Batman: Urban Legends #4 Review

Batman: Urban Legends has worked well to fill the holes of the many different Batman Family titles that have been missing in the current publishing schedule for Infinite Frontier. The Batman and Red Hood story that has been he main feature of this series has delivered a surprising exploration of the current state of Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd’s relationship. Its been a reunion of the second Dynamic Duo that has set the tone for every issue of Batman: Urban Legends thus far. With all the different stories that have been told are we going to continue to see this series deliver a strong overall package? Let’s find out with Batman: Urban Legends #4.

Writers: Chip Zdarsky (Red Hood & Batman “Cheer”); Camrus Johnson (Batwing “Superman Punch”); Meghan Fitzmartin (Tim Drake “Sum Of Our Parts”); Matthew Rosenberg (Grifter “The Long Con”)

Artists: Eddy Barrows (Red Hood & Batman “Cheer”); Eber Ferreira (Red Hood & Batman “Cheer”); Marcus To (Red Hood & Batman “Cheer”); Loyiso Mkize (Batwing “Superman Punch”); Belen Ortega (Tim Drake “Sum Of Our Parts”); Ryan Benjamin (Grifter “The Long Con”)

Inkers: Trevor Scott (Batwing “Superman Punch”)

Colorists: Adriano Lucas (Red Hood & Batman “Cheer”); Andrew Dalhouse (Batwing “Superman Punch”); Alejandro Sanchez (Tim Drake “Sum Of Our Parts”); Antonio Fabela (Grifter “The Long Con”)

Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: Back in the past Batman and Jason Todd track down the Joker’s convey where Jason’s mom is likely in as she is being blackmailed to work for Joker. Batman tells Jason to stay back to keep an eye on the warehouse and takes off.

In the present, Mr. Freeze has frozen Red Hood. Prepared for this situation Red Hood uses a device to raise his body temperature. Red Hood then goes to attack Mr. Freeze but falls in a whole in the damaged floor.

Red Hood lands hard on the floor below and makes a run for it before Mr. Freeze gets him again. Red Hood quickly finds himself cornered as Mr. Freeze has frozen all his escape routes.

Batman: Urban Legends #4
Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd’s era as the Dynamic Duo was impacted by trust issues in Batman: Urban Legends #4. Click for full page view.

Back in the past, a young Jason finds his mom and reveals to her that he is Robin. His trust in his mom leads him to fall into Joker’s trap. This reminds Jason that he and Bruce could never live up to the idea of Batman and Robin being the Dynamic Duo because they lacked trust in each other.

Back in the present, Red Hood calls Oracle to get a message to Batman that he needs his help. Mr. Freeze then freezes Red Hood.

At the Clocktower Oracle rushes to her computer to contact Batman, who is at a crime scene. Oracle tells Batman that is in trouble against Mr. Freeze. Oracle goes on to say that Jason did something he would not normally do and asked only for Batman’s help. Batman immediately understands the severity of the situation and rushes off in the Batmobile to save Jason.

Back in the past, Batman returns to the warehouse and finds the dead bodies of Jason and Jason’s mom.

Back in the present, Batman is able to find Mr. Freeze driving on the highway. Mr. Freeze’s back-up keep Batman busy long enough for Mr. Freeze to throw a freeze grenade that creates ice pillars that Batman crashes into.

Batman jumps out of the Batmobile and uses his grapple gun to get on Mr. Freeze’s truck. He then opens the delivery truck doors with an explosive. As soon as the door opens Red Hood’s frozen body falls on the street. Batman goes to stop Mr. Freeze but notices the villains back-up is holding Red Hood’s frozen body at gunpoint.

Batman jumps off the truck and quickly takes out Mr. Freeze’s gang. Batman then goes to check on Red Hood but as soon as he does Mr. Freeze uses his freeze gun on Batman. With both Batman and Red Hood frozen Mr. Freeze appears with his partner named Cheer, who is happy to finally meet Batman. End of story.

The Good: Batman: Urban Legends #4 is yet another showcase of what makes the Batman Family such a strong cast of characters. All the creative teams working on this series are maximizing the page counts they are given to create one complete package. Even as the Red Hood and Batman narrative is the lead story of this issue the Batwing, Tim Drake/Robin, and Grifter stories are told in a way they match in importance.

Chip Zdarsky has really found his groove with how he is exploring Bruce Wayne and Jason Todd’s history to get greater development in the present day story they are involved in as Batman and Red Hood. Zdarsky is able to modernize Jason Todd’s era of Robin without forcing a bunch of changes. The exploration of the iconic Death In The Family storyline is done in a way to further cements how Bruce and Jason’s relationship is so different. Having Marcus To draw all of the flashbacks helped to keep the classic designs of this era but still feel modern in the way Zdarsky was re-telling the story in his writing.

Unlike his past partnerships with Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, Jason never got to the point of building a strong trust with Bruce. And it is not just because Jason was a rough kid but both of them have many similarities of how they let anger and pain as part of their drive. That led to a lot of clashing in personalities, and as Jason mentions, so they never got to a place they could be the true Dynamic Duo as Batman and Robin.

