Good and bad memories alike haunt the colorful cast of Gotham in Batman: Urban Legends #1, a quality grab bag of stories that offers a chunk of drama, a sprinkle of romance, a slice of action, and a dash of comedy within its beastly 70-page format. Jumping in place between meatier chapters of a larger story and bite-sized one-shots, this is a balanced anthology with a varied tempo.
Written by Chip Zdarsky, Stephanie Phillips, Brandon Thomas, and Matthew Rosenberg
Art by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Marcus To, Laura Braga, Max Dunbar, Ryan Benjamin, Adriano Lucas, Ivan Plascencia, Luis Guerrero and Antonio Fabela
Lettering by Becca Carey, Deron Bennett, Steve Wands, and Saida Temofonte
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
As far as anthologies go, Urban Legends sits somewhere in between the 32-page floppy of Britain's 2000AD and the 400-page doorstep of Japan's Shonen Jump. It can be difficult to balance variety and story within an anthology format, but the editorial team of Ben Abernathy, Jessica Chen, and Dave Wielgosz have done an excellent job curating the issue's contents to offer a unique selling point against the other Bat titles.
'Batman and The Red Hood' is the main event here, with Chip Zdarsky, Eddy Barrows. and Eber Ferreira getting a full single issue's worth of content to show their stuff. Script-wise, Zdarsky's 'Red Hood' gets at the roots of Jason Todd to explore his rocky history with Bruce. It's a well-trodden path, told confidently. This is Batman and Jason: the greatest hits, complete with all the hypocrisy and henchmen beatdowns you could wish for. When Jason sees a little of himself in an innocent kid caught in the crossfires, Zdarsky potentially sets up Jason's own personal Robin.
This is Zdarsky's first long-form story at DC, and you can tell it's been a story he's been longing to write for years. It feels a little out of sorts with the current Jason Todd, and it jars in comparison to the distinct and fresh takes that Shawn C. Martinbrough and Joshua Williamson have recently been telling. Still, as a classic Jason vs. Bruce story, this is a solid start.
Harley Quinn takes a cathartic trip down memory lane in Stephanie Phillips and Laura Braga's 'New Roots.' Phillips makes an explicit statement for Harley and Ivy's love with a sweet series of moments that show the tender sides of both characters. Laura Braga's beautiful portraits and Ivan Plascencia's Valentine-themed color palette add to the romantic tone, which deftly dodges schmaltzy and succeeds at being genuinely affecting. This story is quietly a watershed moment for Harley and Ivy's relationship in modern DC, and it should make Harley and Ivy's fanbase very happy.
Brandon Thomas and Max Dunbar's 'The Outsiders' delivers a dynamic installment of pure action. A quicker read than the other stories, Thomas' sprint of a script is delivered stylishly by Dunbar's angular artwork. In Japan, Black Lightning and Katana flee from jetski-ridin' mobsters before Metamorpho makes a puzzling reappearance. It's perfectly adequate as a pure action strip, but this first chapter doesn't have much meat on its bones for the 10 pages it's been allocated. Taking the book in its entirety, This story works as a palette cleanser after the tough emotion of Red Hood and Harley.
Batman: Urban Legends #1 preview
Matthew Rosenberg continues his snappy take on Grifter with another tale of Cole Cash blundering his way through trouble. Before his 'Future State' adventures with Luke Fox, Cole takes a job as a bodyguard for his dad Lucius. An amusing run-in with Batman and a mysterious meeting with the Penguin that culminates in a dead Nora Freeze later, and you've got all the elements of a strong opening chapter. Ryan Benjamin's artwork brings out the best of Grifter's uniquely '90s attitude, but his work lacks definition outside of the close-up.
A well-curated mix of stories from some of the best creatives currently working in the superhero genre, Batman: Urban Legends #1 marks the successful re-establishment of the jumbo anthology into the direct market. Harley and Ivy is the highlight here, but the quality is high across the board. After 'Future State''s mixed results with the format, this successful launch bodes well for the future of the DC anthology.
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