Year One, approximately pt. 2

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Prey, the third storyline in Legends of the Dark Knight focuses on Batman’s relationship with Jim Gordon and the Gotham city police department. I’ve not read much of Doug Moench’s stuff and I must admit I’ve never been a fan of Paul Gulacy’s art, but this wasn’t a bad storyline at all, though I definitely preferred previous Year One story lines.

For me one of the highlights of the Year One stories is that for the most part they do not feature Batman’s iconic rogues gallery, instead the stories focus on the rookie Batman’s war on regular crime. one story I did love though is from Batman annual 14, ‘Eye of the Beholder’, which was published around the same time as the early Legends of the Dark Knight stories and features the origin of the villain ‘Two-face’.

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Until I read this recently I only knew artist Chris Sprouse from his work on a few Ex Machina annuals, but I feel I may have to hunt down some of his other work as I really liked his art here which reminded me a lot of ‘Year One’ while still having its own style.

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I must admit that my comic-buying tends to be based mostly on creators I like rather than particular characters or books, so while I have recently been buying some of the ‘classic’ stories I haven’t yet read, I now have to jump ahead several issues of Legends of the Dark Knight to the next I have in my collection, two stories, one featuring the art (and writing) of Matt Wagner and the other the art of Tim Sale.

First, ‘Faces’ by Wagner, a brilliant 3-part storyline featuring Two-Face which looks amazing and reads just as well. Like Sprouse on the annual Wagner captures the year one look and feel perfectly while still retaining his own unique style. This story also highlights another aspect of the year one Batman that I tend to prefer over other Batman stories; Bruce Wayne is a character. I’m all for the line between Wayne and Batman as individuals being blurred, but I feel the stories always benefit from the human side of Bruce Wayne; Batman sitting in his cave with no chums and going out 365 days a year to fight crime in the streets of Gotham just does not work for me (or seem feasible. I need a little realism in my stories of a man dressed as a bat punching people)

Wagner has spent a good amount of time in the year one period; he wrote and drew two six part stories (which I am trying to get my hands on) which, like Gothic, focus on Batman’s earliest encounters with the supernatural. He also wrote and drew ‘Trinity’ the story of Batman and Superman’s first encounter with Wonder Woman. (Another storyline I recently picked up but have yet to read, might put something about it on here later.)

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Finally from Wagner is Batman/Grendel, a cross-over between between batman and Wagner’s own creation Grendel. Drawn in the same ‘year one’ style as his other Batman tales this story features Batman vs the villainous Grendel, a character I must confess to not knowing much about. I also recently bought this cross-over, as well as a later one, and have every intention of reading them shortly, so maybe I can add a little later.

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The final Legends of the Dark Knight story I want to look at at the moment is ‘Blades’ written by James Robinson with art by the always fantastic Tim Sale. Another very nice 3-parter, ‘Blades’ focuses on Batman’s attempt to hunt down a serial killer who targets the elderly and also shows us how Batman (and the city) react to a new masked vigilante, one who isn’t as dark as the caped crusader.

Sale, who’s spectacular art entered the mainstream through its appearance on the TV show Heroes,  is as amazing as always on this tale, which is one of my favourite Bat tales in some time. He’s most famously contributed to the Year One period with the story ‘The Long Halloween’ and its sequel ‘Dark Victory’

‘The Long Halloween’ introduces super-villains to Batman while focusing on the relationship between Batman, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent, as well as Dent’s transformation into Two-face. ‘Dark Victory’ continues this tale while introducing Dick Grayson, better known as the first Robin.

I’m not a big fan of Jeph Loeb, writer of both these stories, but working with Sale always brings out the best in him for some reason. As much as I like both these stories (more so ‘The Long Halloween’) I have always been a fan of their earlier Batman stories together, 3 Legends of the Dark Knight annuals. These Halloween annuals have been collected together several times. I have the ‘Haunted Knight’ collection. Again these 3 tales feature a younger, more human Batman.

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