Legends of the Dark Knight is back and it’s bigger than ever, but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better so we still need to review it, right? The “Super Spectacular” continues where the last issue of the comic anthology series left off back in October. Only the page count and price tag have changed. It’s still a collection of Digital First shorts that all take place out of New 52 continuity so any fan can pick up and enjoy! Issue #1 includes 8 digital issues (which are available for 99 cents a piece online), but unfortunately that doesn’t mean readers are getting several additional tales more to choose from. In fact, issue #1 only features 2 stories all because our first “Legend” weighs in at a whopping 6 digital chapters, the biggest Legends of the Dark Knight story yet!
Written by Dan Mischkin
Art by Tom Mandrake
If you ask me, and you kind of are just by reading this, 6 digital issues long defeats the purpose of what Legends of the Dark Knight is all about. I want short stories, not something that’s going to take 2 months to tell digitally or, in our case, hog up almost an entire “Super Spectacular.” Of course, this would probably be more forgivable had I enjoyed such a long story more than I did “Without Sin.”
When Two-Face is framed for the murder of Catholic priest, Batman partners up with Harvey Dent’s own padre to prove the former DA’s innocence. This tale has two things going for it: an emphasis on detective work and a unique setting, the realm of the Catholic Church. Typically comics try to skirt their way around religious themes whenever possible so it was interesting to see Batman conversing with priests and hanging out in cathedrals and talking philosophy for a bit. And although we do nip a little at the idea of corruption within the church, Catholicism is never shown to be a fraud and Christianity itself isn’t painted in a negative light. I’m definitely not a religious guy (not at all), but it was refreshing to see the institution handled with some respect here when all-to-often whenever men of the cloth are shown in fiction they are portrayed as hypocrites or pedophiles.
However, that’s about where my appreciation for “Without Sin” ends. I was intrigued at first! A murder mystery involving a falsely accused Harvey Dent? Batman wanted by the cops? It all sounded great, but it fell apart fast. Batman being a hunted vigilante gave the sense that we were in a “Year One” setting but his relationship with Two-Face is characterized in such a way as if it’s fully developed as though they’ve been battling for ages. And speaking of Two-Face, he’s absent for most of the comic. He appears at the beginning and the end and when he does, it’s all incredibly predictable. We even go through the whole “I got yer coin!” routine. Again. Bringing Two-Face down through the coin was clever the first couple of time, folks but it’s time to let go. It’s about as cliche as undoing the hose from Bane’s head. Let’s come up with something new!
No, these pages are mostly made up of Batman being lectured to by one of the priests. Page after page of Batman and the priest talking. And the detective work? It quickly devolves into plodding TV Police Procedural stuff with very little excitement and even less character development. There are a number of suspects, but none of them are developed enough for me to care which one is truly responsible for the death of Father Whathisname. A shame really, there’s definitely a good story in here somewhere, but it’s just not refined enough. I often found myself groaning near the end as I would flip the page only to find out that “Without Sin” wasn’t over yet. And as for the artwork, it varies from page to page. Some of the layouts are quite clever and Mandrake draws a very physically imposing Batman, but overall it’s a visually boring story because it’s mostly made up of close-up panels crowded by speech bubbles.
Dr. Quinn’s Diagnosis
Written by Jim Zubkavich
Art by Neil Googe
Essentially the exact opposite of “Without Sin,” Jim Zub and Neil Googe’s Harley Quinn short (comprised of 2 digital chapters) is fun and action-packed. Definitely one of the best Legends of the Dark Knight stories so far, “Dr. Quinn’s Diagnosis offers a hilarious Batman vs. Harley Quinn fight, a painless recap of each characters origin, and an immensely satisfying ending.
The Joker is up to no good with the usual doomsday plot that has all of Gotham in danger and Harley Quinn is the only one who knows where to find The Clown Prince of Crime. Batman tracks her down to an ice cream parlor where the two engage in fisticuffs and witty banter before finally coming to an agreement: if Batman lets Harley play doctor again and give him a brief psychiatric evaluation, she’ll tell The Dark Knight everything he needs to know about the Joker.
Harley Quinn is proving to be a great choice for these short stories. This and a recent episode of Batman: Black and White prove that there are quality writers out there ready to tackle the character if she’s used more like the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini version (which is what you see in this comic), and by that I mean as a comedic character with some underlying depth who isn’t a homicidal maniac in underwear. Her best stories are in anthology books right now and the New 52 Harley hasn’t had a good adventure outside of issue #0 of her new ongoing series– which breaks the 4th wall and takes place outside continuity. “Dr. Quinn’s Diagnosis” is smart, funny and shows great characterization of both Batman and Harley.
A big part of what makes this zany story work is Neil Googe, who drew the character’s unfortunate Villains Month book. Googe draws Harley in a lively, cartoonish style which works gloriously with Zub’s comedic approach. But back during Villains Month when Matt Kindt had Harley murder hundreds of Gotham’s children? Yeah… not so much. I loved every page of “Dr. Quinn’s Diagnosis” though. Googe’s expressive faces and the posture/gestures of the characters drove every joke home and the fight scene was really dynamic and fun to watch play out. It’s impressive to see him handle physical comedy and physical violence so well.
I would definitely award this Harley Quinn short something in the 9-10 range but “Without Sin” really drags the overall score of this book down.
- You’re a huge fan of Harley Quinn
- You want to sit down and enjoy two Batman stories from start to finish
- Police procedurals and a respectfully depicted Catholic Church sounds exciting
It’s about the size and price of a trade paperback and it features 2 complete stories, but I only recommend one of them. “Without Sin” is too long and too dull for my taste. I would’ve rather had multiple short stories in this big book than see so much of it devoted to the Batman & Priest team-up. Since Legends of the Dark Knight is a digital first comic, you can easily head over to comixology and buy “Dr. Quinn’s Diagnosis” for $1.98.