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1995: Ghosts – The Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special #3

batman-legends-ghostsThe third and final Halloween special that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale wrote before plunging into the year long epic – Batman: The Long Halloween.

And it felt a little rushed.

Inspired by and mirroring Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this story follows a food poisoned Bruce through the standard 4 ghost encountering story.

Before any apparitions appear, it is a typical night for Bruce. While reconnecting with Lucius Fox, a man he met several years back, The Penguin arrives at the party and robs the guest. Bruce confronts the little man, who shoots him and leaves him to fall to his death. This gives Bruce a chance to switch identities and confront the Penguin for real. Seriously Gotham, either A) stop having elaborate parties for the wealthy and important to make yourselves feel important and wealthy, or B) maybe invite the Penguin. He’s wealthy, have you thought that maybe he does these things because he doesn’t feel included. He’s always been one of you, just spend some time with him, maybe he’s a nice guy on the inside. Or C) step up your freaking security. Do you want your baubles and wallets and watches taken? You can afford the extra few dollars. Gordon will do it. He needs the money, and he has before. 

TLHprologue46The Penguin chase is a pretty decent scene, penguin uses a jet pack to escape and Batman follows hanging off of him with a batarang. The banter back and forth is pretty entertaining.

But by the time Batman gets back, he’s tired and the shrimp has started to affect him. The first sign that Bruce is going to go down the same path that Scrooge did is when Bruce see’s a face in the doorknob.

The first ghost is seen before Bruce falls asleep. Bruce’s father, Thomas, filling the role of Jacob Marley, visits to warn Bruce both of the coming ghosts and to show Bruce the chains he gathered while trying to make the city better. He warns Bruce that he is gathering chains of his own and that things need to change.

The first ghost comes in the form of Poison Ivy. These images are the best art in the book. The Penguin scenes were well done, but Sales attention to detail and grandeur or Ivy is magnificent. Ivy takes Bruce, who turns into Batman for these scenes, to see him as a boy at halloween and remind him that his father was not around for trick or treating, despite giving his promise. Both his mother and himself in the present make excuses for him, but we, the audience, see right through it. The next scene shown is of him, in his training days, saving the life of Lucius Fox, who offered Bruce the opportunity to work together, which Bruce passed on in order to focus on his career as a vigilante.

These scenes are nice, intimate, and are the heart of the book. Loeb really knows how to nail down flashback scenes.

The next scenes are where I feel it really starts to fall apart. Loeb quickly rushes through encounters with the Joker showing children afraid to trick or treat at Wayne Manor, and the 3rd ghost – Death – showing Bruce his grave.

These scenes seem forced, quick, and don’t hold the same gravitas that the first encounter did. I would have eliminated the Penguin elements of the story to flesh these out a little more. It’s also the shortest of the 3 Specials, there is no reason these couldn’t have been fleshed out without a sacrifice.

joker49cAs art goes, Sale thrives on shadow and a lessened colour pallet. These scenes were bright and didn’t accentuate his skill.

That being said, I hold the bar high because of what has come before, and what is yet to come, it is still a pleasure to read compared to most books, I just have greater expectations. I never enjoy reading this book as much.

When Bruce finally awakens from his dreams, he is feeling better and the heart of the book returns a little with Bruce and Alfreds dialogue directly reflecting the source material and Bruce calling for Lucius, who is the Bob Cratchet of the story. He finally agrees to partner up with Lucius giving, almost, full trust of the company to him to work together for the benefit of everybody.

It’s not a story with no heart, there is definitely some of the great elements that Loeb and Sale bring to a story like this, I just wish that there were more to the 3rd and 4rth acts.

This issue did make me question a couple things. In the first book the narration jumps from bruce – blue to batman – black. In the last book, an almost entirely batman experience, it is told in black. This story jumps back to blue, maybe because Bruce is seeing everything through his dreams, as Bruce. But then why is he become Batman whenever he is shown something? Is this just for appeal? In every version of A Christmas Carol that i’ve seen Scrooge just stays in his bedgown. This bothered me. But only a little.

For a much better Batman version of A Christmas Carol read Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo. Beautiful art, beautiful writing. I read it every Christmas, and this year plan on doing a double post of it and the original version of the story, which I have never read. Should be good.

Thanks for reading!

Images from: http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_large/1/11785/312232-20593-123429-1-batman-legends-of-t.jpg, http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/joker49c.jpg, http://s6.photobucket.com/user/Hefmeister/media/Loeb%20and%20Sale/TLHprologue46.jpg.html,

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