Dark Knight Dynasty has an unusual publication history, beginning as an original paperback one-shot graphic novel before acclaim led to it being reissued in hardback. In effect it’s a trilogy in a single book, looking at Batmen past, present and future under the shade of the out of continuity ‘Elseworlds’ banner.

Author Mike W. Barr conjures up a distinct atmosphere for each segment in which Vandal Savage, DC’s immortal villain, encounters a form of Batman. These are matched by well chosen artists. The gloomy painting of Scott Hampton (sample page) characterises a dank thirteenth century London, and he brings a classical painter’s sense of composition to his pages along with a feverish intensity, although he tapers off toward the end of the story. At this stage of his career there was a stiffness to Gary Frank’s art, but also a fine superhero style polish. Bill Sienkiewicz is reining himself in for the future segment, producing far more traditional superhero art than that usually associated with him. It’s all very professional, but disappoints as we expect to be startled by Sienkiewicz.

Joshua of Wainwright is considered a heretic for casting his lot with the Knights Templar in 1222, and it’s resulted in his incarceration by the prevailing religious forces whose power is almost absolute. He has a fantastic tale to relate, one of monsters and witches, for once the true articles rather than the creation of superstition, but will it save his soul?

In the present day Bruce Wayne has reached adulthood with his parents alive and able to attend his wedding. He’s a self-indulgent playboy not at all interested in the family business, yet not without redeeming features, and eventually assumes the Batman identity as an anonymous cloak to protect his loved ones. This, unfortunately, has none of the mystique or credibility of the previous section. We’re expected to believe that all it takes to convert an idle playboy into a warrior able to deal with three thugs single-handedly is a costume that he’s apparently conjured up in minutes. This, by the way, also includes a bulletproof capacity for the cloak. The long build-up and lack of logic is further a shame as Barr supplies a solid and tense conclusion.

It’s apparent from the third chapter’s splash page that each bears a slight connection to their predecessor beyond the presence of Vandal Savage. Again, though, there’s either a lapse of logic as to how there can be any Wayne descendant at all given the events of the 20th century, or that Bruce was one fast mover. This chapter spotlights Brenna Wayne of 2500 and an imaginative new Robin in what’s an almost Kirby pastiche of myth and legend, but one that sinks in excess verbiage.

Second hand copies of Dark Knight Dynasty are now available at well below cover price, and recommended for Scott Hampton’s work, but otherwise this is disappointing.