Monday, September 28, 2015

Knock, Knock | Gotham | vlog #24


Season 2, Episode 2. Written by Ken Woodruff. Directed by Rob Bailey.
The "Maniax" go on a killing spree, starting with dock workers, then high school cheerleaders and finishing with the GCPD themselves!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Greg Capullo rocks the Guilderland Public Library for #BatmanDay

If you’ve been following my Times Union comic book blog with any regularity over the last month, no doubt you’ve noticed a plethora of posts related to the Guilderland Public Library’s series of comic book events “The Art of Being Super.” Yesterday was the third such event which featured Schenectady native Greg Capullo performing a question and answer session for well over 100 people. This was an official DC Comics-sanctioned event as part of the inaugural International Batman Day.

Capullo has been the lead artist for the Batman comic book series ever since DC launched “The New 52” back in 2011. Prior to that, he had a lengthy run on Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, and also worked on various X-Men titles for Marvel throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. I think it’s safe to say that Capullo is one of the “rock stars” of today’s comic book artists and has been for the last two decades.

But I’m not going to retell his biography in this blog post. There are plenty of sites already containing that information. In fact, Greg sums up his life and career in the first 15 minutes of the video below. If you’d like to know how he came to be the man he is today, I highly recommend listening to him tell his story (and for even more details, listen to his appearance on Kevin Smith’s Fat Man on Batman podcast: Part 1. Part 2.). As for the Q&A, well, there were a lot of questions from many different fans. I didn’t film every answer to every question, though I think I got a lot of interesting and entertaining footage in this video:
As you can see, Greg really knows how to work a room. He is extremely funny and seems completely at ease in front of a crowd. I’ll bet he would make a great stand-up comedian, an actor, or a radio or podcast host. Despite his imposing appearance (he really has that bouncer/biker/MMA fighter look down pat), he’s very friendly – especially to little kids.

I was genuinely surprised by how diverse and large the crowd was. The ages ranged from 8 to 80 and there seemed to be a three-to-one, adult-to-kid ratio. There were plenty of people that fit the bill as far as the stereotypical comic book geek, but plenty that did not. Perhaps you can get a sense of the crowd’s makeup from the video above or the photo gallery below.








After Greg’s Q&A session, he sat down to do a free autograph session. What sucked was, due to the way the line was setup, I was stuck at the back as soon as it formed. I didn’t mind, though. In fact, I bought a small Batman poster from his wife for only $10 and he signed it along with the Batman Endgame: Special Edition comic book that was complimentary for all attendees.

I should mention that prior to the Capullo Q&A, the GPL had another Batman-related event. Actor Ritchie Coster, who played “The Chechen” in The Dark Knight introduced a showing of the film. I wasn’t able to make this event, so if anyone would like to let us know how it went – please do so in the comments section.

Next week (October 3rd): Mark McKenna will demonstrate the process of making comics in a 90-minute presentation beginning at 11am.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Damned if you Do... | Gotham | vlog #23

Season 2, Episode 1. Originally aired 9/21/15. Written by Bruno Heller. Directed by Danny Cameron.
Gordon is fired by Commissioner Loeb for his role in Carmine Falcone's escape, while Bullock resigns from the police. Still determined to clean up the corruption in the police department, Gordon makes a deal with Cobblepot, who is now Gotham City's boss of organized crime and Cobblepot agrees to force Loeb to reinstate Gordon as a detective and resign as police commissioner, being replaced by Essen, after Gordon does Cobblepot a favour collecting a debt from and eventually killing a strip club owner who owed the Falcone Crime Family money. Meanwhile, several inmates of Arkham Asylum including Barbara Kean, Amygdala, Jerome Valeska, Richard Sionis and Robert Greenwood are broken out of the asylum by criminal mastermind Theo Galavan (James Frain) and his sister and enforcer, Tabitha Galavan (Jessica Lucas). They all agree to join forces with Galavan to wreak havoc in Gotham, except for Sionis, who is murdered for his refusal. Bruce and Alfred discover a secret room at the end of the staircase, containing a note from Thomas Wayne advising Bruce to only open it when he has a true calling, as the truths in Thomas' secret office would change his life.


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.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top 10 Best Legends of the Dark Knight story arcs


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.

