Haunted Knight contains three stories. Whilst I could review them altogether I’ve decided to just do them one by one because I’m lazy. (Phew, think they bought that I was lazy and just didn’t have the time to review all three as I’m secretly the world’s best crimefighter….also must remember to stop monologing).
The opening chapter called Fear, is a Scarecrow centric story and follows the Dark Knight tracking him down over the weekend of Halloween. Is this book worth getting or should you just skip Haunted Knight? Giving yourself the KNIGHT OFF…..sorry…
First Appearance In Canon – The Scarecrow
Fears opens beautifully, we hear about the traditions that U.S. cities carry on Halloween. We hear about how in LA people fire guns into the air and the falling bullets kill whomever they land on. In Cincinnati there is a curfew which stops kids trick or treating and in Gotham….there is a dickhead who wears hay and rides around on the back of a horse, thinking he’s a boss.
What I love about fear is that early on it highlights how the Scarecrow and Batman both use their costumes to instill fear into their enemies. However, they are opposites, one uses their power for good and the other to scare old people and teenagers. The other one is Scarecrow…obviously….but it also works on Batman I suppose.
The Art Is On Sale
Tim Sale is one of my favourite Batman artists ever and he certainly doesn’t disappoint here. The work is shadowy and dark, this is like an adult version of Bruce Timm’s art from Batman The Animated Series. The way the book uses silouhette is astounding and every page has an atmosphere. The way Sale uses lighting is his main SALEing point (doesn’t really work). There are points where Wayne Manor has such a Haunted feel to it that I was half expecting Yvette Fielding and Derek Acorah to show up shouting ‘Jim…Jim…Jim.’ Sale flourishes when drawing a costume party at Wayne manor and its nice to almost play ‘Where’s Wally’ on the pages, trying to spot hidden characters within.
The colouring goes black and white at one point as Bruce reminices and the only element that has colour is a Rose. It’s very similar to Schindler’s List and it gives the pages personality and character. At one point Batman stumbles into a hedge maze and it’s aMAZEing (mmmm slightly better). The world has a breadth to it and feeling of desolateness. Every double page spread has breath within it and it’s nice to have something so large that really feels like a test to Batman in landscape and scope.
The Psychology Of Batman
Loeb has a real grasp on Batman’s psyche, during the part where Bruce attends his manor party he states that he only keeps up the Wayne facsade so that people don’t ask questions but he can. It keeps him up to date with the city and he merely uses the persona to find out information.
Throughout the book we really get a feel for just how much of a burden and strain the caped crusader lifestyle has on Bruce. He goes days without sleeping and a few criminals throughout get the jump on him just because he is so tired. Though the book is short in length we really get a feeling of just how much of a heavy weight this in on Bruce and how far it is distancing him from reality. It’s easy to see why he needed to get sidekicks to be there for him on a personal level and to share the load later down the line.
Like father like son
The book brilliantly showcases the similarities that Bruce features with his Father. In the past he remembers that Thomas Wayne would rush out in the middle of the night for medical emergiencies. Parrallelling this, Bruce now rushes out to stop crime. Both do it because of their need to help others. This is definitely one of the most subtle ways that I have ever seen which demonstrates that Bruce lives in his parents shadow. The book doesn’t need to beat you over the head with it and have him monologuing about how much he does it for them, he demonstrates it in his actions, without pointing it out.
“Bruce for a man who could have anything he wanted, why do I have the sense that you rarely get what you want”
Throughout the story Bruce comes within reach of the Scarecrow several times but he always manages to escape. There is a section where he is attacked by crows and this mirrors the bat escape in Year One perfectly. This dark reflection of Batman shows just how intertwined the two nemeses are. As with most Scarecrow stories, Batman gets gassed throughout, it seems to have no real effect on him though.
I didn’t even realise that this book had an influence on Batman Begins but when Crane says ‘Professor Crane isn’t here right now….but if you’d like to make an appointment’ it’s legacy truly becomes apparent.
Hot Knight Of Passion
There is a love interest in the book, honestly though, it’s really ham fisted…and that’s probably not the only fisting on. The woman shows up and he’s head over heels. He even talks about marrying her. Bear in mind this entire story takes place over a weekend. As always the love interest causes conflict and he has to decide whether to give up being Batman in order to be happy. It’s really just jammed in and just feels like it’s there for the sake of it.
Alfred discovers that she is a black widow and con artist at one point and goes to Bruce with a file on her. Bruce doesn’t even look at it. This is probably the strongest element of the love arc, it shows that Bruce knows deep down that he can’t be truly happy and any doubt allows him to go back to being Batman, his true passion. Once again it’s a nice subtle touch without spelling it out.
Alfred in the end states that maybe it wasn’t Batman who was fooled by her act but she only pulled the wool over Bruce’s eyes. This highlights the fact that there are two personalities within Bruce and that the Batman side of him will always win in the end because of the tragedy that drives him deep down. This love interest could’ve been something really special but it is ridiculous that he fell in love over night and was planning to get married and leave being batman over the space of 48 hours. This love plot would’ve been perfect in something like The Long Halloween or a book that we could’ve become invested in. The twist would’ve been better if we had also fell in love with Jillian Maxwell.
A Bat Out Of Hell
The book climaxes with Gordon waiting at the Bat Signal. He ponders for a brief moment that Batman may not be coming because he’s dead…or he just chose not to. We get the sense that Gordon is like a father now and deep down he just wants the best for Batman. It’s during this wait that he is kidnapped by the Scarecrow and we learn the true fear toxins nature. It made Batman question whether he should be Batman or now. The book shows that Bruce fears a normal life, a life without purpose, a life where he feels like he is not making a difference.
Batman ofcourse rescues Gordon and stops the scarecrow and the arc wraps up quite quickly.
This isn’t the the main point in the story. Though, action scenes are a dime a dozen the main fight is with Bruce and his want for a normal life but his need to be Batman.
As he says, he made a choice to be batman, it means that some of his hearts desires will go unfulfilled.
But it’s a good choice.
And this book is a good choice to pick up.
I really enjoyed it and so far Haunted Knight is 1-0 up with this story. I honestly recommend picking up the trade paperback just for this story alone and it has been one of the most enjoyable books thus far.
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.
- Batman And The Monster Men
- Batman: The Man Who Laughs
- Batman: Year One
- Batman: Venom
- Batman: Gothic
- Batman: Fears
- Batman: Prey
- Batman And The Mad Monk
- Batman: Shaman