Batman Intoxicated: Legends of The Dark Knight #1 Reviewon October 8, 2012 at 9:28 am
Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front and confirm that no, Legends of The Dark Knight #1 is by no means required reading. A printed collection of digital-first shorts that DC has been publishing online first since June, these stories take place outside of current DC continuity – sometimes apparently taking place outside of any known DC continuity – and if it weren’t for the involvement of some A-List talent, would appear to be nothing more than DC looking for ways to monetize their backlog of emergency backup stories, some dating back to God knows when – one of these stories clearly takes place back in the Grant Morrison’s / Joe Kelly JLA of the late 90s / early 2000s… although with the setting on the JLA satellite, it might take place in 1978 for all I know.
So do you need to read this book? Hell no; as I said: this feels like DC using their old inventory to scrape four more bucks out of you this week. However, do you want to read this book? Well, if you’re interested in seeing how both some top-shelf and up-and-coming talent view Batman, with absolutely no continuity or ongoing story constraints? It actually is kind of interesting… if somewhat problematic. After all, this appears to be a playground for doing Batman stories, and sometimes on playgrounds, people fall down. And sometimes people are offered free candy and a van ride, but my personal life is none of your Goddamned business, and besides: I’m getting off point here.
There are three stories in this issue, opening with The Butler Did It, written by co-creator of Lost Damon Lindelof, wth art by Animal Man writer Jeff Lemire. This is a story that takes place early in Batman’s career, with Batman riding high with confidence that he is unstoppable and without weakness, only to discover that he has one or two. And one of them is the writing.
This story requires you to believe two things about Batman:
- That sometimes he likes to get shitfaced and mouth off to Alfred about how awesome he is, and:
- That Alfred sometimes likes to hire goons and circus freaks to ambush his surrogate son and beat him until he looks like a Chris Brown neck tattoo.
Look, this story works on some levels. I can buy into a young Batman becoming overconfident in his abilities, and his concerned father figure feeling that Batman is putting himself in danger by not recognizing his limitations. There’s a good story in there somewhere. The problem is, I have never seen any indication in 70-plus years of Batman stories that Bruce likes to celebrate his victories over a bottle or two of scotch. Plus, Batman is a crappy drunk; I’ve been drinking with guys who get liquor muscles, and it rarely ends in a costumed adventure… usually it ends in a puddle of vomit with the “badass” whimpering, “order me a pizza so I don’t die.”
And would Alfred really round up some muscle to throw a savage beating on Batman? If Alfred is clearly aware of Bruce’s one weakness, why not set up the stage and have Batman swing down into a stern talking-to? Is an asskicking really necessary? It’s like the man says: “Buy a man a fish and he eats for a day, but beat that man into unconsciousness with a pipe and brass knuckles, and he’ll have memory issues and wretched Muhammed Ali tremors for a lifetime.” Clearly, I’m having trouble buying it.
Jeff Lemire’s art is a pleasant surprise on the story; considering his work on Sweet Tooth, I never would have guessed he had a Batman story in him. But he draws Batman in his normal dark, semi-abstract style that’s almost cartoony, but he comes across with some killer panels of Batman moving across roofs, particularly around his his cape moves, that really look cool. The problem comes in his drawings of Bruce getting fucked up on Glenlivet… and that problem is that Lemire does too good a job drawing it. Bruce really looks like a wretched alcoholic on those pages… and the problem is that it’s hard to believe that a shabby drunkard is capably of kicking anyone’s ass. Trust me on this one: ain’t nobody giving me a wide berth at the local watering hole unless it’s because they happened to smell me.
All Of The Above, the book’s second story, written by Jonathan Larsen and drawn by J. G. Jones, is a story that could come straight out of Grant Morrison’s run on JLA. We’ve got Batman alone on the team’s satellite, under attack from Amazo and trying to survive without any help from the League’s big guns. All the elements that made Morrison write Superman saying that Batman is “the most dangerous man on the planet” back in his early JLA: New World Order are here: Batman adjusts the temperature to make himself invisible to thermal vision. He outwits x-ray vision in a truly interesting way. Batman figures out how to stop a speedster in his tracks…
…and then Larsen just has to go to the Bat Shark Repellent, doesn’t he? If I live to be a thousand years old, I will never stop being sick of seeing writers find a way to make the fucking Bat Shark Repellent cool, make sense, or even remotely interesting. It was a goofy moment in a goofy movie that came out before 85 percent of comic readers were even born: leave it alone, already! It was a wink and a nod that pulled me right out of a decent little story, albeit a story that was heavily influenced by some really classic comics from fifteen years ago.
Jones’s art is much as it always is. He draws very realistic figures and facial expressions – even Amazo looks like he could be a regular guy you could see in the real world… a regular guy with a crappy taste in wardrobe and haircuts, but realistic. Given the power imbalance between Batman and Amazo, there’s not a lot of direct one-on-one combat here, but what action there is is fluid and easy to follow… even when Batman uses the fucking shark repellent. All in all, I really enjoyed All Of The Above… but Larsen: trust a former comedian; just because you used to work in humor doesn’t mean that you are duty-bound to reference the stupid Batman stories from the 60s. Save the meta-humor for Twitter for the love of God.
The final story, The Crime Never Committed, written by Tom Taylor with art by Nicola Scott, was a pretty engaging story that put the focus on a different side of Batman’s crimefighting: preventing crimes. This story revolves around Batman discovering a pattern in general, legal credit card purchases by a guy planning his first robbery and intervening with Robin to make sure the crime is never committed. It’s a pretty cool take on Batman, who we almost exclusively see swooping in to stop crimes in progress… and it implies something somewhat disturbing about Batman that was previously just touched on in Christopher Nolan’s movie The Dark Knight: with unlimited funds and no legal oversight, of course Batman would troll databases to find evidence of crimes that haven’t happened yet. It’s kinda creepy, and it’s a cool take on Batman’s methodology that hasn’t been widely explored.
The confrontation scene between the potential criminal and Batman and Robin was pretty masterfully done. Considering that the dude planning the robbery is depicted as being desperate and generally non-violent, it makes total sense that Batman would bring Robin to lighten the message to the dude, scaring him without utterly terrifying him. Further, Taylor’s conceit that Batman and Robin would be so tied into the players in the Gotham underworld that they could not only predict the crime, but how the crime would probably go utterly wrong, just feels right for Batman. And the conclusion has a certain moral ambiguity that is pretty satisfying; after all, Batman stops crimes. Period. If he saves you? That’s probably just a happy accident. Throw in Scott’s realistic, moody, easy-to-follow art, and I liked this story a lot.
Look, you don’t need to buy this book. Nothing here is necessary for understanding Batman in the New 52 Universe, and if you miss it, it won’t stop you from getting into the upcoming Death of The Family arc. But there are a couple of good little stories in here that, at varying levels, are worth your time. And, if nothing else, you’ll get to see Batman get shitfaced… and based on his poor performance in that area, it at least made me feel for the first time like I was maybe Batman material. If you have a spare four bucks, you could do worse.