You'll have to excuse me, I'm terrible with remembering names. I once spent four hours calling my ex only "Hey...you." until I remembered it. Of course, we'd only dated for about a year, so he's really lucky that I recognized him at all.
If you want me to remember you, you really have to make an impact. Strangle a hamster with its own intestines, show me The Green Lantern tattoo on your ass.
So far in this continuity we've been introduced to a variety of Batman's rogues: The Joker, Catwoman, The Monk, and, Hugo Strange. We've also seen a few cameos of future villains: Harvey Dent, Harley Quinn, and The Scarecrow. But, apart from The Joker, we haven't had a major supervillain crime spree yet. The Long Halloween is on the horizon, though, and that involves a bunch of supervillains, so it's time to get to know as many of them as possible.
In Batman: Four Of A Kind we witness Batman's first encounters with Poison Ivy, The Riddler, Scarecrow, and Man-Bat.
It's not an ideal way to introduce them. I'd love to list trades that fully flesh out their origins or first appearances, but this is a decent primer to characters who will shortly become very important to the Batman Universe. Also, although we don't see why or how, halfway through this trade Jim Gordon gets promoted from Lieutenant to Captain.
Alan Grant opens up the collection with the introduction of Poison Ivy who first poisons Bruce Wayne, and then poisons Batman, informing him that both he and Wayne will die that night because the only antidote to Poison Ivy's kiss is a second kiss. The art is very Vertigo 90s style, except for Batman's cowl which looks a bit like Matt Wagner's and a lot out of place with the rest of the art. But Brian Apthorp's one and two page spreads are gorgeous. And there are several very well drawn humorous facial expressions.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
Chuck Dixon handles The Riddler story. He's one of my all-time favorite Bat scribes, but his Riddler story is your basic "my parents didn't love me, I felt invisible, so I turned to a life of crime" origin, which seems inadequate for someone as clever as The Riddler. There's a lot of silver-age craziness to this version of Edward Nigma that we don't really get in the modern age. The art by Kieron Dwyer is very noirish. His Riddler outfit seems lazy (just penciled question marks with no dimension, design, or color to them), but everything else works.
Story 3/5, Art 4/5
Doug Moench's Scarecrow tale is very telly. "Yeah -- You sure look like a scarecrow!" "He also looks like a different crane -- Ichabod Crane!" Eeeks, zero subtlety or trust in the reader's ability to notice Crane's physique or notice the Crane/throwing pumpkins connection. The writing made slogging through this chapter very difficult. The flashbacks, in particular, are absolutely terrible. But you do end getting the full origin story.
Story 1/5, Art 3/5
Chuck Dixon returns to wrap things up with the origin of Man-Bat. The meek Kirk Langstrom is getting ready to marry his beautiful fiance, but he's incredibly wrapped up with his genetic research. And when his research project is rejected, he takes drastic measures and turns himself into the Man-Bat. It's not a life changingly fantastic story, but after the mediocre Riddler tale and the awful Scarecrow, it seems fantastic. Quique Alcatena's artwork is very consistent with the style of the mid to late 90s Batman.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
Overall Rating for Four Of A Kind: Story 2/5, Art 4/5
Collected Legends Of The Dark Knight has three stories of very different styles from the Legends Of The Dark Knight series from the early 90s. James Robinson and Tim Sale open the book with Blades, the story of Gotham's second vigilante, a swordsman, The Cavalier. The swashbuckling hero becomes a more public face than Batman, and the public adores him...until they discover that he's been leading a double life as a jewel thief. What Batman doesn't know (he's busy solving the murders of elderly Gothamites by a killer named Mr Lime.) is that The Cavelier is stealing jewels for Mr. Salt (apparently James Robinson likes tequila) to protect the love of his life from being outed as a murderess. Alas, his plans go awry when he decides he can't trust Mr. Salt anymore, and he kills him with his sword. Batman tracks him down almost immediately, and the two engage in a swordfight to the death, and The Cavelier wins!
But he's a good guy at heart, so instead of killing Batman, he draws a gun and walks outside where he is gunned down by the police.
This is one of my favorite lesser-known Bat stories. And, it alone is worth the price of this book.
Story 5/5, Art 5/5
Alan Grant and Kevin O'Neill show up to do the second story, The Legend Of The Dark Mite. And while I can't say for certain that either of these men have done hallucinogens, all signs point to a very colorful yes. This is the origin of Bat-Mite, and as it proclaims on the very fist page "This is NOT an imaginary story." It's the story of a drug addict who sees the error of his ways when confronted with a tiny Batman-like creature who shows him what his life would be like if he contnued his life of crime. We see this story as he tells it to Batman from his cell at Arkham. It also involes a neat two spage pread of assorted DC characters as mites.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
John Francis Moore and P Craig Russell close out the book with Hothouse, the story of Batman's second run in with Poison Ivy. The story uses the familiar Batman trope of rehabilitated Bat-rogue turns out to be not so rehabilitated, as Poison Ivy gets involved with a drug ring that makes hallucinogenics from plant pheromones.
Story 4/5, Art 5/5
Overall Review For Collected legends Of The Dark Knight: Story 4/5, Art 5/5
Did you ever see that episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where Buffy believes she's actually in a mental hospital, and that her entire slayer life has been a series of psychotic episodes? Well, it's possible that Joss Whedon read Bryan Talbot (who does double duty as writer and artist here)'s Mask, the first story in Dark Legends. After stopping a crime Batman wakes up in a hospital where he's addressed as Bruce Wayne. Terrified that he's been found out, he soon realizes that he's not a billionaire playboy, but a drunken homeless person with delusions of a superhero life.
Story 4/5, Art 4/5
Dennis O'Neil and Bret Blevins come up next with Images, yet another "first encounter with The Joker" story. It is very similar to The Man Who Laughs, in that it retells the Joker's origin. Joker chemicals, Batman blames himself for turning The Red Hood into The Joker, rich people die, Alfred tells Bruce to stop blaming himself. If you've not read any of the other Joker origin stories, it's okay, but it does not hold up against many of the other versions of the tale. The art is ok, but Batman's physique shifts a little from page to page.
Story 3/5, Art 3/5
Batman goes to Chinatown for Tao by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson. It's an interesting change of pace from the usual Gotham supervillains and mobsters, but it really reads like a white Western guy writing about Eastern culture. And the art is very much a product of its era, having a very early nineties almost Vertigo style.
Story 2/5, Art 3/5
The gem of this collection is the Dan Raspler and Mike Mignola scribed story: Sactuary. If you've ever wondered what Hellboy would look like if it starred Batman, you'll find the answer here. The story's locale alternates between a graveyard and a gothic afterlife, so it's perfect for Mignola's art.
Story 4/5. Art 5/5
Overall Review for Dark Legends: Story 3/5, Art 4/5