David Finch had long been considered a first rank comic artist, but Golden Dawn is the first extended project he also wrote. His opening chapter has the stale odour of excess familiarity as yet another previously unknown childhood acquaintance of Bruce Wayne’s is introduced with a sinister hint of tragic circumstance about them. Finch, however, proves better than that with a full length writing d├ębut that’s adequate, yet fails to satisfy fully.

Dawn Golden, she of childhood acquaintance, is missing, and as she’s a wealthy socialite Gotham police are under intense pressure to locate her forthwith. For Commissioner Gordon this is complicated by an ambitious new detective who has the mayor’s ear. This plot, though, proves intrusive, connected to events in other Batman titles, with no outcome revealed here. Neither is there any hint as to the conclusion of another sub-plot about a child stealing the Batmobile. As this is seemingly a standalone graphic novel, and was marketed as such, many readers may feel short changed that only a single plot concludes here.

There are elements that appear incongruous, particularly an uncharacteristically brutal Batman, but adequate explanations prove to be the order of the day, with a glaring exception. Finch introduces the Demon, a genuine lesser guardian of those in eternal torment, and his counterparts have relevance to the life of Dawn Golden. It’s been established elsewhere that the Demon is no longer as powerful as he’d previously been, yet apparently all it takes to restore his capabilities to previous levels is a brief pep talk from Batman.

The primary attraction is meant to be Finch’s art, and there’s rather a let down here as well. He supplies the first three chapters in his customary dynamic style, but it’s left to Jason Fabok, and a platoon of inkers, to complete the story while imitating Finch’s style. Was it really too much to ask that DC delayed publication until Finch drew the entire story? What he does manage has its moments. He designs a truly ghastly slavering Penguin, but there’s little in the way of iconic Batman imagery, which is odd.

Seemingly on the basis that Finch drew it, there’s also a chapter of Grant Morrison’s Batman, and it’s an ill-advised inclusion on the basis that it highlights the differences between a writer and the remainder of the material. Again, too many elements tie into other stories, and there is no conclusion, but Morrison’s creativity shines as he reconfigures Batman’s method of fighting crime.

There’s also a two page tale with no relevance to anything removed from its source. It’s set in a future where different people are Batman and Superman, and they’re at odds, but can put that aside to honour their forebears. Yes.