The Longest Halloween
Dark Victory is a HUGE undertaking. This will definitely be my longest review for a while. If you’ve read my Long Halloween review then you know that I absolutely loved that book. This sequel takes place directly after the aforementioned title and the team up of Loeb and Sale do a great job of continuing their story in both style and execution. This book too takes place over the space of a year and follows the Falcone family and Batman’s mission to take them down. I highly recommend you read Long Halloween before diving into this, otherwise it’ll be like when you’re forced to watch the Twilight films by your girlfriend and you have no idea what’s going on because you don’t have a girlfriend….and you’re just watching the Twilight movies…you sad…pathetic man.
First appearance Dick Grayson and Mr Freeze
Good Evening Comissioner
Finally Jim, The Man, Gordon has been named Commissioner. This is a huge milestone in the Batman run and one that has been building up for a while. Finally I’m no longer confused as to what rank is what (is it captain or lieutenant that’s highes…..look shutup I don’t know) as Commissioner is the top dog, the head honcho…the boss…the other nouns that sound important.
We are also introduced to Harvey Dent’s replacement, new DA, Janice Porter. She comes in with the old cliché law enforcement member in Gotham schtick. She wants to catch Batman, she grows to love him, she starts writing reviews about him online that no one reads, that old one.
Gordon has to deal with her hotheadedness and the fact that he no longer has Harvey Dent in his life (he’s left a big DENT in his life…no…ok), we also learn that his family have left Gotham and it’s not the most heart warming of openings learning just how stressed out the promotion has caused him. Barbara refuses to speak to him on the phone and he talks through his son to her. It is nice when they get reunited as no one wants to see ol’ jimbo down in the dumps. He’s given up so much. He’s given up more time than I have, reading this read through that I now wish I’d never agreed to….yaaaay.
Much in the same way that the position of DA has been filled, positions within the mob have to. Since the death of the Roman and Maroni, other family members have came forward in an old ‘cousin oliver syndrome’ to fill the gaps and spice up the plot.
A new killer in Town
A new killer has emerged in Gotham, The Hangman! I view this story as kind of a cut and paste of Long Halloween. It’s more of the same, but if you loved that book, like I did, there is a lot to like here.
We are sort of into the Year Three stage of Batman’s war on crime and you can see that the stories thus far have really taken their toll on him. He views himself as alone, in his mind he is still the boy in the alley, helpless. Dark Victory definitely has the lowest we’ve ever seen Bruce in the run so far. Something is truly missing from his life. The house is empty, he shuns Selina, Alfred….the postman, even when he has a LootCrate full of Batman stuff….probably. He is isolating himself because he doesn’t want to get close to anyone in case he loses them again. He is just a machine now, existing for justice.
What does Batman like in his drinks? Just ice…….anyway back to the review.
Loeb does a brilliant job of mirroring this with Two Face. The caped crusader and the…burnt….facer….(sorry) pass in Arkham and you see how alone the two truly are. Dent is trapped with the same criminals he put away. When Sofia orders a hit on Dent in Arkham the story truly gets moving. We see the escape of some of Gotham’s biggest villains and there’s a sense of ‘oh god what we gonna do.’ The same feeling you get when you hear that your girlfriend, for real this time, has told you that she wants a twilight marathon on Friday night. It could happen to you.
The sense of isolation that the book opens with is brilliant. In Long Halloween Batman, Gordon and Dent were a unit, now they are loners, destroyed from the outcome of the prior entry. Character development like this is rarely seen in a comic and it’s breath taking here.
Calendar Mannibal Lector
If Long Halloween was Silence Of The Lambs, then Dark Victory is Hannibal, for The Calendar Man at least. The character, though not at the forefront of the plot, works brilliant in retrospect and I guarantee you’ll have a great time on the second read just seeing how intricately placed he is within the plot. When Alberto is freed from Arkham we see throughout the book how well Calendar exacts revenge on him for stealing his gimmick. Alberto, still a nervous wreck believes that his father is speaking to him through the walls. There is a really ghostly, haunting and eerie atmosphere throughout the entire book in these sections and when you learn that it was the Calendar Man all a long it becomes even more terrifying. It of course adds to the mystery too as you wonder throughout whether Alberto has returned to his wicked ways as oh lay oh lay it’s a cheeky ‘Holiday.’
It’s through Alberto that we get insights into the red herring that is Sofia’s disability, throughout the book you see the dichotomy within her character. She is sympathetic and threatening all at the same time. Through the surviving Falcone’s eyes we are introduced to the rest of the mob. Like weeds, new ones have popped up, it’s quickly breezed through and though they pop up a lot in the book none of them, bar Anthony Zucco, really leave a lasting impression.
