Batman: The Dark Knight #23.1 by Gail Simone (Comics Review)

The Ventriloquist’s previous appearances in the New 52 DC universe have been within the pages of Gail Simone’s fantastic Batgirl #20-21, which are two of the most creepiest comics I’ve read with a superhero, ever. A large part of the creepiness was how Gail portrayed her villain, Shauna, and Shauna’s puppet, Ferdie. If you’ve ever seen the Chucky films, then you’ll know what I’m talking about, with respect to Ferdie. Such a bloody creepy character, and his dialogue has a large part to do with it.

One of my main problems with Villain’s Month extends to this title as well, largely because it doesn’t make any sense within the context of New 52 that the Ventriloquist would be a “Batman” villain and not a “Batgirl” villain, especially not when we’ve seen that the villain is obsessed with Barbara’s hero-persona. This issue should really have been Batgirl #23.1: The Ventriloquist, as a recognition of the fact that Batgirl has been one of DC’s most successful and consistent titles in the New 52.

Either way, despite that… misstep, I loved this issue for three reasons. Hit the break to find out what those are.

Note: This review contains potential spoilers for Justice League #23 and Forever Evil #1.

Batman The Dark Knight 23.1

When this issue starts, we are right smack in the middle of the events of Forever Evil: the Crime Syndicate is consolidating its hold on the world, releasing all the super-villains from their prisons, and establishing a new world order. What this means for Gotham with respect to this issue is that Batman has been missing since the end of Justice League #23, presumed dead, and many of his villains are now roaming free throughout the city. As she is wont to do, the Ventriloquist escaped her GCPD escort from the climax of Batgirl #21 and now she’s taken up residence at the Melodian Theater somewhere in Gotham, which happens to be the only place in the city with power and food. This naturally draws in some frightened Gothamites who are looking for some place safe to hole up while the city tears itself apart, and thus Gail sets the stage for another fantastically creepy Ventriloquist story.

The Ventriloquist is definitely one of my favourite villains in the New 52. She is super-creepy, super-talented, a complete psycopath, and she has a crush on Batgirl. One of those dark, psycopathic “I want to kill you and watch you die with every breath” kind of crush. She frightens the hell out of me, much as the Joker did in Scott Snyder’s Death of the Family crossover earlier this year. If the two of them were to ever meet… well… that’s an even more frightening thought to consider.

In this issue, while the overall Forever Evil plot isn’t progressed any further, we do get to see a lot of the villain herself, in a way that complements the story that Gail did in Batgirl #20-21, and shows both her origins and her present-day state. One of the things that defines so many of the villains in the New 52 and plays up to the whole “dark and super grim” vibe that DC has been trying to establish with the reboot, is that the villains are utterly ruthless and cold-hearted, with a distinct lack of conscience or morality. And the Ventriloquist happens to be right at the top of that food chain. Her psychomania has driven her completely insane, yet she is amazingly intelligent with her schemes, not too far off the path that Joker and Harley Quinn have already traveled.

Which is why I enjoy reading about the character so much. Where Joker and Harley come across as comical and humorous at best, Ventriloquist is utterly serious and she means her mania. Gail’s take on this villain is one of the most refreshing and exciting in the New 52 and it deserves respect.

Of course, that’s not where this ends, since Freddie, Shauna’s pet, also plays up the horror and creepy vibe of the issue. One thing that has been kept a mystery till now is why Freddie is so animated and has a will of his/its own. Batgirl wonders whether he is supernaturally possessed or is played up through telekinesis in Batgirl #20-21, but we never got the answers there, and neither do we get them here. This little guy, with his smart-ass mouth and tough-guy attitude, is every bit as creepy and frightening as his… love. *shudder*

Derlis Santacruz is on the pencils here, with inker Karl Kesel, colourist Brett Smith and letterer Dave Sharpe. Their take on the Ventriloquist and on Freddie is a bit different than how they were drawn in Batgirl, but the character-work and overall portrayal is still fairly consistent, which is a huge point in their favour. They don’t really look to redefine these characters, and frankly, that is how it should be. Although, I wouldn’t have minded something slightly different, just to see how a different team would handled them. And just generally, for the entire issue, the whole creepy, violent tone of the script is reflect back in the art really well. Its almost like reading a proper horror comic, something like Steve Niles’ Lot 13 which was a mini-series published by DC last year. Of course, there’s the whole Chucky thing going on too, and the artists get that across really well too. Derlis’ panel layout is quite effective with all its little box-outs, with lots of variety i how that is done from page-to-page.

Overall, this was one of the best Villain’s Month issues, and I look forward to more goodness from Gail from next month once The Movement and Batgirl resume their normal run.

Rating: 9.5/10

More Batgirl: Vol.1, Vol.2, #23.

More Batman Villain’s Month issues: Joker.

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Posted on September 9, 2013, in 2013 Reading Challenge, 2013 Writing Challenge, Challenges, Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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