Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Top 10 WORST Legends of the Dark Knight story arcs

I’ll readily admit that I think Legends of the Dark Knight was a series that was very high in quality for most of its run.
Right, for MOST of its run – not it’s entire run! There were actually quite a few story arcs and standalone issues that ranged from lame to ghastly. In fact, you’ll notice many of the entries on this list were single-issue stories. Most of them are here because they heavily deviated from the premise of the series: Bruce Wayne’s earliest days as Batman. Anything that deviated from that premise tended to be absurd. In fact, some of the worst offenders on this list don’t even feature Bruce Wayne as Batman – should they really be counted, then? I’ll put them under the “Dishonorable Mentions” list.
DISHONORABLE MENTION #1: Annual #6 (1996)
“Legends of the Dead Earth: Executioner”
Written by Alan Grant and Barry Kitson. Drawn by Vince Giarrano.
*Facepalm*
Oiy, this comic is so terrible I don’t even know where to begin. To properly analyze it I should include it as yet another entry in “I Can’t Believe This Comic Exists” but I really don’t have the time or mental energy to do that right now. Let’s just say that this comic is Murphy’s Law incarnate: everything that could be bad about it is.
Unoriginal premise. Terrible script. Didacticism. Written for children. Art that is very clearly emulating Rob Liefeld (why oh why would you want to rip him off?!). It has absolutely nothing to do with Batman – it is simply a dumbass story that uses the Batman name and logo. What was the purpose of this entire “Legends of the Dead Earth” theme to the annuals anyway, DC? If this book was this bad, I can’t imagine how bad the other entries in the series are (I’d really like to believe this is the worst of them but I’ll bet it’s not).
The only bright side to this? It’s only 38 pages instead of the usual 58 and I read it in 10 minutes.
DISHONORABLE MENTION #2: Annual #3 (1993)
“Transformation”
Written by Dennis O’Neill. Drawn by Mike Manley, Luke McDonnell, Gray Morrow and Ricardo Villagran.
This comic was so bad I had to write a completely separate blog discussing it.





10: 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?
9: Sanctum (issue 54)
Written by Dan Raspler and Mike Mignola. Drawn by Mike Mignola.
There isn’t much to say about this one because so little happens. It’s just a self-contained horror story featuring Batman. I’m not sure what Raspler and Mignola were trying to accomplish with this, though. It seems to be standard-issue “mindbender” territory. Batman fights some crazy guy at a cemetery and then finds himself facing off against a demon or zombie or something.
I’m not quite sure, actually. I will say that as head-scratching as this issue is, it never comes across as cliché or predictable. This is all about mood. Mignola’s artwork is perfect for this story – the darkness he relies on really works here. Now if only there was a script that really made any sense.




YEAH! KICK ‘EM IN THE NUTS!!
8: The Sleeping (issues 76-78)
Written and drawn by Scott Hampton.
LOTDK continues to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole into surrealism. This 3-part arc is basically a Batman story told by someone who’s clearly a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Call it a mindbender I suppose, but it’s much for cogent than the abstract and arbitrary “Engines” from the previous few issues.
The premise is ridiculous: Bruce Wayne gets into a nasty car accident and ends up in a coma. In true Sandman-style he awakens in a place for those in comas – a purgatory of some sort where an apparition tells him he has to find his opposite twin and then dive into the lake of fire and he’ll wake up from the coma (because, apparently that’s how you get out of a coma – fighting monsters on another dimensional plane). Along the way he meets a sarcastic twit (who I swear is “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons) and a terrorist with a heart of gold (because what other types are there?). And of course they all have to fight off a lot of demons and monsters (including a swift kick to a monster’s nuts – REALLY!?!). To make it worse, the demons and monsters actually get their own sub-plot with dialogue and everything.
There are elements within this story that could’ve worked well in another context – Bruce finding out what his life would’ve been like had he not become Batman – but here it’s just too off-topic to appreciate.
Though readable and fairly breezy, I found “The Sleeping” to be extremely frustrating because I really want to ask the creators and editorial staff WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH BATMAN!? I READ BATMAN COMICS TO SEE HIM SOLVE CRIMES AND FIGHT CRIMINALS – NOT DEMONS AND MONSTERS!! I demand an explanation, Scott Hampton!
7: Engines (issues 74-75)
Written and drawn by Ted McKeever.
Something I’ve noticed about LOTDK, especially in the last 20 issues or so, is that creators keep mistaking it as a Vertigo comic. It is not. McKeever certainly does not understand this, as “Engines” is written and drawn as a complete and total mindbender. There really is nothing comprehensible about this story.
The premise could’ve been interesting: the viewpoint of a nutty serial killer (or should I say – a guy who just up and one day decides to become a serial killer). But there’s really no dialogue or any kind of exposition here – it’s 99% internal monologue and it’s all abstract, banal, vapid poetry. This is someone trying to make an artsy comic book and failing miserably. There was absolutely no reason to include this story in LOTDK (and that it was a two-parter really blows my mind).
The artwork is interesting to be sure, but abstract and surreal. It matches the absurd narration, but because the story is so bad it seems wasted to me.
Not such much a “bad” comic as it is a dumb, pointless and confusing one.

