In Caught In The Web, we set aside the printed funny books temporarily to delve into the world of digital and web comics.
LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #11-13
Writer: Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Phil Hester, Eric Gapstur & Jim Charalampidis
DC $0.99 each
Matt C: He's a Golden Age character that I only became aware of in the last decade or so, but I've got a lot of time for Slam Bradley. The contemporary version (I'm not really familiar with his original iteration) is a hard-as-nails gumshoe working cases on the streets of Gotham, which occasionally puts him at odds with the GCPD and often finds him in the same orbit as the Dark Knight. He's a kind of throwback to a different era, but as Gotham is frequently portrayed as a stylistic mix of the modern and the classical he slots right into the environment.
He first blipped on my radar when he briefly had his own backup strip in Detective Comics, written by Ed Brubaker with art from the redoubtable Darwyn Cooke. It acted as lead-up to their Catwoman relaunch, and Bradley became a constant member of the supporting cast in that book for a good while after that. That backup was pretty phenomenal, and the Catwoman series was firm favourite until it was wrapped up due to poor sales. Bradley hasn't been seen much since (at least, not in the books I've been picking up) so his reappearance as a lead character, albeit fleetingly, was what prompted me to finally start taking a look at DC's digital series, Legends Of The Dark Knight. This weekly online series seems to follow the same remit as the original ‘90s book that held the same title: a showcase for a variety of different creators who may not normally be associated with Gotham City, to produce continuity-free stories featuring Batman and/or his supporting cast.
This three-part tale, simply titled ‘Slam!’, has the private dick finding himself inadvertently accused of murder and battling the odds to prove his innocence while evading the clutches of the long arm of the law (and a certain Caped Crusader). The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted that this is hardly an original spin on a tale centring on a PI, but it could be argued its prevalence is a vital component of the genre, and besides that, ‘Slam!’ is generally a blast to read. There’s a lightness to it, coupled with a sense of humour, that keeps it engaging and prevents it from rolling into predictable grim’n’gritty territory. Slam is the kind of guy you really want to root for because while his luck seems to direct him into progressively hairier situations, he has the smarts to get out of them by the seat of his pants, and he’s an immensely likeable rough diamond.
It sort of loses its momentum during the final instalment though, with things wrapping up a bit too conveniently and easily, and some of the characterization isn’t quite on the money (a riff on a lame gag from Batman Forever falls flat, for example). Fortunately the art from Hester and co displays a slick, loose energy that ensures things remain buoyant up to the final page. That page suggests further adventures featuring Bradley could be a distinct possibility, and while this first tale has contained what I guess you could call teething problems, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing this team tackle the character again. 7/10