The latest arch of Legends of the Dark Knight was pretty good, but despite the arch's strong points, it ended with a bit of a fizzle that left a sour taste in my mouth. Now, we have a new arch with a new creative team, and I'm a little excited about this issue for several reasons. First, the cover is intriguing showing a Batman who appears to be wounded and on the verge of defeat which is an usual pose for a Legends of the Dark Knight cover. Second, the writing and most of the art is done by Rafael Albuquerque (former artist on Blue Beetle  and Superman/Batman and current artist on American Vampire) who has a good reputation for quality work. On the flip side, Albuquerque is primarily an artist, and things sometimes go awry when artists put the pen to paper and write words. Still, I am intrigued. Is this a new vision of Batman that will thrill and chill you, or does this comic just leave you high and dry?
In this issue, Batman tracks down a shadowy figure to a circus only to come face to face with his entire rogues gallery.
My first thought upon opening the issue is that I can understand exactly why this guy has earned a good reputation, and even if the story were complete crap, it might still be worth the recommendation just to see this art style. Now, it might not be for everyone, so keep that in mind, but for my money, it's really good. Style wreaks from every corner of this issue as a twisted vision of Gotham takes shape in these pages. Everything feels kind of gross in this issue which is no doubt exactly the effect desired.
Then again, maybe I being too bold in my judgment because mixed in with the harsh brutality and grime of this issue are some stunningly beautiful shots of the circus, the city, and one character portrait of Two-Face which was so good, Albuquerque signed it right in the middle of the issue...and not subtly either. In my mind, that kind of boasts of an ego, but I can't deny that it appears to be a well deserved one.
There was one thing that annoyed me about the art, and that was the first panel of page 2 where Batman grits his teeth. For some reason, Albuquerque did not draw the individual teeth on Batman's lower row of teeth even though he did do the upper row. To me, this gave the panel the appearance that Bruce was wearing fake teeth. Other than that, the art is stunningly well done.
There is a twist halfway through this issue, so read no further unless you want the dirt.
(Spoiler) The story appears to leap forward to the end of Bruce's life where he is a dried up old man who gave up the mantle a long time ago. There are hints about what might have caused Bruce to end up in this sad state of loneliness and neurosis, but so far, there is no clear answer. Presumably, it ties in to the events at the circus, but the events in both present and future were interesting to me, so as long as the arch answers these mysteries by the end of the run, I don't mind being kept in the dark.
(Spoiler) I hope we actually get to see events play out at the end of Bruce's life, but I suspect we will not. Supposedly, Legends is set outside of continuity, so it would be awesome to see various takes on Batman in his elderly years, or Batman married, or Batman with a cyborg body. Anything to change it up a little would be cool, but I suspect this is a false future we are seeing. Clearly, Bruce was going a little loopy before the leap forward unless a dozen of Batman's greatest foes actually came together for this plot. More likely, the weird cherub midget who bit Bruce poisoned him in the process, and this is all some sort of hallucination.
It is always difficult to judge a story this early on, but so far so good. I think this is a safe bet for any Batman fan; even if the plot ends up crapping out, you will still get great art.