Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Louie The Lilac | Batman '66 | vlog #101

Season 3, Episode 7. Originally aired October 26, 1967.
Written by Dwight Taylor. Directed by George Waggner.
Louie (Milton Berle) wants to control Gotham's flower children and corner the flower market right under Batman's nose. Amid stupefying sprays and vase-to-face frays, it's clearly time to send Louie back to the hothouse.
RATING: 1/5

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Legends of the Dark Knight: Annuals 1-7



After I reached issue #100 in my chronicles of LOTDK, it occurred to me that I had completely forgotten about the annuals. So I decided to sit down and review them all and include them in their own separate blog entry. Enjoy!

Annual #1 (1991)

“Duel”

Written by Dennis O’Neil. Illustrated by 10 artists.

I never really understood the point of “annuals.” They were double or triple the size (and the price) of a regular monthly comic, but rarely were they double or triple the quality. Most tended to be an installment of a major crossover or they were just a hodgepodge collection of featurettes – what’s the point?
With “Duel,” it’s a little bit of both. There is a basic, fairly simple premise of Batman returning to the monastery where he was trained looking for “enlightenment” (or whatever) and then being sent on a surrealistic quest. It’s a mindbender and non-stop action all in one. What it isn’t, however, is a coherent story with a point. This is just a series of fantastical situations in which Batman fights fantastic beings like demons, zombies, more demons, aliens, more demons, mobsters and eventually “wakes up” to find it was all a hallucination. What a cop-out!

Denny O’Neill completely overwrites this, using his classic cornball narration and describing each scene, page and panel as though it were the most significant, dramatic, important and serious thing to ever happen to Batman. But since there’s no consistency to the story and no real plot to speak of – just a series of wild capers – there’s no sense of jeopardy, mystery or payoff. It just feels cheap and hackneyed when it’s revealed none of what had happened was real.

The artwork is at least pretty good, despite a pretty large staff of contributors. Each artist works on a specific scene; when the story changes the artwork does too and it’s not completely distracting (I like Joe Quesada’s pages the best). The early 1990s computer coloring by Steve Oliff still looks great, especially on the matte paper. 

Score: 2/10

Annual #2 (1992)

“Vows”

Written by Dennis O’Neil. Penciled by Mike Netzer. Inked by Luke McDonnell.

This is a good example of how an annual should work. This is a straightforward story that combines all the proper elements of drama, mystery, action and adventure in the right proportions. What’s really interesting about “Vows” is that it’s much more Jim Gordon’s story with Batman as a supporting character than vice versa. 

The story clearly takes place in the [then] present day DCU as Gordon is Commissioner (rather than Captain) and is about to marry Sarah Essen. Why this story is in a LOTDK annual and not a regular Batman or Detective Comics annual I do not know. 

This comic reads like an episode of a TV police drama. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the currently-airing show Gotham in its approach. There are plenty of Year One references, in fact, the crooked cop Flass returns and gives Jim Gordon a beatdown and proceeds to kidnap his son. Flass is working for a mysterious figure known as “Gleam.” I’m not sure who this character is, though he works fine as the behind-the-scenes kingpin with power.

The majority of the story all takes place in one night, so the pace is breezy and there’s a lot of tension to the atmosphere. It does get a little melodramatic at times when Jim tells Sarah they should call off their wedding only to literally marry her a few hours later. Also, he simply assumes his son is dead and goes after Flass without even attempting to rescue him (Batman does it instead). There seems to be some continuity errors in the third act; Batman doesn’t actually take down the villain, but just sends him a note saying “soon.” WTF?


The art is best described as adequate. It’s not abrasive or ugly, but it’s not all that attractive, either. Netzer doesn’t take any gambles with his layouts and compositions, he seems to prefer a traditional route to an eccentric or experimental one. 

One good re-write and this could’ve been an excellent comic, but for what it’s worth it’s pretty good.

Score: 4/5

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 completelyseparate blog discussing it.

Score: 1/5

Annual #4 (1994)

“Citizen Wayne”

Written by Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid. Penciled by Joe Staton. Inked by Horacio Ottolini.

For this particular comic, the premise was basically “Citizen Kane in the form a Batman story.” That certainly would seem to make for an interesting story, and for the most part it is, but Augustyn and Waid don’t have the writing chops to emulate one of the greatest screenplays in cinematic history and adapt it to a superhero comic book setting. Then again, I don’t think they were in any way trying to do that. It’s presented on the assumption that the reader is at least familiar with Citizen Kane and then uses a bunch of standard comic book tropes to plug in all the characters.

