Friday, August 24, 2018

Retro Review: Legends of the Dark Claw #1 (1996) Review and **SPOILERS**

I’m the Best There Is at What I Do, and What I Do is Talk Constantly

Writer: Larry Hama 
Penciller: Jim Balent 
Inker: Ray McCarthy 
Colorist: Pat Garrahy 
Letterer: Bill Oakley 
Associate Editor: Jordan B. Gorfinkel 
Editor: Denny O’Neil 
Cover Price: $1.95 
On Sale Date: April 1996 
Publisher: Amalgam Comics


Hey kids! Have you ever wondered what would happen if Batman and Wolverine had a baby? No? What if they were genetically-spliced into some kind of…amalgamation of the two characters? In 1996, Marvel and DC Comics attempted to answer that question with a series of comics under the Amalgam banner, and one of those comics was Legends of the Dark Claw #1! And I review it, right here!

Explain It!

So if it wasn’t clear from my introduction, or the cover image, this comic concerns a mixture of Batman from DC Comics and Wolverine from Marvel Comics, who were inarguably each publisher’s most lucrative characters at the time. The action is already underway when we open the book: Dark Claw and the Jackal, who is a combination of Sabretooth and the Joker (but is really just the Joker with a big, hairy body), are tussling in the printing plant for the Gotham Gazette, the Jackal firing bullets and Dark Claw using Adamantium claws. Now we get a good look at the Dark Claw’s costume, and it is deliciously stupid. A real 90s design gem. Another thing you might notice about the Dark Claw is that he talks a lot more than Batman…like a lot more. Like, maybe he should shut up now and then if he wants cowardly and superstitious criminals to be spooked by his Panthro mask
"Where's 'home base?' We really should have settled the rules beforehand."
The Jackal is able to escape Dark Claw with the aid of some henchmen, necessitating a quick escape into the Batcopter, which is a military whirlybird operated by Dark Claw’s sidekick: a brunette looker for Carrie Kelley with the code name “Sparrow.” She hates the name; she’d rather be named Death Urge Overdrive.
They don't call him "World's Greatest Detective" for nothing.
Yeah, why does she have to be Sparrow, come to think of it? She’s wearing the same costume as Robin, and a robin bird has about as much to do as a sparrow does with a bat, or a wolverine. Seems like she could have been named Robin, or Death Urge Overdrive, for that matter. To this point, I’m not sure the public even sees her in costume. So the Batcopter takes off, skimming a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier on the way, which probably has story implications elsewhere. In this comic, a slinky, purple-garbed blonde woman breaks into an apartment in the “artsy-trendy” neighborhood of Gotham…though this looks like a high-rise penthouse, so it must be the “artsy-trendy” neighborhood post-gentrification. This apartment belongs to the mysterious painter Logan, whose paintings look like slashes of color on canvas…hmmm, could this be the Dark Claw’s secret identity? Of fucking course it is, why would we even be here if it wasn’t integral to the story?!
"Also a prolific collector of Barbie™ dolls. You don't hear much about that side."
Just as this lady discovers Logan’s cache of extra Dark Claw costumes, D.C. himself shows up and tells the reader that this is Carol Danvers…the Huntress! Now this is just lazy as hell, it’s Carol Danvers in a version of the Huntress’ costume. Basically a blonde Huntress. They duke it out for a while, talking the whole time, then for whatever reason Dark Claw agrees to tell Carol the whole story.
"I have a slide show set up in the basement."
And it’s an…amalgamation of Bruce Wayne’s and Logan’s backstories: he saw his parents get shot to death in front of him, then Bruce was shipped up to live with his uncle, a Mountie in Alberta, Canada. His uncle was killed, so Bruce was sent to an orphanage, then when he was old enough, he signed up for the Royal Canadian Air Force—and from here, Logan’s biography really kicks in. He, a fellow named Creed, and four others underwent secret experiments to turn them into ultimate weapons—in Logan’s case, he got the Adamantium skeleton and the mutant healing factor. The guy that became Jackal got…whatever he’s got. I guess like a Beast Mode or something?
"A hairline fracture means he likes me, right?"
Sparrow isn’t thrilled at Carol being let into the Batcave the Barrow, which is obviously her special place with D.Claw. But Logan gives her a kind comment and a friendly punch on the shoulder, and she’s soaring. Now it’s time to figure out why the Jackal was screwing around at the Gotham Gazette in the first place…seems he was fooling with the headline for tomorrow’s paper. Taking a look, they’re able to figure out it immediately: the Jackal is going to assassinate the president aboard Air Force One! And guess what: he’s taking off in twenty minutes!
"Wow, you guys are good. All I got from that was 'Affy Nacken.'"
Twenty minutes later, Air Force One has done just that, so Dark Claw boards the airplane with the help of the Batcopter and a timely tight rope shot by the Huntress. Once inside, the Secret Service are rightly freaked out and riddle Dark Claw with bullets. When Jackal boards the plane and fills it with cyanide gas, however, they learn that maybe—just maybe—the masked man can be the hero sometimes. Or they should riddle both of these kooks with bullets.
Isn't there a rule about not discharging firearms on an airplane? Nah, forget it.
Despite being fulla lead, Dark Claw is able to get back up—thanks to his healing factor, naturally—and rips open the plane with his claws. Thusly, he vents the gas and sends both himself and the Jackal hurtling to the ground. The Jackal had the foresight to bring a parachute, but the Dark fella…he has to rely on getting picked up by the Batcopter in a scene decidedly reminiscent of the Dark Knight Returns. Just sayin’. The issue closes with Dark Claw clinging to the wheel hub of the Batcopter’s landing gear, demanding another pass at the Jackal!
Which is definitely pretty bad-ass, if you ask me. This character is a pretty good combination of Batman and Wolverine, leaning perhaps a little more to the latter fella, but still incorporating the vehicles and dubious detective work of the former. One thing that is definitely Wolverine is how Dark Claw will just not shut the hell up. More of a Marvel thing, really. Visually, this thing looks a little like a montage from a bodybuilding magazine, but it’s not difficult to follow. Definitely a product of its time. The references to Dark Knight Returns highlight that as well. I don’t know if this story needed to be done, but the world isn’t appreciably worse for it having existed. Now if they did a Nightwing/Negasonic Teenage Warhead Amalgam character, I’d be all in!
Or, if you don't remember, just take my word for it.

Bits and Pieces:

The Dark Claw may not be an evenly-apportioned blending of Batman and Wolverine, but he's got a stupid-looking costume. I mean that as a compliment, in this case. This issue is a lot of fun and won't take a lot of brain work to understand. The pages look a little crowded, partly because of all the dialogue. But the action is all there and the intrigue...well there's a little of that, too.


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