Book Review: ‘The Untold Legend of the Batman’ by Len Wein, Jim Aparo & John Byrne

This was a paperback book I had when I was a kid and it may have actually been the first Batman comic that I read, as I got this when I was really young.

This paperback is a collection of a three-issue comic book miniseries of the same name. Except, here, the comic is in black and white and reformatted to fit this medium, having just one-to-three panels per page.

The Untold Legend of the Batman is a bit strange, as its details differ from the continuity of the actual comic book series. Events in Batman’s past are slightly altered but it was still a fun read and the origin of the Caped Crusader wasn’t so different that it wrecked anything. At worst, it’s still more accurate than many of the film and television versions of the hero’s backstory.

I really dug the art in this, especially with it being presented in black and white, as it allowed the linework of both John Byrne and Jim Aparo to really standout on its own.

This was a really fast read but it was still worth hunting down and giving it a look again.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: Batman: A Lonely Place of Dying

Published: 1989
Written by: Marv Wolfman, George Perez
Art by: Jim Aparo, Tom Grummett

DC Comics, 116 Pages

Review:

This story arc came out not too long after A Death In the Family and it serves as a sort of resolution to it, as it shows how Batman has been much harsher in the streets and how the possibility of a new Robin starts to help him overcome his grief after losing the second Robin, Jason Todd.

While this isn’t the first appearance of Tim Drake, that happened in the previous arc – Year 3, this is where he enters the lives of Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth and Dick Grayson.

This story also crossed over with The New Teen Titans and involved some of those characters as a minor supporting cast for Dick Grayson/Nightwing’s part in the story.

We also see Batman, Nightwing and Tim Drake unofficially playing Robin try to take down Two-Face, a villain with major ties to the deceased Jason Todd. We even get to see a brief appearance of The Joker, the person who murdered Jason, and how he’s involved with this story’s plot.

The action and the crime solving in this aren’t anything great but they serve as a good framework to tell the more important story here, which is pulling Batman out of the darkness and allowing him to love those around him once again. It also serves to establish who Tim Drake is and why he might be better suited for the Robin role than Jason Todd was.

The writing was solid and I also loved the art by Jim Aparo, who will always be one of my favorite Batman artists because he was one of the top guys drawing these books when I first started buying them regularly.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Batman: A Death In the Family and Batman: Year 3.

Comic Review: Batman: A Death In the Family

Published: 1988
Written by: Jim Starlin
Art by: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Adrienne Roy

DC Comics, 142 Pages

Review:

A Death In the Family was one of the biggest Batman stories to happen around the time that I was getting into comics as a serious reader and not just a casual one, who just occasionally picked up stuff other than G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

When I was in elementary school, this is a story that all the kids talked about and I remember trading my hardcover copy of Arkham Asylum for this and The Killing Joke. I felt like I definitely won in that trade and it’s mainly because of this story.

I was the rare Jason Todd fan. Sure, nowadays other people like him because of how he came back as the Red Hood and carved out his own legacy. Before that, however, people pretty much hated Jason. I think I mainly liked him because he was Robin when I started paying attention and I saw through him being a prickish pain in the ass and knew that there was something deeper inside him that was needing to come out. The problems Jason presented Bruce/Batman with were different than Dick Grayson’s, the original Robin. He simply made things more interesting, as you knew his attitude and temperament would somehow come to a head in a big way.

While I love this story and I really liked how it altered the Batman series going forward, I always thought that Jason died too early and that they missed out on exploring him more. I guess that’s why I really gravitated towards his stories when he finally did return, nearly two decades later.

In regards to this story, it’s exceptionally well written and presented with great care and a respect for the character, even though the fans called a hotline and actually voted for Jason Todd to die.

This is still one of the best, all-time classic Batman stories ever written. It also has great art by Jim Aparo.

I liked that this takes things out of Gotham City and that the story is kicked off by Jason Todd discovering that his biological mother is out there, somewhere. He goes in search of her and while that’s happening, The Joker is off selling a missile to a Middle Eastern tyrant, which brings his story and Jason’s crashing together in a tragic and emotional way.

Jason does find his mother but what he finds with that costs him his life and turns Batman into someone that wants vengeance against The Joker for what he did to the child that Batman was supposed to raise and protect.

This is a pretty heartbreaking story that has stood the test of time and is still emotional, even if you are aware of what actually happens to Jason Todd after his death.

If you are a fan of the Caped Crusader and haven’t read this, you probably should.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Batman comics of the late ’80s/early ’90s, as well as the early Red Hood stories from the ’00s.

Comic Review: Batman: The Penguin Affair

Published: April 17th, 1990 – June 1st, 1990
Written by: Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant
Art by: Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, Norm Breyfogle, Steve Mitchell, Adrienne Roy, M.D. Bright, Randy Emberlin

DC Comics, 69 Pages

Review:

Really good Penguin stories have been pretty nonexistent for several years now, excluding Penguin: Pain and Prejudice. Although, it’s nice seeing him come back around recently in the Red Hood and Batman titles. But I love the character and want something more out of him than just being some gunrunning, nightclub owning, informant for Batman.

I’ve owned the single issues of this series since it came out back in 1990 but I hadn’t read it since then and didn’t really remember the story, other than I liked it when I was in sixth grade.

Going back to it was cool, as it was pretty good and reminded me how much I loved reading Batman and Detective Comics from this era. This story actually crossed over both of those titles, as it appeared in Bamtan issues 448 and 449, as well as Detective Comics issue 615.

It probably also helps that this was written by the great Marv Wolfman, as well as Alan Grant. Back in 1990, I didn’t know Wolfman’s work well enough but over the years, he’s come to be one of my favorite writers from the ’80s.

And while this book had different artists on all three issues, everything looked and felt pretty consistent. Comics today have real trouble with that, as artists can be switched out so frequently that a comic title can look completely different from month to month. If anything, these issues showed me how good editorial and the planning process was almost three decades ago.

What I really liked about the story is that the Penguin had a really cool scheme. He took in this computer whiz hunchback and used him to develop a secret weapon. While not quite a Death Star, the Penguin’s weapon saw him take control of birds so that he can use them to commit crimes. It’s silly, for sure, but it fits well within the style and the time that this was written. Besides, Tim Burton had mind-controlled penguins in Batman Returns, two years after this, and people ate it up.

The Penguin Affair was fun to revisit and if anything, it makes me want to pick up more old Batman story arcs that I have stored away in my big library of floppies.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Batman and Detective Comics story arcs from around 1990.