Sunday, 15 September 2013

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Volume 1 by Damon Lindelof, Jeff Lemire et al. Review


This is the relaunched Legends of the Dark Knight series originally published in DC’s Digital Firsts line. The books are made up of short stories by various writers and artists to tell one-off Batman stories that explores different aspects of the character’s world in more detail. And for the most part, the stories here are actually pretty damn good!


My favourite of the bunch is Steve Niles and Trevor Hairsine’s Letters to Batman. After Batman puts Joker away in Arkham one more time, the Clown Prince of Crime escapes once more and begins a new crime spree, sending Batman a note indicating the futility of his work - Arkham is a revolving door and evil is never defeated. Weary, Bruce begins believing Joker’s message, that he is useless, that Batman is useless. That is until he picks up a few sacks of mail from the GCPD and Alfred encourages him to read them.


It might be because I’m a sentimentalist at heart, but those letters from ordinary people whose lives were changed thanks to Batman were really sweet and even if I don’t think Batman would be so easily cowed by Joker, it’s still a great story that gives readers the chance to see the enormous impact someone like Batman would have on the wider public, not just on the costumed crazies that make up Gotham. Also I’m a huge fan of Trevor Hairsine’s work and his art in this story is no less fantastic - the expression he gives Joker in the final panel is brilliant.


Joshua Hale Fialkov and Phil Hester contribute an excellent Slam Bradley story as Slam has to solve the mystery of who framed him before Batman puts him away. Slam is a character who rarely makes an appearance in Batman these days so it’s great to see an old, pre-New 52 character show up again. Jonathan Larsen and JG Jones give us a brilliant story about Batman fighting Amazo - a robot with all of the Justice League’s powers - in the Watchtower singlehanded. The great thing about the story is it underlines Amazo’s weakness - he may possess all of the JL’s powers, but Batman has no powers, he’s just a man; albeit a cunning genius which Amazo doesn’t possess, and seeing Batman take down this guy using his wits on his own is pretty badass.


There aren’t any terrible stories in this book - some are better than others, but they’re all more or less good fun. It was interesting seeing Jeff Lemire draw Batman: I think his Batman is a bit weedy-looking, like a skinny Batman cosplayer, and a bit bird-like in some panels, but I liked his Bruce Wayne a lot, especially around the eyes. Damon Lindelof’s script for Lemire’s art though is a bit of a stretch - we’re supposed to believe Bruce is stupid enough to believe he has no weaknesses leading to Alfred exploiting Bruce’s most traumatic event to win a bet. I know Bruce is drunk when he’s saying it - another out of character moment - and it’s funny listening to him talk smack about Green Lantern, Frank Miller style, but still. That said, a lot of the stories take certain liberties with the characters to make their stories work, though Lindelof/Lemire’s story was probably the weakest one here.

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Volume 1 contains some absolutely must-read Batman stories every fan will love. Even just seeing some of the artists who normally don’t draw superhero comics draw Batman is worth picking up this book alone: Ben Templesmith, Jeff Lemire - who wouldn’t want to see their versions of Batman? A really solid collection of enjoyable Batman comics that’s full of fresh takes on a classic character.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight Volume 1

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