We have one story that’s as grounded in reality as it gets for a Batman story followed by two other tales that dive headfirst into the supernatural. It’s an odd mix, that’s for sure, and one of these tales is just flat-out bad making Legends of the Dark Knight #6 far and away the weakest issue yet for an otherwise stellar series.
Let’s start with Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman’s “Gotham Spirit.” This is about as simple of a Batman tale as they come. A liquor store is held-up, the crooks run for it, and Batman catches them one by one. It doesn’t get anymore complicated than that. Very little is said and there’s no narration whatsoever. Instead the story is all about the visuals. It’s sequential storytelling at its finest quite honestly. The writer and artist work well together in telling the story almost entirely through images. The Batman vs. average robbers thing is something that we’ve seen countless times now but I found found it kind of nice to see something so typical get so many pages worth of attention when usually it’s over and done with in a couple of panels. Hardman’s artwork is phenomenal and I’d love to see him draw more Batman stuff in the future. One shot of Batman crushing the roof of a car on impact is particularly bad ass and the overall atmosphere of the comic is very Batman: Year One. It’s not exactly the kind of Batman adventure you’ll find yourself thinking about later, but it’s enjoyable, well executed, and over in a flash.
The second piece is written and drawn by Michael Avon Oeming and it’s pretty bad. I mean it really drags the quality of this book down for me. When I read the solicitation for this comic and the synopsis explained it as Batman fighting a dragon I was was initially intrigued because surely there would be more too it than that. What could the reasoning be behind a dragon in Gotham? There isn’t. In fact, neither of the next two stories in this book offer any explanation as to how their spooky villains exist. A dragon, a real dragon, has been eating the homeless folk of Gotham City and it’s up to Batman to stop it. The artwork ranges from stylistic and cartoony to confusing and messy. I didn’t find any value in this one.
The third and final short story is by Rob Williams and Juan Jose Ryp (who we’ve recently seen draw Gotham in Nightwing and Arkham Unhinged… sort of makes me think of that line by Will Ferrell in Zoolander “He’s so hot right now!”) and sees Penguin inlisting the help of a nameless man with a spooky ghost van. Nameless guy nor his van of horrors are ever explained. We just know that this ghostly figure owns a van that’s constantly spewing out fog and the cargo it carries in the back is your worst fear. Penguin hires the guy to off his competitors and it all goes swimmingly but then Van-Man shows up again to take out Penguin himself who immediately seeks the help of Batman. The artwork is terrific and it’s really the saving grace of this story but the lettering could have been better. It’s supposed to be a scary story yet the narration is displayed in golden boxes with blue font and it doesn’t lend itself well to the tale’s haunting nature. After getting no answers about the dragon in the story before it I was pretty frustrated to be shut out again as to who Van-Man was or how his evil van of horrors worked. SHOW SPOILER ▼Really odd story to tell since Batman and Penguin were written competently enough.
I found this issue to be pretty disappointing. There’s some fine art and the first of the three shorts is good but not good enough to drown out how bad the dragon episode is or how frustrating it is to have two unexplained ghost and monster tales in a row follow it. Batman is a detective. I’d like to see him at least try to figure out where a dragon came from or inspect how the van works. It contains the worst horrors in the world and apparently eats people. It might be worth looking into.