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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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Batman: The Long Halloween (comic)

The Long Halloween is a semi-sequel to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One. Writer Jeph Loeb continues the tale of a Gotham City that is still partly controlled by mobsters and gangsters, but more and more crazy Batman villains are starting to make their voices heard. A serial killer is slowly killing off members or the Falcone crime family on holidays and Batman has to find out why. He enters a crime fighting pact with Police Captain James Gordon and the new district attorney, Harvey Dent. Over the course of the 13 issues, Harvey Dent transitions himself from a moral and upstanding person to a psychotic villain known as Two-Face. If that spoiled anything for you, I’m not fucking sorry. Everyone knows that Harvey Dent becomes Two-Face.

A notorious mobster named Carmine “The Roman” Falcone tries to get Bruce Wayne to get the Gotham City Bank to launder money. This sets off a chain of events where Batman starts to investigate that Falcone family, allying with James Gordon and Harvey Dent in an attempt to stop organized crime in Gotham.

On Halloween, Jonny Viti (The Roman’s nephew) is shot and killed by an unknown assassin. Each month the killer returns to wipe out another mobster on a holiday, each victim is associated with the Falcones.

Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Dent become intent on catching the killer, who they start referring to as Holiday. Catwoman is constantly spying on Batman and always seems to be present when he’s meeting with Gordon and Dent, or whenever he’s creeping around at nighttime doing his Batman duties. Haha, Batman doodies. Batman’s not sure which side she is on, but he’s got bigger fish to fry.

Harvey Dent finds a link between the Falcone family and the Wayne family that results in Bruce Wayne getting arrested. That puts a slight damper on Batman’s relationship with Harvey Dent.

The crime war between the Falcones and their rivals, the Maronis reaches the point where Maroni agrees to testify against The Roman. Instead of a damning testimony, he hurls acid into Harvey Dent’s face. And Harvey Dent goes crazy and becomes Two-Face.

So now Batman has a new crazy villain to deal with and he still has to find out who the Holiday killer is. And there are a lot of suspects. And there’s a twist so brace yourselves.

Not only does Batman have to deal with the Falcone mobsters and the Maroni mobsters, but there’s a virtual who’s who of Batman villains that make appearances. Catwoman, the Joker, Two-Face, the Calendar Man, Solomon Grundy, the Scarecrow, the Riddler, the Mad Hatter, and Poison Ivy all show up. Even though there are a few sideshows, the main storyline is tight and focused. Just sit back and enjoy where the story takes you.

Tim Sale’s artwork is gorgeous. Loeb and Sale worked together for a few projects; this is one of their better collaborative efforts (check out Superman for All Seasons for a good Superman read).

If you’ve seen any of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy (and I’m assuming you have, because who hasn’t?), then you will notice a lot of things that the movies took from this comic, especially in The Dark Knight. This story is better than The Dark Knight. It’s a murder mystery that can only be solved by the world’s greatest detective and he dresses up like a bat when it’s dark outside.

This is one of the best Batman stories ever. And one of the best comic book stories ever. It’s just a great story period. So read it.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy reaches its stunning conclusion in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman has been MIA for eight years and Gotham City needs a hero. A new villain named Bain wants to destroy Gotham and Batman can have none of that nonsense. The Dark Knight must rise to the occasion. Christian Bale returns as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman reprise their characters. Joining the cast is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake.

The movie begins 8 years after the events of the second movie. Batman has been retired and Bruce Wayne is a recluse. A terrorist with a terrifying mask and a shady past is bent on terrorizing Gotham with acts of terror to terrify the citizens. Tom Hardy plays Bane and he is a badass. He is evil personified. He is super strong and super smart and super evil. And he’s got a grudge against Batman.

Bruce Wayne has neglected Wayne Enterprises and himself. Everything in his life is in shambles, he’s lost track of who he is. One day he stumbles across a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) stealing his mother’s pearls and copies of his fingerprints for some reason. The cat burglar’s real name is Selina Kyle and she sells Bruce’s fingerprints to a shady businessman named Dagget.

Meanwhile a young cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) recognizes the deceased body of a young orphan found in the sewers. He goes to visit the orphanage and finds out that there are rumors of employment in the sewers. It turns out Bane and his terrorist army have established a nice little base in the pipes beneath the city. Commissioner Gordon ends up down in Bane’s lair and escapes but nearly dies in the process. The only person who believes his story of a masked lunatic in the sewers is John Blake.

Blake and Gordon want Bruce Wayne to don the cape and come back. He’s reluctant at first, but a visit to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and a showcase of all the new toys and technology start to make him change his mind. Alfred (Michael Caine) doesn’t want Bruce to be Batman again. He is afraid that Bruce wants to fail.

Bane launches an attack on the stock exchange and that’s enough incentive to bring Batman back out of the shadows. There’s an awesome chase scene involving bad guys on motorcycles with hostages, Batman on his Batpod, and hundreds of police vehicles trying to capture the Bat. Of course he escapes in spectacular fashion, he’s the goddamn Batman.

