Overview: Batman: Urban Legends #3 takes us through four stories around Gotham City, starring Batman, Red Hood, Lady Shiva, the Outsiders, and Grifter.
Editor’s Note: Due to the anthology nature of this collection, we will feature a synopsis and analysis for each short story, rather than breaking up the synopsis and analysis. Spoilers are sure to be revealed.
Story #1: Red Hood and Batman in “Cheer” Part 3 by writer Chip Zdarsky and artists Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, Julio Ferreira, and Marcus To
Synopsis: Batman distracts “Blue Hood” (Tyler) with a lollipop while he and Jason talk it out. Batman points out that because of Jason’s decision to kill Tyler’s father, Jason is now Tyler’s warden. Batman and Red Hood agree to take on the Cheerdrops operation together, but not before they drop Tyler off at Leslie Thompkins’s home. Red Hood is reflecting on how while Bruce may have been orphaned, Alfred, the Wayne resources, and, later, the Bat-Family, meant that he has never truly been alone. Leslie agrees to care for Tyler for a few days as long as Batman promises he is not trying to make a new Robin. Batman states that his goal is to help a Robin, not make a new one.
Batman and Red Hood head to the Batcave to work out the puzzle of who is creating Cheerdrops. Red Hood flashes back to his time as Robin when Batman was trying to teach him forensic and CSI techniques, but he was more interested in stomping the bad guy once they found him. Flash forward to the present, and Batman and Red Hood pay a visit to a Dr. Romero at Gotham State University, who was a former associate of Dr. Jonathan Crane. Batman notes that Dr. Romero created Scarecrow’s fear gas, and she laments her role in enabling Scarecrow’s signature tool. Red Hood begins to berate her, and she pushes back angrily before Batman intervenes to smooth things over. He asks Dr. Romero to contact him or Oracle if she has any insights on the similarities between fear gas and Cheerdrops and hastens to add that Red Hood is not Oracle.
Batman wants to go back to the Batcave to piece together clues, but Red Hood urges that they head to the Bowery and start shaking people down to get answers. Batman notes that it’s not okay to “terrorize people with addictions” and that daytime is best spent holed up and sleuthing. Red Hood storms off in anger. Flashback, and Batman and Jim Gordon exchange some anxieties about Robin (Jason). Robin has slunk off and attacks Salvatore Greco, a former jewel thief allegedly gone straight. Batman stops him.
Flash forward, and Red Hood has a man dangling off of a building, demanding information. He comms Oracle, and she expresses doubts about his going it alone without Batman, given that the last time she aided him he ended up killing someone. She provides him some information on a location in which he is interested, and he enters the building alone, willing himself to be the detective Batman has always wanted him to be. He knocks on a door, and some vapor emerges … Red Hood realizes his danger and tries to flee but is frozen in his tracks. Mr. Freeze looms in the doorway.
Analysis: “Cheer” continues in fine fashion with the third part in Batman: Urban Legends #3. As with the second part (found in the last issue), I don’t find the depiction of Red Hood nor the dynamic between him and Batman especially novel, but that is no sin. The classic tensions between Batman and Red Hood are narrated smoothly and well, and it makes for a fine story. Batman continues to defend and rehabilitate Red Hood; despite his rage at Batman, Red Hood wants nothing more than to be the superhero for which his mentor has always hoped. There is a real father-son dynamic between Batman and Red Hood here, in the sense that both are furious with the other and see more clearly than most each other’s sins. Yet both also truly love the other and hope they can be saved. Red Hood is simply too rage-filled and impatient to work with Batman for long, and of course one of Batman’s few weaknesses is his difficulty in working well with others. For his part, Red Hood has many skills, but patience and forensic investigation are not among them. Everyone in the Bat-Family knows this, including Oracle, whom Jason fears disappointing above all others.
I think Red Hood’s claim that Batman has never truly been alone is questionable. Bruce grew up wanting for nothing material, of course. And he always had Alfred’s love. But as the comics have made clear time and again, and as Alfred himself noted eloquently during Tom King’s run, Batman is nothing if not broken – and he has always felt so intensely alone. Jason nurses his trauma but denies Batman the full weight of his desolation and pain. This is a mistake in my view but it makes for compelling drama.
As with the first two parts of the story, the artists’ use of shadow and dark tones underscores the gritty urbanity of Gotham. Batman again appears out of the darkness in Dr. Romero’s office, and I love that technique. The reveal of the big bad is also effective, given that so much time has been spent building up Scarecrow in this story (which itself reflects the better coherence in the overall Batman Universe under Tynion’s run). This excellent story is only halfway done, and I’m excited to see where Zdarsky takes us in the downhill run.
Story #2: Lady Shiva in “Death Wish” by writer Che Grayson and artist Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque
Synopsis: The second story in Batman: Urban Legends #3 begins with a flashback in a Chinese village, as two young girls are excited about pork belly. Flash forward and a woman addressed as “Sandra” picks up pork belly takeout on a rainy Gotham night. She meets an injured Batman in his new brownstone, and Batman asks Lady Shiva why she is there. She indicates the takeout and assures him that she will not drug him again. They banter in the kitchen, and while Batman is dressing his wound, Shiva snatches and conceals a knife from the wooden block. They sit down to eat and talk, while Shiva looks at a picture of Batman, Spoiler, and Orphan, and laments that her daughter has chosen to don the cowl. Soon enough, she literally flips the table and shows the knife, demanding to know why Batman has taken her daughter.
