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Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #127
O'Neil (w), Cariello (p), Ryan (i)

As much as I like Denny O'Neil's work, this issue is one of the weaker ones I've read by him. This has nothing to do with the writing, the action, or the pacing--it's all about the story. What the hell is going on here? As a reader, I am suddenly thrust into a very confusing situation without any illumination into a backstory that sounds involved. Batman doesn't even show up until the very end (pg. 22), although Bruce Wayne makes a brief appeanace (pgs. 19-21). What is happening to Oliver Queen? Obviously this is early in his career--probably 2 months into his career as Green Arrow. But here we have him walking the streets of some unidentified city (all casual too--as if a guy dressed like Robin Hood is the most normal thing in the world at 3 AM) and fighting drug dealers. He's the target of a drive-by shooting, an idiot savant assassin, private investigator. Am I missing something here? Why are these people after Queen? Why did he flee to the wilderness? Who is after him? Who did he tick off?

Lo and behold, in the letter column it is revealed that the backstory that is so needed occurs in "Legends of the DC Universe" #7-9 written by O'Neil. Might have been nice for a little connective storytelling--some flashbacks or something for the poor sap like me who's just tossed into the 5 parter without any help at all. I have absolutely no desire to go out and buy those back issues (which the ass. editor LA Williams is trying to get us to do). In fact, all I want is an explanation!! Is that so hard to ask for? To enter a story w/ some idea what's going on?

"Black Panther" kind of reminds me of this, but at least I knew off the bat that Priest was doing this on purpose, that the "whole" story was going to be revealed over time and that Ross standing in his underwear pointing a gun at Buster the rat didn't require a background story ("Black Panther" #1). Comparred to the two other O'Neal LOTDK 5-parters ("Shaman" and "Venom"), "The Arrow and the Bat" has definately got me ticked off. All I know is that there better be some thorough transitional devices used in the next couple of parts of this story or...or... well, I probably won't do anything at all, but that sure would be nice.

Having bitched about that for 3 paragraphs let me address some other things. First of all is it possible for Cariello to draw someone who doesn't look pissed off? Everybody is scowling and Oliver Queen looks like he's suffering from a 24 hour PMS cycle. Now this may be part of the story from LOTDCU that I missed out on--he alludes to someone getting shot up, but who? Why does everyone have a perpetual frown? Why does everyone need an enema? Cariello is taking over "Azrael" in a few issues--I hope the entire cast of that book doesn't turn into "I hate the world" group this book belongs to. There are other things that irked me in this book. What's up with the moron assassin in the woods? He has a clear shot at Queen the entire night--why does he wait until 6 AM to shoot at him (and miss, of course)? Why does Queen give a junkie $50--when he even says the guy is going to go get doped up the first chance he gets? Why doesn't anyone care that a guy in green leotards is walking around a city? There's another thing I've never really "gotten" about Green Arrow--why the bow and arrow? Are you that confident with yourself? Are you going to do the William Tell thing everytime? What happens if you miss? It's just like a cop--you can't be perfect every day, right? And the tights--he's obviously confident in his sexuality--green is such of an obnoxious color...what gives here? Maybe I'm just not used to heroes that have...color! Gah! Bring me Batman any day of the week!

I think I'm done ranting now. Mostly the book would have been much better had O'Neil decided to fill us readers in on what's what and who's who. I'm not asking for "The Arrow and the Bat" Secret Files & Origins, but some filler would be nice. I have no idea why these characters are behaving this way, why Queen is on the run, what the "bass" he is reffering to is, and what his background/past is. Being mysterious is nice (Trickster told me this once), but being vague is really annoying. Now I see what he means.

The JYD's Grade: LOTDK #127--B-

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #128
O'Neil (w), Cariello (p), Ryan (i)


Before I get into the storyline, I want to comment on the art and cover to this series. First off, the artwork has changed little since LOTDK #127--for my opinion on the scowl-meister Sergio Cariello, see my previous review. I do think he is a fine artist, it's just that all of his characters look so pissed off! For some reason though, his art reminds me a lot of Norm Breyfogle--though I think that's in the looseness of the forms. My next topic is the cover--which is fantastic--and the trade dress--I don't know about the rest of you, but I think it looks excellent. Very dynamic. The simple green, yellow, and black gives off an eerie pulp feeling to it. So, even though I miss the LOTDK batsign in the background, with the enclosed lines surrounding the picture, I'm OK.

