Jason's review of Shaman got me hankering for some more "year one" era Batman goodness, so I thought I'd delve into my back issues, pick up where he's planning on leaving off, and take a look back at Legends of the Dark Knight.

 

This time around, I'll start at Destroyer and hopefully work through the series week by week.  Also, I've decided to include ratings for each storyline... I'll see about posting my rating system below.

 

Shaman - LOTDK 1-5 (collected as Batman: Shaman)  

     Dennis O'Neil / Edward Hannigan ......................................................................................  7.4

Gothic - LOTDK 6-10 (collected as Batman: Gothic) 

     Grant Morrison / Klaus Janson ........................................................................................... 4.7

Prey - LOTDK 11-15 (collected as Batman: Prey)

     Doug Moench / Paul Gulacy

Venom - LOTDK 16-20 (collected as Batman: Venom)

     Dennis O'Neil / Trevor Von Eeden / Russell Braun

Faith - LOTDK 21-23

     Mike W. Barr / Bart Sears

Flyer - LOTDK 24-26

     Howard Chaykin / Gil Kane

Destroyer - Batman 474, LOTDK 27, Detective 641 

     Various ............................................................................................................................ 7.5

Faces - LOTDK 28-30  (collected as Batman: Faces) 

     Matt Wagner ..................................................................................................................... 7

Family - LOTDK 31 

     Jim Hudnall / Brent Anderson ............................................................................................. 7 

Blades - LOTDK 32-34 (part of Batman: Collected Legends of the Dark Knight)

     James Robinson / Tim Sale ............................................................................................... 7.3

Destiny - LOTDK 35-36 (part of Batman: Other Realms)

     Bo Hampton / Mark Kneece ............................................................................................... 6.3

Mercy - LOTDK 37 

     Dan Abnett / Andy Lanning / Colin MacNeil ......................................................................... 8.5

Legends of the Dark Mite - LOTDK 38 (part of Batman: Collected Legends of the Dark Knight)

     Alan Grant / Kevin O'Neill ..................................................................................................... 6

Mask - LOTDK 39-40 (part of Batman: Dark Legends)

     Bryan Talbot

Sunset - LOTDK 41

     Tom Joyner / Keith S. Wilson / Jim Fern

Hot House - LOTDK 42-43 (part of Batman: Collected Legends of the Dark Knight)

     John Francis Moore / P. Craig Russell

Turf - LOTDK 44-45

     Steven Grant / Shawn McManus

Heat - LOTDK 46-49

     Doug Moench / Russ Heath

Images - LOTDK 50 (part of Batman: Dark Legends)

     Dennis O'Neil / Bret Blevins

Snitch - LOTDK 51

     Robert Loren Fleming / David G. Klein

Tao - LOTDK 52-53 (part of Batman: Dark Legends)

     Alan Grant / Arthur Ranson

Sanctum - LOTDK 54 (part of Batman: Dark Legends)

     Dan Raspler / Mike Mignola

Watchtower - LOTDK 55-57

     Chuck Dixon / Mike McMahon

Storm - LOTDK 58

     Andrew Donkin / Graham Brand / John Higgins

Quarry - LOTDK 59-61

Knights End - LOTDK 62-63, and various (collected as Batman: Knightfall V.3: KnightsEnd)

Terminus - LOTDK 64

     Jaimie Delano / Chris Bachalo

Viewpoint - LOTDK 0

Going Sane - LOTDK 65-68 (part of Batman: Going Sane)

     J.M. DeMatteis / Joe Staton

Criminals - LOTDK 69-70

     Steven Grant / Mike Zeck

Werewolf - LOTDK 71-73 (part of Batman: Monsters)

     James Robinson / John Watkiss

Engines - LOTDK 74-75

     Ted McKeever

The Sleeping - LOTDK 76-78 (part of Batman: Other Realms)

     Scott Hampton

Favorite Things - LOTDK 79

     Mark Millar / Steve Yeowell

Idols - LOTDK 80-82

     James Vance / Doug Braithwaite

Infected - LOTDK 83-84 (part of Batman: Monsters)

     Warren Ellis / John McCrea

Citadel - LOTDK 85

     James Robinson / Tony Salmons

Conspiracy - LOTDK 86-88

     Doug Moench / J.H. Williams III

Clay - LOTDK 89-90 (part of Batman: Monsters)

     Alan Grant / Quique Alcatena

Freakout - LOTDK 91-93

     Garth Ennis / Will Simpson

Stories - LOTDK 94

     Michael T. Gilbert

Dirty Tricks - LOTDK 95-97

     Dan Abnett / Andy Lanning / Anthony Williams

Steps - LOTDK 98-99

     Paul Jenkins / Sean Phillips

The Choice - LOTDK 100 (part of Robin: The Teen Wonder)

