Batman: Legends of the Dark Night Halloween Special Edition #1 (2014)

Batman: Legends of the Dark Night Halloween Special Edition #1 (December, 2014)
“All Hell Breaks Loose!”
Writer – Jeph Loeb
Artist – Tim Sale
Colorist – Gregory Wright
Letterer – Todd Klein
Editor – Archie Goodwin
Cover Price: FREE

Here we are in mid-October, and boy-howdy have I been neglecting the spooky stuff for #boohauntedblog!

To remedy that, at least for today, let’s take a look at this opening bit to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “Fear” story from Batman: Haunted Knight (this story in particular originally published in 1993) which was reissued as a Halloween ComicFest freebie in 2014.

It’s Halloween in Gotham City… and after recounting what other locales may do to celebrate the occasion, we get a look at the fella likely to prove to be this caper’s baddie… the Scarecrow.  From here we jump to a late-night poker game going down between a group of nogoodniks at what appears to be a dilapidated warehouse… surely this is on the up and up!  The lights go out… and looking skyward out a large window, the geeks find themselves in the shadow… of the bat.

Batman calmly asks for the whereabouts of Jonathan Crane… but they’re not keen on spillin’ those beans.  This doesn’t work out all that well for them… and Batman ultimately comes away with the information he sought.

We learn that for the past week the Scarecrow has been blowing up GE (that’s Gotham Electric) relay stations, allowing his men to loot the city while the power’s out.  It’s just a matter of Batman finding out which relay he’s looking to take off the grid, and wouldn’tcha know it… with his newly-gotten information, he does just that.

Crane throws himself from the top of the relay… and rides a wire safely to the ground.  Batman gives chase, giving the ‘crow one last chance to come quietly.  To which, Scarecrow nails him with a triple-dose of fear toxin… which he’s shocked to find is ineffective.  He’s likely just a shocked to get socked in the nose.

A moment later Jim Gordon (I can’t recall if he’s Commissioner or not by this point) and the GCPD arrive to make some arrests.  Gordon and Batman break off to the side to talk.  We learn that Batman is really very tired at this point… and so, Jim suggests he take a load off and go to Bruce Wayne’s costume party that night… at least that’ll give him someone to talk to.  Ya see, Jim is being dragged there by his wife, Barbara.

Speaking of Bruce Wayne… we check in at the Manor with Alfred trying to talk Masta Bruce into cancelling the soiree due to the fact that he hasn’t slept in three days.  Bruce’s reply consists of a blank stare… which is all we really need, right?  Bruce enters the main hall, and we see that it’s crammed with a whole lotta costumed humanity… including several nods to independent comics, like Milk & Cheese, Cerebus, Bone and Madman… and even silly things like Hobbes and Waldo!

Jim Gordon, dressed like a Musketeer (or thereabouts) starts to chat Bruce up when a Dalmatian wanders into the scene… Bruce jokingly refers to it as “Barbara” and asks if she’s having a good time.  There chat is soon interrupted by the arrival of a striking redhead… who Bruce does not recognize. 

Remember the Scarecrow?  Let’s check in on him.  He’s been loaded into the paddy wagon and is being taken to whatever correctional facility might take him.  Along the way, he plucks a single hair from his shaggy head… and before we know it, the entire van is lousy with fear toxin.  The Scarecrow is back on the loose… and a certain signal flies in the skies of Gotham once more.

Back at the Manor, Bruce and the redhead… in red are dancing and getting to know one another… sorta.  That is, until they hear a crash coming from another room.  Turns out those Dalmatians from earlier belong to her… and they got into some mischief.  As they survey the damage (it’s a broken flower pot, est. value: skatey-eight million dollars), Alfred breaks in to inform Bruce that the “light” is on… although with not all that much in the way of subtlety.  Before jamming out, Bruce instructs Alfred to “get her number”.

Back at “work”, we learn that Scarecrow is back at it… blowing up relay stations.  While watching an area of Gotham burn, Batman notices Billy Bear (whoever that is) robbing a convenience store.  It’s a fairly one-sided affair, ending with Batman kayoing the geek with a solid right… however, he notices that he’s not entirely without damage himself… Billy Bear managed to get in a slash!

That morning, we return to Wayne Manor… where we see Bruce trudging up the stairs to his bedroom.  It’s a really cool scene… it’s as though he strips off one piece of his costume with every step.  He crashes onto his bed… and moments later, there’s a knock at the door.  He’s expecting it to be Alfred with his breakfast… however, it’s actually the redhead from last night.  What’s more, we finally get a name to go with the face… Jillian Maxwell.  Oh, her!  Wait, who?

They don’t get long to chat, unfortunately, as there’s always an emergency that needs to be dealt with in Gotham City.

Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve revisited any Loeb/Sale Batman… probably too long.  This really feels like it’s going to be something special.

There isn’t a whole heckuva lot to sink our teeth into here… given that this is a freebie prelude in hopes that we’ll care enough to pick up the whole magilla at some point down the line… but what we do get is pretty dang good.  Stylish, moody… somewhat sinister… really good (somewhat decompressed) comics here.  Can’t hold that against it… as this is literally just a piece of a completed story.

We’ve talked a bit about what makes a good “freebie”… and I’ve complained a whole heckuva lot about some of the lousy non-advantageous ones we’ve been given over the past several years… from DC and Marvel alike.  I feel like this chunk of Haunted Knight makes a great “gift” to new (and lapsed) readers… because, best case scenario here… you dig this story, and only have a single trade collection to buy to get the whole story.

This isn’t DC putting out a pre-Flashpoint Superman story for Free Comic Book Day in 2013… which, jeez… what would a new reader think of that???  This is a self-contained piece of Bat-business… and one of DC’s “evergreen” books.  It’s nearly always going to be in print, and easily obtained.  A perfect way for a new/curious reader to dip their toe into Batman’s world… and hopefully find something they enjoy.  Looking at it that way, I’d say this freebie-special is a success.  Hell, it’s making me want to re-read Haunted Knight… so, it’s got that going for it!

As mentioned, Haunted Knight (1996) is an evergreen… and is available from just about anywhere.  There is even a hardcover Absolute Edition if you’re really brave/have an extra Benjamin burning a hole in your pocket (though this includes Loeb/Sale’s Catwoman: When in Rome six-parter as a piece of the package).  If you’re not keen on all the extra ink and paper clogging up your house, it is also available digitally.  No matter how you go about it, it’s certainly worth a read!

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