Sunday, August 2, 2015

Legends of the Dark Knight: issues 112-115 and 127-131



Shipwreck (issues 112-113)

Written by Dan Vado. Penciled by Norman Felchle. Inked by Norman Felchle and Frank Cirocco.

From the first word balloon of the first panel of the first page of this comic I knew it was doomed. How did I know? Because the villain’s name is “Lord Demise” and that’s in no way intended to be ironic or satirical. From what I can tell, Vado intended for this to be played straight. When a villain is named something that silly and wearing an equally silly (cliché and hackneyed, really) costume with an eyepatch and his goons are literal goons, you know the comic is going to suck. And boy did I know that was the case with “Shipwreck” by the end of the first page.

There have been quite a few installments of LOTDK that do not live up to the serious, mature intentions of the series. Some read like rejected stories for a Saturday morning cartoon (even BTAS was more serious than this). I am absolutely baffled that an editor allowed this to see the light of day. This story is written with the dialogue of a little boy playing with his toys. It is just that corny and over-the-top. The plot is so repetitive: Batman fights off some goons, tells “Lord Demise” he’s coming for him, the villain just laughs it off and the cycle repeats.

There is absolutely nothing imaginative or even all that intelligent in either of these two parts.
I will say the art is serviceable. It’s clean and cartoony; I can always follow the action. The layouts and composition is pretty generic, but it gets the job done. In fact, it’s the only thing keeping this from receiving an absolute zero rating.

RATING: 1/5

Playground (issue 114)
 
Written by James Robinson. Penciled by Dan Brereton. Inked by Bradstreet.

There seems to be a type of self-contained story that appears every so often in LOTDK. It’s basically a variation on this: Batman finds himself down and out against some enemy we’ve never heard of before. He stumbles into an odd setting where he meets odd characters that say cryptic things but perform amazing feats. He’s usually badly injured and his mind starts spinning yet he somehow manages to defeat the villain in the end. Sound familiar?

That’s basically the plot of “Playground,” and it’s not any better than say “Terminus” or any of the other comics that followed that formula. Writers like to use this setup as a way of doing a Vertigo-style mindbender/fantasy story instead of a dramatic crime action/adventure comic. Some will find it interesting and poetic, but I view it as lazy writing and an excuse for the artist to go nuts.
I have mixed feelings on Brereton and Bradstreet’s art: it’s an interesting hybrid of cartoony and realistic. It’s detailed by messy and often quite ugly. The page compositions are fairly standard and static – nothing really pops here.

I could rip this comic to shreds if I nitpicked everything wrong with it; though I will say that it’s more lame than it is bad. It’s at least readable.

RATING: 2/5

The Darkness (issue 115)

Written by Darren Vincenzo. Illustrated by Luke McDonnell.

The last issue was a stock “arbitrary mindbender” standalone issue. This issue is a stock “mysterious creature” story. I can’t recall any comic in which Batman went up against a creature of the supernatural or some kind of sci-fi monster that was actually good. This is no exception to that rule.

First of all, the premise is ludicrous: a teenage boy is throw from a yacht during a massive explosion. Instead of dying he becomes some kind of cave-dwelling ogre, yet he also has super strength. How would a little kid who’s that badly injured know how to recuperate and why didn’t he try to go back to humanity? And of course he just happens to have an encounter with the Wayne Family before the tragedy.

Not surprisingly, it’s not until Bruce dons the Batman costume that the creature re-emerges and goes on a killing spree. Batman figures out what he’s after; finds him; fights him and just by coincidence the creature is killed by yet another massive explosion. Was this Vincenzo’s way of trying to be poetic by bookending the story with the same trope? Really, this villain is not sympathetic – just pathetic. And this is yet another story where the villain dies due to his own incompetence (see also “Shipwreck”).
The art is pretty ugly, too. Blocky, messy, static but serviceable.

RATING: 1/5

NOTE: I am skipping issues 116–126 because they’re all part of the “No Man’s Land” crossover that ran through all the Batman family of titles. These stories take place in the (then) current DCU and completely betray the premise of LOTDK. The only way to review them would be to read every other issue of the arc so I’d be able to follow the story (I didn’t read them at the time so I’d be totally lost without context).


The Arrow and The Bat (issues 127-131)

Written by Denny O’Neil. Penciled by Sergio Cariello. Inked by Matt Ryan.

After a slew of pretty terrible arcs (not counting issues 116-126), it’s nice to have not only a readable arc, but one that’s actually good. Denny O’Neil usually writes some of the most solid Batman stories, though he has penned a few clunkers in this series (Annual #3 for example). This was a nice return to form for him as he has Oliver Queen play a vital role. In fact, this is the first real “crossover” story to appear in an issue of LOTDK.

In fact, this story is nearly 50/50 Green Arrow/Batman. Well, I should clarify that it’s more Oliver Queen’s story than his costumed alter ego. It’s hard to tell where in his continuity this takes place; after all, we know LOTDK is supposed to tell the tales of a young Batman, but what about the other characters that appear? Not being all that knowledgeable about Green Arrow’s history, I was a tad lost. But it doesn’t matter in the long run since it’s a fairly self-contained story.

I will say that this arc has a rather familiar premise. O’Neil seems to enjoy writing adventures that involve secret societies and international assassins and such. This is essentially a Ra’s Al Ghul comic but with a different villain. The delivery is mixed: sometimes it’s serious and intricate, other times it becomes cliché, predictable and just plain cartoony (seriously, there’s a scene where a giant SAFE falls on someone’s head – is this a Wile E. Coyote cartoon?!). Ollie seems to go a little nuts in this book due to the fact there’s a rival archer who’s better than him (but what’s with that goofy outfit?). What’s interesting is that Batman actually seems to lighten up a bit has a few subtle moments of dry, snarky humor.

I really liked the art by Cariello and Ryan. It’s clean and fairly realistic. The layouts are pretty standard for a comic – nothing especially daring about the composition here. Still, it flows well from panel to panel and page to page. I wouldn’t describe it as gorgeous, but it’s some of the best art I’ve seen in a while in this series.

RATING: 4/5

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