Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale reunite for another run at the Batman in Dark Victory. This is a sequel to Long Halloween and packs a lot of the old noir feeling of the early Batman comics into the story and pacing. The time frame is just after Harvey Dent has been scarred forever and turned psychotic, emerging as the villainous Two-Face. Batman and Jim Gordon are struggling to accept their friend’s loss, as well as figure out whether Dent can be saved from his madness.
I really liked the overall thread of Two-Face’s possible salvation in this one. Dent has long been one of those characters it was possible to root for or at least understand to a degree. However, on the flip side – and, yes, that was a joke dependent on his infamous two-headed coin – Two-Face has always been one of the most deadly villains Batman has ever encountered.
Tim Sale’s art is fabulous. The darkness on the pages seems contagious and feels like it might leak off and infect everything that touches it. He does a lot with angles and points of view that are clever and cinematic, and the pacing of the story benefits by the way the action is often broken down. Although there are a tremendous amount of characters in this graphic novel, Sale does a good job at individual rendering. He also does a good job depicting all of Batman’s rogue’s gallery on scene in the story.
The see-saw ripple of personal lives is one of the best aspects of Dark Victory. Jim Gordon’s estranged wife returns to him at a time when he’s desolate and alone, especially while trapped in the corrupt Gotham City Police Department.
At the same time, Bruce Wayne is trying to figure out how to have a relationship with Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and dealing with the fact that he’s in love with her.
The thing I loved most about the graphic novel is the way the overall mystery of the Hangman is played out. The deaths of police officers on holidays of every month are grisly and filled with action, but it’s the word games that really hooked me in. I figured the sayings out before they were revealed, but that was only part of the fun. Trying to figure out what the context was turned out to be something else.
The fact that Batman and Jim Gordon were trying to find out who the real killer was instead of allowing everyone to blame the murders on Two-Face was awesome. It was made even more dangerous by the fact that Two-Face was playing his own game and wouldn’t hesitate to kill either of them.
I really liked the way Loeb spun the story into Dick Grayson’s origin story as well. And true Bat-fans have known there was always something that bound Robin and Two-Face, and this is the story that gives us that spin.
Dark Victory is one of those well-done graphic novels that fans will read again and again. It also has to be read slowly to grasp all the nuances of the twisting plot and follow the devious turns. This is one of the stories that shows Batman at his detective best.