Batman: Dark Victory #0 (1999)

Batman: Dark Victory #0 (1999)

Writer – Jeph Loeb
Artist – Tim Sale
Letterer – Richard Starkings
Colorist – Gregory Wright
Separations – Heroic Age
Editor – Mark Chiarello
Inspiration – Archie Goodwin

I had to wait a bit to do this one.  Was finally able to tunnel to the long box it was kept in.  After sending a canary* into my library and having it return alive, I figured it was safe enough to hop in myself.

What I wasn’t prepared for was this being so short!  I thought it would was a full-length story… but I guess I was wrong.  Anyhoo, after the effort put forth in digging this one out, I feel like I kinda have to cover it here, despite its brevity… and for it not having much (if anything) to do with the Boo Haunted Blog theme.  Must’ve confused this with something else…

*No canaries were harmed in the procurement of this issue… I, however, stubbed my toe.

… but, before we get to the book, I do have an anecdote about this one.  This special issue was included with an issue of Wizard Magazine.  I bit of research reveals that it was Wizard Magazine #97 (September, 1999).  Now, Wizard was a pretty big part of my comics adolescence… having launched in 1991, when I was 11 years old… I feel like I was pretty much the target audience for a book of this sort… especially as it devolved into frat-boy “humor” in lieu of actual comics coverage.

When this issue arrived, though I couldn’t place much insofar as time of year or what else I was buying… I remember an, I wanna say “older fan”… but if I think about it too hard, I’ll probably come to the grim realization that he was probably younger than I am now… anyhoo, he bought this issue as well, and was vocally annoyed at the fact he had to buy an issue of Wizard to get the bridging chapter between Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory.  Dude just wouldn’t pipe down about it… and when he got to paying (I was behind him), he started laying into the poor clerk.  The clerk tried playing it off, and told him it came with a “free comic”, but he wasn’t having it… the fella said it was a $5 comic that came with a P.O.S. Magazine.

Anyhoo… long story… long, he pays for it… tears open the polybag, and tosses the Wizard Mag at the clerk before walking out with his slim “freebie” bat-comic.  It makes me wonder how many other fans did such a thing.  I know by 1999, Wizard’s cache and reputation was kinda “iffy”, even among fans of my “vintage”… couldn’t imagine older professional types being pleased with having to actually buy/own an issue of Wizard to get a copy of a comic they wanted to read.  Wizard also had many mail-order “#1/2” (that’s number one-half) issues, where you would have to pull an envelope out of the middle of the issue and send it in.  Gotta wonder how many non-Wizard readers had to actually buy a copy so they can send away for their Flash #1/2, or Ultimate Spider-Man #1/2.  Anyhoo, just something that makes me wonder sometimes… On with the spoilery-synopsis.

We open with the proclamation “Alberto Falcone was Holiday”.  During The Longest Halloween, Batman was tracking a killer who only struck on Holidays.  It was suspected that Harvey Dent was the man behind the serial killings… this is pre-Two-Face.  We are treated to the… extremely violent ways in which Batman deals with Holiday, including crushing his right hand and beating him bloody.  This string of killings cost the life of Crime Lord, and Holiday’s father Carmine “The Roman” Falcone… and the humanity of Harvey Dent.

We shift scenes to the new District Attorney Janice Porter as she visits Arkham Asylum to interview Holiday.  He’s depicted as a meek individual.  He had been able to side-step the gas chamber, having recently been declared legally insane.  He now stays at Arkham in an attempt at rehabilitation.

Porter asks him questions… however, not about is actions.  Instead she asks about the beating he’d taken from the Batman.  He reveals that he still has no feeling in his right arm, and if the art is to be believed, it is nothing more than a gnarled stump at this point.  She promises to do anything in her power to ensure justice is done.

As she begins to leave, Falcone stops her.  He states that he is truly remorseful for what he had done the year prior.  I guess that makes it all okay, right?  Across the way, Julian Day… the Calendar Man is in his own cell.  He apologizes too… but for what, I don’t know/remember.

Porter later arrives at the office of GCPD Commissioner James Gordon.  It is clear that their relationship is pretty contentious.  She informs him that she might just be reopening the Falcone case… which raises his ire just a bit.  She believes that his civil rights were violated when he was “brought in” by the Batman… a situation that Gordon stood by and allowed to happen.

She leaves, and we see a familiar shadow appear by the window.  Gordon apologizes to Batman, and says he may not be able to “protect” him on this one.  Protect Batman?  Gord, please… he doesn’t need that.

Having had to deal with D.A. Porter reminds Gordon that the old D.A. was his (and Batman’s) friend, Harvey Dent.  He recalls all the good times they’d had… and how close they were.  During his rant, Batman disappears… as he’s wont to do.  We close out with Gordon sitting alone in his office as a torrent of rain pelts at his windows.

Now… this was great.  Perfect way to whet your appetite if you were waiting for Dark Victory to start up.  This ties up some of the loose ends from The Long Halloween, and puts many of the pieces into place for the next chapter to begin.  The writing and art are top notch, as to be expected from this creative team.  My only complaint… if you can call it that… is its length.  I’d have loved a few more pages of this… I mean, I’ve got the hardcover upstairs… but putting myself into the gestalt of it all, I would’ve really enjoyed a bit more here.

This issue calls into question how a vigilante may dispense justice without violating human or civil rights.  It’s a rather meaty thing to undertake… and proves to be a rather slippery slope.  I hate using the term “slippery slope” because, in every day life… everything can be viewed that way… however, with this story I cannot think of another way to word it.

Now it’s easy to look at the new District Attorney Janice Porter as the heel here.  She’s reopening the case for… and considering defending… a confessed serial killer.  We don’t have all (or any, really) of the why-fors yet… and quite honestly… it’s been over fifteen years since I’d read this, and I cannot remember.  I just gotta assume there’s something more to this than just a newly-seated D.A. trying to make waves.

Something of interest was Gordon knowing that Batman was friends with Harvey Dent.  Like I said, it’s been awhile… and their relationship both in and out of costume has always appeared somewhat nebulous to me… but is this something Gordon should know?  It’s probably nothing, but made my “reading ears” perk up just a bit.

This is definitely a story worth checking out… even if you’re not a Loeb fan (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be… but I see that a lot of folks are “over” him)… the art is truly worth the price of admission.  It’s a beautiful book… well worth your time.  Luckily these days you don’t need to buy a $5 issue of Wizard Magazine to get it… you can probably find it in the cheap-o bins!  Just last night I found four copies in one!


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