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The Dark Knight by Dennis O'Neil
Review by Drew Bittner
Berkley Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425222867
Date: 18 July 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Batman is adrift. He has been too successful, scaring the petty criminals and crime bosses of Gotham City into hiding, and now he wonders if the city truly needs him. A new District Attorney, the intrepid Harvey Dent, is doing what Batman only wishes he could do: inspire the city. And so, Batman begins to see a possible end to his career as a vigilante crimefighter.

And that's when it all goes wrong, as the Joker comes to town.

Staging a series of increasingly violent attacks on the city, hitting where it hurts most, the Joker is part terrorist and part anarchist. He doesn't do these crimes for the money; he wants to make a point (one that becomes clear only at the end). Batman, Harvey Dent and Lt. Jim Gordon stand in his way — and one by one, the Joker hits them brutally, leaving scars as stark and searing as his own.

This is the story of The Dark Knight, based on the movie co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Gotham City reels as it is battered by a lunatic with a plan. With panic growing daily, the pressure to do "whatever it takes" to stop the Joker becomes overwhelming… and Batman, Dent and Gordon begin to crack under the strain. Gordon makes some fatal misjudgments; Dent's life and career are put in the crosshairs; and Batman misuses a friend's technology (and abuses his trust) in a desperate search for the Joker.

The story is perhaps the finest post-9/11 tale brought to the screen. Apart from the superhero trappings, this is a story of fear and the mistakes made in the rush to relieve that fear; it is a story of madness and how acts of insanity themselves derail the sanity of society's guardians.

Dennis O'Neill brings that dark downward spiral from the silver screen to the printed page with his trademark wit and elegance. O'Neill was an inspired choice to write the adaptation, as his groundbreaking work with artist Neal Adams returned Batman to the night, after more than a decade as a costumed crossing-guard. They made Batman dangerous again — and directly set the stage for stories such as The Dark Knight. In a very real sense, this movie is their grandchild; it arguably could not have been made in the absence of their comic book work in the 1970s.

That said, O'Neill builds upon the script's masterful beats with storytelling mastery of his own. Elements that evoke pathos in the movie are heart-wrenching here, and the desperation of the three heroes is more starkly drawn.

The summer's best movie gets one of the summer's best adaptations. Not a bad way to close out the hottest season.

Strongly recommended.

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