A Dark Vision
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eighty-second choice, Legends Of The Dark Knight, by Matt Wagner and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows
Legends Of The Dark Knight, by Matt Wagner
Writer/ Artist: Matt Wagner, Tom King
Artist: Matt Wagner, Dave TaylorColourists: Steve Oliff, Linda Medley, Dave Stewart and Tomeu Morey
Letters: Willie Schubert, Bill Oakley, Tim Harkins, Rob Leigh and Clayton Cowles
Today’s choice is the hefty Legends Of The Dark Knight: Matt Wagner, a 465 page hardcover which reprints Matt Wagner’s Batman work over the past three decades. If any modern comic creator was the perfect fit for DC’s Dark knight Detective it would have to be Matt Wagner. He is able to synthesise the elegant lines of Alex Toth with a Kirby-like energy while throwing something new and more contemporary into the artistic pot.
The first story here, Faces, is a very gothic three parter that pits Batman against Two Face/ Harvey Dent. Two-Face intends to find a home for a group of circus freaks he has enlisted into his insane crusade while embroiling a wealthy Gotham industrialist and Bruce Wayne into his web of intrigue. Wagner’s simple work belies a lot of thought and deliberation behind it and so he plays with storytelling and page construction while never sacrificing his story on the altar of experimentation. Faces is a wonderfully rich story showcasing Wagner’s finest abilities looking at the duality of Harvey Dent.
The second story, Batman Riddler The Riddle Factory, is the only one here that’s written but not drawn by Wagner. His artistic collaborator is Brit Dave Taylor who brings his usual European sensibilities to bear on a story which sees The Riddler hold Gotham to ransom by creating his own rather brutal cable TV show. Wagner is a talented writer artist but this proves that he is also a very versatile scripter too.
The next story is an eight page Batman Black and White called Heist, written and drawn by Wagner. Another simple tale but Wagner’s use of tone here is unparalleled, using silhouette to great effect.
Batman The Monster Men is a six part story which sees Hugo Strange breeding a group of superstrong monsters and Bruce Wayne takes up with a new love interest, Julie Madison. Wagner creates a very gothic mood here and Strange is a suitably deranged adversary while Julie Madison’s father, Norman, gets embroiled in a conspiracy that involves Gotham gangsters Sal Maroni and The Roman. Set earlier in Batman’s career, The Monster Men is a great pulpy slice of Batman adventure.
The follow-up, The Mad Monk, is another six parter that leads on from The Monster Men that introduces a new character, the Mad Monk of the title who runs a sinister group of vampires causing murder and chaos amok in Gotham. Julie Madison is in it again as his girlfriend although Wagner does wrap things up between them at its conclusion. It’s another pulpy but thoroughly enjoyable yarn with some beautiful Wagner pages. The Mad Monk is a nod to an early Batman villain that Wagner has updated.
The volume concludes with a single issue of Batman, written by Tom King and drawn by Wagner, a tale that involves Dick Grayson which is fun if a little bit short compared to the other epics reprinted here. It does show that Wagner has lost none of his spark for the character. It is all rounded off by a selection of reprints of Wagner’s Batman covers over the years.
Matt Wagner is a comic creator who manages to bring the flavour of classic Batman while still feeling very contemporary. This is a book that’s recommended for fans of DC’s Dark Knight Detective and those who like their superheroics a little more cinematic and sophisticated.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far