Legends of the Dark Knight #204 Review
One of the recent popular “go to” clichés in Batman comics is the “Bruce discovering secret info about his parent’s past.” It often strains credulity a bit, sort of like how on The Practice, almost every big case started to involve someone’s best friend who we’ve never heard of before. You know, Batman will be investigating, say, Bane, and will learn that maybe Thomas Wayne was Bane’s father!! Or Bruce will meet a woman, and learn that maybe she was having an affair with Thomas Wayne! Stuff like that – it’s definitely an easy well to go to. However, Justin Gray, in Legends of the Dark Knight #204 goes one step further than just going to the “secret in his parent’s past” well, and it really does not work at all. You see, in the current storyline, Batman is facing a group of bad guys called the “Madmen of Gotham.” They can do all sorts of strange things, like turn people insane, or distort people’s bodies. Well, during the story, painters working in the Wayne Mansion discover a secret room that had been covered up. Bruce investigates the room and discovers that, in the past, his father was a part of a group called (wait for it) the Madmen of Gotham.
Credulity is like Stretch Armstrong. You can stretch it, but when you stretch it to the breaking point, you end up with toxic blue goo oozing everywhere. That is the problem with this scenario. It would be a cliché if Batman happened to discover the room, investigate the Madmen and discovered them, but at least it would make sense. Discovering the room AFTER the investigation began stretches credulity too far.
However, while it was annoying, it would be unfair to judge a story based solely on a plot point like that, so as for the rest of the issue….Steve Cummings (artist on the neat Deadshot mini-series) does a good job on the art chores, drawing in a style that resembles Tan Eng Huat a good deal. I enjoyed the artwork.
The Madmen themselves are fairly interesting. There is one character with powers at the end of the comic whose powers are just like an old Justice League Europe character that I wonder if Justin Gray was aware of when he created his character (two cool points to the person who names the JLE villain in question). I enjoyed the confrontations between Batman and the Madmen (I especially liked the nod to Batman telling Arkham “It’s a new one”). The cliffhanger, by the by, showing the bad guy’s power? Quite effective. An old-time cliffhanger, and one that works really well (it also worked really well when it was used in Justice League Europe…hehe).
In addition, the Madmen of the past are also fairly interesting, with a decent enough motivation for how the current Madmen probably came about (something about ending crime by messing with people’s minds – surprisingly, Thomas Wayne OBJECTED! You mean Batman’s dad is a really good guy? Shocking!). So, if it were not for the contrivance of the painters finding the secret room at this point, it would just be a standard enough cliché, and one that would work fairly well, I think.
Gray’s best moment of writing, in my opinion, came when Bruce and Alfred are talking about which woman Bruce should take out that night. It was very nice to see two old friends talk in a manner that showed how Alfred is still a sort of father figure to Bruce, even as Bruce has become a man.
Anyhow, the story as a whole is slight, but innocuous. I will not recommend it, but I do not think it is a bad comic by any stretch, but that “secret from Thomas Wayne’s past” thing was pretty darn silly.