Batman Madness is the second book within Haunted Knight. This rather short chapter by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale has a tough act to follow in Fears. I absolutely loved that book and from my last read through of the collection I remembered that it took a dive after that.
First Appearance In Canon Of: Mad Hatter and Barbara Gordon
Late To The Party
The book begins with Barbara Gordon travelling into Gotham, monologing about her journey and worries about the city and being adopted by Jim. I never really understood how Barbara goes from not even being born in Year One to being Batgirl about 3 years later. Was a bit like the Simpsons to me with the characters being whatever age the writers need them to be without it making sense. From this opening you are instantly hit with the similarities of Year One, however, where that had a bleek outlook on it’s closing section, this one is filled with hope as we see Batman in the background protecting the city.
Run A Train
From here the book dives right into the action with Batman chasing Hatter across a speeding train. It’s a bit unbelievable that Batman couldn’t keep up with a 4 foot tall man in a trench coat but then I suppose It is also unbelievable that Batman wouldn’t just say sod this life in Gotham I’m off to Ibiza for the year. Anyway…comic books.
This sequence is great and really helps add tension to the book right away. The section explains how every Villain has their own private madness but Hatter’s is the worst because he perverts childhood memories. Though it’s never said this part of the book made me really made me question what has lead towards Batman’s madness. He is the hero that is a true mirror of his villains. Is his obsessive compulsiveness towards justice madness or is it sanity in it’s purest form. He realises what is wrong with the world and it is true insanity to not act against it like he does.
It’s nice that such a little part of the book leads into this thinking and shows the true depth of Leobs writing.
“Have I Gone Mad?”
I’ll get to the point. I HATE Mad Hatter. Everything about him. It’s ridiculous to me that he still regularly appears in Batman stories and that DC does get sued for plagurism everytime he pops up. He’s absolutely horrendous. So you’re telling me, he became obsessed with a story and then tried to become that character. In real life allusions could be drawn towards Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s Assassin, who was drawn into Catcher In The Rye. However, Chapman has a sinister vibe to him, whereas Hatter is just an idiot in a Halloween costume that doesn’t pose a threat on a physical or mental level. He’s completely shit, he’s just a carbon copy of another literary character and I can’t take people who’ve been played by Johnny Depp seriously. If you like him then I hate you….HATE…HATE…HATE YOU….you’re everything wrong with the world. Anyway, I’m sure you’re a nice guy.
Loeb does a good job of subtley conveying Hatter’s madness without the use of the artwork. All of the text within his speech bubbles are a mix between lower and uppercase and it’s a nice little touch that the author has implemented to enrich the character.
The Art Is On Sale (Second Time I’ve Used That Pun…was rubbish the first time fml)
Tim Sale’s pencils are once again stellar, the man is truly a master of sillouhette and posturing. All of his work has a moodiness to it that you just don’t get from other artists. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and you better not get sick of hearing it or I’ll block your IP) this is the closest to the feel of an adult animated series that you will get. Due to Sales mastery I am able to take the mad hatter slightly more seriously and appreciate the villainy and darkness within this story.
Bar bar bar bar bar bar anne
This story, whilst focused on Batman, can also be seen as the first true Gordon story since Year One. It follows his struggle with adopting Barbara and the difficulties faced within families. Jim and Barbara argue throughout and you really get the feeling of frustration from the future Batgirl. You can see why she too wants to become a vigilante as she witnesses first hand the difficulties Gotham faces when she is kidnapped by the Mad Hatter and made his ‘Alice.’ AKA the worst M.O. in comics.
The plot towards the end centres around Batman and Gordon attempting to rescue her. It’s par for the course and I’m sure you can get the ending right on first guess.
Well done you.
We see that Gordon is almost envious of Batman, he knows that the dark knight doesn’t have to deal with family, if he did then he wouldn’t ever be at the Bat Signal. This shows that justice is of the utmost importance to Gordon and if he had the power, maybe he too would leave family behind in servitude to Gotham.
This immediately cuts to Batman laying unconscious after being shot in the head and we see that the grass isn’t always greener. Yes, we as readers would love to be Batman but I doubt we, or Gordon are ready to make the sacrifices that it entails.
Batman In Wonderland
On Batman’s side we see why he too despises the Mad Hatter. As he lays unconscious we travel back, way back, back into time to Bruce’s childhood, when his mother would read him his favourite story. In case you didn’t guess it it’s Alice In Wonderland. Whilst this would normally bore me to depth the art carries it off and it adds a nice personal touch to the story. Unfortunately they then decide to lead this into the old cliché of Thomas Wayne popping up and saying ‘Now let us go to the MOVIES to see the MASK OF ZORRO. You know that one that we see before we get murdered, you know how every time we show Bruce’s childhood it has to be that? Yeah! That one.’
He might not have said that exactly but I read between the lines.
Luckily the prestige panelling and darkness to the art stop this from being the usual filler that it is in the comics.
A Hand Reaches Out….and saves me….
Bruce is then rescued by Leslie Thompkins and an element that I wish would be in the comics more is really fleshed out here. Leslie is a reflection of Alfred. She was there at the beginning and she is there to pick him up when he’s down. To tend to his wounds and to make sure the legend that is Batman lives on. We are given another flashback here showing that Bruce began to hate Alice In Wonderland because of the memories it brought up.
Not memories of how much he hated the character Mad Hatter and how he should’ve never even been a Batman Villain in the first place, no memories about his mother reading it to him as a child.
It made him remember his parents and how much he misses them and how he wishes that he could let it go but he can’t (review got a bit emo there, my apologies).
Climbing out the Rabbit Hole
The book ties up nicely, with Gordon becoming the true hero of the run and everything being right in the world.
On the closing page the chapter comes full circle with Bruce finally picking up Alice In Wonderland off his shelf. It shows that he’s finally accepted that his parents are gone and he is ready to relive the happy memories they gave him without dwelling on their loss. It’s a nice sombre moment that ends the book on a sentimental note.
The book is good but not great, there’s not really a problem with the writing or the art, both are stellar. I just HATE Mad Hatter, incase you were wondering, and this story is the usual cliché of him kidnapping a girl, dressing her up as Alice and having a tea party. Hatter never really feels like he has any depth to him, the true depth comes from Bruce’s memories and Barbara and Gordons relationship. This is a great introduction to Barb and shows why she would go on to be so interested in crime fighting further down the line.
The book, though short, is still enjoyable and certainly has it’s moments. It is slightly anti climactic, coming after Fears but Loeb and Sale do well with the amount that they are able to work with.
Unfortunately this book is probably the weakest in the canon run so far due to it’s cliché plodding and shallow unthreatening villain. I really wanted this to be better as it’s from my favourite team but it is very middle of the ground and isn’t a necessity to read through unless you want to see Barbara and Jim’s first meeting fleshed out.
I still think that Haunted Knight is worth picking up but mainly for fears. This seems like the same story just told with slightly different characters.
That’s why from me it gets a….
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.