I summed up my overall thoughts on Legends of the Dark Knight last week, including my ratings for each and every story arc (except for some that were part of ongoing mega crossovers at the time). As a whole, the series was definitely good - pretty great, in fact. So here are my picks for the Top 10 Best Legends of the Dark Knight story arcs:

Batman_Legends_of_the_Dark_Knight_Vol_1_1_Newstand10: Shaman (issues 1-5)

Written by Dennis O’Neil. Penciled by Ed Hannigan. Inked by John Beatty

It’s clear from the beginning that Legends of the Dark Knight is intended to concentrate on Batman’s early years. It’s also quite obvious that it’s inspired by Frank Miller’s Year One that took place a few years prior in the regular Batman series. That’s definitely one of my favorite Batman stories, and looking back on it, it’s quite amazing the influence it’s had on the Batman mythos and even the way Batman comics were produced in its wake. Some of the events that occur in this particular arc are directly intertwined with Year One, but seen from a different perspective.

I must say that this was rather an odd choice for the first story, since it involves Batman traveling to and from Alaska, occult rituals, and Native American mythology. It was also a bit surprising that the premise and climax are both based on supernaturalism. Batman is one of the few superheroes rooted in “realism” (by tights-n-fights standards, that is), so it’s weird and awkward when magic and the supernatural plays a key role in the story. In the case of Shaman, it’s minor enough that it’s not completely distracting, but still prominent enough to irk me a little.
Otherwise, it’s a solid way to launch this series and still holds up all these years later.

9: Darker Than Death (issues 207-211)
Written by Bruce Jones. Art by Ariel Olivetti.
Sometimes a book is so good that it's difficult to even review it because I don't know where to begin. There are a lot of reasons "Darker Than Death" is one of the best LOTDK story arcs in a long time (and of the entire run, that is), but I'm not going to prattle off a laundry list of reasons. Well, maybe I should...

This is how Batman should be written in LOTDK - a solo adventure that doesn't rely on Oracle, Robin or the extended Batman family to help him out (though Alfred does a lot of the work - but what else is new). The crime in question is a fairly ordinary kidnapping and the villain is definitely not any of Batman's usual rogues, nor is there any cheesy supernatural component to it. Though it is a little too convenient that this case is closely connected with Bruce Wayne himself.

The story starts out simple and straightforward, but becomes more and more complex as the issues progress. In fact, I'd say the major flaw to this book is that it's a little overlong and for rather arbitrary reasons. However, it is told like a standard mystery story so Batman finds a clue with leads him to one suspect who tips him off to another and so on and so forth. Jones's script is breezy enough to keep it constantly interesting and intriguing. I do find it to be rather melodramatic at times, though. There are many moments throughout this arc that seem a bit over the top, even by comic book standards (inter-tangled love trysts, blackmail, family scandals, secret identities, etc.).

I like that there is no apparent villain, though Batman does encounter a few goons along the way. These situations are also a bit generic and predictable, but like I said, the comic is written well enough that it doesn't come across as a crutch or an easy cliche.

My only major complaint is that due to the lack of a traditional villain, there isn't a lot of action throughout any of these five chapters. Even the ending is completely lacking in a showdown - it just kind of ends. I do appreciate the fact that the villain's identity is a mystery to both Batman and the reader, so much so that when it's revealed it comes as just as much a shock to both parties.

Ariel Olivetti's art is fantastic. I'm not sure if it's paint, colored pencils or some kind of CGI (perhaps a combination of all three), but it looks beautiful. Every panel is dripping with detail - from the muscles on someone's arms, to all the knick-knacks and objects in a room. The characters look like real people - not just stock comic book characters. Bruce Wayne bears a striking resemblance to Charlie Sheen, though. Olivetti does a good job layout out his pages and composing his imagery. There are some points here and there that seems a little stiff or static, but otherwise each chapter is a page-turner

8: The Arrow and The Bat (issues 127-131)

Written by Denny O’Neil. Penciled by Sergio Cariello. Inked by Matt Ryan.
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.
7: 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!).