6: 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.


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.
4: The Incredible Adventures of Batman (issue 101)
Written by John Wagner. Drawn by Carlos Ezquerra.
There’s a lot I don’t understand about this comic. The cover is part of a DC-wide monthly theme where every issue would have just a face on the cover. Did all of these issues take place 100 years in the future as well?
Futuristic Batman stories are dumb because they’re inherently sci-fi and as we all know, Batman isn’t the kind of character that adapts well to sci-fi settings. This issue is a perfect example of that. The premise is rather generic: a crime lord who attacks telepathically and can’t be stopped, so a cyborg decides to dress up like Batman and just kill him. What is the point of this? We all know Batman doesn’t kill. And what does a cyborg have to do with anything?
If the story wasn’t bad enough, the terrible art just makes it worse. This is hideous and amateurish – like some kid trying to emulate Rob Liefeld… with his eyes closed. It looks like doodles and yet it’s finished work. I can’t believe an editor considered this professional grade quality. Yuck.


3: Sunset (issue 41)
Written by Tom Joyner and Keith S. Wilson. Drawn by Jim Fern.
I’ve always said Batman does not fare well against the supernatural. His whole premise is that he’s a normal man without superpowers who fights villains who aren’t super-powered, either. So why introduce a vampire villain out of nowhere? This story doesn’t even make sense: Batman eludes the police and hides out in an abandoned movie studio lot. Then somehow he gets captured by a couple of vampires – one of whom is apparently a silent-era movie star. And then it’s Alfred that has to track him down (in Sherlock Holmes’ outfit no less).
The art is okay, but the story is dumb. Reading the editorial disclaimer by Archie Goodwin at the end it seems that this entire comic was basically just a plug for another vampire-themed comic DC was launching at the time by the same creative team. For shame, DC.

2: 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.

flyer11: Flyer (issues 24-26)
Written by Howard Chaykin. Drawn by Gil Kane.
I’ve criticized every story arc in LOTDK, but I will say that they were all at least pretty good works. In the case of Flyer, it’s just plain bad.
This series is Murphy’s Law incarnate: everything that could’ve been bad about is bad. Kane’s artwork is ugly; it looks like it was drawn by a teenager with little artistic talent (ironic, consider he’s a veteran comic artist). The story has an interesting premise; Curt Eisenmann was a GCPD helicopter pilot until his bird went down thanks to Batman’s bats (a deliberate flashback to Year One). In the style of Robocop, he was badly injured, but rebuilt by his mad scientist mother – a former Nazi, apparently. But his mother hates him and lusts after Batman. She has Curt kidnap him and bring him to her supervillain laboratory where she tries to seduce Batman in the most unsexy way possible. The rest of the story involves Curt and his mother arguing while beating Batman to within an inch of his life.
That a crazy female villain would want to rape Batman in order to bear his child isn’t exactly new. We saw something similar to this with Ra’s Ah Ghul insisting that Batman marry his daughter Talia (she was always okay with it) in order to bear him an heir. That was always somewhat plausible within context. Here, Chaykin takes the route of cheesy exploitation cinema. This reads like a work of fetish fan fiction coupled with someone with a terrible Oedipus Complex. If this is intended to be satirical or comical it never appears as such and fails miserably.

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