This month’s issue of Legends of the Dark Knight is broken into two stories, both featuring Batman teaming up with a character normally in his rogues gallery. The first one has Batman and Solomon Grundy by Becky Cloonan and the other Killer Croc by Matthew Rosenberg.
The Curse of Slaughter Swamp
Becky Cloonan’s story is up first, drawn by Dike Ruan. This one opens with Batman investigating a series of brutal murders of members of various crime families in Gotham. I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve read something that tackles Gotham’s mob, even in a partial sense so I found this plot refreshing. It seems like Batman writers have largely moved away from organized crime related stories, and honestly I wish we’d get back to some of those.
That said this one doesn’t spend much time focused on the mob. While they are certainly an undercurrent and driver within the story, the main focus is on Solomon Grundy. Grundy’s another character I feel like I haven’t seen really focused on in a while, and that’s another highlight of this series in general. Every time I pick up an issue there’s a whole new story waiting, usually self contained, and the focus is so wide and varied I can’t help but get excited about each tale. Not only do we get a variety of creative teams, but it allows for a lot of stories focused on characters we don’t get to see often. It really gives writers a chance to highlight these team ups or character inspections in tight stories that can’t waste time.
So back to Grundy. He seems to be on a rampage, but is he really? That’s one of the biggest questions through the narrative. Why is he attacking mobsters? Why does he also seem terrified? There is a duality to his actions that creates a question of: What is going on? It’s an interesting mystery, and one Batman dives right into.
I also really like how Batman’s written in this story. Once again Legends of the Dark Knight gives us a story where we see just how much Bruce cares about those around him. In this case it’s Grundy. Instead of just trying to bring him to justice, Bruce is concerned about him. Almost every conversation they have is about trying to get him help or help him. You can feel his compassion and concern in this story and I love that. It’s one of my favorite ways to see Batman portrayed.
Ruan’s art in the whole story is lovely. It’s dark and draped in shadow, and there are some really great moments where we see a reflection in a mirror or emotion on Grundy’s face that shows the real turmoil he’s going through. I love these moments because so much is shadowed and dark, seeing the art pause and highlight a face or set is wonderful.
Dave McCaig’s colors are equally lovely. The color pallet is richly dark and limited but it works really well for this mystery. Additionally, some of my favorite moments are panels where light looks like it’s glittering, like the opening panel of the city or Grundy’s tree covered in mirror shards.
Overall I enjoyed this story quite a bit. It’s somber but genuine and hits on a lot of elements of storytelling I like and have missed.
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall
This tale is written by Matthew Rosenberg and illustrated by Cian Tormey. It follows Batman as he’s dealing with a Gotham flooded as the flood wall has broken in the middle of a storm, releasing a torrent of water across the city.
The story opens with Batman rescuing a few Gothamites at risk of drowning. It then moves into him investigating just what could have caused the wall to have broken. During this search, he finds someone else to help: Killer Crock. After a rather explosive fight, they team up for an unlikely alliance as they chase down the real criminals who’ve flooded Gotham.
A theme between both these stories is how Batman is a protector. He’s someone who helps everyone, no matter who they are, whether that’s trapped Gothamites, or Croc. I like that the story points this out, that Batman’s a person who is known for helping, and I like that Croc is equally frustrated by the idea that Batman might not help him. It touches on this idea that there are people in Gotham who feel like maybe Batman hasn’t quite seen them, like he isn’t their hero but there for others. It’s an interesting idea, and one I would have liked to see expanded on a little more than it’s done here.
The story moves away from that idea and into solving the mystery. It’s no surprise that Croc and Batman’s team up doesn’t go as swimmingly as it might, but they do manage to work together long enough to figure out the truth behind everything. While it’s an interesting solution and reason behind flooding the city, the answer also leaves me a little torn. It’s pretty extreme to break a flood wall and flood a city (or at least part of one), and I think the goal the bad guys were after doesn’t quite match that magnitude. I think there could have been a better way to have the bad guys do what they did without flooding the whole city. But, in a contained story like this I do get why Rosenberg told the story the way he did.
Speaking of flooding, there’s obviously a lot of water in this issue, and Tormey’s depiction of it is amazing. It might feel odd to point out water illustration, but honestly I love it here. Tormey gives the water a real feeling of motion, as it’s splashing up around panicking citizens, or when Batman is pulling someone from the water. You can feel the energy , and just how terrifying it would be to end up in a flood like Gotham’s dealing with in this story. And when you’ve got a story focused on a flooded Gotham, giving even the water energy and movement’s important.
Something else I loved in this story were the fight scenes. Particularly one where the power is flickering on and off. Batman and Croc are fighting with some of the villains and during it Tormey creates a really cool effect of lights flickering on the page. He gives us a series of panels –shaded in red by Matt Hollingsworth– where we get a fully drawn panel, a box of black, and another panel back to back to back. Each panel where the lights are “on” gives us another bite of the scene, and to me it works really well.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. It feels a little fast, but for a tale that only takes half the book it does a great job packing in a lot of elements. The art is so much fun, and I really liked seeing Batman and Croc team up.
- Batman teaming up with his Rogues is something you like
- You like quicker, more bite sized tales
- It’s two stories for the price of one! And both are very good
While both stories here are distinctly their own tales, done by different creative teams, there’s a lot to tie them together. Each features Batman working closely with someone who is normally his enemy, and both have a strong focus on Batman as a character who saves people. This characterization is a wonderful element through both that I really enjoyed. The stories do have their own tones, Cloonan’s is more somber while Rosenberg tells a more action packed adventure. But both are great for their own reasons. If you want a couple quick reads that you can really enjoy don’t miss this issue.
Overall Score: 8/10
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.