In this story, it’s actually Harvey Dent that becomes Batman and Bruce Wayne is a rich newspaper publisher and editor. Only his father was killed by Joe Chill and he resents anyone who tries to act like a hero since that’s what got his dad killed. 

There’s a mysterious figure driving the story; an apparent journalist or detective. His face and identity is never revealed until the end – which clearly indicates that it’s a major member of the Batman family. Though once it’s revealed it’s not much of a surprise.

For a story told almost entirely in flashbacks, it’s impressive how easy it is to follow. Usually, an ensemble cast of characters and mysteries tend to make for convoluted, confusing stories, but not here. Though, for a Batman comic there’s not a lot of Batman in it. I will say there’s a lot of plot points that are never discussed, the biggest one being: how did Harvey Dent become Batman at such a late age in his life with no training? And why Batman? There’s no connection
mentioned between him and bats at any point.

The art was okay. I have never been a fan of Joe Staton. I find his characters to be blocky, obtuse, disproportionate and just plain ugly. The layout and compositions are find, but the images have a dull, static feel. Also, the entire comic is printed on black paper to give it faux noir look that comes off as kind of cheesy. 

Score: 3/5

Annual #5 (1995)

“Wings”

Written by Chuck Dixon. Drawn by Quique Alcatena.

I’m pretty sure there’s only one Man-Bat story ever written and this annual epitomizes it. Seriously, every time Man-Bat shows up it’s the same story as ever: Kirk Langstrom is a sad sack scientist obsessed with bats and develops a Frankenstein formula that will enable him to take on the powers of a bat. Of course, it doesn’t go as planned and he becomes a literal bat man. His girlfriend Francine freaks out and Batman tries to bring him down. The end.

I’m pretty sure this was the exact plot of an episode of Batman: The Animated Series as well as other Man-Bat appearances I’ve seen. My point being: if this had already been done, what was the point of re-doing it? It’s completely predictable and nothing especially exciting or interesting happens. There’s a side plot involving Batman going after a gang of thieves who have stolen “the only existing print” of a soon-to-be blockbuster movie. WTF?

The art is pretty bad, too. Well, Alcatena can at least layout a page and compose the story well enough, but his style is a weird mix of cartoony and ugly sketchiness. I’m not a fan.

Score: 2/5

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.

Any artist that emulates Rob Liefeld should be blacklisted for life.
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. 

Score: 1/5

Annual #7 (1997)

“Pulp Heroes: I Am A Gun”

Written by James Robinson. Drawn by Steve Yeowell and Russ Heath.

Yet another one of DC Comics’ inane themed annuals. For 1997 the theme was “Pulp Heroes” which would lead me to believe the story would be set in the early 20th Century, but that only happens in a rather pointless flashback.

A comic like this goes to show that even a good writer like Robinson can’t weave gold out of straw (translation: a stupid premise makes for stupid stories). Or perhaps he just didn’t make much of an effort on this project which seems to be true of most creators on most annuals, in my experience. The same is true of the artists who draw mostly characters and little backgrounds unless it’s very pertinent to the story for that page or panel. I will say both artists’ styles are clean and cartoony, but their page layouts are pretty bland and there isn’t any fluidity to their compositions.

And, dang it, this story is just dumb. A guy crashes through the ceiling of a Wayne Corp meeting and Batman has to track down the killer. He goes undercover as a mechanic at a small private airport “upstate” and immediately is embroiled in a dopey mystery involving murder, treasure, thieves, property disputes, vineyards[?!], and a World War I flashback that serves no point other than as page filler. Robinson completely overwrote this script; pages are packed with lengthy word balloons; these characters don’t have dialogue - they have diatribes.

Most of this comic’s sins are forgivable because everything seems to be crowbarred in in order to fit into the lame pulp theme. Thankfully, this was the last LOTDK annual, because I really couldn’t deal with another one of these lame, arbitrary stories. 

