Review: Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2 trade paperback (DC Comics)


There’s three Batman: Urban Legends volumes on the stands at the time of this writing. Of them, the first and third contain just two stories each, being collections of some of Urban Legends longer-form tales. Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2, however, is a collection of a portion of Urban Legends shorter stories from the first 10 issues. Of the two volumes I’ve read, so far I like the more, shorter stories approach, which auspiciously already looks to be how DC will package Urban Legends Vols. 4 and 5.

Reminiscent, surely, of the Showcase '90s heyday, Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2 is an anthology of stories good, bad, experimental, and weird, a perfect melange I enjoyed more than I expected. Most surprising is how steeped in the minutiae of the present Bat-moment this book is, surprisingly bolstering – at least for me — a book I otherwise took a dim view of recently.

[Review contains spoilers]

Urban Legends Vol. 2 contains the story for which the title made headlines, in which Tim Drake recognizes himself as bisexual and begins dating his friend Bernard. Reading previews ahead of time, I found writer Meghan Fitzmartin’s dialogue a little treacly, and there are instances here that seem too on the nose — Robin lands in the middle of a crowd of villains and Bernard observes, “You seem … like you’re trying to be Batman” even though nothing Tim’s doing is particularly un-Robin-like.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

But, I also thought Fitzmartin did exceptionally well taking the recent, odd aimlessness of one of DC’s one-time most prominent characters and interpreting it through the lens of Tim’s sexuality. That Fitzmartin will write a new Tim Drake series is all the better, promising that it’s not just a new direction being posited for Tim, but that there’s a writer to shepherd him there. And though I might ding the writing for excessive navel-gazing, I did think (in Fitzmartin’s second story) that Batman suddenly hugging an opponent was brilliant, the kind of thing that underscores why we need new voices on the Bat-titles. Dig too Fitzmartin and artist Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque working in some Batman/Robin Tim Drake poses like something out of the late great Norm Breyfogle.

Tim Drake actually features surprisingly heavily in the book overall, appearing also along the Outsiders in a “Fear State” tie-in story — and nicely treated by writer Brandon Thomas not as sidekick but as superhero in his own right. That story (the second of two Outsiders tales in the book by Thomas) bridges Fear State and Future State, bringing full circle this era of “State” fixation. The range of cameos (future Duke Thomas' steed, for one) is great, as is the latter story’s art by Cian Tormey; in all Thomas seems to be doing well picking up from and improving on Bryan Hill’s DC Rebirth Outsiders.

Also special about Thomas' final Outsiders story, to my eye at least, is that it nods to two Batman Secret Files specials, Tony Patrick’s “Signal” and Ed Brisson’s “Clownhunter.” If those issues together sound familiar, it’s because they’re the only two issues not collected outside the Batman: Secret Files collection, being seemingly the least connected and urgent of the Secret Files set. That Thomas and company should nod to those, even in the lightest way — instead of ignoring them completely — bolsters Urban Legends as a site of serious Bat-universe confluence and not just an anthology for its own sake.

I was most impressed with Dan Watters and Nikola Cizmesija’s Azrael story. In general, it’s a charming wonder some 30 years later to still see Jean Paul Valley in Coke bottle glasses and Azrael with his buckle-strap cape. Watters achieves a great balance of horror and humor, and also dares to venture into some religiosity that I think most writers wouldn’t navigate. Cizmesija moves effortlessly from manga-style minimalism (see Jean Paul’s face when talking to Batman) to detailed gore to the slick action sequences reminiscent of David Aja or Bruno Redondo. I’m eager for Watters and DaNi’s Arkham City mini, but also for Watters and Cizmesija on Sword of Azrael after that.

The stories are not, of course, all winners. I wasn’t much impressed with Cecil Castellucci’s first outing with Barbara Gordon and villain Vi Ross, and this one seemed equally vapid. I’m always happy to see Ryan Wilder incorporated into a story, but neither was I totally sure I always knew what was happening in Marguerite Bennett’s Batgirls story. And while I thought Alyssa Wong did well channeling Rachel Skarsten in her Batwoman story, Vasco Georgiev’s uneven art and the overall silly Seer villain made this one harder to take seriously. Still, I was plenty glad to see Kate Kane given a role in “Fear State” than not.

I would note there’s at least a half-dozen stories from the Urban Legends #1–10 span still uncollected, and going into the third volume that number gets even larger. I’d like to hope there’s a plan in place — that Che Grayson’s Lady Shiva story from issue #3, for instance, is being held to be collected with Grayson’s story from issues #14–16, for instance — but there’s no guarantees.

The worst-case scenario is that some of Urban Legends is never collected, reflecting poorest on Urban Legends itself — if the Tweedledee/Tweedledum story isn’t worth collecting, was it worth publishing to begin with? Also, I can’t imagine DC would leave Ram V’s Ghost-Maker/Wight Witch story on the table, but I’ll be awful steamed if they do.



In all, Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 2 was fun. Can’t say I’m too keen on yet another Batman/Zatanna team-up nor a Super-Pets adventure in the next one; again, hopefully future volumes will be complete and more resemble this.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Comments ( 3 )

  1. I haven't been reading Urban Legends because like so many anthologies I not interested in all of the characters. I've been hoping w/ Tim Drake getting his own series again that they collect all of his Urban Legends stories w/ his new stories. It is the same writer even though there will be a change in the art team.

    1. They republished Tim's stories in a one-shot with a new story added, so I would hope/assume that they'll be included in the first trade.

    2. Solicitation for the collection version of the DC Pride 2022 special, coming in May 2023, seems to include that Tim Drake special, but whether that’s just the new story or also the reprints remains to be seen. First trade of the new Tim series is due September 2023, for now just said to collect issues #1-6, though that too could change.


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