Got a smartphone and need a Batman fix while you wait in line for The Dark Knight Rises? Salivating over Anne Hathaway pictures but want just a bit more Batman with your boobs? Lucky for you, the best god damn Batman comic you aren’t reading, Legends of the Dark Knight, is available right now right at your home computer, smartphone or tablet.
Chances are you’ve heard of Legends of the Dark Knight but have never picked up the comic book. Launched back in 1989 in tandem with Tim Burton’s Batman, the series was made up of one-shot issues or short two to five part stories to give new readers a more compact, but no less in-depth doses of The Batman. Since they were self-contained, understanding the backstory wasn’t necessary, which in hindsight seems like a perfect match in these Damien Wayne days. You didn’t have to be a regular reader either, as each issue contained rotating writers and artists.
Probably an impossibility, but say for instance, you disliked Bill Willingham’s one shot in issue #168; that’s alright, next month had a whole new creative team to wet your whistle. The stories were also canon. Think of the series as Batman’s lost stories and you can get an idea of its purpose in the mythos.
The series ended in 2007 and had nearly every writer and artist contribute from Garth Ennis to Warren Ellis. Since it wasn’t an ongoing series, but rather an anthology – it was kind of like seeing your favorite rock stars taking turns playing your favorite songs; any writer or artist could get together, jam out a great two or three part story and leave the stage for the next duo. How exciting!
To coincide with The Dark Knight Rises, DC was smart enough to restart this series six weeks ago, but this time they are shorter, cheaper and only available digitally. Each issue is 99 cents and 20 pages long with each page consisting of one to two panels and a singular story you can pick up, read and move on form. The series has already had a slew of heavy hitters tackle the Caped Crusader including the creator of ABC’s Lost, Damon Lindelof; Jeff Lemire, who writes, draws and created Sweet Tooth; and artist extraordinaire Ben Templesmith of 30 Days of Night fame.
But how do they stack up? Let’s crack open each issue and take a look.
Legends of the Dark Knight (2012-) #1
This cover is used for the first 3 issues. How boring.
They couldn’t have restarted this series with better creators. Damon Lindelof has a checkered past when it comes to comic book writing, some would say terrible considering how awful and late Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk was, but the man can write a mean character drama. Just look at a handful of Lost episodes for validation. On top of that you have Jeff Lemire on art who’s best known for Sweet Tooth and Essex County. I don’t know about you, but when I found out he was drawing this issue the very thought of his pencil work made me giddy. It doesn’t disappoint.
Pointy noses are so pointy.
In fact, out of the first six issues, his art may stand as the most original and complex. Most use a two panel frame, whereas Lemire goes bonkers with interesting use of borders and even a 20 panel frame. Again, these are pages that are small enough to comfortably hold 2 panels.
This first issue is a testament for why this series is so good for Batman. Lindelof would probably never get a chance to write a Batman comic due to time constraints and the like, but this series allows him to jump into Batman and add his own spin. I won’t ruin the story since it relies on a twist, but it’s clever and will catch most readers off guard. Aside from the twist, Batman’s ruminations on the street and weather aren’t the most original, but his pride and the lesson he learns is. It’s definitely a joy to read a new writer’s spin on a character.
Issue 1 is incredibly well done from art to writing. A definite pick up, especially for a buck!
Legends of the Dark Knight (2012-) #2
How many writers have pitted Batman against the rest of the Justice League? Too many to count, but it’s always fun to read the complicated ways the very human Batman can defeat the godlike heroes. Newcomer Jonathan Larsen teams up with artist veteran J.G. Jones to deliver a one-shot story pitting Batman versus:
Jones was the perfect choice on art, especially given the setting. Batman is stuck in the cramped Justice League Watchtower all by himself. It doesn’t get more awkward for Batman than space. Jones delivers a weight to Batman as well as the setting, be it the brushed metal floors or tinted glass, which brings together an otherwise unbelievable setting.
Check out the sweet mug.
Though new to writing Batman, Larsen does an impeccable job writing the internal monologue of a cranky version of Batman. A nice flair of character pops up when he categorizes his teammates as “Amazon and aliens.”
Prejudice, or badass?
Essentially this entire issue is one fight scene, yet it ends satisfyingly calm and cool Batman. Oh and you get to see this in action:
It doesn’t get cooler than this.
Legends of the Dark Knight (2012-) #3
Next up is Tom Taylor on writing and Nicola Scott on art. Both have done their fair share of Star Wars comics, although Scott has done quite a bit more work than Taylor. The story shadows Batman and Robin as they stop a crime before it happens.
I’ll give Taylor props for the dynamic between Robin and Batman. They only share a few panels, but you get a sense that Robin is a chipper boy wonder and Batman is all business. As far as the story is concerned it’s not the most exciting. Batman and Robin describe to the assailant what he will do if he goes along with a plan Batman somehow discovered. The fact that the crime is so miniscule it’s laughable that Batman would have even cared enough to get involved.
Batman! You’re double parked!
Scott does a good job establishing mood and tone. It’s easy to see this as a TV episode, and essentially that’s what this series is anyway. An episode that fills in between the larger story arcs.
Robin: Precog wonder.
This is a good story, but as far as pacing and impact it limps a bit in comparison to the rest.
Legends of the Dark Knight (2012-) #4-6
The cover for the following 3 issues.
The last three issues were done by artist Ben Templesmith of 30 Days of Night and Fell fame and writer B. Clay Moore who is known for his creator owned miniseries Hawaiian Dick.
If you’re not familiar with Templesmith…step to it and purchase Fell at once. There’s nobody out there coloring and penciling like him. It makes perfect sense to give Templesmith a shot at Batman, considering Fell was a detective book filled with murder and decay. His art imbues that, along with a great sense of unease. Watercolor will do that when mixed with such dirty pencils.
I love the idea of Commissioner Gordon seeing Wayne tower outside the police department window.
Since this is a three parter you’ll have to shell out 3 bucks for the story, but it’s well worth the price of admission. The story opens with a fake Batman getting his head chewed off by Killer Croc. Batmen are showing up on the streets and they actually believe they are the real Batman. At the same time Killer Croc is taking them out simply out of annoyance. It’s all part of Joker’s plan…or non-plan if you believe what he says.
Gordon never used a bubble pipe!
It’s all a game for Joker to play the part of Commissioner Gordon. Creepy. That said it does run a tad long. It’s always a pleasure to look at Templesmith’s art, but there’s a point where you realize the story is a tad thin for amount of pages. It’s possible this is due to the scant amount of locations and the overly talkative panels, but overall it’s still an enjoyable read.
A cartoon in this style would be sweet.
Thinning story aside, for 3 dollars and 60 pages of about two panel per page you get quite a lot. Tons of art, some twists and turns and an inventive little Batman tale.
For the price and variablness of creators and story this book offers it’s well worth a peek each week.
New issues appear every Thursday morning and can be purchased here.