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Legends of the Dark Knight #167

Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2003
By: David Kozlowski



"Don't Blink" (part 4 of 4)

Writer: Dwayne McDuffie
Artists: Val Semeiks(p), Dan Green(i)

Publisher: DC Comics

Synopsis:
Lee Hyland is blind but can see through the eyes of anyone he touches. The government sought to exploit Hyland's talent, against his will, in the war on terrorism. Batman rescued Hyland in order to exploit him in his war on crime. Now the government wants Hyland back and they're playing dirty to get him.

Comments:
Batman needed Lee Hyland's skills in order to stop a child abduction ring. When Batman discovered that Hyland was a captive of the government he naturally busted him out. The question is: if Batman had learned of Hyland's captivity, but didn't require his services, would he have acted to save him? Writer Dwayne McDuffie doesn't address this question he just leaves it dangling for the reader to consider. Batman is a hero, true, but he is a practical crime-fighter first. In the concluding chapter of this very unique Batman story we see that intelligence, tactics and strategy win out over utility-belt gadgets and technology. McDuffie has crafted one of the darkest versions of Batman than I can recall, and I hope that other Bat writers get the message: this is how it's done.

Throughout this 4-part story McDuffie provided insight through excerpts from Batman's journal, which he interjects at key story points. I assume Batman records these at a later time, which fits the historical nature of "Legends of the Dark Knight". More than just a cool way to explain Batman's decision-making process, we learn that he keeps these journals and reviews them once a case is wrapped to serve as a "post-mortem" analysis of what he did right and what he did wrong. It's a brilliant means of underscoring that Batman is foremost a criminologist, not solely an action hero.

Last issue ended with Batman putting the brakes on Gotham City's child kidnapping problem only to discover that the government had abducted Hyland's girlfriend, who want Hyland back. Or so it seems. McDuffie has told both a clear and accessible story wherein the criminals actually exercise their brains, instead of tossing a coin, when plotting their moves. Batman takes some unusual risks in tracking down Hyland's girlfriend and subsequently endures a vicious beating for it. But even in failure Batman resolves the situation with logic rather than relying upon luck or magical powers. It left me with the impression that McDuffie probably laid out this entire story on a massive white board, connecting lines between each event, making sure everything followed a logical order and was clearly explained. It's really solid storytelling.

Penciller Val Semeiks and inker Dan Green conclude a satisfying, yet disquieting run in this issue. Their interpretation of Batman has been very dark and violent. They nail Batman's focused attitude and his physical power. However, I'm sure some dislike the "Adam West", nub-eared cowl. Semeiks pacing and panel arrangement was also exceptionally clear. He also did a great job of describing winter in Gotham City, which makes me wonder just how insulated Batman's skivvies really are. My continued complaint is with the caricatured faces of the bad guys, it was more distracting than it needed to be. This was a case for playing it straight. Brian Stelfreeze's covers have been highly innovative and really stood out each month - I'm glad that DC has recently begun recognizing the cover artists in the book's credits.

Final Word:
More writers should follow McDuffie's lead and strive to differentiate Batman from the other DC characters. Batman should not be distilled into an angry, masked vigilante with a grudge; he is a calculating professional with exceptional deductive skills. More emphasis on fighting crime rather than super-villains is certainly due. Word is that Legends of the Dark Knight is slated for cancellation, which will undoubtedly leave a void in the kind of varied and unique storytelling as represented by "Don't Blink". At least it's going out on a high note.



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