Review by Ian Keogh
The cover to this volume is an exercise in marketing deceit, prominently featuring major superheroes rather than the more obscure characters teaming with Batman that writer Bob Haney preferred. Green Lantern and the Flash only appear once inside, where we have two appearances from Sgt Rock, and one apiece from Wildcat, Metamorpho, Metal Men, the 1970s Wonder Woman who lost her powers and the never seen again Bat Squad, who open proceedings. That’s a weaker effort among a generally well thought out set of crime action dramas, Haney now really hitting his stride after practice in volume one. Even when he features out and out superheroes Haney twists them to fit the plot, twice using the Teen Titans largely out of costume in stories highlighting social problems.
In terms of art, this is a quality collection from start to finish. Jim Aparo draws two thirds of it in his graphic style, strong on detail (sample spread right) in the years before he developed his pared down approach. He’s very adaptable, equally convincing with gritty crime dramas and the supernatural horrors of the Demon. Aparo’s influenced by Neal Adams, responsible for most art in Volume One, but here restricted to Batman visiting the House of Mystery, the sole Denny O’Neil contribution, and half a Teen Titans story. Bob Brown draws the Flash in a ghost story, Wildcat’s amnesia and a fun Metal Men piece with a goofy computer, with the amazingly under-rated Nick Cardy (sample spread left) responsible for the remainder. Cardy’s an artist who has it all, an attractive style, perfect technique, and a draughtsman’s sensibilities, yet somehow his reputation eludes greatness.
As noted in other reviews of his work, Haney was a writer who didn’t care much for continuity, and whose take on Batman was a man well above average, but not superhuman, occasionally fallible, and well trained crooks are able to lay him out. It’s an approach that arguably makes for greater realism. There’s no denying Haney resorted to formula, highlighted by gathering eighteen stories together, one favourite trick being the assassin with a formidable reputation but anonymous face tipping up in Gotham. Read the stories individually, though, and there are gems. Batman confined to a wheelchair and awaiting heart surgery has an unbelievable tension, Black Canary’s involvement in a hijack thriller twists and turns, and there’s a story where the guest star isn’t named, indeed barely appears, but it’s a great mystery. Haney resorts to sensationalism on occasion, but his Hitler appearance is rather good, a supernatural presence wrapped into a cinematic drama.
While items within the stories give away the 1970s, they can now be seen as well crafted period pieces, rather than contemporary as originally intended. Haney takes Batman around the world, and even the few poorer stories have first rate art. This is a worthwhile collection for fans of crime stories, but possibly not as appealing to those who’d prefer to see the Teen Titans and Batman teaming to fight Deathstroke rather than slum landlords.
If preferred you have several other options for the same content. It’s combined with volume one for an oversized hardcover Omnibus, or it’s found in black and white along with earlier stories as volume two of Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups. If you only want the Aparo stories, they’re available as Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Volume One.