Batman: Urban Legends #1 Review: Come for Batman, Stay for Batman's Friends

batman urban legends cover
(Photo: DC Comics)

Anthologies in any medium come in many shapes and forms, sometimes offering creatives to tell completely disparate stories that allow storytellers to deliver adventures in their own compelling styles, while others will allow for more overlap among installments and serve as a collection of stories that only require a shorter amount of time to organically conclude. Regardless of what medium an anthology might unfold within, they are often only judged by its weakest entry, despite such a format often seeming foolproof. DC Comics' Batman: Urban Legends #1 might feature a thrilling Batman and Red Hood story, as well as a touching glimpse into Harley Quinn's love life, the only real reason to read the second half of the collection is likely because you'll have made it more than halfway through and want to finish to satiate your curiosity.

"Cheer" sees Red Hood investigating a new drug that's infecting the streets of Gotham, with former mentor Batman also tracking down the narcotic. After the discovery of the drug's collateral damage, Red Hood's impulsive decision could make him the target of the entire city, including its worst offenders and most courageous heroes. Chip Zdarsky makes writing Batman look effortless, playing into the dark and gritty elements that are intrinsic to the character, while also injecting the right amount of levity that reminds readers that this is still about a millionaire who dresses up as a bat. Artists Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira know exactly when to make their panels explosive and when to show restraint, allowing the nuances of the story to be reflected in the subtlety of their art to depict the weight of the story's emotional reveals.

Similarly, writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Laura Braga's "New Roots" is undeniably endearing. As Harley Quinn returns to Gotham, she's reminded of her relationship with Poison Ivy, in both all of its blooms and in its thorns. Albeit one of Urban Legends' shorter stories, the narrative breezes by with Harley largely in one room reminiscing about Dr. Pamela Isley, leaving you longing for endless amounts of exchanges between the two. Harley is one of Gotham's more abrasive residents, but Phillips and Braga manage to capture her vulnerabilities with one of the only people she's ever really opened up to. It's hard to read "New Roots" without immediately wanting as much of this relationship as you can get.

With "The Caretaker," readers witness characters like Black Lightning and Katana on some sort of mission, yet the action and exposition comes at such a dizzying pace, ultimately culminating in a tease of future adventures, it's difficult to even register anything read. While this could be attributed to the story being one of the book's shorter installments, it's difficult to say this story would have been any more engaging at any length.

Urban Legends wraps up with a story focusing on Grifter, as "The Long Con" makes good on its name by only offering a fraction of an extended story. Grifter serves as a bodyguard, Grifter battles Batman, and Grifter possibly gets in over his head. If you're already a Grifter fan, you'll surely be excited with all Grifter content, and if you're unaware of the character, you'll potentially have your interests piqued, even if the character largely fits the mold of "charming but twisted assassin" that there are already countless versions of.

After a single issue, one question we're left with is how Batman: Urban Legends earned its title, when "Here's Some Gotham-Related Adventures" would be just as fitting. With Batman appearing in only half of the stories, it's currently unclear what the overall concept is and why each story hinges on its connections to the Caped Crusader. In this regard, the book lacks much cohesion and may as well have been a DC Comics sampler, which almost would have made more sense.

That being said, the quality of the installments range from riveting and complex to entirely forgettable, which will surely satiate the curiosities of readers who were drawn into the book by the more well-known characters. For those looking for the makings of powerful Batman and Harley stories, you'll be more than delighted, with the back half of the comic feeling more like a way for DC Comics to get you invested in characters you might not already have a connection to, yet these mundane exploits drag down the overall enjoyment of Urban Legends.

Published by DC Comics

On March 10, 2021

Written by Chip Zdarsky, Stephanie Phillips, Brandon Thomas, and Matthew Rosenberg

Art by Various

Colors by Adriano Lucas, Ivan Plascencia, Luis Guerrero, and Antonio Fabela

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Letters by Becca Carey, Deron Bennett, Steve Wands, and Saida Temofonte

Cover by Hicham Habchi