6: 32649-4720-36418-1-batman-legends-of-tMask (issues 39-40)
Written and drawn by Bryan Talbot.
I have to admit that I was beginning to give up on LOTDK after the majority of the story arcs throughout the last 10 issues were of pretty lousy quality. Then along comes Bryan Talbot’s gorgeous two-parter Mask. It has exactly everything going for it that most of the previous books missed: a coherent story, in-depth characterization, mystery, suspense, and surrealism that isn’t arbitrary.
32649-4720-36418-1-batman-legends-of-tiThe premise of this story reminds me of something from the Bronze or early Modern Age series or even an episode of B:TAS. Most of it involves Bruce Wayne in a hospital bed with a therapist telling him he’s an alcoholic and has some kind of split personality. It’s quite clear that it’s a dream or some kind of hallucination, but Talbot plays it fairly straight for the most part. There is, not surprisingly, plenty of surreal moments; which would technically make them hallucinations within hallucinations. No matter, there’s a sense of genuine drama here even though you know it can’t possibly be real. It’s certainly does have an element of mystery as you don’t know what’s really going on or how this situation came to be, or how Bruce really will win the day.
Mask does have some cheesy exposition via the classic fallacy of the villain revealing his entire master plan just when he thinks he’s victorious. Otherwise, it’s well-written and extremely well-drawn. One of the most over-looked runs in LOTDK.

5: Loyalties (issues 159-161)
Written by John Ostrander. Penciled by David Lopez. Inked by Dan Green.
The only thing better than a good LOTDK story is two of them back-to-back. I might even consider this arc to be superior to the previous one, which is really saying something considering how much that impressed me.
This is old school Batman, very much Year One influenced, but in no way hacky (unlike so many other runs in this series). Some of the better Batman comics are the ones that involve him and Jim Gordon working together other than in Gordon’s office or on the rooftop. It’s easy to forget that Gordon is in fact a cop and not just a bureaucratic paper-pusher.
“Loyalties” delves in Gordon’s personal life and finally explores his pre-Gotham years in Chicago. It’s a messy affair involving the mob, kidnapping and Gordon’s own family. What’s interesting is that in this story, Barbara Gordon (aka Oracle) is Jim Gordon’s niece rather than his daughter; though his wife’s name is Barbara. If you think about it, this would actually seem to make more sense since it’s rare that a mother and daughter have the same first name like fathers and sons sometimes do. In fact, Gordon’s son is James Junior.
Lopez’s art is fairly clean and cartoony much like David Mazzuchelli’s was in Year One. It’s quite possible he’s emulating that look purposefully, though it doesn’t appear to be hacky in any way (it’s not nearly as good as Mazzuchelli’s, though). For some reason, Bruce Wayne looks to be half Asian – this would be fine if this were a Manga comic.
My only complaint might be that there’s a little too much drama within the Gordon family and not enough Batman, but that’s pretty much it. Also, I was hoping for a longer fight scene at the end, but it wraps up entirely too quickly and it’s rather implausible (Batman can fight at the apex of an A-shaped roof, but not some generic gangster goon).

4: Faces (issues 28-30)
Batman_Legends_of_the_Dark_Knight_Vol_1_28Written and drawn by Matt Wagner.
One the best Batman stories I’ve ever read was Matt Wagner’s Batman/Grendel crossover (the first one with the green covers). I remember him writing the Sandman Mystery Theater series back in the 90s, too. He definitely knows how to tell a good detective story and with Faces, it’s a good attempt at one.
Wagner_faces1Two-Face kidnaps a bunch of people with deformities and has one of them seduce a realtor into selling him a private island (that Bruce Wayne wanted to buy) for nothing. It’s meant to be a sanctuary for these “outsiders,” but none of them really have much motivation for this exodus.
What I liked was that this story didn’t just concentrate on Batman and his pursuit against Two-Face, it also tells a side story of the real estate agent. I’ve noticed telling parallel stories seems to be Wagner’s forte, and here it works pretty well.
The art is rather cartoony, though. In fact, it’s rather messy at times. Wagner’s style reminds me of Bruce Timm – the designer of Batman: The Animated Series. It makes for an odd read considering the tone is so grim and the art is so simplistic. I do like how he uses sequential art and creates unique, eccentric page layouts.
3: Testament (issues 172-176)
Written by John Wagner. Drawn by Chris Brunner.
When people ask me what’s so great about Batman, it’s well-known stories like The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke and many of the epic story arcs that I point to as an example. After reading nearly two hundred issues of LOTDK, many have been excellent, but few serve as a great example of why Batman is an awesome character and how great his stories can be. “Testament” is one of those.
When I first started reading this, I was deeply skeptical for a number of reasons. Firstly, it deals with a gang of vigilantes who go around straight-up murdering criminals. This trope has been used before, including right in this very series (“Faith” back in issues 21-23, for example); the entire character of The Punisher is based on this premise as well. Also the fact the guys committing the murders go by the rather silly name of “Rough Justice” and are kind of fundamentalist yokels seems rather trite. Thankfully, the story is compelling enough so that these aren’t major hang-ups to the plot.
 
