Many readers might pick up this noir-style short and not give a second thought to the hard boiled private detective who is taking the limelight from Batman. Others might wonder if they should know who “Slam Bradley” is or if he’s a new creation from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Phil Hester. While Slam isn’t necessarily an important character in Batman mythology or the DC universe he deserves your respect. Why’s that? Because he was the star of the very first issue of Detective Comics way back in 1937 which is far enough back to predate Superman himself! Pretty cool, huh? Now if I could only stop hearing Harvey Bullock’s voice very time I see Slam wear that hat…
As I said earlier, Batman isn’t in this issue very much and we’re instead treated to a noir detective story featuring a gumshoe from DC’s golden age. This is probably for the best for two reasons: 1) I didn’t think that Fialkov wrote Batman or his villains very well. Batman is jumping to conclusions way too soon and rushing into fights. He’s more like Raphael of the Ninja Turtles than Batman here. Black Mask just feels like any other gangster only he has a black skull-face. 2) A bold move like this keeps Legends of the Dark Knight fresh and exciting with stories that can focus on characters we wouldn’t see in any of the main New 52 titles. The book is called “Legends of the Dark Knight” so maybe we should see more stories of Batman from someone else’s perspective, the eye-witness accounts that grow into legends rather than the events as they happen!
Now the plot of this is rather simple. It’s your traditional “I’m getting to old for this shit.” detective story. A woman hires him to track someone, things escalate quickly, and our hero falls into one terrible situation after another so much that it borders on farce. These stories are a lot of fun and Slam is a likeable character even though he is a bit of a cliche, but when you bring Batman in during the 3rd act to beat up the bad guys and clean things up all neat and tidy it really doesn’t feel like the whole thing was worth your time.
One of the things that struck me the most by this piece is just how corrupt the Gotham PD is shown to be. This is a subject of much debate, I mean how clean is the GCPD today? When does this story take place? We’ve seen issues in this series featuring Robin before and it’s said in this very comic that guys like Joker and Penguin exist so it’s unclear how far along in Batman’s career we are. I always thought that the GCPD was fairly clean by the time Robin came along. Sure there are a few dirty cops here and there just like in any real city, but in this particular comic the GCPD is at its very worst much like it was in say Batman: Year One.
This issue is a rather mixed bag. The artwork works well with the material. Just look at how well the dull colors fit the noir tone of the story or the angular way characters are drawn and how tha has an almost Animated Series/Mignola feel. I did however get the sense that Slam looked a bit too much like Harvey Bullock at times. Overall it’s an okay read, but probably the weakest of all the Legends of the Dark Knight books so far. Batman’s voice and actions weren’t quite right and the plot itself was rather weak and wrapped up too neatly. It’s a comic that’s not focused on Batman nor on telling a story, it’s instead there to pay homage to a classic character that many have forgotten.