Last month Legends of the Dark Knight kicked off with the opening chapter of a story by Darick Robertson featuring Batman facing off against a very bad no good terrible night, chasing down a new gas that has a good deal of his rogues gallery interested. After busting Freeze and Penguin, Batman was left to tangle with Joker.
Where the last issue felt very much like a detective story, that didn’t quite come together in some places for me, this one really settles into the feeling of this long night Batman is facing. Robertson slows down the narrative here to spend almost half of the issue on exploring Batman’s internal conflicts, and showcasing a conversation between Batman and Joker. After that, he dives back into mystery as Batman’s faced with the next Rogue in line to get their hands on this new toxin: The Riddler–or is it?
Already in issue #2 I feel like I’m getting a better feeling for the story Robertson is trying to tell. Issue #1 felt a little scattered, as it jumped between Batman’s investigation and the story being told to/by Gordon. Here, we still have that framework of Gordon and an officer discussing the terrible night Batman’s having, but it takes a serious backseat to everything else going on, and I think the story works better for that. The issue really focuses in on what Batman’s doing, which is where I feel like it’s strongest.
This issue is full of text boxes exploring Batman’s thoughts. Simon Bowland does a good job placing them in a way that still allows the art to shine, and keeps readers following the narrative portion of the story clearly. I don’t generally have a problem diving into Bruce’s inner workings, and for the most part I think it works here. There are a few panels where I would like less text on the page, but overall I think it’s an interesting look at Batman during a particular era in his adventures. It’s made pretty clear here that this is a Batman post Jason, still struggling with Jason’s death and with allowing himself to form further attachments with others. That theme is something I really enjoy here, and something I hope to see built on in the next issue.
We get to see it scattered through this issue, as Robertson touches on Batman’s grief both while he’s talking with the Joker, and later as Bruce is dealing with the new threat of a riddle from someone who might or might not be Riddler. And honestly, out of everything this arc has presented me with so far, this has me most interested in seeing it develop further. It’s no secret I’m a fan of Batfamily dynamics, and I think exploring grief and how it impacts a character is a good branch of that to look at. Plus, it’s interesting to see play out in the middle of a night that only seems to grow more and more stressful for Batman as it continues.
That said, some of what Robertson does with Bruce’s internal musings doesn’t quite gel with me. Like how Bruce refers to Riddler as pathetic. Maybe that’s just me feeling injured for a character I tend to enjoy, but there are a number of moments were I stepped away and went “I don’t know if this is 100% my Batman speaking.” Which is okay. Batman’s got such a huge history and a varied character that very rarely will his fans agree with each other completely.
What I do have to take issue with however, is when that internal conflict seems to act in direct opposition to what the story has told me. I mentioned that the first half of the story slows down and features a conversation between Batman and Joker, but before that Batman has to save Joker. They’ve crashed into Gotham’s waters and Batman drags a half drowned Joker out of the water, then immediately jumps into CPR. During this scene, he has a long internal monologue about how he values life, and he’s going to save scum like the joker because it’s the right thing to do, and what his father would have wanted, which good yes. I can get behind that, it’s very Batman. Then, once Joker is mostly okay, Batman hesitates in deciding whether or not he should give Joker half the antidote or not, actually considering letting him die. This is in direct conflict with everything he just said and did. If you’re going to have Batman fervently talking about saving the worst of the worst, you can’t turn around and then have him hesitate to save that same person moments apart. Especially since very little happens between moments to make Batman re-consider saving Joker. Both are thoughts I can see Batman having about Joker–especially considering the era of this tale, but there’s nothing preceding this moment of hesitation that really makes me think these thoughts should be connected. It just doesn’t sell either emotion, and makes them both feel a little disingenuous.
The second half of the story continues to dive into Bruce’s struggles with isolating himself, and its where we get our first real solid idea that this does take place post-Jason’s death, so it has a lot to give in that regard. It also doesn’t waste time moving Batman from one problem to the next. Where the first half moves at a slower momentum, this one reminds readers that there is still the threat of this new gas at large, and Batman can’t stop now. It gives the story a feeling of urgency and it’s easy to tell already how worn Batman is as he dives into the next mystery involving Riddler, or at the very least, a Riddle itself.
I’ve talked a lot about the story Robertson is building, so lets look at his art for a bit. In general, I’m still really enjoying the classic vibe it gives off, but I’m not totally sure Robertson’s art is my cup of tea. His art veers into slightly graphic –for me– territory quite often, and in general that’s really not my favorite type of art. It’s very well done, and Diego Rodriguez’s colors really make moments of blood, vomit, and snot come to life, but aesthetically, it’s not my favorite portion of the art.
My favorite’s are the panels that have a more classic vibe to them, like the panel highlighting Riddler and Batman’s past battles against him.
I also really enjoy the moments of levity that Robertson builds in, there’s a few real gems of visual gags that I loved. The one I’m thinking of in particular is Batman’s continually grumpier form as Joker is picking away at him about their relationship, how Gotham views him, and about Robin. It’s easy to see his patience thinning as his frown deepens and his body language turns in on itself. And it all leads up to a wonderful set of panels where he finally cracks, and decks Joker. It’s a great moment of humor in between the more serious moments.
With the wrap up of this issue, we’re at two out of three parts in Robertson’s story. I like where the end seems to be leading readers, because it leans into some of the themes explored in this issue. However, I feel like the threat of the gas has been lost a little in this story. The narrative is trying to do a lot, and with one issue of Robertson’s tale left to go I’m left feeling a little uncertain of the tale being told. Is it a mystery? A look at Batman’s psyche? An exploration of his Rogues Gallery? The stories are trying to blend, but I’m not quite sure it’s coming fully together for me. Hopefully the last part will solidify that in a satisfying way.
- Joker and Batman having a heart to heart is something you’re curious to read
- You don’t mind issues that slow down a bit to look at Batman’s inner thoughts
- The art is overall a real treat to look at, it’s classic in a great way
There’s a lot I liked about this issue. I enjoyed how it slowed down a bit to explore Batman’s own internal conflicts and thoughts while also jumping right back into the action in the latter half. The fact that it zeroed in more on Batman this time rather than jumping between different storytellers really worked for me. And I’m intrigued by the place it leaves off. While I feel like there’s still some aspects of the story that have yet to really come together, I’m excited to see where it all wraps up next month.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.