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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: 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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