Legends of the Dark Knight #1 Is a Familiar Tour of Gotham

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Longtime Batman readers will find little new in this premiere issue of the DC Digital First title that revives the iconic anthology series.

The classic Batman anthology title, Legends of the Dark Knight is back as a new digital-first series from DC. Like the original Legends of the Dark Knight title, it features a rotating pool of creators offering their spin on Gotham City. Unlike recent releases such as Batman: Black and White, Superman: Red and Blue or the upcoming Wonder Woman: Black and Gold, Legends gives creators the opportunity to tell longer-form stories. Like previous digital firsts such as Batman: The Adventure Continues, it is presented in 10-page chapters on a weekly basis before being collected in a monthly physical version. The first chapter is written and drawn by Darick Robertson, who’s best known for mature-readers works like The Boys and Transmetropolitan. Unlike the boundary-pushing work that Robertson is most known for, this premiere chapter is a familiar and unremarkable outing.

This first chapter, one of Robertson’s few credits as a writer, is framed by a conversation between Commissioner Gordon and a member of the Gotham police as they discuss Batman’s latest case and wait for him beside the illuminated Bat-Signal. This time Batman is on the trail of the Gas Mask Killer, a new enemy who is dealing his toxic chemicals to familiar faces in Batman’s rogues’ gallery. As Batman tries to track down this death dealer, he runs across a number of his most notable villains.

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The story itself functions as little more than an excuse for Batman to face off against those existing rogues. The Gas Mask Killer does not offer much for readers to sink their teeth into during this first chapter and is not particularly convincing as a formidable new foe, nor does he have a notable design. Robertson’s script is tight, however, and packs a lot of events in the short page count of this digital release. The idea of exploring questions of how supervillains acquire their various deadly gadgets and death traps is intriguing, however, and evokes Paul Dini’s supervillain Real Estate Broker introduced in his Gotham City Sirens and Streets of Gotham series.

The artwork is the highlight of the issue. Robertson’s bold linework coupled with the detail of his characters and their surroundings and the use of deep shadows evokes Brian Bolland’s work. Robertson does his best to make his new villain formidable by not shying away from the graphic effects of his deadly gases and introduces a few signature gross-out moments that fans of The Boys might relish. As an artist and writer, he has given himself the chance to draw a number of top-shelf villains and manages to make even the least intimidating rogues like Penguin and The Riddler appear menacing. While DC’s decision to present digital releases in landscape view cuts the page art across the middle, Robertson fares better than others due to the level of detail and the texture in his panel work.

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Action scenes are sparse but effective, and Batman’s punches are bone-crunching. Batman himself is rendered expertly, haunting the shadows and swooping through the page with dramatic flourishes of his cape. Diego Rodriguez’s colors compliment the shadowy linework, with moody blues and harsh oranges that cast the issue in a hazy and foreboding light. It is solid draftsmanship all around but for a showcase of innovative or stylistic artwork one would get more for their money out of the recent, and excellent, relaunch of Batman: Black and White.

For new readers with a free trial of DC Universe Infinite or looking for recommendations from their comic shop on how to get started with Batman, this first chapter has the makings of a decent introduction that will check all the boxes for a casual reader. Longtime Batman fans on the other hand will find nothing new in this premiere issue of Legends of the Dark Knight which amounts to a familiar tour of Gotham City.

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