It’s a shame that the story is so cut and paste as I didn’t fall in love with these characters like I did in the last book. They seem like the Poor Man’s version of the prior heads of family. You wanted a McDonalds but you’re stuck with a Wimpys sort of thing. Wimpys was a shit version of McDonalds for anyone under the age of 25.
One of the most interesting members of the Falcone family is Mario (not to be confused with Mario Falcone from Towie). He’s looking to lose the family reputation that has held him back and with his father out of the way seeks to write the wrongs that the Falcone’s did. Taking cues once again from the Godfather, the son has been away, he comes back, wants to get away from the family and inevitably gets sucked into it.
Continuing the theme of Long Halloween with a new paint job, the murder scenes done by The Hangman are similar to killings in Long Halloween. We get many familiar faces pop up throughout them ranging from Chief O’Hara from the 66 show to Brandon, Merkel, Flass and Commissioner Loeb of Year One fame.
To me their deaths signify the metaphorical passing of the torch from the grounded, realistic, political villains that were in Year One to the now common place Super Villains. By killing these characters along with the Falcones, the old ties to Gotham are now severed. The corruption that was present in the run till now is gone, replaced with something much worse. Overall the fact that the old characters are gone and it is now policemen that are getting murdered really highlights the point that Gotham is now contrasted. In Long Halloween it was mobster murder, now it’s police, Gotham has really been turned on it’s head.
Unfortunately bar Flass and Loeb, none of the Policemen (and women, present company accepted) really have the personalities that the mobsters had in The Long Halloween. The impact of their deaths just isn’t there and the police deaths don’t really rock the story in the same way that the mafia ones did.
Riddle Me This? Why is The Riddler an Idiot?
Once again we get a whole host of the rogue’s gallery. But, ofcourse, it’s Loeb and Sale so the Riddler is an absolute idiot. If ‘When In Rome’ was his ‘Dumb and Dumber’ then this is his ‘Ernest Goes To Gotham.’ He’s used here sort of as exposition to explain how the game hangman works, but if you don’t know then you’re an idiot as well.
He’s the worst of the villains though, the Joker, Two Face, Sofia and The Calendar Man are absolutely brilliant. I honestly can’t fault them. There’s a brilliant scene where The Joker goes on a rampage killing mobsters and it’s beautifully orchestrated. It’s like the end of The Godfather where all the families get hit at once. He also throws Sofia down the stairs at her mansion and commands her to get up, saying that if she doesn’t he will kill her. It’s one of the tensest moments in the book and it’s when you realise he knows all the tricks and how the plot is being played. You truly get the sense that though he hasn’t been at the forefront in this story he is still ready to take everything over and make it his. This is cemented when he shoots Harvey at the end. The Joker wasn’t a team player like you thought he was but what do you expect, he’s the joker….the er….jokes on you….(hmmm works a bit).
I Love Dick
Much like Joker is the wildcard for Harvey, Dick Grayson is the wildcard for Batman. It’s great how Loeb has subtly introduced Anthony Zucco, Dick’s Parent’s killer, in the book. He peppers him throughout the pages but never full on pushes him as a villain until we see him at the fairground, threatening the owner. Much in the way we see his dark side we now see a dark silouhette following him, a gymnast, Dick Grayson.
If you’re heavily invested in Batman then you know his parent’s death, you’ve seen it a million times. However, the way that Sale carries it out is breathless. We open a new issue with the cord snapping, a hand holding onto it. The following pages have no dialogue and it too leaves you speechless. Everyone is shocked at what’s just happened and how it came across in the book. Sale once again proves that he is the master when it comes to Noir work.
Earlier in the book we discovered that Batman had planned to tell Harvey his true identity. Whilst he has been lonely thus far it really makes sense that he reveals it to the future Robin. He is looking for that light in his life and Dick brings that. Batman feels that, had he told Harvey the truth, that he may not have went down his dark path. Dick too faces a dark future, he seeks vengeance, no matter the cost. Batman knows the same thing could happen with Dick as it did with Harvey and thus he pretty much spares him that life by being open and honest with him. Bruce has been forced to become a father figure and has no idea what he’s doing. Like most fathers though he learns from the child.
Alfred too grows. There is a beautiful moment with the run where we see Dick Grayson and a young Bruce Wayne entering the master bedroom and finding a brush. One being the past they play out side by side identically up until the respective characters state that they are alone. Whereas with Bruce, Alfred went silent. He now speaks up and tells Dick that he will never be alone again. It’s a really touching moment that shows just how similar Alfred and Bruce are and how much they have learnt from each other. They truly want to save this boy and spare him a life of loneliness and mourning.