 
You’d think this would be a rather simple story: Batman chases villains; fight ensues; Batman emerges triumphant – right? It’s not quite that simple. Wagner writes this script with a lot of depth to both the story and the characters. There is a sympathetic character – Lonny Hector – within the Rough Justice gang that gets in way over his head. Even his girlfriend becomes a significant supporting character and affects the plot.
There are plenty of fun and suspense action sequences throughout this five-part arc, including the Rough Justice gang storming Wayne Manor and discovering Batman’s secret identity. The problem with using that device is that you know anyone who knows Bruce Wayne and Batman are one in the same will end up dead by the end of the comic – that’s really not a spoiler. Still, this script is balanced well enough between standard Batman comic and action-oriented movie-like thrills and adventure so that it’s constantly entertaining.
The art by Brunner is fine, but not amazing. It walks a fine line between simple and cartoony and over-stylized and messy. I honestly could not distinguish between the main villains – they all look the same! His layouts and composition need a little tweaking as well as there were a few moments where I had to re-read entire pages to determine what was happening. Otherwise, Brunner is a good artist who is largely responsible for making “Testament” one of the best installments in LOTDK to date.


2: (tie) Blink (issues 156-158) and Don’t Blink (issues (164-167)
Written by Dwayne McDuffie. Penciled by Val Semeiks. Inked by Dan Green.

It’s been a long time since I read an arc in LOTDK that made me extremely glad that I did. There was a long spell of pretty abysmal stories followed by an even longer spell of ok or good stories, but “Blink” is the first arc that I would consider great. This is exactly what every LOTDK installment should be: detective work, characterization, surprise twists, dialogue that isn’t overtly “comic booky” and a real sense of mystery and intrigue.
As I’ve often stated, I don’t like it when Batman goes up against the supernatural or against villains with superpowers. That’s because writers use those elements to be completely fantastical and unrealistic (or just as a crutch when they can’t write reality-based stories). In “Blink” the premise is that a blind guy named Lee Hyland can see through the eyes of anyone he touches. It’s a superpower of sorts in that it enables him to be an identity thief, but he finds himself in the role of hero when he sees through the eyes of a killer and attempts to stop him (hey, wasn’t that the exact plot of the movie Unbreakable?).
Batman and Gordon get involved after Hyland stops a murder and winds up as the suspect. They eventually figure out that he’s telling the truth. Meanwhile, we learn that this is no ordinary serial killer but it’s actually a snuff film ring which involves one of Gotham’s more powerful men. Initially, I rolled my eyes when this was revealed since it’s delving into a territory that’s rounded regarded as a myth and also something way too disturbing even for a Batman villain. However, McDuffie doesn’t try to play the dramatic or emotional card as if this were real and trying to generate sympathy from the reader (unlike say, stories about human trafficking or child abuse). It’s basically just another underground criminal ring, but it’s written so much better here than the average comic book.
One thing I really liked about “Blink” was that it was only three chapters and was perfectly paced. It’s not rushed and it’s far from bloated (I wish the same could be said of many of the previous LOTDK installments). The artwork is only okay, though. Semeiks and Green don’t have much of a standout style; mostly illustrative and sketchy somewhere between Neal Adams and Klaus Jansen. Even the coloring is rather gray and drab. Layouts and compositions are fine, but there’s nothing all that memorable. This script in the hands of a better artist would’ve been outstanding, but as it stands it’s still pretty excellent.
 
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.
 
