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Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #159

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2002
By: Ray Tate

"Loyalties" Part 1

Writer: John Ostrander
Artists: David Lopez(p), Dan Green(i), James Sinclair(c)
Publisher: DC

John Ostrander is no stranger to Batman. He was one of the first to handle the Dark Knight after the Crisis in Legends. In the first Suicide Squad comprised of Superman, Aquaman and Oracle, Batman stood among them. Ostrander later set him against the villainous Suicide Squad twice in their own title. After the death of Jason Todd, he briefly wrote of the Batman's pain and suffering which inevitably led to his descent into madness.

None of the characterization in those books were solely his. Batman was more of John Byrne's character in Legends.

The character in the Suicide Squad at first was a bad idea and then part of a companywide crossover which never leads to good characterization. While Batman in his final appearance in Suicide Squad was more accurate in that he intended to bring down the association in flames, the fact that he didn't really was a betrayal of who Batman is supposed to be.

Batman's character changed far too drastically in his eponymous title after Jason was murdered by the Joker, but here in Legends of the Dark Knight, we finally get an idea of who John Ostrander's Batman is. For the most part, he matches the original figure of darkness.

Mr. Ostrander's Batman tries to maintain mystery and ambiguity, but often because he is a hero, he must swing into the open and reveal himself to not only those he protects but also the criminals he hunts. Batman's calm in battle is unmatched. In this issue of Legends of the Dark Knight Batman's cape is torched. He waits a few moments, and then uses it on his prey. These scenes work extremely well and are the epitome of Bob Kane's and Bill Finger's Batman. For criminals, he is a creature of pure terror. For the innocent, he is relief.

Even when he proves that he has substance rather than being composed of shadows, the reader gets the feeling that the criminal cannot quite believe what it is that's hitting them. A normal man surely cannot move so fast. A normal man surely cannot cause such damage, and you see how that rather than hurt his mythology and facilitating the fade of his mystique, Batman's physical prowess actually helps the image. For this reason, Batman should never use a gun. Criminals understand guns. That Batman can be so effective without a firearm suggests that he must be some supernatural demon sent to destroy crime. "Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot."

Mr. Ostrander places his Batman in a real-world context perhaps a month after the events in Year One. In this story, Chicago comes back to haunt Jim Gordon, but the future Commissioner of Gotham City has gained his own ghost. The story intrigues not with a riddle but with a promise of what's to come. Mr. Ostrander has the privilege of showing off Batman to the mob that was forged by Al Capone, and I cannot wait to see him destroy it.

To enhance the real world setting, David Lopez and Dan Davis eschew comic book conventions of cross-hatching and the by the numbers anatomy that so eases the sketching of mightier than mortals. Lopez meshes smoothly with Ostrander. He follows the direction of mystery, and generates suspense and smiles for the readers. After Batman removes a threat, Mr. Lopez treats readers to what for the onlookers must be a creepy moment. For readers, it's a grin-worthy example of Batman's sly sense of humor. Don't believe for one second Batman doesn't have one. He has to have one in order to stage such moments. One more thing in Lopez's favor, he gives Batman the sharper, longer ears. We've missed you both.

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