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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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All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder

Frank Miller’s prequel to the Dark Knight Returns and the Dark Knight Strikes Again is a reimagining of how Batman and Robin teamed up. Miller’s story is a little more coherent than his DKSA travesty. Jim Lee’s art is amazingly stunning, especially compared to Miller’s gritty Dark Knight illustrations.

Frank Miller’s Batman is basically Dirty Harry. He ruthlessly beats criminals and enjoys doing so. He calls himself the “goddamn Batman”. A lot. It’s annoying to have a classic character changed so drastically. Batman is an asshole in this book. You don’t like his personality.

Dick Grayson is just your average twelve-year-old circus acrobat who is an expert at martial arts for some reason. His parents are shot and killed in front of him, and he is kidnapped by some corrupt Gotham cops. Batman rescues Dick from the dirty cops, and enlists him to fight in his war against crime. Batman doesn’t give Dick a choice; he just takes him back to the Batcave and starts training him to be a soldier. When Dick Grayson asks for food, Batman tells him to catch a rat. What an asshole. Robin doesn’t even get time to grieve. Batman damaged Dick Grayson beyond repair, making his reappearance in DKSA have more meaning. Batman ruined Dick Grayson’s life.

Jim Lee’s art makes Miller’s harsh story beautiful to look at. Vicki Vale, Wonder Woman, and the Black Canary are incredibly sexy looking. The female characters are definitely nice to look at. The highlight of the artwork is a huge multipage foldout depicting the enormity of the Batcave. It is huge, vast, and filled with tons of Bat-ccessories.

Batman is smart, knows it, and rubs it in your face. He handles the Green Lantern by controlling where and how they meet. He makes Robin paint the rendezvous spot all yellow so his power ring is useless. You gotta admit, that’s pretty clever.

This is a cool book. It has a more focused plot than the Dark Knight Strikes Again. The characters are more relatable. Even though the goddamn Batman is an asshole, at least he’s not a parody like he was in DKSA. Miller’s story is dark, but Lee’s artwork makes it appealing.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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