I always forget that it’s going to take me three times as long to read a “100-Page Super Spectacular” than it would a regular comic book. It’s a good thing that it does, too, because when you’re paying more than ten bucks (with tax) for a comic, you want a quality experience. Fortunately with Legends of the Dark Knight, however painful it is to put the money down, I find myself pretty content back at home, feet kicked up, hot tea in hand, as I thumb through the pages of a nice hefty tome. I admit it helps that I get a discount at the comic store too, so I don’t exactly pay full price.

But enough of that, are you wondering what’s in this week’s formerly digital issue compilation? It’s got three substantial stories (each one longer than a regular-sized comic), so again, the value is about even and a better deal than if you were to buy the digital issues separately. So here’s the lineup:

“Nevermore”

By Ron Marz, Cully Hammer (Artist), Rico Renzi (Colors)

Featuring Catwoman, Edgar Alan Poe (new villain), Hop-Frog, Doctor Tarr, Fether

This story begins with a psychiatric interrogation between Doctor Updin and a man who fancies himself Edgar Alan Poe. Predictably, he’s a crazy villain whose schtick is all Poe-related (like having a henchman called Hop-Frog, using a pendulum, etc.). It’s all pretty wacky, of course, but the big mystery is that he claims to have killed Batman! The story unfolds as he tells it and you’ll have to read it yourself to find out what’s really happened, but it does involve Catwoman, the theft of some important papers, and one of the cruelest of Poe’s dark murder tales, the Cask of Amontillado (and if you know that story, ‘nuff said). A couple of points for the characters named Tarr and Fether–get it?

 Legends_05_01I don’t know about you, but that fuchsia makes my eyes bleed.

“Hell’s Bells”

Written and drawn by Scott Kolins, with Dave McCaig (colors), and Saida Temofonte (letters)

Featuring Jim Gordon, Oswald Cobblepot, Nigel Terry

The big feature of this book is a somewhat lengthy story in the vein of the horror genre in which Batman is pitted against a vampiric force that is gobbling up residents of a Gotham housing complex where, in true Gotham style, nobody bothers to kick up a fuss over the fact that the tenants keep disappearing and the place must smell like a well-cultured half-eaten bologna sandwich forgotten in the refrigerator and left to sit long after the power has been disconnected. I mean come on, look at this pile of bodies:

Legends_05_02Yechhh

Okay, so Gothamites aren’t too picky about the funk they live in, apparently. More importantly to the story, while well-executed, it really holds no surprises. From the bodies in the cellar to the identity of the killer, you’ll be one step ahead of Batman the whole of the way.  Still, it’s kind of a fun tale and if you’re a fan of the darker side of the Dark Knight, you’ll find stuff to enjoy in the action. Extra love to letterer Saida Temofonte who absolutely goes to town with the FX throughout. That, by itself, was pretty awesome.

“What Would Batman Do?”

By J. Torres, Matthew Clark (Penciller), and Wade Von Grawbadger (Inks)

Featuring Dick Grayson Robin, Batgirl, Killer Croc, Man-Bat, Clayface

Batman’s out and a very young Dick Grayson gets the call that Arkham Asylum has accidentally left the revolving door on “spin” and rogues are spilling on the streets. Wearing his classic Robin getup, Dick springs into action and quickly finds that Batgirl is also hot on the case. They’re going after Killer Croc first, who could probably eat these two kids up in about two bites, but our plucky heroes are armed with some fancy gadgets and the knowledge of “what Batman would do”. This was my favorite story of them all, mostly because of the fun banter between Robin and Batgirl, and seeing the themes of teamwork and Bat Family come to the fore, which is always a treat.

Legends_05_03Man, I miss these two

The Good

I was pleasantly surprised when I got handed my absurdly large stack of comics this week (I’d let other non-Batman stuff pile up), to see Cully Hamner’s cover instead of the one I’m guessing was drawn by Scott Kolins for “Hell’s Bells” (shown above as the “featured” image for this post). The Hamner cover is just more appealing to my eye: the blue and green are nice contrasting colors, and we see an imperiled Batman through the eye of a raven. It’s probably not obvious at first that it’s an eye, but once you’ve read “Nevermore” it makes sense.

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Inside, the volume includes the Kolins cover for “Hell’s Bells”, so you don’t miss out if you were expecting to have that image as well. Weirdly the book reproduces Hamner’s cover on the inside also. I guess they had a leftover page and decided to fill it. None of the other volumes so far have done this. It doesn’t really add anything extra, but you do get to see it sans logo and other markings.

All three stories are entertaining. I wouldn’t say it’s all firecrackers and free hot dogs, but there’s not a dud among them and the editors did a good job of choosing three tales that offer a variety of characters and circumstances. I was especially pleased to see a young Dick and young Barbara out fighting crime together as Robin and Batgirl. For the nostalgia alone it was well worth it.

The Bad

“What Would Batman Do?” is the standout story of the book. The other two have some relatively minor faults and some may not find the “Nevermore” conclusion satisfying enough, but as someone who really enjoys one-off stories, I just had a good time with this. The writers have a clear love and grasp of the characters, the artists render the subjects in fun and interesting ways (with some caveats: I think Matthew Clark’s Batgirl is a bit pouty in “What Would Batman Do?” and the style in “Hell’s Bells” occasionally feels at war between Beware the Batman and Arkham Manor--both of which post-date it, which is kind of interesting). Also, I have to say that Arkham Manor’s McCaig does the colors for this tale and his palette is unmistakable and still lovely as ever.

Speaking of colors, I confess I didn’t like Rico Renzi’s use of crazy purples in “Nevermore”, which made everyone’s skin tones look like they’d been exposed to magenta rays. But there is also a very effective use of bleached-out lightning late in the story that almost makes up for it.

The Ugly

100-Page Super Spectacular my Aunt Fanny.

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Recommended If…

  • You want to see a variation on the Mad Hatter that’s maybe even more elaborate?
  • You like your Batman stories spooky and weird (there’s a double dose of that here!)
  • Everything is better with blood-sucking vampires.
  • Young Robin and Batgirl fighting crime in the absence of Batman is just the kind of winter evening read you’d like to give yourself.

Overall

Last go-round I called Legends of the Dark Knight fun, rainy-day filler. Well it’s fun, snowy-day filler too. So while those temps are dropping and the odds of you bunking down in the evenings increase, you might want to have something like this handy to enjoy at your leisure. No frills, no commitments, just three good Batman stories with which to bide your time in good company.

SCORE: 8/10