Dark Night: A True Batman Story (Vertigo Comics)
I’m a massive Batman: The Animated Series fan, so when I heard last year that Paul Dini would be writing a new Batman story I was already hooked. Then when I heard it would be published under DC’s Vertigo imprint, I was both intrigued and worried. Could this be the dark, mature reader themed Batman series that we’ve dreaded from DC? That doesn’t sound like something Dini would be into. Instead, Dark Night: A True Batman Story is something else entirely: it depicts the real-life beating and mugging that Paul Dini experienced in 1993, and how he dealt with the trauma that came after it. Featuring art by 100 Bullets artist Eduardo Risso, Dark Night is truly one of the must unique and emotional Batman stories ever, and gives us a fascinating look into the life of one of Batman’s greatest storytellers.
What makes Dark Night so effective is the way Dini chooses to present the story. Dini’s a fantastic and hugely entertaining storyteller, and he wisely chooses to present the story as if we’re in the audience listening to him give a talk about his experience. Dini flashes back to his childhood as a cartoon-obsessed lonely child, and covers some ground on his time working at Warner Bros. But a large chunk of the story is focused on the attack and what comes after it. Dini, a man with a self-professed “huge imagination” starts to have the different voices in his head, the ones telling him to stay indoors or to be afraid of everyone outside, personified as different members of the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery. Characters like The Joker, Two-Face, Scarecrow and more pop up throughout his healing process, taunting Dini over the scars on his face, his fear of needles before his surgery, and the fact that he’s petrified to leave his apartment. On the flip side though, Batman is Dini’s personification of the voice telling him to use this attack to make himself a better person and be more prepared. It all works extremely well, and using these characters in this way is genius. It’s hard not to relate to Dini, as many comic fans (myself included), have had these kinds of experiences with our imaginations.
Dini is also VERY open about his experiences with loneliness and self-despair in Dark Night. Even being as big a fan as I am, I had no idea about the darker aspects of his personality until I read this. Dini has no hesitation is admitting that he wasn’t in the best headspace back then, and even the success of a hit show like Batman TAS wasn’t enough to get him to acknowledge his self worth. The night after his Emmy win is shocking, and one of the most heartbreaking moments in the book. It takes a lot of courage for Dini to present this part of his life so honestly, and in the end it makes you feel closer to him. The fact that Dini never shies away from this is incredible, and shows how much he’s grown as a person in the 20 or so years since he was attacked.
Eduardo Risso’s pencils are a little loose in some spots, but they work really well with the tone that Dini is creating with this story. Dini’s story goes from happy and fun self-deprecation to some very dark places, and Risso’s able to convey all of these perfectly. It’s also really cool to see his takes on the Batman: TAS character designs as well. Many of them are right on with what you remember as a kid, while others have a really cool redesign that I would love to see in the main DC universe.
Dark Night is an absolute necessity for fans of Paul Dini and Batman. I’ve never read a Batman comic that has nailed why these characters mean so much to people until I read this. Dini and Risso’s story is sad, funny, hopeful, and inspiring, and I’m in awe of Dini’s ability to take something so traumatic and not only overcome it, but to be so brave as to use it as the inspiration for a graphic novel. This is truly an incredible piece of work, and is one of the best comics of the year. Seek it out.