Friday, December 21, 2012

Review- LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: JIM APARO VOL. 1

LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: JIM APARO VOL. 1 (DC, 2012; Hardcover)
Collects The Brave and the Bold Nos. 98, 100-102, 104-122 (cover dates November, 1971- October, 1975)
Writer: Bob Haney
Artist: Jim Aparo
Jim Aparo is an incredible artist. I loved his work on Phantom Stranger and the Spectre, and picked this book up based solely on my enjoyment of those titles. Needless to say, the artwork is great. Aparo is similar to Neal Adams, delivering high energy photo-realistic drawings and clear, concise storytelling. 
Bob Haney's writing impressed me a lot as well. I am not a Batman or DC expert by any stretch, but I loved his depiction of the character. He wrote some dark, hard-edged stuff dealing with organized crime and drug dealers and smugglers. This was darker than anything going on at Marvel during this time period. Haney tapped into the vibe of the times, but these comics hold up remarkably well today. 
The Brave and the Bold is a team-up title (Marvel swiped the idea for Marvel Team-Up), so while Batman is the star of the book, he co-headlines with a different character each month. There are some really cool team-ups (Deadman, the Phantom Stranger) and some pretty lame ones (Metal Men). I enjoyed every issue in this book and am looking forward to Volume 2.
DC does some befuddling line branding. They have been issuing these artist-centric collections, but there are two lines titles that I can't make head nor tales of. This one is titled Legends of the Dark Knight, as is the Marshall Rogers collection. The Don Newton and Gene Colan ones are titled Tales of the Batman. If it is confusing to hardcore comic book collectors like myself then it must be even more confusing to the mythological mainstream bookstore buyer that DC seems to be chasing. It would help if the name Batman were featured in the title so that it turns up in a search. A more streamlined titling such as “Batman Visionaries” or having one consistent title for all of the books would be more helpful to everyone. 
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- DC has done some puzzling decontenting of their hardcovers recently. They no longer coat their hardbacks, and they feel cheap because of this, They no longer use foil in the stampings on the cover, adding to the cheap look and feel. DC also no longer shrinkwraps most of their hardcovers. They are out of their mind if they think that any of us uber-anal retentive fans are going to plunk down this kind of coin on a book that some greasy troll was manhandling in a comic shop. Give me my environmentally unfriendly shrinkwrap or give me...well, not death. Maybe a headache. DC not including the covers to some of these issues simply because Jim Aparo didn't do the artwork is clowntown. Come on, DC!
Linework restoration rating: 5 out of 5. The linework looks great. There might be a dropout here or there, but nothing so glaring that I would lower the rating.
Color restoration rating: 4 out of 5. While the color palette is faithful to the original comics, it's the gradient shades which caused me to lower the rating a point. While all of these collected editions are recolored on computers, these airbrushed looking gradient shades are the product of letting the computer fill in the shapes as opposed to doing it “by hand” on the computer. Only the most anal retentive get bent out of shape by this sort of thing. I, unfortunately for DC, am among the most anal retentive comic book fans.
Paper rating: 4 out of 5. This book has super thick, high gloss coated stock. While it is better than the toilet paper that DC used to use in their hardcovers, it is too glossy for this material. If it had a slight sheen instead of being high gloss it would have gotten a 5.
Binding rating: 3 out of 5. This book is over 500 pages at $49.99 MSRP and has glued binding. While it lays flat for about 2/3 of the book, it requires two hands to force it open in the very beginning and at the very end of the book. If this book had sewn binding it would lay more flat than it does, but it would also be at least $10 or $20 more. This is where it gets sticky. I would gladly pay more for a more durable, higher quality binding. Many fans are sensitive to higher price points. I can respect that.
The question then becomes if DC is aiming a $50 book at some mythological mainstream bookstore buyer who saw The Dark Knight Rises, or are they aiming for the high end collected edition obsessive snobs like myself. I freely admit that we are not a huge market, but then again, how large is the market for these types of books anyways? I wonder if they aren't alienating one camp at the expense of chasing the other.
I just know that these brick-like square books have got to go. Part of the problem of these super squared books is that they are not comfortable to hold, with their edge digging into your hand under the weight of the heavy paper stock. Not only that, but the casing is glued square to the spine, which causes the gutters to be tight and actually curl around the edge at the front and the back of the book. Sewn binding and a more rounded spine would have greatly reduced this problem. Stop the madness, DC!!

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