On the surface, the Dark Knights series might seem like a simple set of alternate-reality origin stories. They are so much more than mere “imaginary stories”, however, offering the various creative teams on the core DC Rebirth series an opportunity to explore the twisted paths that Bruce Wayne could have taken.
In Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1, Green Lanterns author Sam Humphries delivers a relentless tale which proves how incredibly lucky the main universe is that Batman doesn’t have superpowers. The Bruce Wayne of Earth -32 experiences the same tragic events that left his counterpart orphaned but instead of being inspired to develop an array of skills and hone his body to fight crime, The Bruce Wayne who became known as The Dawnbreaker is presented with near-limitless cosmic power at the lowest point of his life.
It would be an understatement to say that Humphries blows the conventional Batman dynamic out of the water, crafting a Batman who is completely devoid of conscience and wants everyone to suffer as he does. Humphries’ script inspires compassion, only to rip it all away in the span of the first two pages. From that point on, Humphries submerges the reader in Bruce’s violent transformation into a truly twisted villain.
Ethan Van Sciver and Jason Wright nail the artwork, for the most part. Van Sciver provides a visual intensity to the darkness surrounding Dawnbreaker. Everything from the willpower constructs to the physical manifestations of the darkness inside Dawnbreaker spill off the page to create an oppressive, threatening atmosphere. Wright’s coloring compliments that atmosphere perfectly. The only real problem with the artwork is that, at times, Dawnbreaker’s violent actions lack the same detail given to larger, more dramatic panels. This creates brief moments of visual inconsistency.
In the end, Humphries’ script and Van Sciver’s art unite to form an amazing comic focused on a truly detestable villain, through the complete destruction of the fundamentals of Batman’s character. If Humphries, Van Sciver, and Wright have any say in the matter, the DC Universe is going to be a dark, horrific place from now on.