Legends of the Dark Knight is dead. Long live Legends of the Dark Knight! Issue #13 might be the end of the series as we know it (monthly and at a price of $3.99) but it will return in December as the Legends of the Dark Knight 100-Page Super Spectacular, a bi-monthly comic that’s extra-sized with a price to match. So how is the final issue of the more traditional incarnation of this highly enjoyable anthology series?
Return of the Batman: Part II
This was the first and only time that a story actually carried over from one issue to the next and that honestly didn’t sit too well with me. It came off as poor planning. The great thing about this series is that I can always recommend it to new and casual fans due to its one-and-done nature and penchant for telling stories that only require an understanding of the bat-basics. So having the issue mostly comprised of something that’s better left to those who read issue #12 does put a damper on things, but thankfully the concept is simple enough and the execution of exposition is done in such a way to bring new readers up to speed rather quickly.
In my mind, Return of the Batman author, Peter Milligan, isn’t so much telling a story as he is offering a commentary on the modern Dark Knight and it’s one that I agree with. Something I’ve pointed out in countless reviews is that today’s Caped Crusader relies too much on his technology both in combat and in detective work. Far too many times we’ve seen Batman take bullets and knives and keep walking like he’s the terminator. He’s also hardly ever had to follow clues, do research, or conduct experiments to get a break in a case. Instead he often drops a piece of evidence inside a computerized gauntlet for instant analysis or he asks Alfred to look something up on the internet. The technology has gotten so advanced that it makes the job look easy and that should never happen. It’s the struggles, not the successes that make a character interesting. In the first chapter of Return of the Batman we saw a Bruce Wayne who was more reliant on gadgets than ever before and when the money ran out he found himself impotent without his futuristic armor and weaponry to help him. So he trained, again, and went back to basics. Part II, that you see here, picks up with Batman fighting against common street crime and finding the task as difficult as it was during Year One. That’s great.
What is far less interesting, however, is the plot revolving around Ra’s al Ghul and his talking parrot. The talking parrot and, to a lesser extent, a scene in which Bruce’s own cape and cowl talk to him were definitely the oddest choices made in this story and I could most certainly have done without them. But ignoring those quirky bits we have the threat of a biological weapon on the streets and yet another al Ghul mission to wipe out mankind. It all feels too familiar (except for the talking, evil bird) and it appears as though even Milligan was just as disinterested in the conflict because when the time comes for Batman to track down the multiple toxic threats—we skip ahead in time to the job being done. We are never even treated to a Ra’s and Batman final confrontation either, making for an anti-climactic end. But as I said, it’s not really a plot-driven story, it’s a character-driven one and by the end the message is abundantly clear that a Batman who works hard is better than a Batman who lets the suit do the work for him.
The artwork by Riccardo Burchielli and Wendy Broome is passable, but nothing to write home about. It’s not a very visual story, every panel simply gets the job done without any sort of wow factor. This issue is loaded with multiple panels and when Burchielli actually has room to work he does deliver some quality imagery like a shot of Batman swinging across rooftops or another page in which he’s overlooking the city. However, none of this is anything we haven’t seen countless times before.
While the imagery of Return of the Batman may have been average and quite bland at times, Freddie Williams II and the colors of Wendy Broome liven the comic up a great deal as we head into “Unlucky Thirteen” by Tim Seeley. This Gotham is far more detailed and colorful and the characters that inhabit the city are all exceedingly more expressive. The level of articulation is highly important too, because this is a far more comedic story and for those jokes to hit home we need to see the right posture and the best facial expression possible when reading the lines.
The story is all about Gotham’s unluckiest crook, a man who calls himself Thirteen, who has finally found himself in a situation so bad that he needs the Batman’s protection. Most of the pages are made up of comedic walks down memory lane as Thirteen tells all of the embarrassing details about his past to the Batman. However, when you hear Batman say “hrrm” in any story you know that everything is not what it seems.
This was a short, lighthearted tale that I found quite enjoyable and it had a nice message as well. Was it a stunning way to wrap up this series? No. But the series isn’t really over, is it?
- You want 2 good stories for the price of one
- You read issue #12 (this features part 2 of a story featured in #12)
- A comeback story is your favorite kind of heroic journey
It’s a pretty solid issue and surprisingly accessible given that one of the 2 stories collected here is a part 2 of 2.