Dagget used Bruce’s fingerprints as part of a scheme that bankrupts Bruce and makes him lost control of Wayne Enterprises. Bruce is able to have Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) take over the company. Dagget is pissed that his plot backfired and has a little hissy fit and bitches at Bane. Bane reveals that he doesn’t work for Dagget, and that Dagget is just a pawn in his game. And then he kills Dagget for good measure.

Batman confronts Bane in the sewers and they have a fight. Batman gets the shit beat out of him. Bane breaks his back and dumps him in a foreign prison. Bane starts to implement his terrorist plans on Gotham. I don’t want to get into specifics, but it’s an epic takeover and it looks pretty bleak for Gotham and Batman.

The Dark Knight must rise from his prison and return to Gotham, but he will need help. Luckily he’s not alone. Commissioner Gordon, John Blake, and Selina Kyle also rise to the occasion. Hopefully good will triumph over evil.

This is one of the best comic book movies to date. I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Dark Knight. In fact, I don’t think it’s even the best superhero movie this summer. The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers are both great candidates for that title. They are more fun. Christopher Nolan’s world is really dark and gloomy. There’s no joy, there’s no humor. They closest thing to a joke is when Batman is talking to Catwoman and she suddenly disappears and he quips “So that’s what that feels like.” Nolan spends so much time trying to make a realistic Batman that it’s disappointing when you see stupid Hollywood clichés, like when Gordon drops the signal jammer and it’s slightly out of reach or how Selina Kyle can ride the Batpod just as good as Batman without any practice. Maybe she’s a great driver, maybe Bruce just sucks.

The hardest part of the movie for me to watch was the attack on the stadium. Prior to the attack there’s a young boy singing the National Anthem. It was the first time that I’ve heard it since the Aurora Twelve massacre. The movie theater is supposed to be a sanctuary from the world, a place of escape, a place to be safe from reality. And from now on there will always be a little bit of hesitation in the back of your mind about going to the cinema. But I felt like I had to see this movie. It’s important to live your life and not be afraid. That’s one of the themes of the film.

Quick spoiler: at the end Batman takes the nuclear bomb away from Gotham and it explodes over the ocean. Disaster averted, Gotham wasn’t blown up. But now everyone will get radiation poisoning and die of cancer. That’s not a happy ending.

The reappearance of Batman is awesome. There’s no big flashy entrance, there’s no lame montage of putting on the suit… he just suddenly shows up in the suit in the middle of a pursuit and Joel Schumacher should take notes.

Bane is a terrifying villain. He is Batman’s equal but leans toward the evil side. Tom Hardy does a great job and I predict several years of typecasting for him. I’m looking forward to it.

The Dark Knight Rises is a great film and it’s worth seeing. You might feel awkward about it; you might feel guilty about it. The Aurora Twelve incident with always be associated with this movie and you don’t want to talk about it, but you have to acknowledge it. Seeing this movie is a way to honor their memories and to move forward. Movies are an escape, we can’t be afraid to enjoy them. Seeing this movie is a way to say that you won’t be afraid.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Batman: the Dark Knight Returns

Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns is about an aging Batman who comes out of retirement to save Gotham once again. All superheroes have been retired, with the exception of Superman. Miller wrote and drew the comic, so the text and the artwork go hand in hand. The story is harsh, and the drawings are crude, creating a used, worn tone that perfectly suits a disgruntled Batman.

Batman has been retired for ten years, but Bruce Wayne still has some work to do. A few criminals from his past have been once again wreaking havoc on Gotham City. New criminals and new gangs like the Mutants have also started a reign of terror. It’s the height of the Cold War, and the Reaganesque President, the Government and Superman are also antagonists.

Batman is a little old and a little rusty. He has to find his place in a city that has forgotten how much they need him. Fighting crime isn’t as easy as it used to be. Batman recruits a new Robin, a spunky thirteen-year-old girl named Carrie Kelly. She doesn’t follow orders well, but she is a natural fighter and saves Batman a few times. There are a few returning Batman favorites like Alfred, Gordon, Selina Kyle, Two-Face and the Joker.

The media is an important character as well. Various anchormen, reporters, interviewed experts, and eyewitness reports all chime in on the Batman issue. The reader is constantly bombarded with new reports and interviews; it makes the stakes seem higher. You see how Gotham and the rest of America is going down a dangerous path. They need a hero, and Superman is not who they need.

Superman has been relegated to being the president’s puppet. The President orders Superman to go after Batman after a few plot developments. There ends up being an epic showdown between Batman’s wits and Superman’s abilities. The final fight between the two greatest DC heroes is one of the best moments in comic history. It is clever, smart, and seems underwhelming at first, but gradually you see how it was the best way to end the story.

Frank Miller did some amazing stories before he went batshit crazy and started parodying himself. This is one of his best comics, one of Batman’s best comics, and one of the industry’s best comics. It is essential reading for a Batman fan. It’s a good time, check it out.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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