Batman: Dark Victory is a sequel to the excellent The Long Halloween, in which a serial killer known as Holiday murdered people over the span of a year, and led to the creation of Two Face. Dark Victory picks off with Batman struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that befell Harvey Dent. His relationship with Jim Gordon suffers as well. Then, a new spree of killings occur on holidays, and suspicion is spread between the original holiday killer, Two-Face, and some others. Batman investigates as a number of his rogues are released from Arkham Asylum, and during the investigation he pushes people away, and everything becomes a stark reminder that he is alone. Then, a tragedy occurs at a circus and a boy is orphaned. Bruce Wayne takes him in.
I really enjoyed The Long Halloween and part of me wishes that I had re-read it before going through this. However, Dark Victory does a good job of summarising the events of The Long Halloween, but I would recommend going back and reading that one before you get into Dark Victory. It is a sequel, but it does use a lot of the same tricks. The gimmick of a killing every holiday is repeated and again the hunt is on to find the real killer. This plot is very similar to the one in The Long Halloween but there’s a lot more character work thrown in, and I feel this story is more focused on Batman coming to terms with his dedication to fighting crime; the plot is more in the background. One other criticism I have about the story is that it seems to want to present the detective side of Batman, but there isn’t really a mystery, the killer is simply revealed and it’s not something that, say, readers could figure out by reading the story.
There are a number of twists and turns throughout the story, some of which I found predictable but others did take me by surprise. It did lose it’s punch by the end though. There are only so many mobsters you can see be killed, and the mystery of who the killer was lost a bit of steam. It’s given some spice by the rogues being released from Arkham, with mixed results. The ones released are Joker, The Riddles, Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy, Scarecrow, Penguin, and Calender Man. These were juggled around, each making an appearance but none of them really stamped their identity on proceedings, and were almost treated as minions.
Catwoman is involved as well, and along with Alfred she’s the closest thing Bruce Wayne has as a friend. I liked their relationship and I find that their love story is quite tragic since Bruce can’t love anyone, because fighting crime will always come first. This was handled well, and she played a fairly important role. Alfred get’s short shrift I think. Bruce continually speaks about being alone but Alfred is always there. I know that Bruce need some other types of relationships but I don’t think he quite gives Alfred his due, although I understand that Alfred can’t go and fight crime with Batman. And obviously Jim Gordon can’t because Batman and the police have a fractured relationship.
Towards the end of the book Dick Grayson enters the frame, and the introduction of Robin is what pushes the book up to another level. I’ve always liked the dynamic duo and I’ve been disappointed that there don’t seem to be any plans for Robin to appear in the movies. I loved the way he was introduced here, and Tim Sale’s excellent artwork added a great deal of emotion. From the part where his parents are killed and the audience are gazing at the horror, all except Bruce Wayne, whose eyes are fixed on the young boy, to the pages that mirror each other, where Dick goes into Bruce’s parents’ room, and we see a flashback to when Bruce went into his parents’ room shortly after they had died. Alfred connects them, and we see the butler making up for some mistakes he thought he made. I loved the splash page when we first see Batman and Robin working together as well, it’s a little corny but it works perfectly.
I do think, however, that more time could have been devoted to Dick’s appearance as it feels glossed over. I also didn’t like the reason they give for him being called Robin as it feels forced. But I liked how Bruce decided to train him and how he realized that he and Dick could actually help each other. A lot of essays have been written about their relationship so I’m not going to write a huge thing here, but it worked well in this story and gave hints of some of the partnership that was to come.
I like Dark Victory a lot. While the plot is lacking in some parts and somewhat derivative of its predecessor, there’s enough character work to make up for that. The artwork is great as well, with a few different styles sprinkled in here and there to create some nice moments of different moods and atmospheres. I’d recommend getting this if you have read and enjoyed The Long Halloween first, because I think you’ll get more out of it that way.