Score: 2/5

The Unkindest Tut of Them All | Batman '66 | vlog #100

Season 3, Episode 6. Originally aired October 19, 1967.
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross. Directed by Sam Strangis.
King Tut returns, predicting (and perpetuating) a series of sacks to win over the police. Baffled trying to prove Batman's identity, he'll settle for control of the universe unless the Caped Crime Busters stop him.
RATING: 3/5

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Horse of Another Color | Batman '66 | vlog #99

Season 3, Episode 5. Originally aired October 12, 1967.
Written by Charles Hoffman. Directed by Sam Strangis.
It's a long shot horse that will get scheming Penguin and Lola their scurrilous scratch. The fix is in, but Bruce enters his horse, Waynebeau, with a surprise jockey that leaves the preying Penguin with clipped wings!
RATING: 3/5

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Sport of Penguins | Batman '66 | vlog #98

Season 3, Episode 4. Originally aired October 5, 1967.
Written by Charles Hoffman. Directed by Sam Strangis.
Perhaps shared affinities for parasols pair Penguin and Lola Lasagne (Ethel Merman) in this crooked scheme to rig a horse race - or perhaps a large purse? Our crew of crusaders takes the offensive, literally glued to their seats.
RATING: 3/5

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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Wail of the Siren | Batman '66 | vlog #97

Season 3, Episode 3. Originally aired September 28, 1967.
Written by Stanley Ralph Ross. Directed by George Waggner.
Siren is persuasively power hungry. She trills the perfect tone on Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne in her songstress scheme to learn Batman's identity and control Wayne's fortune. Not so fast, chanteuse! Batgirl and Robin sing another tune.
RATING: 2/5

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ring Around The Riddler | Batman '66 | vlog #96

Season 3, Episode 2. Originally aired September 21, 1967.
Written by Charles Hoffman. Directed by Sam Strangis.
Tricky Riddler wants to take over the boxing game in Gotham with the mesmerizing help of Siren (Joan Collins). He challenges Batman and underhandedly gains the upper hand, but Batgirl is ready to punch out the perpetrators.
RATING: 4/5 

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin | Batman '66 | vlog #95

Season 3, Episode 1. Originally aired September 14, 1967.
Written by Stanford Sherman. Directed by Oscar Rudolph.
Penguin has kidnapped Commissioner Gordon's daughter Barbara (Yvonne Craig) in a flagrant ruse to marry her and gain immunity from charges. He's in for a flutter of surprises when a new secret crime fighter joins the Dynamic Duo to save the day.
RATING: 4/5

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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Duo Defy | Batman '66 | vlog #94

Season 2, Episode 60. Originally aired March 30, 1967.
Written by Charles Hoffman. Directed by Oscar Rudolph.
Back at his iceberg headquarters, Mr. Freeze solidifies his threat to return the entire country to the ice age if his demands aren't met. Batman and Robin have a surprise for the hypothermic thief - a chilly reception in cold storage.
RATING: 1/5

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Ice Spy | Batman '66 | vlog #93

Season 2, Episode 59. Originally aired March 29, 1967.
Written by Charles Hoffman. Directed by Oscar Rudolph.
An instant ice formula proves irresistible to frosty Mr. Freeze (Eli Wallach). He'll kidnap a professor to get it, demand a ransom and coolly keep both. The Dynamic Duo breaks into his hideout only to face vaporizing permanently into the Bruce Wayne Ice Arena!
RATING: 2/5

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Flop Goes the Joker | Batman '66 | vlog #92

Season 2, Episode 58. Originally aired March 23, 1967.
Written by Stanford Sherman. Directed by George Waggner.
The Joker works his wily ways toward swiping the Museum's Renaissance Collection, but Batman comes back swinging with a stroke of genius. Joker's not laughing when he misses the elevator and gets the shaft.
RATING: 4/5

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Pop Goes the Joker | Batman '66 | vlog #91

Season 2, Episode 57. Originally aired March 22, 1967.
Written by Stanford Sherman. Directed by George Waggner.
The Joker knows the art of the steal, and his unexpected success as a pop artist leads him to open an art school with a sinister aim. Joker is after millionaires' art collections like Wayne's, and Robin's rescue attempt could cut him to pieces!
RATING: 4/5

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Caught in the Spider's Den | Batman '66 | vlog #90

Season 2, Episode 56. Originally aired March 17, 1967.
Written by Robert Mintz. Directed by Oscar Rudolph.
The crafty Black Widow gives legs to more plotting, turns Batman into an accomplice and robs again - as the Dynamic Duo! Robin has little time to untangle his bonds and turns Black Widow's devious device back on her.
RATING: 2/5 

