I rate this as worth consuming for one reason only, and that reason is Tim Sale’s incomparable art. The compositions he creates in tandem with Gregory Wright’s colors here are beautiful, shadowy, noir concoctions that must be seen to be believed, and place him among the finest artists ever to work in superhero comics.
But man, never has a superlative artist ever been in almost exclusive partnership with such a hacky, insistently mediocre writer. Jeph Loeb’s work basically ranges from unreadably bad [Hush, Batman/Superman] to tolerable [this], and it’s a damn shame that the Loeb/Sale partnership continues to this day. The premise of the book is actually pretty compelling, as is revelation of the mystery and the bloodbath that concludes the story, but the litany of villains parading through the book just stretches the story on for-fucking-ever without really advancing the plot.
And that’s not even starting on the flat, almost nonexistent characters, and saving the worst for last, Loeb’s fucking dialogue. I guess this could be read as ‘terse’, but it’s really just underwritten, expository, and fucking unimaginative. What’s really criminal, though, is the internal narration that plagues this thing. Seriously, I dare you, count how many times Batman says or thinks “I made a promise to my parents.” Marvel at how every fucking time the name Carmine Falcone comes up it’s followed by “Gotham’s untouchable crime lord.” Note how in chapters nine and ten, in the sections where we see the Mad Hatter and Scarecrow together, we see the exact same narration recapping the Scarecrow’s escape from the Asylum: “On Mother’s Day, Jonathan Crane, psychologist turned psychopath, escaped from Arkham Asylum. Unleashing the Scarecrow on my city. He did not do this alone. He had help.” I realize this work was originally serialized, and maybe the audience needs to be reminded of a couple things, but it’s not like these are densely packed chapters. Barely anything happens from one to the next, you can breeze through ’em in a couple minutes flat, and trotting out the same narration in the same exact words is just loathesomely lazy writing, and it gives us as readers absolutely no credit.
In conclusion, <3 Tim Sale, fuck you Jeph Loeb.