     Dennis O'Neil / Dave Taylor

The Incredible Adventures of Batman - LOTDK 101

     John Wagner / Carlos Ezquerra

Spook - LOTDK 102-104

     James Robinson / Paul Johnson

Duty - LOTDK 105-106

     C.J. Henderson / Trevor Von Eeden

Stalking - LOTDK 107-108

     Lee Marrs / Eddie Newell

The Primal Riddle - LOTDK 109-111

     Steve Englehart / Dusty Abell

Shipwreck - LOTDK 112-113

     Dan Vado / Norman Felchle

Playground - LOTDK 114

     James Robinson / Dan Brereton

The Darkness - LOTDK 115

     Darren Vincenzo / Luke McDonnell

NML: Fear of Faith - LOTDK 116 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.1)

NML: Bread and Circuses - LOTDK 117 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.1)

NML: Balance - LOTDK 118 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.1)

NML: Claim Jumping - LOTDK 119 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.2)

NML: Assembly - LOTDK 120 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.2)

NML: Power Play - LOTDK 121 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.2)

NML: Low Road to Golden Mountain - LOTDK 122 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.3)

NML: Underground Railroad - LOTDK 123 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.3)

NML: Captain of Industry - LOTDK 124 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.3)

NML: Falling Back - LOTDK 125 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.4)

NML: End Game - LOTDK 126 (part of Batman: No Man’s Land V.4)

The Arrow and the Bat - LOTDK 127-131 (part of Batman: The Ring, the Arrow, and the Bat)

     Dennis O'Neil / Sergio Cariello

Siege - LOTDK 132-136 (part of Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers)

     Archie Goodwin / James Robinson / Marshall Rogers

Terror - LOTDK 137-141 (collected as Batman: Terror)

     Doug Moench / Paul Gulacy

The Demon Laughs - LOTDK 142-145

     Chuck Dixon / Jim Aparo

Bad - LOTDK 146-148

     Doug Moench / Barry Kitson

Grimm - LOTDK 149-153

     J.M. DeMatteis / Trevor Von Eeden

Colossus - LOTDK 154-155

     Mike Baron / Bill Reinhold

Blink - LOTDK 156-158

     Dwayne McDuffie / Val Semeiks

Loyalties - LOTDK 159-161

     John Ostrander / David Lopez

Auteurism - LOTDK 162-163

     John Arcudi / Roger Langridge

Don’t Blink - LOTDK 164-167

     Dwayne McDuffie / Val Semeiks

Urban Legend - LOTDK 168 (part of Batman: Under the Cowl)

     Bill Willingham / Tom Fowler

Irresistible - LOTDK 169-171

     Tom Peyer / Tony Harris

Testament - LOTDK 172-176

     John Wagner / Chris Brunner

Lost Cargo - LOTDK 177-178

     Devin Grayson / Jean-Jacques Dzialowski

Full Circle - LOTDK 179

     A.J. Lieberman / Greg Scott

The Secret City - LOTDK 180-181

     Dylan Horrocks / Ramon Bachs

War Games: Act I - LOTDK 182 (part of Batman: War Games Act 1: Outbreak)

War Games: Act II - LOTDK 183 (part of Batman: War Games Act 2: Tides)

War Games: Act III - LOTDK 184 (part of Batman: War Games Act 3: Endgame)

Riddle Me That - LOTDK 185-189

     Shane McCarthy / Tommy Castillo

Cold Snap - LOTDK 190-191

     J. Torres / David Lopez

Snow - LOTDK 192-196 (collected as Batman: Snow)

     J.H. Williams III / Dan Curtis Johnson / Seth Fisher

Blaze of Glory - LOTDK 197-199

     Will Pfeifer / Chris Weston

Gotham Emergency - LOTDK 200 (part of Batman: Going Sane)

     Eddie Campbell / Daren White / Bart Sears

Cold Case - LOTDK 201-203

     Christos N. Gage / Ron Wagner

The Madmen of Gotham - LOTDK 204-206

     Justin Gray / Steven Cummings

Darker Than Death - LOTDK 207-211

     Bruce Jones / Ariel Olivetti

Chicks Dig the Bat - LOTDK 212

     Adam Beechen / Steve Scott

Otaku - LOTDK 213

     Matt Wayne / Steven Cummings

Superstitious and Cowardly - LOTDK 214

     Christos N. Gage / Phil Winslade

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Destroyer - Batman 474 / LOTDK 27 / Detective 641

 

Basic Plot:

A bomber obsessed with architecture starts destroying buildings, gradually becoming less concerned with the human casualties as he goes.  As victims start to appear, Batman becomes involved in the case, identifying a pattern and digging through the city’s past to determine the bomber’s next targets.  Batman manages to save people’s lives but is unable to catch the bomber or stop the buildings from collapsing and changing the Gotham cityscape.  His mission done, the bomber prepares to leave, but is lured back to meet his fate in an attempt to save one of the buildings he truly values.