Batman: Urban Legends #4
Oracle informs Batman that Red Hood is in trouble in Batman: Urban Legends #4. Click for full page view.

Which all adds to the present-day narrative with Jason as Red Hood trying to do things on his own. While he has matured to a point there is still something about being around Bruce that makes Jason not always make the best decisions. That’s where Zdarsky’s characterization really shines as Jason finally has a moment where he realizes that it is not a weakness to actually ask for Batman’s help. The importance of this decision just as Mr. Freeze had him corned was enhanced by how Oracle told Batman that Red Hood asked only for his help.

This is where Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira’s artwork really shined as they got over how a switch was flipped as Batman was determination was an act of concern over Red Hood’s safety. Even when Batman was able to break Red Hood’s frozen body out of the truck he had his head on swivel so when his former protégé was in trouble again he jumped without hesitating. All of this helped to further emphasize how at the end of the day Bruce will always have a fatherly concern for Jason even if that means being left open for attacks.

Because of that all that Zdarsky had Mr. Freeze and the new Cheer villain play their roles perfectly. Both of them clearly saw an opening in Batman’s defenses and did not hesitate to take advantage of the situation to freeze Batman’s body. This leaves the reader wonder how Batman and Red Hood are going to be able to get out of the problem they find themselves in.

The Batwing story that followed by Camrus Johnson and Loyiso Mkize worked to bring Luke Fox back into the fold. Since Jace Fox was brought in Luke has been playing even more a side character role in his appearance. So it was good to finally see Luke actually get his own story that focused on his adventures as Batwing. We are reminded why he carried a solo series for so long. The solution that Batwing comes up with to overcome both Killer Croc and Riddler at the same time work to re-establish his skills.

At the same time Johnson and Mkize were able to keep a focus on Luke’s current story with his family, in particular with Jace. We once again see how Tim Fox’s return as Jace has shaken Luke in unexpected ways as they aren’t very close right now. Getting glimpses at how they did once have a close brotherly bond adds further interest in how DC Comics plans on developing Luke and Jace’s relationship in the future.

Similarly, Tim Drake’s story also brought back the character back into the fold while using his current unknown status to enhance the narrative around the character. Meghan Fitzmartin did a great job showing us how Tim is at a crossroad in his life as he is facing what next steps he should take in his life. There are a lot of subtle things that Fitzmartin does with the dialogue from Tim saying Oracle can call him Robin while Damian Wayne is MIA or avoiding truthly answering what happened with not going through with attending Ivy Town University.

It is a similar spot Dick Grayson was in when he stopped being Batman’s partner and was with the Teen Titans. He was in a transition period where he wasn’t sure if continuing to being Robin was the best thing for him. Tim is in the same spot as you get the sense that he isn’t fully comfortable being Robin anymore but is still acting as such because its what he knows to do.

Barbara Gordon works well as an arm chair quarterback as she does continues to remind Tim that he is just avoiding taking that next step. As someone who has gone through big changes Barbara knows this is not an easy period in Tim’s life. Hopefully as we see Tim take on a case that is personal to him we see more of Barbara helping him both personally and on the case he’s found himself in.

Batman: Urban Legends #4
Barbara Gordon tries to get Tim Drake to open up about his future in Batman: Urban Legends #4. Click for full page view.

When it comes to the Grifter story that continues to be part of Batman: Urban Legends I’m still in a love-hate relationship with it. There are certain elements that I am enjoying while others it just has not clicked. On the good side of things the action choreography by Ryan Benjamin works very well. There is a strong sense of motion that further shows how Grifter is able to make things up as he goes. Which works well with how Grifter is able to overcome having to fight Superman and get away from the Man of Steel.

The Bad: The big thing that is not working for the Grifter story is that Batman is involved. As with past parts of the Grifter story it feels as though Batman is just being forced to be part of this story in order for Batman: Urban Legend start and end with the character involved. The story would be much better if it was just Grifter being the main driver. Especially as an anthology series it would work better if we had the Outsiders or other members of the Batman Family get involved to further drive home how big of a cast there is to be involved in the future of Gotham City.

The interaction between Grifter and Deathstroke also ended on a comedic note that just did not hit the way Rosenberg intended. It was such a big shift in the way things were going. Which made Superman’s appearance even more random as Rosenberg just moved to the next big character that got involved in Grifter’s story. At some point it would be good to see Grifter’s story not be reliant on other major names to drive interest in what he has going on as you do forget he is the main character of the story.

Overall: Batman: Urban Legends #4 once again delivers several compelling stories involving the Batman Family. The lead story involving Red Hood and Batman by Chip Zdarsky continues to do a great job exploring the status of their relationship as partner’s and father-son. The new stories with Luke Fox and Tim Drake both did a great job bringing both characters back into the fold as Batwing and Robin, respectively. It all comes together to create a strong comic book that Batman fans should not be missing out on experiencing.

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