Thursday, 9 August 2012

Retro Books : Batman - Collected Legends Of The Dark Knight

Batman: Collected Legends
of The Dark Knight,
Titan 1994
Batman adventures are a funny breed. I recall purchasing endless copies of DC comics in the 70s and 80s in the hope of collecting complete adventures featuring the caped crusader usually with little success.

So it was a bonus when graphic novels came along,  for the first time I could purchase complete adventures in book form and read them without the intrusion of advertisements for sea monkeys or body building.
Titan books series of graphic novels  culled together a variety of darker edged tales in the 90s, some of which I've enjoyed with varying degrees.

A recent visit to a favourite treasure trove bookshop saw the 1994 release Batman : Collected Legends of the Dark Knight fall into my hands for a mere £3.50 and not a bad collection it is too.

Blades

Headed by James Robinson's Blades drawn by Tim Sale, The Batman finds a competitor for Gotham City's affections in the suave shape of The cavalier - a Hollywood stuntman come superhero. On the surface The Cavalier appears to be cleaning up the streets of Gotham City of various criminals but secretly he's also helping himself  to a personal crime wave. Meanwhile, The Batman is to busy to be interested in a media hungry rival and is trying to unravel who is bumping off several senior citizens in Gotham in what appears to be random and unconnected murders.

Blades is a well thought out and unpredictable story. The Cavalier (undoubtedly modelled on Errol Flynn)  is a likable creation who quickly gets sidetracked by making a few wrong decisions. The story also shows the Batman question his own vulnerability while struggling to maintain a grip on his own crime fighting skills. Superbly framed by Sale, its a gripping story that's certainly worth a read.

Legend of The Dark Mite

Legend of The Dark Mite  features a guest appearance by The Batman's intergalactic cohort Batmite. Stepping in from an alternate universe Batmite lends The Batman a hand when a drug heist gets out of control. The criminal of the piece, Overdog enthused with amphetamines believes hes hallucinating when confronted by Batmite in an alleyway.

His attempt to kill Batmite gets out of control when a series of cataclysmic events ensues including several murders and the transformation of Batmite into a nightmarish demon character. The Batman who catches up with Underdog and questions him believes the events that ensued are all  part of the criminals drug fuelled state.

Alan Grant's script is by far the most caricatured and visually entertaining story in the collection. Legend of The Dark Mite raises a smile because it is as gritty as it is fun. Artist Kevin O'Neill mixes a  hint of classic 50s retro art with grungy 90s to produce pure Gothic horror - irresistible!

HotHouse

The book concludes with HotHouse which sees The Dark Knight attempt to get to the bottom of an apparent suicide of a well respected college dean whilst succumbing once again to the charms of Poison Ivy. P Craig Russell's pictures heighten the effect of John Francis Moore's strong script producing some wonderful character cutaways throughout the presentation of the story.

All three stories are vastly different interpretations of Batman story telling but all are unified in quality and excitement making Batman: Collected Legends of The Dark Knight worth seeking out.

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