Book review

Batman: Dark Victory
Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
DC Comics / Titan Books

Batman: Dark VictoryIn the beginning, DC spawned the Batman. Around the second to fourth days, he began to get very popular. On days five and six, he ran out of steam and all things associated with the Batman were ropey to say the least. On the seventh day, the Batman was still here and so DC decided to put some effort into it, and thus the Batman became The Dark Knight.

Dark Victory is a winner. My belief in Batman became wafer thin at one point, but this is the third time in a row that The Dark Knight has really impressed me. Following on from Batman: The Long Halloween, Dark Victory starts where the Holiday killer left off. Set in the early days where Gotham is in transition from a city run by the mob to one run by the Joker, Mad Hatter et al, somebody is picking off Gotham's finest with a noose.
    Where Dark Victory really works is in its patience. Its willingness to let the story go where it needs to in its own time is a godsend. These early years have been retold so many times now, that it takes quite some talent to lend them any credibility. By not introducing the Dick Grayson/Robin character until the closing moments gives the pacing a much needed depth and a slant on the story that makes it so much fresher than its predecessors. Sale and Loeb's vision of Two Face and Riddler are exceptional here, and even Alfred comes out of the book with some extra dimensions. This has all the look and feel of a real labour of love.
    Tim Sale's depiction of a city at war with itself is one of the freshest views of Gotham we've seen in a long time, while Loeb's storytelling is as fluent as I've come to expect from him - and so much better than his previous work in Superman: For All Seasons.

Primarily though, Batman still works because he is such a strong character. For a man with such a simple story to tell, he remains multi-dimensional and complex to the last. With each retelling, Bruce Wayne becomes less and less a part of what the Batman is, while Batman himself just keeps on getting darker and more isolated.
    All in all, Dark Victory is a splendid read and one of the more heartily recommended examples of what a graphic novel should really be.

:: Sion Smith

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