Well, now that I’ve finally finished rereading and reviewing the Hellboy trades, it’s time to move onto Batman. I’m going to be reading a few choice Batman stories in the next week or so. Now, you may be looking at the title of the book I am reviewing with some puzzlement. What does this story have to do with the movie? Well, nothing I suppose, but I wanted to reread the Long Halloween because I’ve heard a lot of that will be adapted on the screen. Mostly the Two-Face stuff I suppose. Joker was also in that, as well as Falcone who was in the first movie. So I thought I might as well reread Dark Victory while I’m at it. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t own the other Jeph Loeb Tim Sale Batman story. I had never read this trade before and it seemed fitting to read this first because it was released first.
The first story in this collection is called Fears. Since I just mentioned the Batman movie earlier, I’d like to mention that one of the things I noticed while reading this is the direct quote from Batman begins. From the Scarecrow “Professor Crane isn’t here right now. But if you’d like to make an appointment”, this line was taken from this story and put directly into Christopher Nolan’s movie. So for those of you who feel that Jeph Loeb can’t write dialogue but who also like Batman begins, you may want to rethink things. This was indeed the best story in this book. The Scarecrow is a perfect villain for Halloween. There is also a subplot involving a love interest of Bruce’s. I love the twist in this story. Not in the traditional “what a twist” kind of way, but a twist away from conventional storytelling.
The next story is called Madness. The villain is the Mad Hatter and of course it draws heavily from Lewis Carroll. There is a nice story told in flashback about Bruce’s childhood. This is also one of the few stories where the Mad Hatter is genuinely terrifying. He’s usually more of a goof and any story that portrays him otherwise certainly deserves a little credit.
The last story is called Ghosts and I suppose this is the worst story here. I imagine the people who read this book and dislike it will mostly complain about this story. It is a simple story and in a way is merely a retelling of a classic Charles Dickens’ story. But there is also a nice subplot about Lucius Fox that I really enjoyed. That is one of the things I enjoy most about these stories and Long Halloween and Dark Victory is the retelling of Bruce Wayne’s early life drawn beautifully by Tim Sale. This is about as close to an “Ultimate” Batman as you can get (All Star Batman and Robin doesn’t count). Also, in regards to the Dickens adaptation, I rather enjoyed it. I always enjoy some literature in my comics. So I enjoyed that in this story as well as in Madness. This Batman yarn is simple yes, but I found it oddly profound. It actually made me think a bit due to the comparisons between the original tale and the one that is presented here.
Yes overall I rather enjoyed this trade. It’s nice to see some early Sale as well as early Loeb. I hope that their upcoming collaboration is as good as or better than this one. They seem to bring the best out of each other. At first, I wasn’t sure how many times I’d reread this, but due to the length of Long Halloween, I think that between the two, I may reread this. 3 and a half stars