If you’re going to write a “silent” comic (one with no dialogue), it helps to have a good reason. Gregg Hurwitz and Alberto Ponticelli’s two-part silent story concludes in “Batman: The Dark Knight” #27, and while I love the hook of the comic centering around an illegal immigrant who (presumably) doesn’t speak English, it’s Ponticelli’s art that ultimately sold the final package.
Hurwitz’s story is a little slight in places, but there’s still no denying the strong but simple hook on why this is a silent story. But while the nameless mother was one of the main characters in “Batman: The Dark Knight” #26 — with most of the comic being entirely from her perspective — here she’s relegated to a much smaller role. That’s a shame, if only because it’s her presence that makes the format work. This issue feels like it shifts into epilogue a little too quickly, as Batman’s able to free not only himself but the enslaved sweatshop workers in the blink of an eye. Hurwitz tries to keep it going as Batman goes after the Penguin, but by now a Batman-vs.-Penguin showdown feels a little hollow, if only because we’ve seen it so many times without any lasting effects.
On the other hand, Ponticelli’s art still works quite well here, with his rough, shabby styled art a great choice for Hurwitz’s script. Under Ponticelli’s deliberate art, the world of Gotham becomes much scarier, much more menacing. The Penguin is no longer the familiar face that we’ve seen, and that makes sense; to a newcomer like the immigrant mother, he would at first glance be much more bestial and less human. Batman, too, comes across much darker and more mysterious than most artists draw him these days. With a ragged-looking cape and a dark shadow that plunges past windows as a demonic silhouette, Ponticelli has turned the Dark Knight into a creature that would literally only inhabit the dark night. Even when Batman is checking in on the family that he’s saved, there’s a creepy, uneasy way that Ponticelli draws the scene. He might be the protector, but it’s still hard to trust him in the way that he lurks and skulks around the comic panels.
With only a final two-part story about Man-Bat still in the wings (drawn by Ethan van Sciver), it’s a little sad to see “Batman: The Dark Knight” coming to a close. It always tried to do something different, something darker under the guidance of Hurwitz. The level in which it landed might have varied from issue to issue, but there was always something to bring you back. Still, with Hurwitz and Ponticelli’s two-parter as a perfect example, it was a comic definitely worth checking out month after month.