 


1: Blaze of Glory (issues 197-199)
Written by Will Pfeiffer. Drawn by Chris Weston.
What keeps villains from going all out? The fact that they don't want to die. But when death is not an issue, that's when you get crimes committed on the level of 9/11. Though "Blaze of Glory" is not about Middle Eastern terrorists, but rather a fairly ordinary criminal who has only a short time left to live, so he decides to go out in a Blaze of Glory by hurting a lot of people, blowing a lot of stuff up and eventually killing Batman.
I don't think this is the first time we've seen a no-name villain outsmart Batman. I actually think that's a great premise, since the A-list rogues like Joker, Penguin,Two-Face, etc. always live to fight (and lose) another day. When an unknown outsmarts Batman it's fascinating because Batman is blindsided and doesn't even know how to approach the investigation. The caveat to that approach is that we have to believe a no-name villain is capable of acheiving such a feat. Sure, you can write the character extremely well and make it believable within the context of the story, but in the bigger picture you still have to wonder why this rogue might succeed where all the others have failed.
The rogue in question is a dude named Erik Webber. He's apparently some kind of mercenary as he's an expert with explosives and high artillery weaponry. Pfeiffer doesn't bother building him up from scratch, he just drops him it to current continuity ready to go. There's a flashback where Batman foils Webber's attempt at robbing an armored car which eventually lands him seven years in prison. When Webber gets out he's diagnosed with a brain tumor and vows revenge on Batman. He takes a fairly benign route by causing chaos rather than killing people outright (maiming them is another story). His plan totally would've worked... if the character of Oracle didn't exist.
This LOTDK arc takes place in the present-day DCU, so Barbara Gordon is Oracle. I've lamented about this character before and I'll use this story as a great example of why she makes everything entirely too easy for Batman. It turns Batman into more of a soldier than a detective since Oracle does all the hard work for him. Sure, Batman does some foresenics on his own, but Oracle's ability to hack every computer on the planet in a matter of seconds just makes the story completely far-fetched (yes, even by comic book standards).
 
I think "Blaze of Glory" could've been a masterpiece had the Oracle character not been present. Instead of being confined to three issues, I could easily see this working just as well as a four or five-parter if Batman had to do all the investigation himself. Even the ending is a bit of a downer since it invokes 9/11 imagery only a few years after the event and is also quite reminiscent of Fight Club.
But for all my criticisms, I will say "Blaze of Glory" is still a very good story. Probably what makes it so great is Chris Weston's artwork. It is absolutely gorgeous - I might even go so far as to say it's the best-looking line art in the history of LOTDK. It's exquistely detailed, and yet still fairly clean. It's not messy and sketchy and illustrative, though not cartoonish like Seth Fisher in the previous arc. His style reminds me a lot of Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons, though Fisher seems to put even more detail into his panels. He also knows how to layout a page and compose a scene. If only the coloring hadn't been rather brown throughout. There's a sepia tone quality that does help give the story a dark, disturbing, bleak mood, but it's also a bit ugly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Legends of the Dark Knight: series summation

Back in February I set forth on a mission to not only read my entire comic book collection, but to document it along the way. I started with what I thought would be a fun and easy series to chronicle: Legends of the Dark Knight. It debuted in the summer of 1989 hot on the heels of the first Michael Keaton Batman movie and ran until early 2007 after having published 214 monthly issues, six annuals, three Halloween specials, and one oddly tied-in miniseries.

This title was generally regarded as being higher in quality than the usual monthly Batman comics. The premise was it would tell tales of Batman’s “early days” – the years before he brought on Dick Grayson as Robin and Jim Gordon was still a lowly Captain (or sometimes just a Lieutenant). It was also sold as having story arcs that would be of graphic novel quality, fairly lengthy, self-contained (outside of the current DCU continuity at the time), and the creative teams would not repeat.

It did not always work out that way, though. By issue #27, LOTDK featured its first crossover with Batman and Detective Comics. It would also crossover with the rest of the extended family of Batman titles during the epic arcs of “Knight Fall” in 1994, “No Man’s Land” in 1999, and “War Games” in 2004. Also, writers took plenty of creative liberties with this format and would often insert both subtle and game-changing retcons into Batman’s past (the DC editorial staff would pick and choose which ones really “counted” and which were just “imaginary”).

