Batman: The Dark Knight 23.1 features the new Ventriloquist, Shauna Belzer, who made her first appearance in Batgirl #20. The 3D lenticular cover image can be seen here. Unlike some of the other titles that are a part of "Villains Month," this issue actually gives us a back story for Shauna Belzer, and the readers get to see what her childhood was like. This is what makes this a great issue, because she's a fairly new character in The New 52 Universe, and it's good to see these flashbacks.
Starting off with the cover to this issue, the readers get a glimpse of what the Ventriloquist is all about. Shauna is holding her puppet at us, and we see the Batman family being hung in the background. Very violent and dark, but this is what her puppet, Ferdie, is good at...killing. With the Justice League dead, the villains have taken over The New 52 Universe, and Shauna and Ferdie want to put on a show, to entertain people. A small group of people walk up to the Melodian Theater and notice the sign for the performance, which also states that food and drink are complimentary, and that there's safety from the storm, so they enter. These people have no idea what they're getting themselves into.
It's at this point that the story flashes back to when Shauna was a child, and she tells us her story, through narrative. Once the flashback is told, the scene shifts to the park, where two thugs from the "Crime Alley Cretins" are talking. One of those guys, named Zed, notices that there's activity going on at the Melodian Theater. He tells his friend Max about this, but Max doesn't believe him, because the theater has been closed for years, and no one has power. Zed tells Max that he's being serious, and that they have food and women in the building. Max then gathers up "the boys" so they could have a wonderful meal and have those women too.
Back at the theater, the show is about to begin, and as the show begins, Max and his gang show up at the front entrance. The Ventriloquist starts telling dirty jokes, which has the audience wondering what kind of entertainment they're watching. Then, Max and his crew push a vehicle towards the entrance, and they come crashing through. Once the men enter the auditorium, they go after the women, which doesn't bode well with Shauna and Ferdie. Ferdie then unleashes the drills from the palms of his hands and goes after Max and his henchmen. But, after several revelations from Shauna, the bad guys aren't the only ones she was after. The ending of this story is shocking, but this gives the readers a sense of how evil Shauna and Ferdie are, as the new Ventriloquist.
This is a darker story from the Batman family of titles, and Shauna and Ferdie are a great addition to the Batman rogue's gallery. Ventriloquist is definitely worthy of being part of "Villains Month." I give this issue four out of five stars. The story is well written, the artwork is beautifully illustrated, and the colors compliment this issue. Batman: The Dark Knight 23.1 is written by Gail Simone, artwork by Derlis Santacruz and Karl Kesel, colored by Brett Smith, and the cover is designed by Pat Gleason, Mick Gray, and John Kalisz. The standard 2D edition retails for $2.99 and the cover price for the 3D lenticular edition is $3.99, but due to the shortage of these versions, comic retailers and sellers on sites like eBay are up selling them. Check local comic shops and listings for pricing on these lenticular covers. Standard editions are also available on digital formats, on the days these issues are released.