Legends of the Dark Knight #5 is a single issue story penned by Brandon Thomas and drawn by Giannis Milonogiannis featuring a team up between Batman and Martian Manhunter as they investigate a series of crimes centered around the Martian alphabet.
When I found out just what this story was about I got very excited. Ever since watching the Justice League animated series as a kid I’ve really enjoyed J’onn as a character, and I like seeing him interact with Batman quite a bit. That means a team up story was just what I’ve been waiting for. And I enjoyed seeing them team up here quite a bit!
The story opens right in the middle of Batman rescuing some kids. He, along with a trio of eleven year olds, have been captured and sent up in a burning blimp and it’s up to Batman to get everyone home safe. It’s exciting, but it does feel a little jarring as an opening. One of the weaknesses of this issue is the way it does transitions–whether that is the opening one, or many in the first half of the story. They’re not always clearly defined or explained. Sometimes it feels like it’s to surprise the readers, like when J’onn appears, and other times I think it’s just fumbled execution.
From there the story moves into the investigation. The whole issue is fairly tightly focused on the murders that have been happening, figuring out how the Martian language/calendar is involved, and in finding the criminal behind it all. That said, it does throw some surprises out here and there. Like the aforementioned scene where J’onn appears. He doesn’t quite come alone, and a scuffle ensues as Batman tries to help him out. The scene isn’t just there to add some action into the story, it reminds readers that J’onn is telepathic and he and Batman sometimes converse that way–which comes up again later.
Instead of showcasing more murders and crimes, Thomas chooses to have Bruce and J’onn re-examine the past crimes that set Batman on the trail of this mysterious Martian using criminal. I really like the format he chooses to do it in too, J’onn examines the crime scenes in Bruce’s memories, and can walk through them like they just occurred, instead of having happened over a period of time. It is a clever way to show a series of crimes that happened over months and keep the investigation going.
While I enjoyed a lot of this story, the interactions between Bruce and J’onn, the investigation, and the idea of hunting down a killer using the Martian alphabet, in general the story feels like it’s lacking something. I mentioned the rough transitions, but the biggest problem is that it feels like we’re always catching up to everything in this story. It opens in the middle of an investigation, we’re given half of Bruce’s conversation with J’onn, we’re not told they’re investigating in Bruce’s mind until later–everything acts like it needs to be a surprise reveal instead of just being part of the story and part of how these two interact with each other. It’s these kind of little things that pulled the issue down in general.
Overall I really enjoyed Milonogiannis’s pencils, and Jordie Bellaire’s colors. The book looks really great throughout. The color scheme feels muted, but for a story focused on investigating murders it fits well. And, when the colors need to be brighter and bolder Bellaire does a great job making it happen. The opening pages in particular are really beautiful. The burning police blimp above the city is rendered in a way that had me stop and just really look at it when I opened the issue. And after going through the book a few times, this is still one of my favorite panels.
The action is well done as well. There’s quite a bit of it through the story and often Milonogiannis chooses to do some clever things with the visuals. One of my favorite shots is also from the opening pages, as Batman sends a batarang bouncing across the blimp’s interior to free the hostages, it’s a cool visual scene with some great little ‘clang’ lettering from Deron Bennett.
That said, there are a couple areas where things feel a little sloppy. Normally I don’t mind an odd panel here or there, but it got so distracting here I have to point it out. I’m specifically talking about the scene where J’onn shows up. He’s fighting off an alien, and through the fight the art gets less and less clear and more almost rushed feeling. While I get the stretchy, shape changing, nature of Martians, some of these panels are just a little too messy. Especially when it’s not just J’onn and the alien looking off.
The ending wraps things up in a fun way that is both interesting and not what I was expecting. We get to see Batman and Martian Manhunter fighting together, and it’s a real treat as they work hand in hand to stop the threat. It was exciting enough to top off the whole issue in a way that I really enjoyed!
- Batman and Martian Manhunter is a team up you like
- Mysteries that take two to solve are fun
- You’re looking for a quick enjoyable read
This issue of Legends of the Dark Knight wasn’t perfect, but it was enjoyable. It tackles an interesting mystery and pairs up two characters I love seeing interact: Batman and Martian Manhunter. The art is lovely, and just a lot of fun to enjoy as you read. If you want a nice one off mystery this is a good read to pick up.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.