Legends of the Dark Knight: Slam! Part 3
The old Batman TV show used to end each episode with the caped crusader trapped in a seemingly inescapable position – not just cliff-hanging but barreling off the edge of the cliff, unconscious in the back of a van full of explosives – but instead of coming up with an extended plan of escape the next episode would simply show him stepping out the van before it got airborne; the answer to ‘How will he get out this one’ always just ‘by being Batman’. This third and final chapter of Slam! takes a similar tact in the treatment of the tension that it spent the second issue ratcheting up; Bradley is in police lock-up, framed for a fresh second murder, the cops cornering him with their weapons drawn: how will he get out of this one? Batman.
As all climaxes do Slam!’s final chapter ratchets up the action and the pacing and has the titular detective teaming up with the World’s Greatest Batman to briskly tie up all of the stories loose ends. There are stealthy escapes into shadows, bold brawls with bad guys, gangsters with Tommy guns and good guys victorious over all; it is everything that you could expect from a Batman book and it looks just like one too; Phil Hester painting it all perfectly fine, adapting his style to the action heavy nature of the script with ease.
Only that’s not what I thought this was going to be; Initially it seemed like Slam would not only star in the series but set its tone, allowing Fialkov to tell a different kind of story and Hester to draw in a different kind of way. Thankfully then the pair still at least lets the plot focus on the forlorn detective and here in his redemption hour he really gets to shine, not only swinging punches by Bat’s side but even diving through a window to save him for once; he quite literally gets to be Batman during the solution of his suspenseful story.
Have I said too much about the plot? Perhaps, but at the same time the speed at which this third chapter progresses leaves little time for tension; every threat is resolved on the page after it is introduced; answers and victories coming a little too easy to the partners once they put their heads and fists together. I get that the Legends format is a frightfully short one and so this compression is necessary to some extent, it’s just the combination of it with the simplification of story that soiled the issue a little for me.
That’s not however to say that Fialkov doesn’t do a decent job of scripting the thing. No, the beats employed are all solid and there is so brilliant humor and humanity scattered throughout the dialogue: Slam slyly undercutting Bruce’s now stump soliloquy on why he wears the mask, the way he subsequently lets slip the word ‘partner’ and the hilarious reveal of the final page alone make the issue worth while. And although the character is barely in it Hester still does a hellish job of drawing Black Mask.
So the end of the story is exciting, entertaining and excellently done, on a base level it is the most satisfying, viscerally speaking and yet I am slightly disappointed because what I loved about the first two issues was the way that they challenged and subverted the ordinary Gotham fare; they satisfied cerebrally as well. It’s certainly not a fall from grace for the pair, they’ve simply shuffled back a step but were so far in front that this still leaves them ahead of the pack. So I still recommend reading this -though if you’ve got the first two then there’s no way you’re not going to finish it regardless of what I say -, and would still love to see a Slam series from Hester and Fialkvo, but now I’m wondering if it wouldn’t work better set outside the world of Gotham, a creator owned noir where capes truely won’t get in the way.