I know I speak for a lot of people when I say Batman: The Animated Series was one of the best animated series of our time. For me, it was one of my first forays into DC, way before I started reading their comics. For the comics world and pop culture as a whole, its influence still lasts even now. Take Harley Quinn, for instance. One of the characters headlining August’s Suicide Squad had her roots not in the comics, but in the animated series. It was there that she became so popular she was imported into the comics.
Alongside Bruce Timm’s distinctive art styles, it was writer Paul Dini, among others, who brought the colorful characters of Gotham to life. And now DC, through its Vertigo imprint, published Dark Night: A True Batman Story, written by Dini and illustrated by Eduardo Risso.
While the title might lead you to believe the graphic novel is a Batman story, it isn’t. Or at least not in its traditional sense. Dark Night is as much a Paul Dini story as it is a Batman story. The book follows snippets of Dini’s life, from his early childhood to his days as writer on Batman: TAS. But most prominently, the book deals with Dini’s personal dissatisfaction and loneliness despite his success, the 1993 mugging in which he nearly died, and how Batman (along with his supporting cast) helped him cope and take him to a brighter place afterwards.
On its own, the story is a heart-wrenching one that Dini himself said took a long time to finally tell, but what really sold it for me was its presentation. Risso’s art nails every single beat. The depiction of every ‘chapter’ has its own ‘feel’, with different coloring and slightly varying styles as well. Every single page is a treat for the eyes.
The blurring of the lines between autobiographical work and superhero comic in Dark Night is what truly makes this book one of a kind. Dini and Risso manages to show us how fiction can either plunge us into the darkest depths, or help inspire and lift us up into the light. As a bonus, the book has a pitch for a Batman: TAS episode featuring Neil Gaiman’s Endless that sadly didn’t come to be. But the thought of it alone makes me giddy.
Dark Knight: A True Batman Story isn’t just a memoir or a Batman comic, it’s much more than the sum of its parts. It’s Paul Dini baring his soul for all of us to see in a grim, sometimes darkly humorous, but ultimately uplifting tale of healing and redemption. It’s also a damn good comic.