While the monthly print issues of Legends of the Dark Knight may have ended, the series lives on in weekly digital installments and the quarterly “100-Page Super Spectacular.” The latest Super Spectacular collects digital chapters #38-40, #51, #53-55, and #59-60. It’ll set you back $10 bucks, but it packs plenty of content to make it worth the price… as long as it’s good. So without further ado, let’s take a brief look at each of the stories featured in this over-sized issue and see if the juice is worth the squeeze.
I Hate it When He Does That
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Wes Craig
Colors by Lee Loughridge
This comic went digital over a year ago, but this was my first time reading it and I gotta say I thoroughly enjoyed myself and have very few, if any, complaints. There are some really bad lettering choices here and there– thin brown letters on a greenish-brown background? Come on, what is this, amateur hour? The clip above is an example from the digital release and it was actually made darker and less legible for the print edition I’m reviewing now. Thankfully, the lettering was my biggest problem and I was swept away by the tale’s lighthearted tone and the sense of excitement that comes from digging into fertile territory in the Batman mythology.
It begins in modern day Gotham where a precious jewel has been stolen and Batman immediately recalls the smell of a perfume that lingers at the scene of the crime. We then get a flashback to his first crush, a girl he met when he was about 13 years old and traveling through Thailand alongside Alfred (insert your own obvious prostitution joke here). During the trip, he and his butler get mixed up in a fight between the authorities and a band of rebels and it makes for a romantic, swashbuckling adventure that gave me a real Tintin vibe. And if that wasn’t enough, the bright, energetic visuals (look for the gutters to turn black when we see Batman and white when we are back in the more lighthearted days of young Bruce) from Wes Craig and Lee Loughridge reminded me a bit of Robin: Year One, which is always a good thing. We don’t have many stories from this point in Bruce’s life and when we do they are rarely this fun. The characterization of Bruce is very much in the vein of Damian, so if you are looking for your Damian fix as well, this isn’t a bad place to look.
This is a great read for anyone seeking a bat-tale that’s a bit out of the ordinary and a must-read for anyone who likes to see Alfred in a strong, supporting role.
Riddler in the Dark
Written by Charles Soule
Art & Color by Dennis Calero
Riddler walks up the steps of the GCPD, turns himself in, asks a question that’s not a riddle, and stabs a man in the leg just to make sure everyone’s clear that a jail cell is the only place Edward Nygma belongs. Of course, none of this sounds quite like Riddler, does it? Gordon knows this freak is up to something and calls upon the Batman who immediately goes to work looking for clues in everyone’s account of what happened on the GCPD steps. It doesn’t take long for the world’s greatest detective to realize there’s more here than meets the eye and over the course of the next 1/3 of the book we see Batman unravel a mystery that involves a train, Black Mask, Nightwing, and more.
This was a decent Riddler story by Charles Soule and one that should keep readers guessing. It features creative set pieces, a cool take on the Batmobile, and an ending that’s a satisfying payoff. On the downside it has one of the worst examples of a deus-ex-machina bat-gadget SHOW SPOILER ▼I’ve seen and the artwork (besides the sports car-looking Batmobile) is really inconsistent. Batman never looks the same from panel to panel and Calero can’t seem to decide on what the shape of the bat-ears should be. There are also some very awkward poses, Nightwing looks different from panel to panel, there’s a scene in which Nightwing uses sign-language that was entirely unclear judging from the artwork alone, and I just plain ‘ol wasn’t a fan of the design of Riddler’s mask… if you can even call these stickers on the sides of his eyes a mask.
The Pain Cellar/Arm Candy/Reporter’s Notebook
Written by Frank Hannah
Art by Marco Turini/Drew Johnson/Dexter Soy
The first part was released digitally in May of 2013 and the following 2 chapters didn’t come out until July of 2013, each of which was described as being a “Part 1 of 1″ despite the events taking place depending on the reader’s familiarity with the former chapters. Yikes. I imagine that made for some confusing comixology purchases last summer. But anyway, as for the actual content of the comic…
I think somebody watched Mystic River. In an attempt to write as dark of a Batman story as possible, Frank Hannah tells a tale about Bruce having terrible back pain. It’s so bad that traditional medicine won’t work and he needs to see a mystic healer whose magical advice of “Think about the pain… what does it make you think about?” (paraphrasing) instantly sends Bruce on a vivid flashback to the time he saw his childhood friend Marco trapped in a sex dungeon. Bruce, unfortunately wasn’t able to rescue his friend and was lucky to survive himself, but on a positive note, the back pain is now gone! THE END. I kid you not, it features Batman going out on a Gargoyle at the final two panels and basically thinking “Well, that was a terrible memory.” before leaping out into the Gotham night. It’s not really The End, but seeing those words on that final page felt like quite the punch in the gut and I’m sure it was even worse for readers who picked this up digitally and didn’t know that the narrative of pure misery would continue 2 months later.
The following chapter “Arm Candy” is actually Part II of “Pain Cellar,” although there was on preparation for this since we get no credits on the first page and there is a change in artists. So when we get an answer to a whodunnit later in the book that related directly to “Pain Cellar” well, I was mighty confused. Long story short: one of Bruce’s girlfriends is murdered (it happens…) and the evidence points to someone related to the disappearance of Marco. Again, the final panel is stamped with THE END. It’s not. I wish it were, but it’s not.
Wrapping things up is “Reporter’s Notebook” which actually does come with a title page right off the bat so we know it’s a continuation of the story despite there being yet another new artist. Dexter Soy is probably the best of the three artist, but honestly I didn’t care for any of the visuals from any of the chapters of this story. Soy’s chapter, for example, begins with a description of how swollen the perp’s face is– so swollen Batman can’t even identify him– yet the imagery shows a man who has little more than a bloody nose and a missing tooth. None of the artists share a similar style, either, Soy gives the book a painted, anime approach that’s vastly different from the former artist’s attempts but at least Soy draws a decent Batman. “Pain Cellar” I-III was an all around sloppily put together comic that felt derivative and so overly dark that even it’s up-beat ending with a kitty cat isn’t going to make you forget about all the themes of child molestation. This. Was. $**t.
- The idea of seeing young Alfred and Bruce Wayne in a Tintin-style adventure that explains how he learned his famous disappearing act sounds at all exciting
- Riddler schemes are an element of the Batman mythology you never miss out on
- You like seeing Batman and Nightwing fight side-by-side
- You’re not too picky when it comes to the artwork– things get iffy following “I Hate it When He Does That”
It’s not worth the $10 bucks. I suggest you go digital for this one and pick up the stories that sound the most interesting to you. In my opinion, the second issue of the “100-Page Super Spectacular” started incredibly strong, but then there was a gradual decline in writing and artwork until the 3rd installment which was just awful. I do recommend “I Hate it When He Does That” as I found it to be highly enjoyable, especially if you’re up for a bit of swashbuckling at a point in Bruce Wayne’s journey that’s scarcely been explored. In fact, most of the 5.5/10 score is due to that particular story alone. “Riddler in the Dark” is recommended to those who are die-hard Riddler fanatics.