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Batman has always been one of our favorite heroes. There is something alluring about a regular guy who has conditioned himself physically and mentally to fight crime, something that makes us all feel that we could do it too. So when Batman books come out, we are always willing to read. And when we picked up Batman: the Dark Knight #19, “Pool of Tears”, we were happy to find the caped cruisader’s adversary for this arc is The Mad Hatter. SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!

After Batman and the police have nearly shut down all of The Hatter’s operations, the maniac obsessed with Alice in Wonderland plans to reenact Lewis Carroll’s classic tale and Gotham is the stage. Before the main performance though, he needs to run a rehearsal. He has been distributing his mind-controlling top hats all over the city and, using them, he summons hundreds of people for a preliminary walk-through. Unsatisfied with his stand-in for Alice, The Hatter has his performers kill themselves before Batman or Gordon know what’s going on. In an epic final image for the issue, Batman looks over the waters of Gotham filled with the floating bodies of the fired performers. Little does he know, that The Hatter’s first choice for who will play Alice is his current love interest, the pianist Natalya Trusevich.

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Greg Hurwitz’s writing keeps the story moving at a very nice pace. Our favorite part of the story is the writer’s take on the origins of The Mad Hatter though, the result of side effects from an experimental medicine. But the issue is not without fault. The biggest is the completely uncharacteristic act of Bruce Wayne using the Bat-plane as a taxi to get Natalya to her performance on time. Given Batman’s mania, fear of people dying around him, and advanced training we can not imagine him allowing anyone to see that he has a connection to anyone not involved in fighting crime – especially a love interest.

The art by Syzmon Kudranski is jittery and filled with odd angles that add to the madness of the story. We especially love the flashback to The Hatter’s childhood. As the pills are popped into the his mouth, it’s like watching Alice fall down the rabbit hole. The coloring by Hi-Fi is dark, grainy, and gritty… everything a Batman book should be.