 

My Thoughts:

This story had a job to do - give an in continuity reason for the Gotham landscape’s sudden appearance shift to mirror the Burton Batman movie.  It does this decently enough, but it does suffer from multiple writers and inconsistent art. 

 

The story shifts from Alan Grant to Dennis O’Neil then back to Grant and it changes somewhat the internal voice of the antagonist.  This isn’t too bad as the character evolves over the story, however, the monologue flow feels like the character is evolving from Batman (p1) to Detective (p3) to LOTDK (p2) rather than the actual order the story progresses.  In other regards, the voices and the story match up well, although O’Neil’s greater focus on building Gotham history makes it feel a little padded, (probably owing more to different writing styles than sparsity of content).  Overall though, this was an interesting tale of an obsessed man seeking to restore a dream with some of the history and evolution of Gotham as a backdrop. 

 

The new buildings and vistas designed by Anton Furst are stunning changes that will be reflected in the Batman comics for quite some time.  All the artists seem to do a good job with Furst’s buildings but the consistency ends there.  Batman, Bruce Wayne, and Jim Gordon look very different from issue to issue and Sarah Essen looks so dramatically different that without context it’s hard to place her as the same character.  Breyfogle and Aparo’s art especially don’t mesh well; this disparity of art styles hurts the story.

 

Some Things of Note or that I Found Interesting:

 

- One of the first things I noticed this read through was the similar feel this story shares with Gates of Gotham.  I’m thinking the Gates’ writers might have drawn quite a bit of inspiration from this story.

 

- Sarah Essen shows up at the initial crime scene without Gordon and it’s mentioned he’s trying to cut down on his overtime due to his recent heart attack.  The Detective issue runs the American Heart Association ad.

 

- Despite being one story, the Alan Grant Batman and Detective issues have a little more focus on the present (at the time) continuity while the LOTDK issue has a bit of a past focus.  Case in point, the heart attack is only mentioned in Batman and Detective while the flashbacks only occur in LOTDK.

 

- Early on, Batman is going after some art forgers, suggesting he’s not just interested in violent crimes but law and order in general, however later in the same issue, he casually instigates a bar fight and we’re shown a panel where his equipment is damaging a building.  Seems a mite hypocritical.

 

- The bar toughs don’t seem very cowed by Batman.  I guess they don’t remember the rampages he went on after Jason died.

 

- We have different “speakers” in the caption boxes but they’re not differentiated in any way.  We have to determine who’s “speaking” the old fashioned way... by characterization.

 

- Gotta say, Dennis O’Neil writes a fantastic Alfred.

 

- The computer systems aren’t shown to be as universally connected as they are today.  Some of the information isn’t in the computers period.  Other pieces of information are in discrete systems that would just take too much time to hack.  A definite change from today’s way of thinking about things.

 

- The gothic building’s seeming emergence from the destruction of the generic building is masterful.

 

- In LOTDK, Dennis O’Neil has a professor basically say that only a crazy person could like the Gotham architecture and his Sinclair, (the bomber), is noticeably less balanced.  Additionally, the idea of the architecture possibly having a causational influence in shaping psychology is brought up.  

 

- In Detective, Alan Grant has Essen say something’s “a touch too convenient” on one page and then has Sinclair find the architect Pinkney’s original notes on the next, thus giving him more of a basis for crazy beliefs rather than just obsessive needs.  I wonder if he found O’Neil’s handling of Sinclair a touch too convenient? :)

 

- While he started out at a good pace in the Batman issue, by the end of the series, the bomber didn’t actually take out that many buildings.  I guess we’ll just have to assume he took out a bunch of extra buildings while Batman was trapped.

 

Questions:

I wonder if the LOTDK issue number had any significance in the story?  Was this just a convenient time to do the crossover to establish the new landscape or did they wait specifically so that they’d have something memorable to introduce in LOTDK 27, much like they did in Detective 27 all those years ago?

 

Rating:

Overall, I thought this was a pretty good story.  The art wasn’t to my taste for the first issue and was definitely inconsistent between issues.  Likewise, some of the characterization was inconsistent.  However, it did have some strong visuals, interesting undercurrents, and aspects that would affect the bat mythos for quite some time; really it was surprisingly good for a story with such a mandated agenda. 

 

Rating - 7.5

It has been a long (LONG) time since I've read this, but I do remember liking especially the story by Alan Grant along with the art by Chris Sprouse. This is still one of the episodes I'll buy any time I see it in a bargain bin.

It has been a long (LONG) time since I've read this, but I do remember liking especially the story by Alan Grant along with the art by Chris Sprouse. This is still one of the episodes I'll buy any time I see it in a bargain bin.

