Top positive review
Source material for Nolan's trilogy is powerful writing and art...
Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2019
The Long Halloween is great, but I actually had more fun reading through Dark Victory. It's a crime mystery that consistently had me guessing through to the conclusion about who The Hangman's true identity was. What I really loved most was the evolution of the characters' personalities--from Jim Gordon to Harvey Dent to Bruce (who really is more in his iconic "Batman" persona here)--that began in Batman: Year One to Batman: The Long Halloween and into Batman: Dark Victory. It really does work like a trilogy. It's also notable to include Gotham city's underworld itself as a character of its own. Batman begins (pardon the pun) in Year One with a quest to sort of rid the city of the mafia, which is and has been the main criminal body up until this point. In The Long Halloween, the mafia begins to lose power because of the rise of the Batman's presence. During that time, some of the most insane and dangerous criminals escape Arkham Asylum and begin quietly terrorizing the city anew, spreading like a virus. Slowly, the "freaks"--as the mafia calls them--start to gain more and more power by simply being a more unorganized crime source (as opposed to organized crime). Characters like Pamela Isley, Solomon Grundy, Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, Scarecrow, the Joker, and others, establish and strengthen their grips on Gotham's criminal underworld.
It's nice that these villains--these "freaks"--also aren't the main conflict in Dark Victory (or The Long Halloween or Year One, for that matter); they appear when it is effective for them to appear, slowly taking more prominence in the setting of the story as it progresses. The main conflict has to deal with the solving of the mysteries behind The Hangman killings. The Long Halloween and Dark Victory are, primarily, crime mysteries, which is what makes them interesting. What makes them great literature, however, is the creative team that is Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.
Loeb's writing is really well-crafted here: the entire arc unfolds at a consistent pace and he balances out dialogue with Batman's internal narration very smoothly. And, as I mentioned previously, personality and narrative arcs of the main characters (Gordon, Batman, and Dent) have fully matured by this point in the trilogy, leaving the supporting characters a chance to evolve and come into their own.
Much of these progressions are not just depicted by the writing, however; Tim Sale (who worked previously with Loeb on The Long Halloween) elevates and perfects his artwork in this story. There's not a change in the look of the characters, so you know it's definitely his style, but you sense immediately (especially if reading Dark Victory right after finishing The Long Halloween) the new level of attention paid to composition of the drawings. Shadows and silhouettes, contrasts between setting and characters, everything adds to the mood and atmosphere of the characters and the scenes they're a part of.
In terms of the print itself, the paperback is excellent. This and The Long Halloween have really nice paper, which I'll catch myself sometimes randomly sniffing in the middle of a read to enjoy the new paper smell. The ink is really crisp, the colors pop, and the design of the book itself is laid out very clearly. There aren't page numbers or a contents page, but every issue is separated by chapter pages that include gorgeous, high-contrast artwork to help distinguish which issue you're on. Additionally, the print comes with an introduction by David S. Goyer, who co-wrote the Nolan film trilogy.
Overall, I can't stress enough how gorgeous this trade paperback is and how excellent and top-tier this story arc is. I really enjoyed it just as much, if not more so, then The Long Halloween. No other Batman story arc has topped my enjoyment of this particular trilogy. Highly recommended in addition to Batman: Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween.