I've already covered one of my favourite story arcs from the period, Snow, and today I want to tell you about another, from writer James Robinson and artist Tim Sale. Published in 1992 and running through issues 32, 33 and 34 of LotDK, Blades tells the tale of a new Gotham crimefighter who goes by the name of Cavalier, one who appears just as Batman becomes immersed in an obsessive hunt for a serial killer known only as Mr Lime, one who appears to target the elderly exclusively. Is this Cavalier all he all that he appears, though, and are he and Batman headed towards partnership or confrontation?
The story appears initially simple - tales of Batman becoming obsessed with this criminal or that are a dime a dozen, and there have been more than a few about new would-be protectors of his territory. What makes Blades unique is in how well these elements come together, and what they tell us about the man himself. It's never explicitly stated why Batman is so driven to catch Mr Lime - the hunt is already well underway when the first issue opens - but the time that the narrative takes to detail the grieving children left behind by his rampage says it all. This is deeply personal to the Dark Knight, so much so that when the Cavalier comes swinging in to take up some of the slack in Gotham, he is more than willing to give him free reign. As his name would imply, the Cavalier is rakish and charming rogue in the mould of Douglas Fairbanks or Erroll Flynn, always ready with a witty quip for the media and police. Batman himself wants to believe that this new, brighter brand of justice might have a place in his city, and as a result his guard is lowered substantially.
|Don't read the text if you can't stand a minor spoiler for a comic old enough to drink|
The best Batman villains are those who draw out some aspect of the titular character - Ra's al Ghul reflects his hubris, Mr Freeze his motivating tragedy - and Blades demonstrates that this can be the case for characters who are not directly opposed to him as well. It's no spoiler to say that the Mr Lime storyline is little more than elaborate backdrop here - the real meat of the tale is in the relationship between Batman and the Cavalier. I won't give away the final reveal, but suffice to say that the complex motivation behind the Cavalier's actions play into those of the Caped Crusader, and call into doubt his own murky motivations in his war on crime.
Blades is available in the now out-of-print collection Batman: Collected Legends of the Dark Knight, the Tim Sale collection Tales of the Batman, currently in stock at Book Depository, or of course via Comixology. As always, you can follow @CrimeAlleyNotes on Twitter to find out about blog updates as they happen and read whatever other garbage crosses my mind.