[World of Bats] Batman Book Club: Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20 "VENOM"

Hello fellow Gothamites and welcome to the latest edition of the Batman Book Club! @AquamonC137 asked me to fill in for him for this one – something about having to isolate himself in a cave and purging himself of…something…I’m sure he’s fine.

Anyway, this week we’re going to continue (and possibly finish) our trek through the early days of the “Legends of the Dark Knight” title from the 90s with the very special storyline “Venom,” by Dennis O’Neil, Trevor Von Eeden, Russell Braun, and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (and NOT Dan Abnett and Colin Macneil like the site lists them as, weird).

When a failed mission causes Batman to question his physical abilities, he’s introduced to a new chemical alternative. But once he swallows the drug, Batman finds himself on a dangerous path between who he is…and the monster he could become!

This edition of book club starts today, but in the DCU Book Club discord, we’ve been talking about reducing the number of days for each installment, so everyone can get their selections in a more timely matter. So in that sense, let’s say it starts from today, September 1st, to next Sunday, September 8th.

So let’s get reading, looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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I’ve personally been looking forward to this arc for a while now – I remember picking this one up way back when I was starting to get into comics and really enjoying it. Looking forward to rereading it again. :slight_smile:

I gotta say, I’ve known it’s the case for a while, but the fact that Santa Prisca and Venom both predate Bane’s introduction by years is still blowing my mind.

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So, at first I thought this was an Adam West joke (and it still probably is), but then if you look in the background, the guy actually throws something at the shark, so I looked it up, and apparently shark repellent is a real thing that actually exists.

Now my mind is even more blown.

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OK, I just binge-read through the whole thing and loved every page of it. The “Batman is on Venom and going crazy” stretch dragged a little but was kind of necessary to give the latter half weight. Slaycroft and and Porter are a little cartoonish, I suppose, but there’s still creativity in just how twisted they are.

I think my favorite part was the trap, since it made logical sense (they don’t just kill him because they actually want him to escape, just be addicted to the pills when he does) and Batman’s plan to escape without the pills is ingenious enough that I can believe the villains didn’t think of it, but also logical enough that I was able to figure out what he was doing before the actual reveal.

But I could go on. The pathos with Timmy Jr. and especially poor Consuela. Batman’s reining himself in at the last second with Gordon. Some of the best Alfred moments I’ve seen.

I really, really like this story.

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As Denny points out in his intro to the TPB, this story isn’t his first attempt to tell this story, though it is the first appearance of the name “venom” for the super-steroid. A mere two issues after her introduction, Lady Shiva was working with Richard Dragon to fight off some 'roided-up baddies courtesy of ex-League of Assassins affiliate Doctor Moon (Kung-Fu Fighter #7, part of a series that is sadly missing from the site at this time). Doctor Moon popped up again two years later to give some more artificial enhancements in Detective Comics #480: https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/detective-comics-1937-480/124787b8-81e8-4722-a6b6-7a0dae84652a

No Doctor Moon this time around, but we do get the return of O’Neil’s corrupt little island of Santa Prisca, last seen in this series as the source of the drug-dealing Chubala cult from LOTDK #1-5. Unlike that story, this one feels less obligated to make constant allusions to Year One, though it does keep Gordon as a police captain at first. Batman goes three months without seeing the captain after the drowning incident. Dialogue between Batman and Gordon about the latter’s “kids” indicates that Jim has already taken in “Batgirl” Barbara, but he is still married to his wife of the same name. Batman is surprisingly disapproving of Gordon’s smoking habit in this story, since he acts like an enabler in other stories set during this period. I guess Denny really wanted to belabor the anti-drug message.

After refusing to kill Captain Gordon at the behest of Porter and Slaycroft, Batman goes six months without seeing Jim, and Gordon is already commissioner by the time Batman comes to him for help in tracking down the villains. Ergo, any stories featuring Batman and Captain Gordon together must happen before Venom, and any ones that feature Batman and Commissioner Gordon together must occur after Venom. Considering that this story takes place over nine months and leaves no room for other Batman/Gordon interactions within that time, it really does put a strain on the timeline. At the time of this story’s publication, you’d really have to assume that the still-in-continuity Batman: Year Two happened like a day later or something. (Maybe all the stuff from this story was what rattled Batman enough to think that packing heat was the only way to deal with the Reaper…?)

