I knew going into this trade that Dark Victory was a direct sequel to The Long Halloween. I wasn’t aware just closely intertwined the two stories would be, though.
Dark Victory picks up right where its predecessor left off. The Holiday killer, Alberto Falcone, has been captured, putting an end to the year-long murder spree that had plagued Gotham.
In many ways this collection follows the same pattern as that which was established in The Long Halloween. There is a war brewing between the Gotham crime families and the newly-dubbed “freaks”, the costumed characters who feel so quintessentially Batman to us. Each issue features a new murder, along with an appearance by at least one popular Batman villain. All of this occurs while Batman is busy struggling with his inner demons.
The comic’s artwork follows the same pattern as before as well, employing splash pages to create a sense of heightened drama. My favorites are still those which feature one of Batman’s most notorious villains, as they are always exaggerated and add to the already intense scene:
Harvey Dent, fully immersed in his Two-Face persona, plays a key role in this story. Once again he’s cast as the scapegoat, with numerous people believing him to be the Hangman killer, a cop-killer who has borrowed Holiday’s penchant for committing a crime on every holiday. I found his subplot very entertaining, adding a character-driven element to the “freaks” storyline that would otherwise have been missing.
Although used for a number of scenes, I still found the splash pages featuring the “freak” villains the most visually entertaining. One of my favorites in this trade featured a show-down between Joker and Two-Face:
The symmetry of this image is brilliant, and shows just how chaotic Gotham has become. We don’t just face a battle between good and evil; now, we see complete anarchy as villains begin fighting one another. The concept alone is intriguing; the use of such artwork to convey this shift is pure brilliance.
Like the inclusion of the “freak” characters, the mob element of the story was just as present here as it was in The Long Halloween, with Carmine Falcone’s daughter Sofia taking over as head of the family.
Sofia, paralyzed after a fight with Catwoman in The Long Halloween, spends her time seeking vengeance for her father’s death. Hell-bent on murdering Two-Face, she attempts to balance her new role within the family with her desire for retribution. Top that with her *Spoiler Alert* new role as the Hangman killer, and she’s certainly got her plate full. I wasn’t fully invested in her character, but I still thought it was a cool twist that such an unexpected criminal would turn out to be the Hangman murderer.
One of the biggest events in this trade featured the first Post-Crisis appearance of Robin on “the shelf”. Teased in previous storylines, Dick Grayson’s backstory is shown in a few brief, wordless pages, ending with Dick grieving over his parents’ bodies while Bruce Wayne watches from a distance:
I actually liked that this part of the story wasn’t dragged out. Everyone’s familiar with Robin’s origin at this point; we didn’t need another rehashing. Instead, we get to see the aftermath, including the first few months of his life after being taken on as Bruce Wayne’s ward. The reader gets to see his transformation unfold, as Batman reveals his true identity and decides to train Dick to help him seek justice for his parents’ deaths.
Dick adopts the Robin role slowly, training in the Bat Cave while Batman continues to go out fighting crime alone. When Robin does finally make his appearance, he gets to take on none other than The Joker himself:
Having Robin not only face, but defeat such a formidable opponent gives credibility to his character. Sure, Robin’s still just a kid, and clearly has a lot to learn, but he shows promise. What’s more, the comic focuses on Robin’s role as a friend to Batman, not just his sidekick. This distinction is subtle but very important, as Robin fills a necessary void in Batman’s life, as opposed to being a mere extension of himself.
Although I don’t think I liked Dark Victory quite as much as The Long Halloween, it’s still a solid collection. The characters featured here were well-drawn and very engaging. The story was tightly written and it enhanced my overall understanding of the characters. I already know this isn’t my last Loeb/Sale collaboration on “the shelf”, and I can’t wait to see what other inventive stories they’ve created.