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I Can't Believe This Comic Exists: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #3


AzBats: not even freaks from space can mess with him.
AzBats: not even freaks from space can mess with him.
It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I read a comic that is so bad and/or stupid I actually have difficulty believing that it exists. I’m stunned that professional artists and writers would willingly put their names on something so ridiculous – even by comic book standards. I can’t believe an editorial staff not only approved it but critiqued the creators’ decisions. I can’t believe a printer made thousands of copies of it. And I can’t believe people like me were dumb enough to plunk down our hard-earned dollars and pay for it. So, as a way to get back at the people that suckered me out of my money, I’m going to start a new feature called “I Can’t Believe This Comic Exists” in which I expose the badness of a certain comic*

First up: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #3 from 1993.
That's nothing. This whole comic bothers ME!
That’s nothing. This whole comic bothers ME!

This was just one of many installments in the “Bloodlines” crossover that ran through all the DC Comics annuals of 1993. It was a very unoriginal concept involving an invasion of aliens who attacked humans for food and sport, but also enabled some with super powers. Most of the stories (including this one) used devices straight out of cornball horror movie flicks. Had it been done as a satire or some kind of brilliant homage to B-movies of the past it could’ve worked, but DC actually played it straight and the result was absurd. Though it’s kind of come full circle so that now these comics are “awesomely bad” in retrospect.

But before we even discuss the story, let’s take a look at the cover. Are these two guys fighting or dancing? And what is AzBats** doing – refereeing? Is this image in any way dynamic, powerful or moving? It just looks silly. Notice the lack of backgrounds, the overly large banner and all the text obscuring the image. That seems to imply that this was either a rushed job and/or possibly an effort by the editors to obscure the ugly artwork. Also notice that the artist actually has a fairly large signature box above the barcode – was he really that proud of this piece? Sheesh. Anyway, on to the interiors.

LODK_Annual_3
A strong candidate for Worst DC Cover Ever
The actual plot of this comic is fairly simple: a deranged yokel is holding a priest and a few children hostage in a cabin somewhere. How this happened is never explained. Just as he’s about to start killing, one of the Bloodlines aliens attacks them. Both survive, but the alien completely changes their personalities and, of course, gives them magic powers. The “irony” is that the original villain repents and wants to become heroic (he’s blessed with the power to heal anyone) and the priest realizes the power of evil and becomes the most cookie-cutter, stock villain ever with ability to shoot a generic form of energy. What’s more, he actually calls himself “Cardinal Sin” (no, this is not a parody!). Everyone then races to Gotham City; the villain goes there to kill a visiting bishop, and the hero tries to warn the police and is abducted by AzBats in the process. Plenty of fights ensue. The end.

LOTDKA3p16
YEAH! Evil rules! Woo hoo! Go Team Evil!!
I’ve always thought that there was no such thing as a stupid premise, just a stupid execution, but in the case of this insipidly-titled story, “Transformation,” I don’t think even Neil Gaiman could’ve made it readable. In fact, what’s truly shocking about this comic is that it was written by veteran DC Comics scribe Dennis O’Neil. It’s amazing how such a talented writer could churn out something this uncreative and dumb. The entire comic reads like it was written by a fourth grader. I really can’t believe Denny friggin’ O’Neil put these words to paper. To wit, page 22:

LOTDKA3p22


Does that not sound like something a young child would write? I suppose it’s reminiscent of campy Silver Age comics and the old Adam West Batman TV show. Yet again I must remind you that this is not intended to be a satire or parody (or, if it is, it’s an epic failure of an attempt). Also, it’s a pretty amazing coincidence that the first car the villain encountered just happened to be driven by a woman who owned a costume shop and just happened to have a generic villain’s costume that just happened to be his exact size! Wow!

It gets worse:

LOTDKA3p35


Ok, a villain calling himself “Cardinal Sin” in a soliloquy is one thing. To say that with a completely straight face to an ordinary character is something completely different. How in the world does someone wearing a literal comic book villain’s costume not raise an eyebrow?! To make it worse, this happens multiple times throughout the story! Here’s another example:

LOTDKA3p44
I’m not sure what’s worse here: the writing or the art.

And it’s not just the villain who looks insane, let’s meet our “hero,” AzBats:
LOTDKA3p26
This is the “good guy,” ladies and gentlemen.

