Writer: Paul Dini
Artist: Eduardo Risso
Dark Night: A True Batman Story is an autobiographical tale written by Paul Dini a long-time Batman scribe and writer for the legendary Batman: The Animated Series. It is at it’s heart a survival story, building up a picture of Mr. Dini’s life through his childhood until 1993, when he was the victim of a brutal mugging during his days on the creative team at Batman: The Animated series. From there the story focuses on Dini’s internal struggle to recover both physically and mentally after the attack as well as his struggle about whether writing superheroic fantasy, like Batman, had any meaning in world where justice has eluded him.
Where does Batman come into all of this? He doesn’t, not physically. However, after the mugging, Batman is there in Paul’s mind providing the often harsh voice of his better angels in counterpoint to the members of his Rogues Gallery, who personify Paul’s demons. I won’t spoil the ending but the conflict is an interesting one and resonates with anyone who has found inspiration from their heroes on the comic book page.
As far as the art goes, Eduardo Risso’s visceral style complements the narrative and balances the scenes in the real world and in Paul’s head in a way that’s easy to follow. His use of color is also excellent and helps to establish the mood throughout as well as giving the embodiments of the positive voices of Batman, Batgirl and eventually Harley Quinn a more solid aspect contrasted to the more washed out and dream-like tones of the negative voices of Batman’s rogues.
Dini’s writing on this piece feels honest and doesn’t flinch away from laying out his flaws on the page for the world to see. Indeed the pre-mugging Paul comes across as venal man-child with an entitled attitude towards the women he dates and the post-mugging Paul is little better at first as he wallows in self-pity. That said there are no excuses made for these flaws as they are addressed nor do they overwhelm what’s relatable in Paul’s struggle against his inner demons. Dini creates a snapshot of a troubled time in what would most would consider a pretty fortunate life and while there is resolution at the book’s final page, it doesn’t feel pat, like a Hollywood ending, with all the loose ends tied up.
In all I think Dini and Risso have put together a top notch literary graphic novel that tells its intended story well. It is not a story that everyone will resonate with and those seeking a more traditional Batman yarn will be better served by picking up the recent Batman Rebirth issue. However for fans of Paul Dini, or those looking for something different in their comic books, it’s definitely worth a read.
Also, a note for fans of Paul Dini and his work on Batman: The Animated Series. Look out for Batman: The Killing Joke, due out July 25th from DC Animation. It brings back many of the animated series’ vocal talents including Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (the Joker) to tell one of the most well known Batman stories. As for Dark Night: A True Batman Story, it’s available online at Vertigo and Comixology and, as always, at your friendly local comic shop.