#16-Batman Dark Victory
Released November 1999-December 2000
Batman Dark Victory, Batman Dark Victory, where do I start? Don’t know, but I think that it was meant to be a rhetorical question. In a sense, Dark Victory is just as good as it’s predecessor. Continuing on where The Long Halloween left off, Two Face was apprehended and revealed that there was in fact two holiday killers (his wife Deula Dent along with Alberto Falcone) getting rid of the Falcone and Maroni’s organized crime within Gotham. At Carmine “The Roman” Falcone’s funeral, we learn that Catwoman could possibly be his long lost daughter. To make matters a heck-of-a-lot better, a prisoner escape in Arkham Asylum releases some of Batman’s most deadly foes (of course). While all this is happening, another string of murders beginning with Chief O’ Hara (sadly) and many other former GCPD members starts to pop up within Gotham, in the form of hangings. Being synonymously known as “The Hangman Killer” for the way he kills his victims, Batman sets out to find who the person responsible for these murders is. But not without the help of his new partner, who is currently suffering from the recent death of his parents, Dick Grayson. The mystery itself is not that hard to figure out but is more tightly knitted together compared to The Long Halloween’s. What Dark Victory personally does well for me is that it focuses on the shattered relationship between Gordon, Batman, and Harvey Dent. Batman and Gordon’s crusade to restore Gotham as it once was does not come without a cost. They had both lost a good friend willing to fight for a better cause. What I think Jeph Loeb portrayed well was how Harvey Dent slowly lost sight of his goals within Gotham’s court system and in fact joined the people he sought to bring justice to. None of this seems to be more devastating to Batman, who throughout the story, struggles to come to terms with these recent events.
While it technically isn’t Batman’s fault for Harvey Dent’s fall, stories like Dark Victory mold Batman into the crime fighter he is today. I should also point out Tim Sale’s art, which is still amazing as ever. Sale’s Norman Rockwell-esque art adds a much needed boost to Jeph Loeb’s storytelling. Their work combined makes an entertaining noir story. While it may be inferior compared to The Long Halloween, Dark Victory is a story that people shouldn’t miss out on.
#17-Batman Knightfall (Vol. 1)
Released April 1993-August 1994
Knightfall as a whole was very long. Extremely long. A bit too long that I still can’t believe I was able to get through all three volumes, literally in hurricanes and massive snowstorms. Thinking back on the story, the first part of Knightfall, “Broken Bat” has earned my spot on #17 of the best Batman stories! Volume one of Knightfall is another of those tales showing a scenario where Batman is beaten down physically and/or mentally. This time though, a newer villain is behind Batman’s misery. Bane, a criminal master-mind spending most of his life within a prison, is hellbent on “breaking the bat” and taking over Gotham city. Along with his friends named after famous sixties bands (Zombie, Trogg, Bird, I never made connections before), Bane attempts to control the criminal underworld by using his wit and (more importantly) a very addictive steroid called Venom. Initially, Bane’s plan is very successful. Releasing all the inmates within Arkham Asylum wears Batman down. All of this excellent build up finally reaches a breaking point (yes) in that now iconic moment where Bane “breaks the bat” by, well…breaking his back. Bruce Wayne, still recuperating from the injuries inflicted on him by Bane, is not the one who takes down Bane. Jean-Paul Valley, some might know him as Azrael, is able to take him down in a very epic standoff, donning the Batman’s cape and cowl! But that leads into a different story that I am not willing to tell.
Overall, Knightfall should be credited as introducing a very interesting villain, Bane, into the mix of Batman villains. Using both brain and brawn, he had come relatively close to single-highhandedly beating Batman down in a near successful tactic. But, he of course found more popularity in television and movies, such as Batman: TAS and The Dark Knight Rises. Regardless, Batman Knightfall should be one of those essential Batman books that people should pick up for the great impact it had on the character at the time.