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Batman: Haunted Knight

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale are reunited yet again for another Batman graphic novel. Haunted Knight is actually a collection of three short stories, all of which take place on Halloween night. The title is a pun, he’s a haunted knight and the stories take place on a haunted night. That’s clever; see what they did there?

The first story is called Fears and it’s about Batman facing his fears. He has a showdown with the Scarecrow and gets trapped in a giant corn maze and he almost goes crazy. But then he doesn’t and he escapes the maze because he’s the goddamn Batman.

The second story is called Madness. The Mad Hatter kidnaps James Gordon’s adopted daughter. The Mad Hatter has a twisted tea party with kidnapped kids and it’s up to Batman to stop the madness. There’s a parallel storyline involving a young Bruce Wayne and his pre-murdered mama reading Alice in Wonderland to him on a rainy day.

Ghosts is the final story and it’s a spin on A Christmas Carol. Bruce Wayne gets visited by the ghost of Halloween past (she looks like Poison Ivy), the ghost of Halloween present (he looks like the Joker), and the ghost of Halloween yet-to-be (and this ghost is a dead, decomposed Batman). The ghosts teach Bruce not to let Batman take over his life.

There is no sense of continuity between the stories. In fact, you’re not even sure when they take place. It must take place after the events of The Long Halloween storyline because Two-Face is referenced, but before Dark Victory because there is no mention of Robin. And they take place over three years because there are three Halloweens and there’s only one Halloween per year. I might have to double-check my math, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

The Long Halloween is awesome. Dark Victory is still good, but not as great as The Long Halloween. Haunted Knight is just lazy. Loeb and Sale make great comics, but even they are susceptible to making shitty ones. This is their Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You wanted to like it, you tried to like it, but they did everything they could to fuck it up and they succeeded in making it suck. It’s not terribly bad. It’s just soul-crushingly disappointing. There are a million better stories out there, and this collection is not necessary.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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Batman: Dark Victory

Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale reunite for the sequel to Batman: The Long Halloween. Both The Long Halloween and Dark Victory take place in the same canon as Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Gotham City is in the midst of a transition from crime families to masked freaks taking over the criminal underworld. To make matters worse, a new serial killer is in town, and he’s targeting cops. If that wasn’t enough, Bruce Wayne takes in a young orphaned circus acrobat named Dick Grayson.

The story picks up a few months after the events of The Long Halloween. There’s a new district attorney called Janice Porter, Sofia Gigante has taken over the Falcone Crime Family, Batman and James Gordon are still distraught over the whole Harvey Dent-turning-into-Two-Face incident, and a mass breakout at Arkham Asylum only makes matters worse. Not only does Batman have to deal with the warring crime families, but there’s a whole bunch of villainous freaks that he has to contend with too.

Alberto Falcone a.k.a. the Holiday killer is released and allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in house arrest under the supervision of his brother, Mario. Alberto starts to hear the voice of his dead father telling him to return to his murderous ways and become Holiday again.

Shortly after Alberto’s release, Gotham City cops start being killed on a holiday each month. The killer leaves behind a hangman riddle on it, and the riddle is always on a document associated with Harvey Dent.

Naturally there are two main suspects as to who the Hangman killer is. It is either Harvey Dent, because everything is related to him, or it could be Alberto Falcone, because all the murders are happening on holidays. Or it could be someone else entirely. Just saying.

The personal lives of the main characters are shattered. Bruce Wayne/Batman is more isolated and alone than ever before. James Gordon has been promoted to Commissioner but at the expense of his marriage. Both men miss their friend Harvey Dent and still feel betrayed by him.

While dealing with a mafia war and a bunch of freaks, Bruce still finds time to go to the circus. But it’s not a fun night because a gangster ends up killing two trapeze artists to send a message to the circus owner; in the process Dick Grayson ends up orphaned. Bruce Wayne takes him in because he feels responsible, obligated, inclined, whatever, to take care of this young kid and teach him to hate the world and fight crime in an elaborate costume.

This comic feels like a continuation of The Long Halloween in a lot of ways. The plot is very similar. A guy is killing people on holidays and Batman has to find out who, and at the same time he has to deal with gangsters and mobsters and villainous freaks. The twist is that this time, the killer is killing cops and not mobsters. And then they tacked on a Robin origin story to spice things up.

Batman has to decide which side Catwoman is on and if she’s trustworthy again. He has to fight the Joker again. He has issues with Two-Face again.  The Scarecrow shows up. And Solomon Grundy. And the Calendar Man. And the Riddler. And a few more. It’s easy to mix up plot points between The Long Halloween and this story. It doesn’t feel as much like a continuation as much as a rehash. It’s good, but it’s not as good and nowhere as original. It’s worth reading. It’s not the best Batman story, but it’s one of the better ones.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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