They fight and argue, Batman asserting that it was better to bring Cass into the Bat-Family then to leave her crushed under the weight of her loneliness. Shiva mocks his relationship with Damian, and Batman, enraged, disarms her and gains the advantage. She suddenly flings herself onto the knife, confirming that she came to Batman’s home seeking only to die.
She regains consciousness inside Batman’s home with her wound dressed. He asks Shiva to come with him, and they make their way to a mini-golf establishment. Playing and having fun below are Cass, Steph, and Duke. Shiva is flabbergasted to see that Cass looks happy, and Batman points out that he belongs to them rather than the other way around. The goal of the Bat-Family, he explains, is for them to be a community with or without him.
Analysis: This is a sweet, heartfelt little story. Batman knows immediately that Shiva only shows up when she wants to settle a debt she feels she is owed, and the only reason he is surprised when she begins to fight is that he does not understand the reason. I love that the debt centers on Cassandra (these days I love almost any decent Cass-centric story, to be honest). Shiva is highly skeptical of Batman and disagrees with his motives and behaviors with her daughter, but I love the parallelism in how she and the audience are surprised to see Cass doing something as simple and self-accepting as playing mini golf with friends. Shiva is utterly disarmed by this scene, as we should be, and Batman’s explanation that the Bat-Family is something greater than he lands well.
Story #3: The Outsiders in “The Caretaker” Part 3 by writer Brandon Thomas and artist Max Dunbar
Synopsis: The third story in Batman: Urban Legends #3 has Black Lightning and Metamorpho fighting demonic forces outside the building where Katana is being held by Shiori. Inside, Shiori has spiked Katana’s tea with truth serum. As they fight on the astral plane, Shiori asks Tatsu when she stopped loving her son, and when she fell for the other man? Katana begins to sweat as she recalls her training with Black Lightning, which included some very close encounters. Nevertheless, she tells Shiori that she will always love Maseo but that she only loves Jefferson as a friend. Black Lightning finally convinces Metamorpho of the same outside, as the two heroes finish mopping up their antagonists. They burst into the building and find Katana preparing to leave, with Shiori warning her that she has exactly one year to return Maseo (presumably the Soultaker Sword) to his rightful place.
The trio proceeds to a restaurant and Black Lightning informs the other two that a fifth Outsider is needed on the team.
Analysis: I do not read the Outsiders, but each chapter of this story found in Batman: Urban Legends has drawn me in further. Writer Thomas’s initial decision in the first chapter to plop readers in the middle of a narrative was questionable given the fact that it would only make sense to ongoing readers. That said, seeing the entire arc retrospectively has significantly deepened my appreciation for the story. I love Katana as a character and am very interested in seeing how her journey unfolds, as she presumably seeks reunification with the Soultaker Sword. I’m also mildly curious whom Black Lightning has in mind for the fifth member of the team. This ended up being a quality story that has definitely piqued my interest in the Outsiders as a solid team in the Batman Universe.
Story #4: Grifter in “The Long Con” Part 3 by writer Matthew Rosenberg and artist Ryan Benjamin
Synopsis: The final story in Batman: Urban Legends #3 begins in a Star City bathroom six months prior, Grifter is menacing some poor soul about a debt. Two men enter, looking for “Max Cash.” They offer him a job that pays double his current take, but he must audition. Flash forward to Gotham in the present, and Cole Cash is in bed with Chance Adibi (head of global security for Wayne Enterprises). They banter for a while and then Chance leaves the room. Cole converses with an unseen figure, who returns a hacked laptop to Cole through a window via one skeletal arm. Chance returns and informs Cole it is time to go.
Later, Cole and Lucius are having lunch and Cole is busy lying to Lucius’s face. Bruce Wayne drops by and indicates that he’d like to speak with Cole privately for a few minutes. Bruce invites Cole to come work for him personally, but Cole declines and leaves the table in a bit of a hurry.
Grifter is bored, eating spicy nachos in an alley and speaking with the voice over the comm. He gives up and departs, only to be set upon by assailants who appear to be associated with the Black Mask Gang. Batman swoops in from above and he and Grifter start disposing of the antagonists. Batman disables Grifter’s guns, and after the fight is finished, starts questioning Grifter about Fries, Toyman, etc. But Grifter has disappeared on Batman, and the latter seems almost impressed.
Later, Cole infiltrates Wayne Enterprises using the stolen ID card. He tries to hack into the computer systems using information cloned from Chance’s laptop, all the while conversing with the voice on the comm. Access is denied, as even Chance lacks the appropriate security clearance. The voice warns Cole that Bruce and Lucius are on their way up, and Cole, desperate to escape, resorts to hanging outside the window while Bruce and Lucius discuss the danger Cole presents.
Analysis: The third part of the story is much easier to follow than the second part, but I still cannot say that I really care all that much about Grifter as a character. Even the presence of Lucius and the introduction of Bruce is not enough to capture my interest. Although Grifter’s ability to out-stealth Batman is amusing, by this point we’ve seen the trick enough and so it feels gimmicky. We still have no idea what the issue is between Cole and his allegedly deceased brother, nor why Lucius cares much about Cole, nor who the disembodied voice is with whom Cole keeps conversing. I cannot say that I care all that much to learn the answers to these ongoing questions, but your mileage may vary.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue either through Comixology or Amazon.