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hey this is a good lookin thread!!
Thank you Jay_Kay :slight_smile:

Venom and Gothic are must reads in my book. They add so much to Batman’s mythology and the art is amazing.

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I don’t think i’ve seen Alfred quit so many times in any other story, but it was enjoyable. Always interesting when you see bats leave the confines for some greater purpose solo. Foamy-mouth is best mouth.

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Alfred Pennyworth on discovering just how much of a roid-raging prick Bruce was turning into in #17:

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Okay, bumping this up because I finished the arc just now and I’m happy to say it holds up to what I remember when I first read it as a kid. I think this is easily one of the best Batman stories Denny O’Neil has ever written. I think it does a great job in highlighting what makes Batman such a great and beloved character, in his humanity. We see him at his lowest, where he succumbs to temptation, even with good intentions, and becomes a monstrous parody of himself; but in that same story we see him at his highest (erm…no pun intended), where he beats his addiction and comes back stronger than ever.

The art is great here as well – it’s not very flashy, but it’s great at storytelling, acting and mood, while still having some memorable looking scenes.

Continuity wise, I can see the problem with the whole “month in solitary” thing that @AlexanderKnox mentioned. I suppose one can fix that is tweaking it so that Gordon is already Commissioner at the start of the story. It takes it out of the “Year One” era a bit, but close enough for government work. Honestly, while it’s a great story, and it has the groundwork for stuff that would become important later on, it doesn’t really matter too much to me if the story is in “continuity” or not. I can read it as it’s own separate thing and still find great enjoyment out of it.

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I do wonder if the “Commissioner” line in LOTDK #19 was a flub that was never caught. I also wonder if the “six months since [you were sent to kill me]” line in that same scene was supposed to be six weeks. Those two tweaks would make this story significantly easier to fit into a timeline. The story would still hog four and a half months of continuity (three of which mostly happen between the first two issues and remain vague beyond the notion that Batman is doping up while avoiding Gordon), but that’s way better than a whole nine months.

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Still haven’t read this yet but I will before the weekends over :slight_smile:

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Cool! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. :slight_smile:

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With a few days left for this, I thought I’d throw out a question.

This past month or so, we’ve gone through the first four arcs of this title, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight. How would you rank them?

My ranking goes as follows:

  1. Venom – Overall the strongest in terms of story and characterization.

  2. Gothic – While supernatural stories aren’t always in Batman’s forte’, the psychological element helps keep it together for an overall creepy and fun experience.

  3. Prey – The Night Scourge stuff isn’t as interesting as the writer would like to think it is, but overall a pretty good personal story of Batman dealing with his own doubts and fears.

  4. Shaman – Not a bad story by any stretch, but I feel it does end up being the least interesting of the four.

  1. Venom: All the reasons mentioned so far.

  2. Shaman: An interesting, well-executed detective story.

  3. Prey: Decent concept and some good elements, but also weird, didn’t totally hold together, and had some distractions.

  4. Gothic: Superficially stylish and creepy, but with a hot mess of a plot.

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  1. Gothic – It’s the only one that doesn’t place all of its chips on the audience’s affinity for Year One.

  2. Venom – The timeline is all wonky, but the central premise is interesting…for the first three issues.

  3. Shaman – The story is pretty weak, but the Chubala cult kept things from being a total drag.

  4. Prey – Too much of the classic Hugo Strange character is missing here, and the vigilante subplot was dull.

[Honorable mentions: The next story in LOTDK, the Leslie Thompkins-centric “Faith,” would easily take the #3 spot from 'Shaman," while Moench’s “Terror,” the sequel to “Prey,” would come in right behind “Faith.”]

If we are ranking them, I agree with Batjamags line up.

Venom was amazing. The girl who drowned in the beginning was especially heart breaking. I understand what lead Batman down the road to drug abuse. And his behavior while addicted… Wow. So far this is in my top 5 Batman stories of all time.

To be honest the General and Scientist combo is one of Batman’s greatest villains battles. I mean Batman couldn’t even beat them. If it wasn’t for the general getting greedy and accidentally getting himself killed, I could see them creating Knightfall and even being more successful at it.

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That would be an interesting “what if” style story!

Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed this story, it’s definitely a favorite of mine as well. :slight_smile:

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