05 November 2011

Legends of the Dark Knight: "Blades"

Legends of the Dark Knight #32-34
James Robinson - story
Tim Sale - art
Willie Schubert - letters
Steve Oliff - colors
Archie Goodwin & Bill Kaplan - editors
Late June-Late July 1992
$1.75, 32 pages/each

A killer calling himself "Mr. Lime" has decided to rid the overpopulated world of the elderly.  Meanwhile, a flamboyant, sword-brandishing swashbuckler calling himself The Cavalier has emerged as Gotham City's latest hero, stealing the spotlight from the Batman...who has become increasingly obsessed with finding Mr. Lile.  Then comes a jewel thief, preying on Gotham's wealthiest citizens; a bothersome crime not worthy of the Batman's attention with Mr. Lime on the loose.

"Blades" is worth noting if for no other reason than being the LOTDK debut of Tim Sale, who would go on to collaborate with writer Jeph Loeb to craft the three Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials and The Long Halloween, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When in Rome mini-series.  James Robinson's yarn, however, is quite solid itself and deftly uses both Mr. Lime and The Cavalier to hit at different aspects of Bruce Wayne's psychology.  He is obsessed with finding Lile because he is tormented by the grief of the surviving children left behind; no matter that they're all middle-aged adults much more capable of handling the loss than he was as a child.  Whereas Howard Chaykin's "Flyer" showed us Bruce realizing that being the Batman could not be about having fun, Robinson has hit on what drives him in the first place.

Yet, the counterpoint is explored in the relationship between Batman and The Cavalier.  The Dark Knight tolerates the swashbuckler chiefly because he's busy with Mr. Lime and is willing to defer the handling of Gotham's other crimes to the hands of the newcomer, at the very least as a placeholder hero.  However, we also know that The Cavalier has inadvertently hit upon another nerve: he reminds Bruce Wayne of his childhood hero, Zorro.
"You remind me of old movies...of good times.  For that you get a chance in Gotham. One chance. Guard my city well." - Batman to The Cavalier, Part One, page 14
It's a fascinating story, as both subplots resonate so strongly with Bruce Wayne's youth; one fond, the other tragic.  These are the kinds of stories that best characterized Legends of the Dark Knight.  Rather than rely on action-driven conflicts with the colorful (and popular) Rogues Gallery of supervillains, most LOTDK stories centered instead on minor, often original, characters who were better suited to exploring these kinds of psychological tales.  "Mr. Lime" disturbs the Batman in a way that, say, The Joker would not.  There's a familiarity with The Joker; not knowing who Mr. Lime is becomes as infuriating for Batman as not being able to stop him.  And, as a reader, I find that my own lack of familiarity with these antagonists allows me to be more easily caught up in the drama at hand.

I do wish there had been a fourth issue, though, because one subplot feels abridged here in three issues.  Or, perhaps, I simply wanted more of "Blades."  Regardless, it's a terrific story and one I would certainly recommend.

"Blades" was reprinted in the trade paperback, Batman: Collected Legends of the Dark Knight.

I am currently working on a novel for NaNoWriMo; this blog post was composed in October.