BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 by Sam Humphries, Ethan Van Sciver, and Jason Wright
BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 is the exciting new tie-in to DARK NIGHTS: METAL. With exquisite art by Ethan Van Sciver and Jason Wright, and a powerful origin story written by Sam Humphries, DAWNBREAKER is an awesome addition to this DC event.
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Every week DC has introduced a new Batman originating from Barbatos’s Dark Multiverse. Each time, these DARK NIGHTS: METAL tie-ins become even more twisted and haunting. BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 presents Bruce with unlimited power in the form of a Green Lantern’s ring. However, in this exquisitely crafted comic by Sam Humphries, Ethan Van Sciver, and Jason Wright, we realize that Bruce’s abilities are more of a curse than they are a blessing.

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BATMAN: DAWNBREAKER #1 shows the Bruce of Earth-32 witnessing the most traumatic moment of his life: the murder of his parents. For the most part, the scene plays out like it has a thousand times before. A mysterious gunman fires at both Bruce’s mother and father. The killer then spares Bruce and runs away. However, there’s one major change to this sequence and that’s Bruce himself. The trauma of his parents’ death seems to alter the mental state of Bruce (at least, more than it usually does). He realizes he has no more compassion, no more remorse; he doesn’t even have fear. Where there was once a lively, happy boy is now an empty shell of a person.

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This void prompts Bruce to chase after the murderer and punish him for destroying his world. As soon as he does this, a Green Lantern ring flies towards him and proclaims him the new Green Lantern of Earth. Bruce’s first action with his newfound power is to murder the gunman. The ring at first attempts to defy Bruce, as the Green Lantern Corps doesn’t permit lethal force. However, Bruce’s willpower is too strong. What’s more intense is that he has lost any semblance of fear, allowing him the ability to override the ring’s control. He then burns and tears apart the gunman until he’s an unrecognizable monstrosity.

BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

While this scene is admittedly excruciatingly cruel and hard to read, the most painful part of this issue is what directly follows. We see Bruce return to his parents and try to resurrect them with the same endless willpower that he used to kill. Yet BATMAN: DAWNBREAKER #1 shows that, even with all the power in the world, some things can’t change no matter how much you want them to. The “resurrected” Thomas and Martha Wayne are merely zombified shadows of who they were in life. Bruce can have the greatest weapon in the universe, but he can never have what he wants most in the world: his real living parents.

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Entering The Void

FDR once famously stated,“the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Yet BATMAN: DAWNBREAKER #1 argues that a little bit of fear is necessary for a person to keep their humanity. Because Bruce doesn’t fear anything, he shows no restraint with his powers. After obliterating his parents’ killer, he begins a murderous rampage against Gotham’s worst criminals. It’s symbolic that he first kills Scarecrow, Gotham’s representation of fear, without even blinking an eye. Bruce goes around cleaning the streets of Gotham but finds that nothing fills that hole inside of him. So, he’s drawn towards more violent and ruthless acts – anything to fill that emptiness.

BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Bruce commits some seriously heinous and reprehensible actions as Dawnbreaker. This comic really puts a lot of emphasis on the gruesome nature of his murders. Through the power of his ring, he shreds the bodies of classic characters in some panels that border on gratuitous. I understand that Sam Humphries is trying to show how this Bruce is an unfeeling sociopath. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to look at a panel as classic characters you love are ripped apart or eviscerated. To see a child commit such violence is even more frightening. It’s clearly a good thing Earth Prime’s Batman spent years training and controlling his emotions before fighting crime. He learned patience. This Batman has received ultimate power from a young age. What room does he have for patience or restraint?


The Art: Darkness Constraining the Light

The artists in these nightmare Batmen one-shots have the difficult task of combining the artistic style of Batman with another superhero (in this case Green Lantern). Ethan Van Sciver and Jason Wright do this fantastically. They convey the bright, cosmic look of a traditional Green Lantern style with beautiful, glowing apparitions. In fact, Gil Kane’s original GREEN LANTERN art from 1959 inspires a lot of the visuals here. They even make direct reference to SHOWCASE #22, the issue in which Hal Jordan first appeared.

BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 page 6. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Silver Age GREEN LANTERN comics (much like THE FLASH comics of the same period) were defined by a sense of wonder and glee. That is lost when you combine Green Lantern with Batman. The dark nature of his pathos destroys the positive and hopeful tone of GREEN LANTERN. Wright especially does a terrific job showing the darkness that eats away at every page constraining the light of the Green Lanterns until it turns into something completely different. This is a nightmare version of Batman. We now know why Batman wouldn’t make for a good Green Lantern, as his dark characteristics generally conflict with the Green Lantern Corps ideology. However, these competing styles create amazing visuals that permeate throughout this issue.

Final Thoughts on BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1

BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 is another fabulous addition to the DARK MULTIVERSE crossover event. The fact that the overabundant violence sometimes feels needless does push me away from a perfect score for this piece. Nonetheless, this horrific and shocking story of how this Bruce Wayne became a psychopath is absolutely intriguing and a pleasure to read. For those who find themselves anxiously waiting for the next comic out of DARK NIGHT: METAL, don’t worry, BATMAN: THE DAWNBREAKER #1 was definitely worth the wait.

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