When Jean Paul Valley originally appeared as “Azrael” he was an interesting character. Then DC decided to make him go completely insane with power and feature him as the main character in multiple monthly Batman titles as if nothing had changed! Look at him here: he’s just a lunatic sadist who’s more interested in pummeling perps rather than solving crimes. Gee, I can’t imagine why AzBats wasn’t popular with readers!

And yet, it continues to get worse:

AzBats: he'll touch you HARD!
AzBats: he’ll touch you HARD!


I can’t believe I’m reading a Batman comic written by Denny O’Neil in which that dialogue exists.

*Face palm* *Head to desk*

While we’re on the subject – why is AzBats in a LOTDK comic, anyway? The whole point of that series was to focus on Bruce Wayne’s early Batman years – it was never intended to be part of regular ongoing DCU continuity. But they had a major crossover going at the time, so they couldn’t deviate from the theme. This comic is completely unnecessary and just stinks of being a cash grab.
And I haven’t mentioned the artwork yet. As is often the case with annuals, this book was penciled and inked by several contributors. However, the by-line doesn’t indicate who did what. Frankly, I think that’s a good thing since one or two of these artists delivered really shoddy work. The line art throughout the first half of the comic was pretty good, but then it becomes extremely sketchy and doodle-like. I mean, just look at page 49. This looks like unfinished art that was thrown in just to fill up a page. It’s stiff, boring, simplistic, and worst of all – just plain ugly. This is the work of a professional?

No terrible dialogue on this page, only terrible art.
No terrible dialogue on this page, only terrible art.


Actually, this page might even be worse:
LOTDKA3p30
Quite possibly the worst page in the comic: the art and script are equally bad.

There isn’t much point going into further detail. These pictures probably exhibit the worst pages and panels from the comic, and out of context they’re actually quite funny. I’d probably even recommend picking up this comic for a good laugh. I’m sure it’s sitting in the discount bin of your local comic shop – 22 years later – just collecting dust.

*Yes, I’m aware that I’m not the first person to do this. Lewis Lovhaug has been doing it for years as “Linkara” on his web series Atop The Fourth Wall (he hasn’t reviewed this comic yet, though).

**When Jean Paul Valley – aka Azrael – took over for Bruce Wayne as Batman in the early 1990s during the “KnightFall” saga he was dubbed “AzBats” by readers to distinguish him from the real Batman.

Black Widow Strikes Again | Batman '66 | vlog #89

Season 2, Episode 55. Originally aired March 15, 1967.
Written by Robert Mintz. Directed by Oscar Rudolph.
After a series of alphabetical bank robberies, Black Widow (Tallulah Bankhead) is found to be electronically brainwashing her victims for loot. She then traps Batman and Robin in a giant, wicked web, leaving venomous Black Widow spiders to finish them!
RATING: 2/5

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Batman's Waterloo | Batman '66 | vlog #88

Season 2, Episode 54. Originally aired March 9, 1967.
Written by Leo & Pauline Townsend and Stanley Ralph Ross. Directed by James B. Clark.
Notorious nabob Tut has plans to boil Robin in oil and accept a huge ransom for the socialite he kidnapped. Batman will bring the cash alone, but can't they all escape the royal boiling oil Tut has readied?
RATING: 4/5 

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Monday, June 15, 2015

King Tut's Coup | Batman '66 | vlog #87

Season 2, Episode 53. Originally aired March 8, 1967.
Written by Leo & Pauline Townsend and Stanley Ralph Ross. Directed by James B. Clark.
King Tut is back after another bonk on his noggin, kidnapping Bruce Wayne's date to the Egyptian Ball. Next, he disposes of the Caped Crusader by submerging him in a bejeweled sarcophagus.
RATING: 4/5

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Batman's Satisfaction | Batman '66 | vlog #86

Season 2, Episode 52. Originally aired March 2, 1967.
Written by Charles Hoffman. Directed by Oscar Rudolph.
Things come unglued as two sets of crime fighters go round and round, and the real counterfeiter, Colonel Gumm (Roger C. Carmel), is smoke-screening. Gumm grabs his bounty from the International Stamps Exhibition and only the Divergent Duos can flatten him.
RATING: 4/5

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Batman: Jazz (a legends of the dark knight special)



I recently reached issue #100 in my chronicles of Legendsof the Dark Knight. It occurred to me that I had completely forgotten to review any of the annuals or specials that were attached to the series, so I decided to start with Batman: Jazz. I remember reading this 3-part mini-series once or twice in the past and I remember not liking it at all. But it’s been a while since the last time I read it from cover to cover – how bad could it be?


