Legends of the Dark Knight #4 is a single issue story featuring a mystery that spans both Gotham’s past and present as Batman investigates a series of murders committed by the West End Wraith. Will Batman be able to figure out who the West End Wraith was, or is that a mystery better left to the past?
I’ve talked briefly about how much I enjoyed this issue already back in my interview with Stephanie Phillips, but now it’s time to take a deep dive into the tale and really look at it so you can decide if it’s an issue you want to pick up or not.
Haunted is the name of this particular story and it opens up with the murder of a wealthy character in his mansion in Gotham in the nineteen hundreds. This is the first shot we see of the West End Wraith, and the defining mystery for the whole book. The opening pages fit the tone of a spooky old mystery perfectly, and I have to say the Wraith’s design is really excellent. Ghostly and creepy and enough to scare anyone who might come across them in the middle of the night.
The story then moves into present day with Bruce Wayne at a charity auction, initially bored and disinterested, but willing to put up an incredible sum to outbid Penguin on an old box the Rogue seems intent on getting. From there we learn that the box points to the West End Wraith and a Cobblepot connection to the old mystery. The rest of the issue is centered around two things: the first is Bruce investigating the mystery itself, and the second is Oswald and his goons trying to invade the manor to get the box back.
All in all the issue does some pretty cool things with the idea of exploring the past. Bruce uses a simulation to explore the past and the way the story is set up, it feels like we’re really there with Batman. While the initial way the simulation is set up shows the city in blue light, the deeper we get into Bruce’s head and investigation the past scenes are illustrated with full color, while Batman is the one who now is simulated in blue. Instead of just showing him looking at items and thinking, Bruce actually moves through the mansion where the murder happened, runs through streets and rain, and the story has a lot of action and movement to it.
The present scenes are just as much fun, and filled with some delightful action as it’s Alfred who engages with Penguin and his men who are attacking the manor. As much as I love the mystery and the exploration of the past, I have to say Alfred taking on Penguin, driving the Batmobile, and generally being amazing, is probably my favorite bit of the book. Any story where Alfred gets to be in the spotlight and highly competent is one I’m going to love.
Outside of the humor and investigation, at the center of this story is a lot of heart. The crux of the mystery centers around righting an injustice done by not just one person, but a group of them. I won’t get too deep into it because I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a story that really resonated with me as a reader, and I really enjoyed many of the ideas of responsibility and accountability it presents, not only to the characters in the past but those involved in the present as well.
I’ve chatted briefly about how cool I think the simulations look visually, and the West End Wraith’s design, but I wanted to touch on some other aspects of the art I really loved. Max Dunbar did the pencils and Tamra Bonvillain was on colors and they work together beautifully to illustrate both a gorgeous 1910 Gotham, and present day one that carries all the vibes of a spooky ghost story.
Dunbar’s characters are wonderful. He draws a very classic Bruce, Alfred, and Penguin who all feel like the characters I know and love. Bruce is handsome and confident at the charity gala, Alfred is all prim even when he’s been chased by an umbrella toting Penguin, and even his Batman design feels very classic and clean. It’s a style that just about anyone could pick up and find familiar to them.
- Mysteries that take a dive into Gotham’s past are your thing
- Alfred gets to drive the Batmobile
- You like tales with a good blend of humor and a more serious tone
I loved this issue. It’s a perfect blend of narrative ideas I love to see in Batman: mystery, a look at the past, and some really well done humor. Bruce is likable both in costume and out, Alfred gets some excellent moments to shine, and the story has a lot to say about accountability and making up for the past. If you want a nice, tight, one and done story packed full of great moments this issue is a must have.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.