If Batman, Detective Comics, Batman Inc., Batman & Robin, and Dark Knight aren’t enough to scratch that serious Batman itch, then you’re in luck. October has brought us the beginning of yet another series starring the Caped Crusader: Legends of the Dark Knight.
Legends of the Dark Knight is different compared to other Batman related titles in the New 52. The first indicator of this would be the classic costume, the other indicator would be that it has nothing to do with the other series, let alone the entire New 52 Universe.
This is a series composed of several short stories per issue, as opposed to the traditional serial style wherein a story is carried over several issues. If this first issue is setting the template for the rest of the series, then we can expect three short stories gathered from various points in Bat’s career. Each of these stories has a different writer and artist, which helps the reader understand the unspoken change in time.
I bought this book because it caught my eye while I compiled the list for last week’s Released. Out of all honesty, I felt for a moment like I made a mistake. When I first opened up the book, I was unaware that this was a series of short stories, so the artwork of Jeff Lemire really threw me off. It looks nothing like the cover. However, after working through the whole book, I was able to appreciate Lemire’s art style because it added an extra dimension to the first story. Its rough and unstable style really worked when presenting a Batman who was only six months on the job. In the later stories, the artwork by J.G. Jones and Nicola Scott becomes much more refined and traditional in the sense of American comics, and this works to show that Batman is an established hero at the points in those stories.
As I said before, the first of the three stories is about a young Batman who is only six months in. He has just become a figure worth fearing in the criminal world and he knows it in a big bad way. Our young Dark Knight runs along the roof tops claiming to be the most feared figure in Gotham and takes a sense of pride in knowing that he has the criminal underworld on the run. Things seem to be going well as he comes across a very familiar scene: a man holding a family at gun point in an alley way. The sight that reminded Bruce Wayne why he had become the Batman sends him hurling into action. Unfortunately his emotions blind him from his better instincts and he lands into a trap where he is beaten to a hearty pulp in the span of a few brutal panels. While our hero gets his butt handed to him on a silver platter, he tries to think back to who in his rogues gallery would set up a trap like this. This takes him back to a time where he was getting awfully mouthy with a close friend, which then brings him and the reader to the big reveal that knocks Batman down a proverbial peg or two, letting him know he’s still got some improvements to make.
The second of the three is a neat action piece about Batman being trapped on the J.L.A. satellite with Amazo, an android who possesses all of the powers of the Justice League. This story is centered around Batman in his prime, where he is every bit the badass we would all expect him to be. He is armed with all sorts of wonderful toys, including Bat-Shark Repellent, which actually comes in handy in a way that isn’t distracting from the story itself. While Amazo is a physical force to be reckoned with, Batman manages to put him on the ropes by being two steps ahead of him and proving brain is just as important as brawn in this battle of man vs. machine. While Amazo uses every trick the heroes of the Justice League would be able to throw at The Bat, our hero manages to hold his own ground. The end of this story reveals an important aspect of Batman’s character that will leave the reader with a greater respect for him.
The final story in the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight is a great tale of prevention that you don’t see too often in Batman comics. Batman and Robin connect the dots to a would-be robber, hang him from a roof top, and go all after school special on him. They spell out their understanding for his monetary needs, but explain why his actions are stupid and extremely dangerous. The story telling struck me as the best of all three because it involves so many different ways the robbery could have gone wrong had it been carried to fruition. They still punish him in a funny, but slightly cruel way for being dumb enough to consider committing a crime in a city protected by Batman.
Each of these stories are well crafted, and each of them showcase different characteristics that make up the hero we all know and love.
This all being said, let’s get to the real question at hand: Is it any good?
Yes. It took me a while to appreciate what was going on in this book as a whole, but once I caught on, it was probably one of the more enjoyable Batman reads I’ve had in recent time. This may have something to do with this title’s lack of connection to any specific Batman universe. This title doesn’t feel like it has anything to prove to anyone. It’s almost as if a bunch of artists and writers got together and said “You know what would be a great Batman story?” and made it happen in a few pages.
If this is what we can expect from Legends of the Dark Knight, then I would recommend keeping an eye on Released throughout November to find out when the second issue comes out.