Legends of the Dark Knight: All of the Above
Though it is the distribution method employed by Legends of the Dark Knight tjat will likely get all of the attention to my mind it is the set-up that should be spoken about. The one-shot structure of this series of digital shorts allows each weeks story to be a strong tonal and stylistic departure from the last. It also allows the writers to take bigger risks because they really have very little to lose, next week we start again with a fresh slate so why stress? Pu’re not going to be locked into this style or story, it’s just a sampling. So issue one can be a short, simple, street level look at a very human Batman while the second is set entirely in space and focuses on him fighting a supervillain with all of the superpowers.
Admittedly the latter is the more unusual type of tale, primarily because on the surface Bats doesn’t seem to have a power and thus he doesn’t have that suspension of disbelief that goes along with one. I’ve always thought that as a character Batman doesn’t fit in the JLA-verse – Watch The Dark Knight then read an issue of The Justice League and see if he doesn’t stand out in the roster like a sore thumb, unbelievable by virtue of his normality – but here he is proven to be just as peculiar as any other comic book character and his power to be perhaps the greatest and most well rounded of the lot. He is the worlds greatest detective and therefore, practically speaking, probably also it’s smartest man.
This is both an easy call to make in passing and a near impossible one to pull off in a proper fashion because to write a smart character in a convincing manner you have to be just as intelligent and to write a smart character in a compelling manner you basically have to be a genius; here Jonathan Larsen proves himself to be both. The techno-babble and twisty tactics that Batman employs in the battle go way over our heads but we are more than willing to crane our necks to look up at them and marvel like men must the superheroes on this satellite because they are so boldly stated that a big brain has surely thought them through. Maybe this is my objectivism talking but by god a smartly written smart character acting smartly makes for superb drama; why then must so many of our stories revolve around mistakes and forced stupidity?
The digital format is not as noticeable this week, though visually there is a lot that goes under the radar. The art by J.G Jones seems so simplistic on the first glance, so straightforward – that’s Batman in space, that’s Batman behind Batman, that’s Batman back in the teleporter bay etc. – that it is easy to miss just how sublime some of his panels are on the second glance. It’s almost as if they serve the story too well for their own good, getting us too keen to kick over the page; perhaps he is simply too at home in this hazy horizontal page perspective? So while it could well have been told in any medium the most important thing is that this story gets told, because its a good little one, perhaps not as classy a last weeks but much more cutting edge, it’s ideas are leaps and bound above and giving us the opportunity to read those is exactly why i reckon this series should run.