On to the story. Things are clearing up from the previous issue--now we know who is behind the asassination attempts on Oliver Queen. HOWEVER, if I thought O'Neil was stooping for literary devices in the pages of "Azrael" #62 (the re-introduction of Brian Bryan), his having the bad guy, a minister Skave from a presumbably asian country called Dhabar, basically tell us EVERYTHING to do with his plans to his subordinate, a General Zho (who I'm sure ALREADY knows it all). I'm sorry, but that's a pretty dorky way of getting it all out. Why couldn't we, as readers, say--FIND OUT WHEN THE HEROES DO? Why do we need everything so clear in pt. 2?? That bugs me. The other thing that annoyed me was the extrememly terse dialogue. Over the years O'Neil has been refining his word choice to the point where the minimal amount of words is needed. Compare something he wrote ("Shaman") ten years ago to this storyline, or the first issue of "Azrael" to #62 and you'll see what I mean. Rather than having the characters converse in a normal fashion, they seem to be grunting out their sentences. Who knows? If it continues at this pace, everyone will be mindreaders by part 5 and the words "yes" and "no" will be all that is needed. Wouldn't that be a sight!

SO--I went overboard in my last review at how frustrated I was in the lack of coherence part 1 had--I thought it was due to its connection to a previous 3 parter O'Neil had written for "Legends of the DCU"--my bad. I just had to be patient for it all to be revealed. Still though, if you want to catch someone's attention, you don't do it by pissing the reader off--you want to get them involved w/out forcing them to buy the next issue to figure out what the hell happened in pt. 1! So, even though things are becomming clearer, I was not pleased at the WAYS used to make it clear (being forcefed the truth on pgs. 14-18). But things aren't all bad. The interaction b/t Bats and an overly cocky Green Arrow was amusing. Seeing GA react to all the things we expect from Batman (silent disappearance, excellent fighting skills, detective skills) was fun, as was the revelation this story was taking place in a Year Two/Year Three context (the presense of the oval)--does anyone know if this is going to continue (the oval) now that Bats is ovalless in Year 12?

The Straight Dope: This above-average issue is bogged down by heavy handed dialogue and a lazy way to reveal the motivations behind the bad guys--but there's enough potential to warrent futher interest in the series.

The JYD's grade: "Legends of the Dark Knight" #128--B

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #129
O'Neil (w), Cariello (p), Ryan (i)

I knew that if I just hung around long enough, this series would get going. Too bad it wasn't until issue #3 of "The Arrow and the Bat," but that's better than it never taking off. This is such of a pequiliar series as it is though... The big question is this: where's Batman? Aside from a 2 page appearance in costume towards the middle of the issue and one that is a several page "incognito" cameo--this book is almost completely Oliver Queen. The story moved along quite nicely, but I'm still having difficulty adapting to a very bright woodsy and foreign world where some dude walks around in neon green tights and shoots arrows at people. Weeeeeeeeeeeeird. The various over-the-top assassins are amusing too, especially that really hokey fisherman midget killer (seriously--has anyone ever seen a more bizarre killer? He's a three foot version of odd-job who kills with a line and lure...LOL!!!). The archer assassin was drawn VERY dorky too. I almost felt I was in the midst of a HANS WAYNE adventure with these crazy colorful villains.

My biggest relief (overlooking Queen being attacked by a variety of carney folk) was in the improvement of the quality of the dialogue. The characters read realistically (thankfully) instead of grunting everything out ALA parts 1 and 2. I still think the inker is inappropriate for Cariello--the guy turns scowl boy's work into characetures--hell, maybe that's the way their supposed to work. My only hope is that James Pascoe can keep scowl boy in line when he moves onto "Azrael."

Aside from making a few smartass comments about the carney folk in the story, I actually thought the issue was pretty good. You have to ignore how goofy it all seems though... And that's difficult to do, especially when you're dealing with a series that has traditionally been the best source of Batman material for the past 10 years.

The JYD's grade: "Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight" #129--B+

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #130
O'Neil (w), Cariello (p), Ryan (i)

Denny O'Neil's slow storyline has picked up into something worthy of the best of LOTDK. Some rough dialogue weighs it down, but the dense cloud issues #1 and 2 of "The Arrow and the Bat" are forgiven for the direction currently being taken.

Grade: A-

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #131
O'Neil (w), Cariello (p), Ryan (i)

Intereting end to an interesting series that featured Batman in a back-up role. A classic in the making? No. Am I ready for the next 5 parter by Archie Goodwin and James Robinson? You BET!!

Grade: B+