Legends of the Dark Knight – Together
I know that I’m really starting to sound like a broken record now but these Legends of the Dark Knight books are all about brilliant Batman ideas being executed at a brutally brisk a pace. The best titles so far have been the ones that are able to use this format to their advantages, to compress their content just right or to simply cheat and ask for three week’s worth of space for their story. The latest tale, Together by Jonathan Larsen has one of the best ideas of the series to date, but also suffers the most from the format’s speed; making it one of the more exciting and more disappointing efforts all at once, a fittingly schitzoid conflict for a tale about Two-Face to have.
Schizophrenia, split personalities and all other such mental illnesses that might explain the literal division of Harvey Dent’s psyche all stem from physical changes in the brain, this we know from science (or in my case because scientists have said that they know it from science. I know nothing of the brain) and so it only makes sense that the solution to Harvey’s issues would reside in his head. In real life we have seen both horrible and brilliant results from treatments like electroshock therapy and cranial lobotomies and without wanting to say too much it is a similar treatment that seeds the story of this issue, the ominously titles: Corpus Callosotomy.
Exploring Two-Face from this perspective of psychological biology is perfectly fascinating, as are the possibilities for plot stemming from the use of some such radical treatment but these are all very complex notions that quite simply cannot be adequately explored in the space of a single digital issue. This issue is only exacerbated by the fact that Larsen also wants to tell a thrilling traditional story within the space and so he spends too much time on the cold open and action packed climax for a comic with so few pages.
Sure these moments are cool but they’re not really the point of the comic, they’re all things that we both can and have seen elsewhere while the main concept, which is truly unique, is basically all but skipped over. The book then is reduced to being almost pure exposition, it skips briskly from plot point to plot point in order to get all the ideas on the page, but then runs out of time before it can really do something special with them which is a shame since Larsen seems to have had a number of great possibilities in mind. These though are betrayed and muddled by their execution, the final few scenes seeming more like the book going back on its rules than a logical twist.
The depiction of Two-Face mirrors the books structure, his visage marred with a veritably perfect line down its middle separating the pink flesh from the purple. Personally I would have preferred something a little looser, a little more open and ambiguous. On a whole though the art team of Tan Eng Huat and David Lopez does a great job of what they are given. Huat’s heavily lined art really capture the gritty and realistic tone of the tale, selling you on its seriousness, while also making the fast paced storytelling perfectly legible.
Lopez’s colors really cap off a lot of the visual effects too, catalysing what Huat began: they make the action elicit more adrenaline, Two-Face as queasily creepy as he is in many of the closeups, etc. Though it is the way that he handles the lighting and shadow that most stood out to me; not only is it so intricately detailed but it sets the two sides of the villain off well, so that in some panels you can only see Harvey and in others only ‘him’. This also does something interesting with Batman himself, who aside from the opening doesn’t get much to do, in that his face is often split horizontally, contrasting will with the other main character.
So while I obviously had a lot of issues with Together at .99c I would still heartily recommend reading it; I would however be much more enthusiastic about pimping this story if it were a twenty dollar graphic novel with a hundred odd pages dedicated to its topic. So even though you will have to do some of the heavy thematic lifting yourself the ideas at its core are simply so intriguing and the art and script so satisfying on more simpler levels that despite its divide Together is still a better read than most books on the shelf, it’s just a shame that it’s virtues are dragged down so deep by its flaws.