07th Apr2021

‘Legends of the Dark Knight #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written and Drawn by Darick Robertson | Published By DC Comics

Ah, Legends of the Dark Knight. That’s a grand old name. I say that as someone who bought the first issue of the original Legends book back in 1989. The first issue printed with several different coloured covers, and muggins here bought the lot. The speculator craze of the 1990’s had yet to hit, in all its chrome cover and polybag lunacy, so I was ahead of the curve in telling DC Comics to literally take all of my money. The early years of the book featured some great stuff, self contained stories by rotating teams of superstar artists and writers, often set in Batman’s early years, which enabled the creative teams to take a fresh look at some crusty old villains. This new digital first book is resurrecting both the name of that former series, and also the rotating creative team approach, which should entice some tasty names to have a go at the Dark Knight. First up to bat, Darick Robertson.

Most people probably know Robertson from his great run on The Boys, with Garth Ennis, which was a fun book, though he has a decent history at both Marvel and DC working on everything from Justice League to Wolverine. He’s a great choice to start this title, and by writing and drawing it he’s going all in. He even chips in with a fine looking cover too. We start, as every Batman book should do, with the Bat-Signal. Commissioner Gordon has been trying to summon Batman for three nights, but he’s apparently gone missing. He was last seen by Gotham PD working on a poison gas case down on the docks, working against the clock to stop any of Gotham’s major criminals getting their hands on that deadly poison gas. A surprising number of the Batman rogues gallery use gas in their modus operandi. The Joker of course, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Penguin, even The Riddler. No shortage of buyers in Gotham it seems.

First up on the radar, The Penguin. He’s set up a buy for the gas, not knowing Batman has knowledge of it now from a ‘reluctant’ informant. The meet goes ahead, and it is military grade Sarin gas, sold by what seems be a Russian in a gas mask. One horrific demonstration later, Penguin’s up for buying. There is, however, a slight wrinkle. Some of those previously mentioned villains have been given samples, with the idea being I guess to drive the price up as they all want it. Don’t feel too sad for Oswald Cobblepot though, as it seems he has himself double-crossed Mr. Freeze, who shows up angry that he has been, ahem, frozen out of a meeting he was supposed to jointly hold with Penguin. Like someone telling you a meeting is at 9 when it’s really at 8. While the two villains squabble away, Batman swoops in and cleans up. Two players off the board. Next up? Joker. Never funny.

This was such an easy read, and such an enjoyable one, I got through it in 10 minutes easy. So I read it again. It’s paced so well there’s no let up, felt sort of like a heist movie in tone, and I wanted it to just keep going. As Robertson is both writng and drawing he has total control of the layouts and panel placement as well as the dialogue, and really embraces that freedom. The story feels big because it is drawn as such. No page has more than 4 or 5 panels, and many have full page panels, some two panel pages, even a couple of double page spreads. All help to make you appreciate Robertson’s art. The heaviness of the inks gave off a little Tom Mandrake vibe too, which suited the story nicely.

A quest that takes a hero on a rampage through his greatest foes is certainly not original, but it’s a crowd pleaser as old as Ancient Greece. The angle Robertson takes with it all is a good one, and it promises to be a cracker of a storyline, as well as looking darn good into the bargain.

Batman’s villains of course have enough toys of their own to play with, so throwing in some Sarin gas may just tip the tables too far in their favour. It’s a race against time, and Batman may just be running out of it… Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel for what happens next (or Issue 2).

**** 4/5

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