Thankfully, I can honestly say that Batman: Jazz is not so much bad as it is lame. There’s actually a creative, fairly original story at the core with some interesting moments; it’s just that the execution of it is really… boring. This comic also contains a heavy-handed social commentary – which isn’t bad per se, just that the creative team of Gerard Jones and Mark Badger seem completely out of their league with this material.

The premise is fairly simple: Batman comes to the aid of an old black (apparently homeless) man who’s jumped while playing jazz on the street at night. It turns out he’s actually a professional musician and seems to be the second coming of a 1950s-era jazz musician named Blue Byrd who “died” nearly four decades prior. Apparently Byrd was a heroin user and had many intellectual property beefs with other musicians and producers and now – for whatever reason – a trio of costumed goons is trying to kill him. This sends Batman down a proverbial rabbit hole as every suspect he interrogates has a different description of Byrd – but who has the motive to want to off him?

Batman walks into a bar (no, seriously).
Judging by the dialogue, it appears that Jones and Badger really know their jazz history. In fact, pretty much every character in this story is inspired by real people; which makes this a work of historical fiction. The problem is this just can’t work for a number of reasons:

1.       All the characters are constantly talking about the je ne sais quoi effect of jazz and music in general. Since comics are a silent medium, there’s a major element of the story that’s missing (and glaringly so). When we hear the corny lines about Byrd playing with his soul and single-handedly inventing bebop music, it’s lost on the reader who has no idea what the difference is.

2.       They don’t know their audience. Consider who was most likely to be reading these comics when they were released in 1995: young white men. What does this audience know about the history of jazz? Probably very little. And are they fans of the music? Highly unlikely. In fact, the jazz enthusiast characters are constantly poo-pooing “modern music” for being too crude, uncivilized and vulgar – gee, I wonder what kind of music they’re referring to?

3.       There’s a major racial component to the story, which is generic and cliché and straight fromthe liberal progressive handbook of “Let’s blame everything on the actions of privileged white men from several generations ago.” If you’re going to make a commentary on race and institutional racism and how it’s affected history you need more nuance, subtlety and specifics than what are offered here. The entire first chapter contains literally dozens of references of the overused, oversimplified excuse of “because racism”. I’ll bet Jones and Badger see themselves as being good, apologetic, anti-racism white guys, but it comes across as them trying to fight a battle that’s not theirs to fight. Frankly, it’s rather offensive.

4.       This premise doesn’t lend itself to a good Batman story. Sure, there’s a mystery in need of solving, but Batman doesn’t do any actual forensics work – he just keeps interviewing suspect after suspect. These interrogations simply create for page filler, when in the end none of the suspects and their anecdotes have anything to do with resolving the conflict. This would be totally fine if this were a reality-based drama (such as any of the police procedural shows that have been on TV since the 1990s), but this is superhero comic book – the reader wants action and adventure, not sob stories and lectures of why drugs are bad, our grandparents’ were racists dicks and why music used to be so much better back in the day. 

One of the few (vaguely) interesting layouts in the comic
5.       There’s a serious sidebar dealing with intellectual property theft. Yes, Batman is about ready to give someone a beatdown because someone claims that a suspect ripped off one of Byrd’s songs years ago. Really?

6.       The art is just really unattractive. I will say that Badger’s style is very unique and stylized, but it’s also extremely messy, arbitrarily abstract and unrealistic. Again, if this weren’t a Batman comic it would probably work (and certain panels and pages do work), but here it’s just grating on the eyes.

Throughout my review of the LOTDK series I’ve often wondered what the point of a certain story arc was, and I’d reiterate that lament here, too. Why did this need to be a standalone miniseries that doesn’t even use the LOTDK logo (it just says “a legends of the dark knight special” [sic] along the top or bottom of the covers). Considering the wide variety of stories that have been told in that series, Batman: Jazz would’ve been fine as just another entry. In fact, doing it as its own special – with a higher cover price – gives the reader an expectation of higher quality. That’s probably why it’s remembered as failure.

Score: 2/5