Darker Than Black
For those Babs fans among us who picked up Batman annual #27 and/or Detective Comics annual #11, we got a pleasant little surprise in this backup story by Amanda McMurray and Kelley Jones.
Kelley Jones is a name well-known to Bat-fans. Aside from his run with Doug Moench from '95 to '98 (which has had various revivals these days), I've always known him best for his covers during the Knightfall era. My older brother had a number of the issues, and I'd never read any of the interiors, but the covers alone were enough to impress on me as a kid. Jones' expressionistic and moody style did a lot to shape the way I looked at Gotham for a long time.
Amanda McMurray's a relative newcomer to the industry. I can only find a few stories here and there credited to her. Some of you may recall her Huntress story from last year's DCU Holiday Special with Rafael Albuquerque, and she apparently did the Superman/Doctor Light segment in the recent JLA 80-Page Giant (anything good in that bit?). Either way, though I certainly liked the Huntress story on the whole better than this one, there are part of this I like, and for that, I wish McMurray luck on whatever the future may hold.
But enough of that, I'm supposed to be posting a comic here.
Darker Than Black was a two-part story, with nine pages per issue, so I've got approximately three from each here (and boy were they hard to cut, i could've done better with another 1/3 from both)
We begin with Harvey Bullock and a certain lab tech name of Christopher Abrams investigating a bank robbery. From a blood bank. The broken packets have made a mess everywhere, with teeth-marks noted in them. But there are more interesting sights on the wall.
(don't mind the caption there, it is, as you could guess, our culprit) We jump from here to Gotham Central, Gordon's office.
Anyone remember Batman Forever? You know that picture Chase Meridian had in her office, the "You have a thing for bats, Doctor?" picture? The one that was clearly a bat but they tried to pass off as a Rorschach blot anyway? All I'm saying is that when Batman Forever does something dumb that ends up more plausible than your story, well, you might have a problem. And you can basically sum up all you need about Aerons from that one line, because most everything else that comes out of his mouth is just as much nonsense.
Jim comes in and the three of them talk for a bit. They worry about escalation, Aerons casts big, creepy shadows, blah blah blah. Babs decides she needs a closer look at the *ahem* "inkblot".
She gets the feeling something's watching her, but nothing come of it, so she takes her info back to the 'Cave. Turns out the blood from the bat-skull comes from two sources, and only one's from a donor at the blood bank. Then, there's the message written on it...
She drops the info anonymously at GCPD. Why she bothers when Jim knows what she does, I can't imagine, especially since she gripes in-caption about it being attributed to Batman. The findings leave Jim curious. I mean, vampirism?
It's Abrams, the lab tech we saw earlier. Jim tries to take him in easily, but Abrams isn't in the mood to go that way.
It meets his mark, Abrams is taken in. Aerons and Babs talk more about the culprits possible motivations and thought process, but none of it really fits. Funny things happen like Aerons being cast in big, conspicuous shadows, Abrams saying "This isn't over!" at the top of the page while Jim says "It's over, Babs" at the bottom. Coupled with Babs bad feelings, you can guess who was right, especially when Babs wakes up to find another bat-skull on her ceiling that night. As is her wont, she calls in a helping hand.
So our culprit now has a name, for some reason, and I feel dumb for not knowing the Outsiders better. Looker tells Babs to call the police and reads the blood via psychometry (and her tongue) to catch a glimpse of the Stygian, then bolts before calling Oracle back.
It has been so long since I've read a story where Babs works with someone who doesn't know her identity that it feels weird to see the line drawn again. Also, here we glimpse the Stygian being hella skeevy. Babs moves on to the Batcave in case the Stygian tries to hit her apartment again, and finds the curious development that the DNA from the blood bank crime scene doesn't match Abrams (which would make you wonder how they would've caught him in the first place unless the evidence was tampered, and how they can justify holding him in that case). So, jut how does Abrams factor into all this?
Looker gets there, finds a third bat-skull.
Suddenly, she has a vision of how the three messages tie into each other. Right about this moment, dear reader, you may realize we never really hear the second one. We see maybe two-thirds of the Greek on a page I cut, but there's no translation given. Did we need it to understand the story? Not necessarily, but it feels a missing detail, like forgetting to draw a nose on a face. The one word we get out of it is pretty appropriate to what we know of its setting, though.
Now I'm sure you can all finish that sentence for her.
And I'm sure you all know that she does. Looker bamfs in just in time to confront...
Ah ha! So it was Count Orlok the whole time! case closed They fight for a bit, but when Haima runs away, the Stygian runs off.
"Then Barbara Gordon head better be careful...because he's only going to get more dangerous," Looker says as we get a shot of Abrams in his cell, a bloody gash on the side of his neck and a bat-skull on his wall. A familiar pair of feet walk off saying "It has begun..."
The end? Anyone know where this might pick up? I'm sure I'll end up flipping through the upcoming DCU Halloween Special to see if anything shows there.