course, send Batman into a rage and onto Joker’s trail. It leads him to Arkham and then to Killer Croc’s hideout, looking for clues and Joker.
Joker, however, is hiding in a sewer with Alina where, instead of killing her, he’s eating pizza with her and waiting to take his next step. The book, of course, ends with the cliffhanger.
Marini’s style of story telling is clever and seems non-linear a little. The beginning of the book is really the end of this chapter. He also brings in Harley Quinn and Catwoman to help flesh out who Joker and Batman are in this world he has create. To be completely honest, it feels like the most natural world I’ve seen Gotham set in. It feels cinematic, but grounded in reality.
There is a human-ness to the characters. Joker will always be a little over the top, but he isn’t maniacally laughing every few seconds. Batman is broken and not the know it all robot we currently see. He’s a detective here, even if he is a little savage a times.
I am very excited to read Part 2 of this book and find out what happens. I’m also looking forward to seeing Marini work with more American comic characters. Go pick this up if you get the chance.
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