02 November 2011

Legends of the Dark Knight: "Duel" & "Family"

Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #1
Denny O'Neil - Script
Jim Aparo - Pencils & Ink pages 1-6, 52-54
Keith Giffen - Pencils pages 7-15
Malcolm Jones III - Inks pages 7-15
Joe Quesada - Pencils pages 16-24
Joe Rubenstein - Inks pages 16-24
Tom Lyle - Pencils pages 25-33
Ty Templeton - Inks pages 25-33
Dan Spiegle - Pencils & Inks pages 34-42
James Blackburn - Pencils pages 43-51
Michael Golden - Inks pages 43-51
Jim Aparo - Letters pages 1-6, 52-54
Janice Chiang - Letters pages 7-15
Willie Schubert - Letters pages 16-51
Steve Oliff - Color
Bill Kaplan - Assistant Editor
Archie Goodwin - Editor
Cover by Mike Mignolia
$3.95/54 pages

Take a look at those credits and you'll see some of the most prolific names in the industry all had a hand in crafting this first ever LOTDK Annual.  As we open, Batman is lugging some kind of large green duffle bag through the snow.  He arrives at an old monastery where he trained prior to becoming the Dark Knight and is instructed to choose between paths; he can continue as Batman, or he can choose to find peace.  From there, it's a series of bizarre conflicts one after the other, from fighting a dragon to a Martian UFO crashing into the Capitol Building, until eventually we learn what has set into motion this unusual sojourn.

Literary-minded readers will likely think of Dante; cinematic-minded readers will recall Fellini.  Either would be an appropriate frame of reference.  Each sequence seems more bizarre than the last, yet at no point did I ever feel that we had entered the realm of the completely absurd; though I admit that the Martian UFO sequence tested even my open-mindedness.  By then I had accepted that we had gone down the rabbit hole,  but it was still unexpectedly peculiar.  Mandatory reading?  Not really.  But certainly an interesting, surreal romp ripe with symbolism (an enticement for those who appreciate such things, and a warning for those who do not).

Cover: Brent Anderson (pencils and inks)
& Steve Oliff (color)
Legends of the Dark Knight #31
Jim Hudnall - writer
Brent Anderson - artist
Steve Oliff - colorist
Kevin Cunningham - letterer
Bill Kaplan - asst. editor
Archie Goodwin - editor
Early June 1992
$1.75/32 pages

Bruce Wayne insists that Alfred take a week's vacation to Corto Maltese.  When Alfred does not return, however, the Batman arrives and scours the jungle to find the only family he has left in the world.  It turns out a ruthless drug lord has the notion of exacting from Alfred something secretive about Bruce Wayne that can be used to blackmail Gotham's well-known billionaire.  Naturally, we almost sympathize with the guy since we know just what kind of hornet's nest he's stirred up by abducting Alfred.

"Family" is a short story; the first single-issue tale told in Legends of the Dark Knight (with the exception of Annual 1).  Its premise is simple enough that it's hard to imagine that it would have benefited from being expanded.  It's not a particularly strong issue, though it's a nice little look at the dynamics of the Bruce/Alfred relationship and we get to see Alfred in action a little.

There are two reasons for pairing these two issues.  Firstly, the letters column of "Family" is devoted to "Duel," so you get the chance to see reader comments about Annual 1 there.  Secondly, there is a somewhat complementary nature to the stories; "Duel" is all about the inner conflict within Bruce Wayne, and the single-minded nature of his mission as Batman, whereas "Family" gives us an external conflict that hits home for the Dark Knight on a different level.  Having fought depression as I have, I identified strongly with the dichotomy of how we can be so overwhelmed and uncertain what to do with ourselves, but focused and ferocious when it comes to our loved ones.

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