Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Legends of the Dark Knight: Issues 62-64, 0, 65-70



Devils (issue 62)
Written by Chuck Dixon. Drawn by Ron Wagner and Ron McCain.

Yet another entry into the “KnightsEnd” story arc (wasn’t that what the last story arc was?). Really, the only thing good about this one is the Mike Mignola cover – and even that is a pretty cheesy, generic, and kinda boring image, actually.

I don’t understand why Azrael got his own internal monologue/voiceover. That’s something only Bruce Wayne should be able to use – it is HIS comic, after all. 

I’m sure the story makes sense in context, though reading it out of context makes you realize how silly the entire premise is.

Lastly, the artwork just stinks. Wagner and McCain did part one of the “Quarry” story a few issues back and it was as equally ugly and amateurish. 

There was no reason for LOTDK to include a crossover into the current day Batman storylines.

Score: 2/5

Climax (issue 63)
Written by Dennis O’Neil. Drawn by Barry Kitson and Scott Hanna.

This an appropriately-titled conclusion to the drawn out “Knight Fall” saga. Odd that they would chose to use LOTDK for the final, official chapter. Not surprisingly, this was written by Denny O’Neil, and it definitely reads as such. Though it uses both Bruce’s internal monologue as well as an omniscient narration. There was no reason for both.

By this point, the whole “Az-Bats” character was beyond salvaging and a showdown between him and the real Batman was inevitable. There’s not a lot of action, though. Bruce figures out a way to get Jean Paul Valley to strip off his suit and then he basically just concedes defeat and Bruce lets him walk away. That’s it. Pretty lame ending and it’d be even lamer in the context of the massive story arcs that this particular comic concluded.

At least the artwork was pretty good. Kitson and Hanna appear to mimic the Marvel X-Men school pretty well, but without the pretentiousness of the Image guys.  

Score: 3/5

Terminus (issue 64)
Written by Jaimie Delano. Drawn by Chris Bachalo and Mark Pennington.

This issue was written and drawn by guys who are known for making mind-benders and horror comics. There was no point in having them do a Batman comic – at least not in a way that’s any different from the pretentious crap most Vertigo comics are known for.

This is just a sad, dumb comic. There’s no specific plot per se – just a series of pathetic and sleazy characters who all end up in a shithole hotel known as Terminus (which means “the end of the line” – could the symbolism be any more obvious?). The story appears to be narrated by the hotel itself. It’s not artsy, scary, thriller, mysterious or moody – it’s just stupid and out of place.

I will say that the art is at least pretty good-looking, though many pages are just splashed in one color. What was the point of this?

Score: 2/5

Viewpoint (issue 0)
No writer credited (it was Archie Goodwin). Too many artists credited to list.

There’s a theme running through most of the 1994 run of LOTDK and that is “What the hell is the point of this?” Issue #0 was a tie-in to yet another DCU crossover known as “Zero Hour” which was yet another attempt to streamline continuity but really just muddled it even worse. Other #0 issues in other series were at least tied into the crossover, but this has nothing to do with it at all. It’s essentially just a cheap tie-in and a lazy one at that as the majority of the pages were literally taken from forthcoming LOTDK issues. 

There is a story, but it’s more like a setup for a pretentious narration. I don’t even know who wrote the actual dialogue because it’s uncredited. At least that author is spared the shame of having his name attached to this silly attempt to cash-in on a crossover that has absolutely nothing to do with the series.

Some of the art is good, some is pretty bad. AS hard as they tried to string it together, it definitely feels forced. It’s a patchwork quilt of a comic. 

Lame.

Score: 1/5

Going Sane (issues 65-68)
Written by J.M. De Matteis. Drawn by Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell.

It’s been quite a while since LOTDK has seen a multi-part story arc, let alone a four-parter. It’s a shame that Going Sane had to be the one to break that streak. Ugh. This comic is Murphy’s Law incarnate: everything that could be bad about this comic is bad: the writing, the art, the premise, the execution, the layouts; hell, even the editing is lousy (and it’s also lettered by Willie Schubert – the ugliest letterer I’ve ever seen).

Actually, the premise itself isn’t bad – Joker decides to “go sane” as it were. It’s just so completely out of character for him. And the way he goes about doing it makes no sense, either. For whatever reason, De Matteis tries to play it straight and turn it into a tragic romantic drama as Joker somehow undergoes facial reconstructive surgery to look normal again and also magically gets over his mania and acts normal. He proceeds to meet a woman, fall in love and is about to live happily ever after when Batman re-emerges after a very long hiatus.

And that’s another sub-plot that makes no sense: this story is supposed to take place in Batman’s early years (really all LOTDK stories are, except when it’s more convenient to set it elsewhere). But Batman and Joker have a rivalry that appears to have lasted forever (bear in mind
this is only Joker’s second appears in this series). Batman nearly dies from one of Joker’s explosions and just happens to be saved by kids who just happen to bring him to a woman who just happens to be a doctor and has no idea who either Bruce Wayne or Batman are. There’s a little slightly romantic subplot between anonymous Bruce (whom she dubs “Lazarus”) and the woman (I forget her name). It turns out she has been the victim of some horrific crimes that both coincidentally took place the two times she visited Gotham City.

OH MY GOD!!! Can De Matteis be any bleaker with his tone? He’s clearly from the Vertigo/grim-n-gritty school of dark comics at the time. At least if the story had been done as a mindbender like “Terminus” it MIGHT have made sense, but this is played totally straight.

And don’t even get me started on Staton’s art. It’s ugly as hell! Cartoony in approach but sloppy, sketchy and amateurish in delivery. It looks like a kid with very little artistic talent drew this comic.
Definitely one of the worst entries in the LOTDK run.

Score: 2/5

Criminals (issues 69-70)
Written by Steven Grant. Drawn by Mike Zeck.

After many sub-par entries in the LOTDK series, it finally redeems itself with this two-parter which should’ve been much longer. Grant and Zeck are a team best known for their work on The Punisher, so it’s not surprising that their take on Batman would involve some pretty brutal villains in the dark setting of prison.

Having Batman go undercover in prison to solve a mystery is a premise that would be ideal for a lengthy saga; narrowing it down to only two issues makes it very action-oriented, though I will say that Grant’s script is nowhere near as trite as many others in this series. That’s not to say that it’s perfect, though – far from it. There’s a major plothole in which Captain Gordon sends Batman undercover to figure out why Death Row inmates are supposedly committing crimes on the outside. But Bruce doesn’t alter his appearance beyond a mustache (which probably isn’t real, either). That means everyone saw his face and yet not one person recognized him as Bruce Wayne? That’s pretty hard to swallow.
 
The rest of the story is pretty good, though. I do buy the prison setting, even if it’s in the context of a fairly kid-friendly comic book (nothing about prison is realistic in anything less than a hard R or even X-rated setting). 

I also like Zeck’s art; it’s clean and cartoony but attractive. He’s able to do what few artists of the style can – use it to depict a bleak setting without being ridiculous (see Dave Mazzuchelli’s work on Batman: Year One for the absolute best example of this).

Score: 4/5

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