I found the way Sprouse drew everyone's lips a little distracting but man did he ever do a fabulous job showing the darker city emerging.

The rating system I use is a little complicated, although it's essentially a rating out of 10.

Basically, I have 6 categories for which I give each comic an A, B, or C:  

Cover, Plotting, Characterization, Consistency, Stand Alone, and Interior Art.  

I assign all A's 3 points, all B's 2 points, and all C's 1 point.  I then add this total and divide by 2, giving me a rating out of 9.  Once I've determined this number, I then have a number of special criteria that can add or subtract half or full points:

Bad Panel Layout (including bad text placement), Difficulty Interpreting the Art, Misattributed Dialogue, and Colouring Errors or incorrect images all require a half point negative.  Bad Bang for the Buck and Offensive Crap cause a full point negative.  Meanwhile, Revisionist Gems, (stories that introduce important elements), Comic Gems that I laugh throughout, and comics that Strike a Chord and make a lasting impression are all worthy of an extra full point.

So, when all is said and done, the rating could theoretically go past 10, (but I've never had one that has).  My rule of thumb is that a comic that receives a 5 or less is a poor comic, 6 is an ok comic, 7 is a good comic, 8 is a very good comic, and 9 (or higher) is an excellent comic.  

Basically, I like to think this rating system gives me a fairly balanced evaluation of most aspects of a comic.  It is weighted more towards the writing then the art but that's how I tend to appreciate my comics.  It requires that each comic is enjoyable as a single unit, something else I insist on.  Meanwhile, it does mean that a phenomenal story may get a less than stellar score if the colourists, letterers, etc. fall down on the job a bit.

After all the numbers are added and everything's calculated, my rating system is just as subjective as anyone else's ratings but it does help me to keep my personal ratings consistent, which is really all it was designed to do.  So, now that you all know how I come up with my ratings numbers and have marveled at my anal retentiveness... back to the comics. :)

 

I like it, BM.  Well thought out and gives consideration to all aspects.

Cool. Thanks for starting this BM. I like your rating system. I need to get to Gothic. The back issues I purchased go from 1-26.

That's an awesome rating system! Really well thought-out.

Is there anything that could make a rating go up half a point? Something like "innovative panel layout" or "memorable turn of phrase"?

So, now that you all know how I come up with my ratings numbers and have marveled at my anal retentiveness...

And how!  ;-)

But it's cool.  "Whatever works for you" shall be the whole of the law.

Looking forward to more of these.  Also looking forward to seeing how you mark Gothic, at some point.

Offensive Crap cause[s] a full point negative.

I'd say you are being too generous.

Looking at your list, I hadn't realised that so many LOTDK issues were crossovers.  That looks like a retreat from the original spirit of the series.

LotDK interests me most as a vehicle for self-contained stories by top-drawer talent (even if it didn't always follow that remit).  That doesn't apply as much for your first review as it was a multi-creator crossover tied into ongoing continuity, but it might be a good idea to highlight the creators at the outset of each review going forward, as their individual takes/visions were part of the whole point of the series.

Finally, I can't believe that these are comics are from over 20 years ago, and the series had been running for over 2 years at this point.

I don't recall any big deal being made of the LOTDK issue number at the time... but maybe that pales in my memory to the idea that this was the first time the book really broke with its mission statement, by taking part in a present-day crossover. Although since you say the flashbacks primarily happened there, it sounds like they were trying to have their cake and eat it, too.

I collected this series in it's entirety when it first hit the shelves. There were stories (like Shaman) that gave an insight to the character's formative time, and many others that told of Batman's first forays into crimefighting and learning his craft. There were others of note too, like Batmite's few appearances, and the glimpses into the (possible) future(s) that showed how far the Mythology of the Dark Knight reached. When it ended, I said goodbye to my last long-running DC Comics title collecting. (I'll spare you the details of what happened when I parted with the full collection. Suffice to say, I'll never travel to Brooklyn for a comic-show EVER again.)
I don't care for the post-Flashpoint version. With the official reboot set at 5 years, there really isn't much (IMHO) material to generate any kind of 'Legend stories' for this version of Batman. And with the cancellation, abandonment & "merging" into the greater Multiverse of the Elseworlds stories, I seriously doubt we'll see it again.

As I said on another thread, LotDK #1 was my first comic after a 10-year absence. I was also disappointed when they turned the title into just another Bat-Book.

Rob Staeger said:

Is there anything that could make a rating go up half a point? Something like "innovative panel layout" or "memorable turn of phrase"?

Rob, I liked the "innovative panel layout" suggestion immediately, however, I was thinking that "memorable turn of phrase" was kind of encompassed in the other options.  Then, lo and behold, the very next comic I read just screams out for a "memorable turn of phrase" bonus.  So, I guess I'm going to be using both these criteria as part of my rating system.  Thanks for the suggestions. :)

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