In my last review I was fair I think, though quite harsh, on Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Haunted Knight. As I said in the body of that review, and again towards the end, I had higher hopes for their later work together, starting with The Long Halloween, the subject of my next review. Although I appeared very confident that it would be right up my alley, I actually have to admit that I was quite nervous as I opened this, worried that it wouldn’t live up to the massive amount of praise surrounding it. The introduction didn’t help matters. The copy of the book that I have, you see, was printed in time for the release of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, of which this is stated to be the primary influence upon. Indeed, what this short excerpt of an interview between Nolan and David Goyer, the film’s screenwriter, basically is is the both of them stating that it’s their favourite Batman graphic novel; that it’s the most complex of any Batman graphic novel, both in terms of its murder mystery plot, and its large cast of interesting characters; that it’s the most cinematic of any Batman graphic novel, thanks to Sale’s striking, stylish and dark, noir-like artwork; etc.
Since I’ve only just finished the first chapter of this long story, I can’t yet say with complete certainty that all of that is true. But if this introductory chapter, which does so much in such a small amount of time, is any indication of the quality to be found throughout the rest of this book, perhaps even its sequels, then, yes, I too will gladly count it amongst my favourite Batman stories. With no exaggerative undertones, I mean it when I say that this is truly an amazing start, one of the best in fact, to what surely must be an amazing series.
The art is something I’ve already briefly discussed in my last post that pointed out the comparisons you could make between Haunted Knight’s lighter tone and this story’s much darker artwork. And since I already talked about Sale’s fantastic character designs too, I don’t have a lot to say about that either. I mean, so far I’ve only encountered his buffer, more frighteningly impressive Batman, whose cape is still imposing in size, and his take on Catwoman, who isn’t all tits and ass shots, praise be; but seeing as some of the villains featured in Haunted Knight are to return here alongside some more, including a bunch I’ve never encountered in a Batman story before, I think his art’s going to remain as good as I’ve already said it would.
Speaking of character designs reminds me of something I neglected to mention before, which is that Jeph Loeb’s Batman stories are quite well known for bringing any number of villains into the mix. Indeed, Calendar Man, a ridiculous-sounding bad guy who I’ve only heard about through Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum (you find his cell, which rewards you with a biography of the character), is apparently a key player in this book, and Loeb’s been praised quite highly for using such a character in an effective way. That’s between all the other praise he’s received for this, mind you, but for good reason. Rather than talk about every reason why he would appear to deserve this praise at this point however, something I’ll save for my review, I will leave a quote in my next paragraph. It’s one that opens the book and has variations for the characters of Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent, possibly more by the end since it’s a phrase repeated several times in this first chapter alone, an indication of its importance. Its importance is obvious enough though.
This book opens in possibly the most memorable way I’ve seen in any comic that I’ve read. With a picture of Bruce Wayne, hat in hand as if in respect but covered in shadows, symbolic of his persona as the protector of the city, staring from the pages into the reader’s eyes as he says an unforgettable line: “I believe in Gotham City”. Its attention grabbing certainly, but there’s something much bigger about that line, especially because of the way it’s used in reference to some of the characters we meet. It’s the beginning of a theme, a theme that I’d like to talk about in greater detail as I read more chapters of this book because, if Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which I’m sure you’ll notice uses the line in its own way too, is a clue as to what we can expect this line to mean in the long run, then this is indeed going to be an amazing exploration of the Batman mythos. So long as this is the case, we’ll be talking about it before the review itself is posted which will hopefully be very positive indeed.
Before that, I’m probably going to leave a post detailing some new purchases I’ve made, something I mentioned a post or two ago. Not that I needed any more books on top of my large pile of the damn things, but there you go. What I might also do is list some purchases I intend to make further down the line. Those are typically books that either aren’t a priority to me, or aren’t a complete collection yet, such as in the case of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing which will have six trade paperbacks by the end of this year as opposed to the four and two hardcovers it has so far.