When you think of modern Batman artists putting a major stamp on the legend of the Dark Knight, names like Jim Lee, David Finch, Tim Sale, and Dustin Nguyen spring to mind, with the artistic talents of Jock also finding their place among these heavy hitters thanks to his gritty line work and reliance on shadow. With Batman: One Dark Knight, Jock takes on the chore of writing alongside the artistic endeavors and while the latter lives up to his reputation, the Black Label story from DC finds itself lacking when it comes to the writing.
One Dark Knight focuses on Bruce Wayne attempting to fulfill a prisoner transport that sees a new super-villain under the moniker of EMP, who unsurprisingly, lives up to his namesake by unleashing an electromagnetic pulse that name and knocks out the lights in Gotham City. Fleeing from scores of underworld baddies looking to clip Batman's wings while the Dark Knight escorts this powerhouse to a new locale, it's a mad dash to the finish in a story attempting to present a manic race against time that introduces an interesting premise but fails to deliver due to issues of clunky dialogue and character beats throughout.
Jock's art is as strong as ever, able to create a perfect balance between the grim and gritty, almost claustrophobic feeling of Gotham City, while simultaneously able to revel in the sheer magnificence of Bruce Wayne in his superhero attire. There's one panel in particular where Batman springs into action with his cape billowing behind him that is easily one of the best "Batman shots," of 2021. The facial features of characters are another strength here; Jock is able to convey what emotions he is attempting to get across, which is definitely helped when it comes to taking on the role of both artist and writer.
While we've seen Batman journeying to a finish line plenty of times in the past, the big hook with One Dark Knight is certainly an interesting one that I can't recall seeing before wherein not only is Bruce devoid of technology at his disposal in transporting a villain across the city's landscape, but he has to deal with the fallout from the city's current blackout. There's a lot of potential there for a Batman story and I'm interested to see what unique problems that Jock is able to throw at Bruce as the Dark Knight attempts to transport EMP.
Where the Black Label series falls flat is its character dialogue and interactions, as they come across as somewhat clunky and none of the characters involved seem too likable when you finish turning the final page. The dialogue between Bruce and Alfred is biting, but it doesn't feel endearing at the same time. Gordon's problems with the head of the Prison Bureau, Vasquez, nearly fall flat and it seems as though none of the characters are bringing anything original to the table. In a way, it feels like the comic might have benefitted from avoiding dialogue altogether.
EMP as a villain is a means to an end, and while it's clear that there's some backstory that is set to be revealed in future issues of the series, his power set, character, and aesthetic simply don't pop, especially when compared to how Jock portrays the city and its dark defender throughout.
If you're a fan of Jock's artwork, Batman: One Dark Knight puts his strengths on impressive display as an artist, but on the other side of this coin, it highlights his weaknesses as a writer when it comes to dialogue and specific story beats. This miniseries debut is the definition of a mixed-bag, but I'm willing to see where it goes and see what tricks Jock still has up his sleeve.
Rating: 3 Out Of 5
Published by DC Comics
On December 21, 2021
Written by Jock
Art by Jock
Colors by Sarah Stern
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Jock