To me that is the Dark Victory. Batman, Gordon and the side of good CLEARLY lost The Long Halloween. They got pushed back further than ever before in their war on crime. However, this ends on a positive note, Batman is no longer alone. Finally he has an outsider he can truly trust, the partner he almost had in Dent. Dick Grayson is the first member of the Bat Family. He even solves one of the crimes, highlighting that the hangman note ‘none of you are safe’ could be ‘nine of you are safe.’ His place at the table is well deserved.
Hangman Vs Holiday
As the stories are so similar it is near impossible to draw comparisons between Holiday and Hangman. Whilst in Long Halloween, holiday was really highlighted due to the seasonal shifts, here Hangman feels like an after thought. Christmas, New Year and all the same seasons pass but there is no real impact to them.
It’s a shame that the story lacks in these sections because Sale’s art is absolutely outstanding. He draws Batman as a shadow, a wraith, a terror of the night. I actually prefer his art work here. It feels more accomplished and it’s brooding tone really adds to the text.
Two Faced Friends
The return of Harvey Dent of course is a great moment and a nice twist in the tale. He is a shadowy figure throughout and gets a full panel on his reveal. However, I have real problems with the new DA, Janice Porter. They don’t really develop her and she is used more as a plot device than anything. I really don’t understand the logic behind her romantic involvement with Harvey. Sure it’s revealed that they knew each other at college but I knew everyone at college, I was big man on campus, loads of friends, and I’m still a virgin so I don’t see ho…anyway. Their love story is under developed and she’s merely used as a means to an end. When she is shot by Dent, it enforces his duplicitous nature but not much else. It’s like in The Walking Dead, when they introduce a character and then kill them off just as they are becoming popular and feel meaningful. It’s shocks for shocks sake.
Dent’s strong points are through his uneasy alliance that develops with the Joker. This mirrors the uneasy alliance that the mob share. Mario and Sofia have conflict throughout and they even go as far as disowning Sofia from the Falcone name. It’s nice that we know that Catwoman is trying to confirm whether her surname should be Falcone, whilst other members of the family are losing their space.
A reflection of this can also be viewed with the police force and Batman. Batman notes that he and Gordon now talk AT each other and not With. We also see that Gordon has created a new taskforce and it’s nice to see that Batman still hasn’t got the full confidence of the force. Mainly because of his lack of confidence within himself. This once again leaves a space for Dick (innuendo)…which is of course filled (they write themselves).
Mark The Julian Day On The Calendar
One of the best moments in the book is when Dent puts The Calendar Man on trial to a jury of super villains. He wishes to find out all he knew about Holiday and the Hangman’s identity. It really allures to the animated series episode ‘Trial’ which has a similar set up of the super villains in a court and it’s moments like this that give the book it’s edge.
Though exetremly dark, there are some brilliant moments of humour throughout the pages and Loeb is brilliant at working in situational comedy referential to the Dark Knight’s pantheon.
By the end of the book the twists have come thick and fast. So much happens that it’s really difficult to cram it all into the review. Calendar man has been revealed to be the ghostly voice speaking to Alberto. Sofia is the hangman, she murders Alberto, the villains find the Batcave and we see Dick finally become robin.
The ending is a brilliant.
All the set up over the last 26 issues really pay off here.
“A Father’s Love Can Be A Terrible Thing”
I view the entire run as being a quest for Batman to find an ally and in doing so he becomes a father. It’s interesting because Catwoman and Sofia desperately try to live up to their father’s legacy too. Sofia has the most interesting arc here. She disfigures herself with three scars just to be like him and he death is truly done in a repetitive manner, shot in the head by Dent, much like her father’s. She was his true son in a way. The heir to Gotham, that, now gone, truly ends the reign of the mobster. Catwoman knows the Roman is her father, she is the last of the Falcones but she is a cross between a mobster and supervillain and shows the shift the city is taking.
We end on Robin pledging allegiance and taking an oath. The payoff is awesome and it is a satisfying conclusion that Loeb and Sale have collectively worked into the narrative. This one is slightly harder to rate, as of now it is definitely worthy of a top three position. However, it is too similar to The Long Halloween and suffers due to it’s lack of originality to take the top spot.
I think Monster Men ranks just above it too, mainly due to it’s repetitive feel.
It is a great book though and definitely deserving of all the critical praise that it has received over it’s 17 year release. You should definitely pick this up if you loved Long Halloween as it feels like a complete saga. This book is not to be missed.
If you’ve been following my reviews then you know that i’m ranking the books as I read them in what all the fans of me lovingly call ‘Rank As I Read’ or ‘Rank As You Read’…I don’t know, I can’t remember, you do though as you’re a proper fan.
So here is the leaderboard so far.