WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1, by Sam Humphries and Ethan Van Sciver, on sale now from DC Comics.
Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1 initially reads like a relic of DC Comics’ Elseworlds line — 1994’s Batman: In Darkest Knight comes to mind — but quickly transforms into something darker as an angry young Bruce Wayne bends the Green Lantern ring to his will and unleashes a terrible new power.
Written by Sam Humphries and illustrated by Ethan Van Sciver, the tie-in to Dark Nights: Metal recounts the origin of The Dawnbreaker, one of the “evil Batmen” from the Dark Multiverse, gathered by the bat-demon Barbatos to lead an invasion of the DC Universe. This Bruce Wayne of Earth -32 presents an irresistible candidate for that scheme, as — like the Bruce Wayne of Earth 0, and countless parallel worlds — he bears witness to the senseless murder of his parents. But, confronted by a life-altering tragedy, and even the barrel of Joe Chill’s gun, this Bruce Wayne feels … nothing.
Misinterpreting that dark void for an ability to overcome great fear, Abin Sur’s power ring seeks out Bruce rather than Earth -32’s Hal Jordon, setting off a horrifying chain of events: What Bruce lacks in fear he more than makes up for in willpower and rage. When the ring prevents Bruce from immediately using its power to kill his parents’ murderer, his sheer force of will overrides the protocol, freeing something sinister, both from within the teen and the device.
There are obvious echoes of the Red Lantern Corps, whose rings are fueled by rage born of loss, but this Green Lantern of Sector 2814 is something different; maybe not necessarily worse, but certainly different — and inarguably abhorrent.
When Bruce overcomes the ring’s prohibition against lethal force, he manifests a hideous creature of green energy resembling the Parallax entity to pass sentence on Joe Chill. But that’s only the beginning, as a shadow seems to pass over Bruce and his new possession, “the most powerful weapon in the universe.” As this new Green Lantern begins his bloody crusade, nominally to protect Gotham City but really to quench his thirst for vengeance, the ring changes further. Its glow is no longer a bright green but something murky, as if the device is struggling against a pervading darkness.
And make no mistake, there is a terrifying darkness, one that permits Bruce to purge Gotham of its colorful rogues, leaving bodies — and body parts — scattered across the city, but also brings him an unnerving sense of comfort. His ring now exhibits a new ability, to initiate a “blackout” that shrouds its surroundings in shadow. Lurking within are gruesome entities (yes, it multiplied), just as capable of wiping out The Penguin’s henchmen as it is the assembled Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps. They can apparently even render other power rings inoperable.
Worse still, Bruce considers those creatures his friends. “I made them in the dark,” he boasts, suggesting they aren’t merely a product of the malfunctioning power ring but rather of its disturbed, distraught wearer, who decides he no longer wants to be Bruce Wayne or the Green Lantern. He wants to be someone — something — else: the Dawnbreaker, who immediately devises his own version of the iconic Green Lantern oath:
With darkness black, I choke the light!
No brightest day escapes my sight!
I turn the dawn to midnight!
Beware my power — Dawnbreaker’s might!
It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but neither is it an empty pledge — it’s a mission statement that aligns perfectly with Barbatos’ plan for the DC Universe. A tormented orphan who lives in darkness will drag others out of the light and into the shadows, in exchange for what he desires most: the return of his parents.
Batman: The Dawnbreaker #1, by Sam Humphries and Ethan Van Sciver, is available now from DC Comics. The story of the Dark Knights continues in Batman: The Drowned #1.
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