“I made a promise to my parents that I would rid the city of the evil that took their lives. That remains unchanged. Only now… I am no longer alone.”
– Batman, Dark Victory
Another big piece of Batman history by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale. But this time, we get to welcome with big open arms to the best – this might be debatable, but not with me – Boy Wonder. As if the cover art doesn’t already show you who we’re talking about here, Dark Victory introduces Mr. Dick Grayson into the Batman universe. This trade paperback collects all 14 issues published back in 1999 and 2000 and follows the events of The Long Halloween. The story focuses on a killer that prowls the city of Gotham and brings Death to Gotham City police officers. Behind every corpse, a hangman riddle is left revealing a hint – impossible to decipher as a reader, might I add. The killer goes by the name of the Hangman and seeks to fulfill a purpose that no one can pinpoint, except one fellow. Characters such Harvey Dent, Catwoman, the Joker, the Falcone family members and plenty more make more appearances in Dark Victory, only to make Batman and Gordon’s life a lot harder.
“I know you’re hurting. Harvey Dent was my friend, too. We’ve all lost so much… You should see him in that place. Surrounded by the same criminals he helped put there. I can’t help thinking how alone he is at Arkham. How alone we all are…”
– James Gordon, Dark Victory
The story isn’t bad, alas, but it’s also something we’ve seen before. Especially, if you’ve read The Long Halloween. It would’ve been a lot more pleasant to have seen a different kind of plot line to close out the story of a lot of important characters that Frank Miller introduced in Batman: Year One. In Dark Victory, after a breakout in Arkham Asylum, home to the most insane killers, Harvey Dent along with other key characters are freed and Gotham citizens worst nightmare just became reality. Things hit rock bottom when more murders happen on holidays only to allude Batman and friends that the Holiday killer is back. As the number of suspects increases, the original Holiday killer, the Calendar Man and Harvey Dent become prime suspects in this hunt for a killer.
Exploring more of some important characters, Dark Victory shows more depth into Bruce Wayne’s issue of wearing a cape at night and a billionaire by day. His incapability to retain a normal relationship, in this case our favorite cat burglar, Selena Kyle, solely shows this struggle. This was really well portrayed by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale and gave a nice side-story to Batman’s nocturnal activities. As we might have figured, Bruce’s need to serve justice is always put ahead of his own life. In his case, happiness cannot be achieved through normality and peace. Happiness resides in Gotham’s health. Infected by criminals, Batman will always struggle to rid his city of crimes before he would ever know anything remotely Zen. In his lonesome fight for justice, Gordon and Alfred remain his only friends, but then again, he never seeks to put them in harm’s way. Dark Victory, however, introduces readers to a new character that will forever mark Batman’s adventures and seek their unity through a common denominator: solitude. If you ask me, Robin’s part of the storyline was probably the better bit of this tale. I absolutely love how the writer managed to depict the character and show the similarities between our favorite protagonist and Robin. Their tragic past brought them together only to make a duo that no man could ever forget.
“Maybe it’s the money. Maybe I’m just curious as to who took him and why. Maybe it’s none of your damn business.”
– Catwoman, Dark Victory
Of all three projects by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, I felt like Dark Victory mastered the artwork that was initially used in The Long Halloween. The colors were on point, the crispier and scarier portrayal of characters was awesome and the blood was splashier than ever. The panels with death scenes were epic and everything related to death itself were shocking and well displayed. Batman continues to reign fear and is drawn with even more darkness. Robin’s portrayal on the other hand was rather original. He had the same tone of darkness and loneliness as Batman and wasn’t shown as some happy and jolly red, yellow and green side-kick. What the Boy Wonder brings into the story and Batman’s life shows reader a little ray of light for the Dark Knight. Additional purpose and meaning is given to Batman’s life and helping Robin avoid a dark and gloomy world of darkness brings a little joy into the caped crusaders life.
“My father once told me ‘You are never stronger than when your enemy thinks you are weak.’”
– Sofia Gigante, Dark Victory
If you think this could be overlooked, you’re wrong. Dark Victory remains a story arc that all Batman fan should acquaint with. You cannot skip over this one, since you’ll be missing out on a big part of Batman’s legacy. I mean, come on, don’t you want to know how Robin became Robin? Don’t you want to know who the Hangman is? Don’t you want to see the first love sparks between Selena Kyle and Bruce Wayne? Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale delivers a compelling murder mystery tale with brilliant artwork to keep you entertained and shrieking at the sight of ugly, ugly, very ugly Penguin and Joker. Although the story depends heavily on what happened in The Long Halloween and continues on the same kind of format, when it comes to plot, as the Long Halloween, Dark Victory is a story worth your time, a comic that’s just indispensable. If you want to start reading Robin: Year One or Catwoman: When in Rome, you don’t have a choice but to pass by this route.
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My overall rating: ★★★★☆/