Welcome to Around the DC Universe, Graphic Policy’s continuing feature that helps you get the most out of your subscription to DC’s premier comic book and video streaming service.
Last Friday saw the premier of the second episode of DC Universe’s first original series Titans introducing the characters of Hawk and Dove. I was a little thrown off by the fact that they seem to be portrayed as ordinary vigilantes rather than the avatars of peace and war respectively. Still the writers and actors managed to make their troubled love story compelling, especially at the climax of the episode, a not quite cliffhanger which left me hungry for more. The series is really going from strength to strength by focusing on Dick and Rachel’s relationship and their troubled pasts. It’s must see TV for me at this point and if I had the opportunity I would be binge watching it right now.
On Tuesday DC Universe added Batman: The Long Halloween just in time for the holiday next week. Conceived as a sequel of sorts to Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman Year One, The Long Halloween features a collection of Batman’s greatest villains serving as foils for the Dark Knight while he investigates a series of murders by the mysterious Holiday Killer. While this story by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale sounds tempting it’s one of the most overrated Batman stories of all time in my opinion. Despite drawing inspiration from everything from Miller’s seminal work to films like The Godfather and Silence of the Lambs, Loeb and Sale can’t manage more than a murky mystery with an uncertain conclusion (I’ve read it at least four times and I still can’t quite figure out who Holiday is supposed to be). While some of the hero versus villain vignettes are amusing (particularly the Joker standing in as the Grinch) The Long Halloween never rises to become more than the sum of its parts.
Fortunately there are much better Batman stories available on DC Universe for you to read as you get ready for trick or treat.
Start with Batman: Madness- A Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special also by Loeb and Sale. It was one of a series of Halloween themed one shots that was the inspiration for The Long Halloween and is infinitely better. This issue features The Mad Hatter and displays the deft character work that Loeb was known for before he transitioned into writing continuity dense epics focusing as much on Jim Gordon and his relationships with his wife and his young daughter Barbara as it does on Batman and the Hatter.
In Batman: The Last Arkham the Dark Knight finds himself an inmate of the infamous Arkham Asylum. Viewers of Batman: The Animated Series will find elements reminiscent of the season one episode “Dreams in Darkness” but the comic also features the debut of the villainous Zsasz and some truly exceptional art by the late, great Norm Breyfogle. This is truly one of the highlight of Breyfogle’s career defining run on the character with writer Alan Grant, producing a creepy, atmospheric romp through Gotham’s house of madness. Available on DC Universe in Batman: Shadow of the Bat(1992) #1-4.
Last but not least is a short but legendary series of stories from Detective Comics by writer Steve Engelhart and artist Marshall Rogers. While this run is mostly remembered for its ending (“The Joker’s Laughing Fish”) that story doesn’t really hold up quite as well without the context of those that preceded it. These are tremendously influential comics inspiring not one but two episodes of the Animated Series and reinventing the character of Deadshot from a goofy silver age nemesis to a modern super villain. It’s also way ahead of its time in creating a true multi-issue arc. Rogers’ work is still the definitive Batman for many fans who were lucky enough to read it growing up and it remains a high water mark of the era. Available on DC Universe in Detective Comics (1937) #471-476.
TV and Movies
While there is no shortage of Batman related features on the service’s video streaming section at the moment a good one you might have missed is Batman: Gotham Knight.Set in continuity with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight this is an animated anthology uniting western writers, including Greg Rucka and Brian Azzarello with Japanese directors to create one of the most successful fusions of super heroes and anime ever. Azzarello’s segment (“Working Through the Pain”) is a highlight and one of the best Batman stories ever written: the tale of how a young Bruce Wayne learned to deal with the pain of physical injury in India.