Batman_Legends_of_the_Dark_Knight_Vol_1_114


I didn’t buy this title when it originally launched. In fact, I had little interest in at the time because I saw that each arc was a four of five-parter, so I figured they’d be reprinted in TPB format eventually (even back in the early 1990s I was waiting for the trade). Then, one day I was at a (now closed) comic book store in Troy in the shopping plaza across the street from Hudson Valley Community College. They were having a sale and I found the entire run (at the time) of LOTDK in a discount bin. I of course grabbed them all up and began subscribing to the title immediately. Most of those comics have been sitting in my longboxes for literally years until I decided to give them another look earlier this year.
Upon re-reading them, my first observation was that this series was indeed good, but none of individual arcs were truly great. Few – if any – were as good as I had remembered; in fact, quite a few were downright terrible.
So when I set about reviewing each arc for my blog, I devised this rating system:
1 = terrible
2 = lame
3 = okay/average
4 = good/very good
5 = excellent/outstanding
Here’s my report card for LOTDK:

4:
  1. Shaman (issues 1-5) Written by Dennis O’Neil. Penciled by Ed Hannigan. Inked by John Beatty
  2. Gothic (issues 6-10) Written by Grant Morrison. Drawn by Klaus Janson
  3. Faces (issues 28-30) Written and drawn by Matt Wagner.
  4. Blades (issues 32-34) Written by James Robinson. Drawn by Tim Sale
  5. Mask (issues 39-40) Written and drawn by Bryan Talbot
  6. Hot House (issues 42-43) Written by John Francis Moore. Drawn by P. Craig Russell.
  7. Heat (issues 46-49) Written by Dough Moench. Drawn by Russ Heath.
  8. Criminals (issues 69-70) Written by Steven Grant. Drawn by Mike Zeck.
  9. Idols (issues 80-82) Written by James Vance. Penciled by Dougie Braithwaite. Inked by Sean Hardy.
  10. Conspiracy (issues 86-88) Written Dough Moench. Penciled by J.H. Williams III. Inked by Mick Gray.
  11. Dirty Tricks (issues 95-97) Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Penciled by Anthony Williams. Inked by Andy Lanning.
  12. Steps (issues 98-99) Written by Paul Jenkins. Drawn by Sean Phillips.
  13. Arrow and The Bat (issues 127-131) Written by Denny O’Neil. Penciled by Sergio Cariello. Inked by Matt Ryan.
  14. Bad (issues 146-148) Written by Doug Moench. Drawn by Barry Kitson.
  15. Blink (issues 156-158) Written by Dwayne McDuffie. Penciled by Val Semeiks. Inked by Dan Green.
  16. Loyalties (issues 159-161) Written by John Ostrander. Penciled by David Lopez. Inked by Dan Green.
  17. Auteurism (issues 162-163) Written by John Arcudi. Drawn by Roger Angridge
  18. Don’t Blink (issues (164-167) Written by Dwayne McDuffie. Penciled by Val Semeiks. Inked by Dan Green.
  19. Irresistible (issues 169-171) Written by Tom Peyer. Drawn by Tony Harris. Inks by Wade Von Grawbadger and Wayne Faucher.
  20. Testament (issues 172-176) Written by John Wagner. Drawn by Chris Brunner.
  21. Snow (issues 192-196) Written by J.H. Williams III and Dan Curtis Johnson. Drawn by Seth Fisher.
  22. Blaze of Glory (issues 197-199) Written by Will Pfeiffer. Drawn by Chris Weston.
  23. Cold Case (issues 201-203) Written by Christos N. Gage. Penciled by Ron Wagner. Inked by Bill Reinhold.
  24. Darker Than Death (issues 207-211) Written by Bruce Jones. Art by Ariel Olivetti.
  25. Superstitous and Cowardly (issue 214) Written by Christos N. Gage. Drawn by Phil Winslade.
  26. Annual #2 (1992) Written by Dennis O’Neil. Penciled by Mike Netzer. Inked by Luke McDonnell.
  27. Madness (1994 Halloween special) Written by Jeph Loeb. Drawn by Tim Sale.
3:
  1. Prey (issues 11-15) Written by Doug Moench. Penciled by Paul Gulacy. Inked by Terry Austin.
