Review: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight – “Blink”

The late, great Dwayne McDuffie's arc on the Dark Knight gets collected in DC Comics Presents #1.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight

If you collect or have read Batman: Legends Of The Dark Knight, then this DC Comics Presents #1 won’t be of much interest to you. This is a collection of issues #164-167, a story arc entitled Blink. Outside of being a great story, Blink was authored by the late Dwayne McDuffie, a wonderful comic book writer who was taken from us this year entirely too early. If you don’t know the story, then Blink is a double sized DC Presents that you should check out. It’s an old school story but it isn’t written for nostalgia, this is a slice of what comic books really were in a different era.

The story here is typical of the Dark Knight. A ring of baby thieves is terrorizing Gotham and Batman aims to bring them down. Aiding him in his pursuit is a petty thief named Blink with a usual gift. Blind, Blink is able to touch people and see through their eyes. When Batman attempts to enlist Blink, he discovers the blind thief has been put into a Government stronghold for use against terrorists. So, in the middle of this baby ring chase, Batman has to break into a Government lock down and break Blink out. It’s a typical day at the office for the caped crusader.

Several things about the style of writing McDuffie executes here is really refreshing to read. In the late 70s and early 80s, Batman’s adventures were written with a sizable amount of inner monologue.  Readers were allowed into the mind of the world’s greatest detective, given carte blanche to see how he thought, how he reasoned. Writers varied in their ability to do this well, but Dwayne McDuffie nailed it across the board. Pacing is everything with inner monologue. Too much and it gets boring, too little and it sounds scattered and disconnected. McDuffie gave the monologue a noir detective feel; he deepened the ongoing plot by giving us just enough to keep up with Batman.

Outside of the inner monologue McDuffie also knew how to temper action with narrative. Granted, it makes things easier that these issues are all collected, but there’s still magic to this style of writing. Modern Batman stories tend to be much darker, more cynical and prone to shock and awe. It’s not a fault; the times just call for these kinds of stories. The earlier Batman work was more focused on adventure. Even if the stakes were high or the villains diabolical, there was less an air of morbidity and more one of escapade.  Writing that way without making the stories silly or childish is a gift, one that Dwayne McDuffie had for sure.

Helping with all of this is tremendous artwork from Val Semeiks and Dan Green. Both veterans of the comic industry, the two men wield their particular brand of artistic vision over the story. The style of the era focused on highly detailed figures and backgrounds. There was symmetry to what these artists did. As opposed to everyone trying to make an artistic statement, each penciled to give a streamlined visual to the story. The individual personality and style would bleed through this streamlined art, which is why there were so many great artists from that period. They managed to stand out even with the factory like nature of the work. The forward progress of Batman is essential to keep the character relevant, but every now and again it’s awesome to go back and see how the past informed the present and will the future.