Legends of the Dark Knight was relaunched in December, 2012 as a Digital First title made up of self-contained stories by an ever-changing roster of talented writers and artists. Since it’s an anthology series, you can expect a great deal of variety in tone and style but that also means you will see a frequent shift in quality from one tale to the next. This volume is a fine example of that great and terrible range, as it collects some of the best and worst of the hardboiled, psychological, and paranormal Batman adventures. But is there enough good to outweigh the bad and make this a book worth purchasing?
Legends of the Dark Knight #6-10
- Gotham Spirit by Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman
- Dungeons and Dragons by Michael Avon Oeming
- Look Inside by Rob Williams & Juan Jose Ryp
- Haunted Arkham by Joe Harris & Jason Masters
- Carved by Paul Tobbin & Tradd Moore
- Unnatural Selection by Ricardo Sanchez & Sergio Sandoval
- Dreaming He is a Butterfly by Christos N. Gage & Jheremy Raapack
- Tap Tap by Ray Fawkes & Stephane Roux
- Off the Menu by David Tischman & Chris Sprouse
I’ll briefly talk about each of the stories collected in this softcover, but more detailed commentary can be found by clicking the title, which links to a full review for that particular issue.
Gotham Spirit is a beautifully rendered short that perfectly captures the gritty Gotham atmosphere and is entertaining enough for the few pages it lasts. However, while it does show off brilliant visual storytelling and a keen grasp of how Batman operates, it doesn’t feature events that are all that memorable. There’s no story here. It’s just a single scene in which Batman foils a liquor store robbery.
Dungeons and Dragons is one of the worst stories I ever saw in Legends of The dark Knight. A dragon (not a metaphor or an experiment gone wrong) is eating the homeless population of Gotham City and Batman has to stop it. Sound silly? It is. The artwork ranges from cartoony to confusing and the concept is pointless and ridiculous.
Look Inside is another weird one, but the artwork is fantastic and the supernatural elements are unsettling enough that I think readers who love to see Batman face off with the paranormal might just enjoy it. Personally, I enjoyed the art, but the story itself did nothing for me. In Look Inside, Batman has to stop a spooky man with a haunted van that has the power to show you your worst fears before it eats you. Strange, right?
While Dungeons and Dragons was bad, it was at least mercifully short. Haunted Arkham took up three digital chapters and still got nowhere. This horror tale has a similar texture to The Ring or Changeling where the ghost of a child tries to get someone to find their body only in the case of Haunted Arkham the ending gets way more complicated and makes zero sense. In fact, the whole story is really terribly written. The voice of Batman, Joker, and others doesn’t sound right at all and the reveal of the missing child’s body is laughably bad and I go into detail about that in the full review of this wretched issue. Nice artwork, though.
In Carved, someone is abducting the citizens of Gotham and replacing them with lifelike replicas of the victim carved from wood. With a concept like that you know you’re going to get something that’s captivating or a crapshoot and Carved is the latter. The villain’s motivation and method of operation just don’t make much sense and the artwork by Tradd Moore, while unique, doesn’t suit the world of Batman or really any other comic with this kind of subject matter. I recall describing Carved as “a complete failure of a Batman story.”
Unnatural Selection is a perfectly paced detective story centered around another man-eating monster like what Batman had to rid the city of in Dungeons and Dragons only this time there’s a better payoff, a richer Gotham atmosphere, and the inclusion of charming scenes between Bruce and his butler. The artwork by Sandoval and a team of colorists establish an incredibly moody tone for this strange caper that explores the dark side of taxidermy.
It’s easy to see why Dreaming He is a Butterfly was picked as the cover image of this collection, it’s the best story in the book and one of my personal favorite Batman stories of 2013. It’s a story like Milligan’s Identity Crisis or The Animated Series’ Perchance to Dream in that, again, Bruce wakes up one day to realize that everything he remembers about being Batman is wrong. However, Dreaming He is a Butterfly is hands-down the darkest take of this popular Batman story I’ve seen. The end of the Dark Knight legend doesn’t get much more tragic than this.
After the emotional torture Dreaming He is a Butterfly will put you through you’re treated to Tap Tap. At the time it was published I saw it as the best Catwoman story I had read in about two years or more and, while Selina is definitely being written better these days, this short story still holds up as a fantastic look at the Bat/Cat dynamic. The tension-filled Tap Tap has Batman investigating a burglary at a home with the most dangerous security system imaginable knowing perfectly well that he’s going to run into Catwoman. It’s fun, has great gadgets, and the chemistry between these characters is undeniable.
Awful. A cannibal eats people so he can steal their memories and it’s Batman’s job to stop him. Besides a couple of nice scenes between Bruce and Alfred this story is definitely one of my least favorite of the entire Legends of the Dark Knight series for its absurd premise and detective work that you’ll have to suspend your disbelief to great heights to enjoy.
Zzzzzzzz–Wh-what? Oh, there’s a cover gallery. That’s it. zzzzzzzz
Value: Dirt Cheap
I definitely wouldn’t give $14.99 for it. Look for something under $10 for sure or, better yet, just pick out the story that sounds best to you and head on over to Comixology or some other online store and download the digital chapter(s) for a buck a piece. I recommend buying Unnatural Selection, Dreaming He Is A Butterfly, and Tap Tap.
It has a couple of my favorite Legends of the Dark Knight stories surrounded by a whole bunch of the worst. Unless you’re especially receptive to supernatural Batman stories, I’d skip it and just go out and download the digital copies of the few shorts that sound worth your time.