  2. Venom (issues 16-20) Written by Dennis O’Neil; drawn by Trevor von Eden, Russell Braun, and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
  3. Faith (issues 21-23) Written by Mike W. Barr. Penciled by Bart Sears. Inked by Randy Elliot
  4. Destroyer (issue 27) Written by Dennis O’Neil; drawn by Chris Sprouse and Bruce Patterson
  5. Mercy (issue 37) Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; drawn by Colin MacNeil
  6. Images (issue 50) Written by Dennis O’Neil. Drawn by Bret Blevins.
  7. Snitch (issue 51) Written by Robert Loren Fleming. Drawn by David G. Kein.
  8. Tao (issues 52-53) Written by Alan Grant. Drawn by Arthur Ranson.
  9. Watchtower (issues 55-57) Written by Chuck Dixon. Drawn my Mike McMahon.
  10. Storm (issue 58) Written by Andrew Donkin and Graham Brand. Drawn by John Higgins.
  11. Quarry (issues 59-61) Written by Dennis O’Neill. Drawn by Ron Wagner and Ron McCain (issue 59) and Eduardo Barreto (issues 60-61).
  12. Climax (issue 63) Written by Dennis O’Neil. Drawn by Barry Kitson and Scott Hanna.
  13. Werewolf (issues 71-73) Written by James Robinson. Drawn by John Watkiss.
  14. Favorite Things (issue 79) Written by Mark Millar. Pencilled by Steve Yeowell, inked by Dick Giordano.
  15. Citadel (issue 85) Written by James Robinson. Drawn by Tony Salmons.
  16. Clay (issues 89-90) Written by Alan Grant. Drawn by Quique Alcatena
  17. Freakout (issues 91-93) Written by Garth Ennis. Drawn by Will Simpson.
  18. Stories (issue 94) Written, drawn and colored by Michael T. Gilbert.
  19. Issue 100 Written by Dennis O’Neill. Drawn by Dave Taylor. Written by James Robinson. Drawn by Lee Weeks.
  20. Stalking (issues 107-108) Written by Lee Marrs. Drawn by Eddy Newell.
  21. The Primal Riddle (issues 109-111) Written by Steve Englehart. Penciled by Dusty Abell. Inked by Drew Geraci.
  22. Siege (issues 132-136) Written by Archie Goodwin and James Robinson. Penciled by Marshall Rogers. Inked by Bob Wiacek and John Cebollero.
  23. Terror (issues 137-141) Written by Doug Moench. Penciled by Paul Gulacy. Inked by Jimmy Palmiotti.
  24. The Demon Laughs (issues 142-145) Written by Chuck Dixon. Penciled by Jim Aparo. Inked by John Cebollero.
  25. Grimm (issues 149-153) Written by J.M. De Matteis. Penciled by Trevor Von Eeden. Inked by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.
  26. Colossus (issues 154-155) Written by Mike Baron. Drawn by Bill Reinhold.
  27. Urban Legend (issue 168) Written by Bill Willingham. Drawn by Tom Fowler.
  28. Cold Snap (issues 190-191) Written by J. Torres. Penciled by David Lopez. Inked by Fernando Blanco.
  29. The Madmen of Gotham (issues 204-206) Written by Justin Gray. Drawn by Steven Cummings.
  30. Chicks Dig The Bat (issue 212) Written by Adam Beechen. Penciled by Steve Scott. Inked by Nathan Massengill.
  31. Otaku (issue 213) Written by Matt Wayne. Drawn by Steven Cummngs.
  32. Annual #4 (1994) Written by Brian Augustyn and Mark Waid. Penciled by Joe Staton. Inked by Horacio Ottolini.
  33. Fears (1993 Halloween special) Written by Jeph Loeb. Drawn by Tim Sale.
  34. Ghosts (1995 Halloween special) Written by Jeph Loeb. Drawn by Tim Sale.
2:
  1. Family (issue 31) Written by James D. Hudnall. Drawn by Brent Anderson
  2. Destiny (issues 35-36) Written by Bo Hampton and Mark Kneece; drawn by Bo Hampton
  3. Legend of the Dark Mite (issue 38) Written by Alan Grant, drawn by Kevin O’Neill
  4. Turf (issues 44-45) Written by Steven Grant. Drawn by Shawn McManus.
  5. Sanctum (issue 54) Written by Dan Raspler and Mike Mignola. Drawn by Mike Mignola.
  6. Devils (issue 62) Written by Chuck Dixon. Drawn by Ron Wagner and Ron McCain.
  7. Terminus (issue 64) Written by Jaimie Delano. Drawn by Chris Bachalo and Mark Pennington.
  8. Going Sane (issues 65-68) Written by J.M. De Matteis. Drawn by Joe Staton and Steve Mitchell.
