Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight offered some pretty dark themes in general. Batman Venom (chapters 16-20) was arguably the heaviest of them all as addressed some real-world problems. In a world full of supervillains and ridiculous schemes, Batman takes on a surprising villain -addiction.
Now, Batman on drugs may seem like some parody or comical theme, but O’Neil’s version of the dark knight was anything but. His portrayal of Batman was incredibly human and could even hit home to some viewers. It reminded us that our caped crusader may be a hero, but he is also just human.
Looking at the artwork of this vintage comic, it is definitely dated. I wouldn’t say that the artwork is bad, but rather not as nice as you might be used to if you are used to reading some of the newer comics. Even if you aren’t a fan of the older art style, I have to say Batman Venom is definitely worth the read.
Batman: Venom Review
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #16
In the very beginning of this installment, we find our hero trying to rescue a kidnapped girl. While Batman had demonstrated some pretty impressive physical strengths, it just wasn’t enough. Because his physical capabilities were limited, the young girl unfortunately died. Obviously, this whole thing did not sit well with Bruce as he blamed his limitations for taking a girl’s life. Ultimately, he decides to take strength-enhancing pills to give him that extra edge so he doesn’t fail to save anyone else. At this point, the audience can notice a change in character and that something will go wrong.
I think that the decision to let Batman fail the mission was a bold move on the writer’s part. I feel like Batman in general does a really good job at reinforcing his humanity. His distraught was cleverly depicted to flashbacks of the dying girl in the comic panels and his behavioral changes were also subtle and effective. This was a strong start to the arc that really giving the audience a taste of what the rest of the story would have to offer.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #17
As the previous chapter eluded -this drug has quite a number of side effects. While it certainly did help with physical power, it begins to take a toll on his mind. Batman is enjoying his crime fighting a little too much, and his uncharacteristically-creepy smile is more than enough to let the audience know that something is up. Aside from the occasional, humorous comment from Alfred, this issue remains rather dark as Batman battles a problem that is all too real. Being batman of course, his denial is relatively short lived and he suspects that something is abnormal with him.
As a veteran Batman reader, it is almost surreal seeing him in a situation where he can’t even think straight. I think O’Neil did an amazing job finding a way to incorporate addiction into this arc and how to demonstrate it in Batman’s mannerisms and actions. There is even a scene where Batman starts freaking out because “There are only four [pills],” a scene like many that have been used to depict addiction in countless things. Except even more heartbreaking because, it’s Batman! I found myself much less into the action scenes at this point and just so emotionally invested in his recovery.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #18
While he does seem to acknowledge his problem, being the batman also means he is reluctant to help. This entire issue is focused on watching Batman go about help -and then fail several times before begging Alfred to be locked away for 30 days.
While this was perfectly executed, it was painful to watch our proud hero the wat he was. I think this chapter, above all, really offered a unique look at Batman -even the rare bat-cry. With human experimentation via Slaycroft and Porter in the background of this all, issue 18 certainly pulled at the heartstrings.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #19
Finally, we get to see a little bit more of the Batman we had known and loved by this section of the book! With Alfred at his side, nothing can stop him as they go to infiltrate and stop Slaycroft and Porter. O’Neil uses this issue to help give us some more personal insight on Batman’s abilities.
This was a very satisfying chapter for me as we got to see progress with rehab and Batman back to himself. His interactions with Gordon were a perfect example of the serious tone and I was happy to see that back. I have always appreciated their distant-personal relationship and find their overall dynamic to be interesting. I was especially pleased to see how Gordon and Batman pretty much resumed their regular relationship after Batman had addressed that he had “been sick and recovered.”
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #20
The final installment of the arc was a strong end to a strong plot. It picks right off where #19 left off where Batman now has to fight a very physically enhanced Timmy. While the chapter adds in more of the classic action you would expect, the heavy plot continues as Batman becomes engrossed with saving Timmy. Unfortunately, Batman not only winds up captured, but he also fails to save Timmy -an extra blow to the ego. Ultimately, justice (somewhat) prevails and the Porter and Slaycroft are defeated.
This time, Batman doesn’t beat himself up like he did about the girl whose death started this whole fiasco. In fact, he seems to refer back to issue 16 where he went off about how he “wasn’t strong enough” to save her. Instead he comments how his enemy just wasn’t “smart enough.” While he isn’t directly tooting his own horn, this serves as an indirect way to acknowledge his strengths.
Overall, I would have to say this is an amazing comic a a 3.75/5. This is a heavier read and easily one of the darkest installments of a DC character. the heart wrenching story of watching the Batman go through addiction is a humbling experience and can be very interesting. I think this comic would be a better read for those familiar with Batman. While it is very enjoyable overall, I think having the background of Batman’s character dynamic really helps you appreciate the whole plot. Still, this is easily one of my favorite comics.