The story headlining bat-centric anthology series Batman: Urban Legends has reached its end. The final part of the Jason Todd (aka Red Hood) story “Cheer” begins Batman: Urban Legends #6, but the issue doesn’t stop there. It also concludes the three-part Tim Drake (aka Robin) arc and includes two one-shots revolving around tangentially bat-related characters Black Canary and Zealot.
Chip Zdarsky writes a strained father/son relationship like no other. Disguised as a rescue mission for Batman by Red Hood is a compelling exploration of their regrets, desire for reconciliation, and their reluctance to do it. A line from Bruce at the end of the issue about “Life [being] too short for [them] to be like this” seems to break the fourth wall, pointing at the last decade or so of the same stagnant conflict. But what seemed to be leading up to a big, happy hug between the two appropriately left their, and Jason Todd’s, future open-ended. With the help of Cheer (the villain the Joker thinks he is) the two haven’t magically made up, but their relationship hasn’t regressed.
The main artists illustrate this hopeful and hesitant progression in this story well, with Eddy Barrows’ pencils and Eber Ferreira’s inks playing nicely with Adriano Lucas’ colors — especially the scenes with Cheer in Mr. Freeze’s hideout. Becca Carey’s letters add a particular character to the exclamations that are almost suctioned to the bubbles, trying to burst out in their emotion. You would think having additional artists like Marcus To on flashbacks and guest artists Scott Eaton, Julio Ferreria, and Oclair Albert working on one issue would make the visuals too disconnected, but it doesn’t because their skills are used at the appropriate times. Along with the dynamism of panel composition, it’s a visually and narratively full issue.
Meghan Fitzmartin’s Tim Drake tale continues this trajectory in Batman: Urban Legends #6 of fresh storytelling for the bat kids. Belén Ortega’s art, Alejandro Sánchez’s colors, and Pat Brosseau’s letters may favourably pull from Tim’s past solo Red Robin series, but the story is entirely new. Tim finds and rescues his friend Bernard from the Chaos Monsters, and also finds out that he wants to pursue his feelings for him.
On one hand, this direction feels like the curveball DC throws at a character when they don’t know what to do with them (re: giving Nightwing amnesia). On the other, Tim’s exploration of his sexuality is completely complementary to the theme of finding out who you are, especially in your teens. Ultimately, it’s a good move for a character who recently hasn’t been given the page space to evolve as a person beyond his superhero-ing.
Zealot’s one-shot is part of DC’s interesting effort to further integrate their acquired Wildstorm characters into the universe. Zealot’s working for the HALO Corporation, who’s recently had business in Gotham, and her mission lands her in the crosshairs of Wonder Woman. Matthew Rosenberg continues the work to flesh out the dynamics between Wildstorm and original DC characters with this conflict of clashing ideals between women both from hidden warrior societies.
However, the story ultimately feels like it’s more for that integration than anything else, in a sense similar to the end of the Grifter story in Batman: Urban Legends #5. Though, standing at eight pages maybe it can’t do much else. Despite this, Chris Spouse’s pencils and Karl Story’s inks do harken back to a ’90s WildC.A.T.S. aesthetic with clean yet strong lines.
The Black Canary one-shot starts strong with cinematic paneling revealing a charming archery lesson with Green Arrow, but devolves into a bland undercover mission ending in lackluster character reveals. Joshua Williamson pens a Dinah familiar to pre-New 52 days and Trevor Hairsine’s art and Rain Beredo’s colors make you feel like you’re in those days as well, but they aren’t enough to save the fact that this one-shot is just a setup for new series Deathstroke Inc. It seemed to be leading up to something of interest for the Black Canary character, and will probably lead to something in Deathstroke Inc., but the fact that this story wasn’t ultimately for Black Canary is a bit of a letdown.
Like I’ve said before, Batman: Urban Legends is still a great place to reinvent and relaunch characters that may not have gotten the chance otherwise. Batman: Urban Legends #6 gives its featured characters interesting new directions with fitting art for an exciting entry.
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