  9. The Sleeping (issues 76-78) Written and drawn by Scott Hampton.
  10. Infected (issues 83-84) Written by Warren Ellis. Drawn by John McCrea.
  11. Jazz (mini series) Written by Gerard Jones. Drawn by Mark Badger.
  12. Spook (issues 102-104) Written by James Robinson. Drawn by Paul Johnson.
  13. Duty (issues 105-106) Written by C.J. Henderson. Penciled by Trevor von Eeden. Inked by Joe Rubinstein.
  14. Playground (issue 114) Written by James Robinson. Penciled by Dan Brereton. Inked by Bradstreet.
  15. Lost Cargo (issues 177-178) Written by Devin Grayson. Penciled by Jean-Jacques Dzialowski. Inked by George Rodriguez.
  16. Full Circle (issue 179) Written by A.J. Lieberman. Drawn by Greg Scott.
  17. The Secret City (issues 180-181) Written by Dylan Horrocks. Penciled by Ramon F. Bachs. Inked by Jon Holdredge.
  18. Riddle Me That (issues 185-189) Written by Shane McCarthy. Penciled by Tommy Castillo. Inked by Rodney Ramos.
  19. Emergency (issue 200) Written by Eddie Campbell and Daren White. Drawn by Bart Sears.
  20. Annual #1 (1991) Written by Dennis O’Neil. Illustrated by 10 artists.
  21. Annual #5 (1995) Written by Chuck Dixon. Drawn by Quique Alcatena.
  22. Annual #7 (1997) Written by James Robinson. Drawn by Steve Yeowell and Russ Heath.
1:
  1. Flyer (issues 24-26) Written by Howard Chaykin. Drawn by Gil Kane.
  2. Sunset (issue 41) Written by Tom Joyner and Keith S. Wilson. Drawn by Jim Fern.
  3. Viewpoint (issue 0) No writer credited (it was Archie Goodwin). Too many artists credited to list.
  4. Engines (issues 74-75) Written and drawn by Ted McKeever.
  5. The Incredible Adventures of Batman (issue 101) Written by John Wagner. Drawn by Carlos Ezquerra.
  6. Shipwreck (issues 112-113) Written by Dan Vado. Penciled by Norman Felchle. Inked by Norman Felchle and Frank Cirocco.
  7. The Darkness (issue 115) Written by Darren Vincenzo. Illustrated by Luke McDonnell.
  8. Annual #3 (1993) Written by Dennis O’Neil. Drawn by Mike Manley, Luke McDonnell, Gray Morrow, Ricardo Villagran
  9. Annual #6 (1996) Written by Alan Grant and Barry Kitson. Drawn by Vince Giarrano.
Batman_Legends_of_the_Dark_Knight_Vol_1_190NOTE: I skipped issues 116-126 and 182-184 because they were part of the “No Man’s Land” and “War Games” crossovers. They would have been impossible to fairly review without having read the rest of the comics in those epic stories, so I just skipped them. In retrospect, I should’ve skipped the issues that were part of “Knight Fall” and “Destroyer” too.

The first thing you’ll notice is that no comic or arc received a full 5 out of 5. That rating is reserved for masterpieces like Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, Maus, etc. There were a few arcs I was tempted to score a 5, but upon closer inspection I realized they had flaws, or they simply just weren’t good enough to merit a grade of that caliber. That’s okay, because a 4 out of 5 is a very commendable, reputable grade in my opinion.

I handed out a total of 92 ratings.
Here’s how the scores break down:
4: 29%
3: 37%
2: 24%
1: 10%

lotdk3Two thirds of all the LOTDK comics received a score of average or above, so there were definitely more good arcs than bad arcs. For a series of this length and caliber, it’s actually pretty impressive that only a third of its run stunk (some of those 1’s and 2’s were truly ghastly).

If you look at my report card closely, you’ll notice certain writers appear in both the best and worst columns. Denny O’Neil and James Robinson are probably the two most notable examples of this, which is a bit surprising since they are comic book veterans and both have reputations as being great writers. Still, even the greats swing and miss sometimes, and this is true of all mediums.

Next week I’ll be posting my Top 10 Best and Worst LOTDK stories. Be sure to check that out!