Saturday, August 29, 2015

Legends of the Dark Knight: issues 162-171

Auteurism (issues 162-163)

Written by John Arcudi. Drawn by Roger Angridge.

If you were to read these two comics without the covers, you might think you’re reading issues of The Batman Adventures or any of the comics that are based on the various animated series that appeared in the last few decades. This looks and reads exactly like an episode of B:TAS, actually, and I think that’s what its intension was. Not that I mean, because it’s a cute, fun read.

Not that this story is brilliant or amazingly inventive. It’s a simple tale of The Joker hiring and old out-of-work actor to play him in a movie biopic of his life. He stages fake crimes so Batman shows up and simply films the event for the movie. This is similar to “The Joker’s Comedy Capers” from Detective Comics #341 from 1965 which was later adapted into an episode of the Adam West Batman television series. 

This story doesn’t take itself very seriously, as it’s obviously intended to be light-hearted and comical from the get-go. Angridge’s art is reminiscent of R. Crumb, but not quite as overtly campy and cartoony. Arcudi’s script does seem exactly like something from an animated show, as it’s cute with a lot of subtle humor (which I think would actually work better in animation than in a comic). It’s not knee-slappeningly funny but it is wry and smart, albeit a bit out of place in LOTDK.


Don’t Blink (issues (164-167)

Written by Dwayne McDuffie. Penciled by Val Semeiks. Inked by Dan Green.

It’s very rare that LOTDK has featured the same writing and art teams for more than one story arc (DC repeatedly said in the “Letters to the Editor” section that’s one of the “rule” for LOTDK). Though it’s been done before, I’ve never seen a creative team return so quickly and with just as good a showing as they did the first time, but McDuffie, Semeiks and Green have done just that with “Don’t Blink,” a sequel to “Blink” that had just appeared less than a year prior. 

The original story strayed into more traditional superhero comic territory by having one of the supporting characters – Lee Hyland - have a super power. He starts out as a villain but ends as a hero. Here, he’s Batman’s right-hand-man as he has the ability to literally to see through the eyes of any person (or dog) he touches. In the first chapter, Batman has to rescue him for a covert government facility where his powers are being used in a Minority Report-type fashion to spy on and track down terrorists. This is the first reference to terrorists I’ve seen in the post-9/11 run of LOTDK

Batman of course succeeds, but not after single-handedly fighting his way through a bunch of goons much like Neo in The Matrix movies. Batman and Hyland then track down the leaders of a baby trafficking ring. The final chapter involves Batman having to rescue Hyland and his wife from two of the federal agents he fought in the first chapter.

I mixed feelings about this story. On the plus side, it’s clearly written like a movie with a breezy pace and lots of action scenes. And much like a movie Batman is constantly surviving explosions, avalanches, traps, extreme weather and of course being ambushed by big guys with guns. It’s comic book superheroism in its raw form and it’s actually pretty fun. On the other hand, this work is a bit “fluffy” and derivative. It doesn’t seem like you’re reading a comic, it’s like you’re reading a pitch for a movie; and I don’t meant that a compliment. As I already pointed out, “Don’t Blink” has many similarities to other works; I’m not saying McDuffie is blatantly ripping-off those movies and such, just that the influence is quite obvious. 

Still, this is a fun comic to read and it’s easy on the eyes. Semeiks and Green’s art isn’t especially beautiful or stylized so as to be unique and memorable – it’s simply solid and serviceable. It’s certainly better than a lot of other entries in the LOTDK series, that’s for sure.


Urban Legend (issue 168)

Written by Bill Willingham. Drawn by Tom Fowler.

It’s been a long time since the last single-issue LOTDK story (issues 114 and 115 were the last two one-parters). The thing about standalone stories in this series is they tend to wander into the mindbender territory (if not straight up own it unapologetically). “Urban Legend” definitely approaches that area, but never completely delves into it. In fact, it’s played more as a comedy than anything else. The thing is, the entire story is like an April Fool’s Joke on the reader as there’s a supposedly surprising reveal at the end. However, it wasn’t a surprised to me as I suspected this was the case from the first page and became even more suspicious as the story progressed.

I’m not sure what the point of this was. Since “Auteurism” showed LOTDK is apparently open to cartoon-like campiness and tomfoolery, I suppose “Urban Legend” was another entry in that vein. The thing is, this comic is played fairly straight and is intended to be taken at face value. If you don’t take it seriously it works well enough I guess.



Irresistible (issues 169-171)

Written by Tom Peyer. Drawn by Tony Harris. Inks by Wade Von Grawbadger and Wayne Faucher (issue 171 only).

Probably my most common complaint about any comic is that it’s unoriginal. I feel like everything’s been done by now, is there anything I’ve never seen? Well, “Irresistible” may be such a book. The premise is that a young man named Frank Sharp has a hideously deformed face but also has the supernatural ability to mind control someone simply by touching them. 

Normally, that kind of premise would create for a cliché villain and a cliché story, but Peyer takes a completely different approach by making this guy into a fairly realistic (or at least plausible) tragic character. He narrates almost the entire story, a method rarely used in LOTDK. He’s angry, bitter, twisted, megalomaniacal, and also pretty naïve and quite frankly stupid at times. He thinks money and power will make him happy, but they really don’t. 

Though there’s plenty of great moments of mystery and suspense, since this isn’t the kind of villain we’re used to seeing, there’s also a bit of melodrama as Frank is constantly arguing with his parents, friends, and business associates. You pity him because he’s so disgusting-looking, but you also hope he gets his comeuppance because he’s such a pig. The way Batman goes about investigating and confronting him is interesting to say the least; though it does involve a few sequences which are bit overboard even by comic book standards.
Tony Harris was the artist on “Ex Machina” and was great on that series. Here, he’s just as good with his style that is clean and cartoony and yet amazingly realistic. The colors are a bit monochromatic and several pages are more effects than art, but overall the arc looks great (except for Frank’s face - yeesh!).


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