Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Colors: Gregory Wright
Letters: Richard Starkings
The story starts out with the Maroni brothers being bailed out by Lucia Viti, the new head of the Viti crime family. Lucia came into power when Carla Viti-The Roman’s sister and Lucia’s mother- was killed by Holiday in The Long Halloween.
Traditionally, the Vitis and Maronis are rival crime families. However, Lucia made it clear that she needs to team-up with the Maronis to take down the Falcone family, whom she blames for her mother and brother’s deaths.
Incidentally, the setting for this meeting was January 6th or ‘Little Christmas’. Little Christmas is a holiday that is traditionally celebrated by Irish and Amish Christians. During the celebration, families will hold the Feast of the Epiphany. The feast has families and friends gathering together for a joyous meal that commemorates Jesus. The irony of Little Christmas is that the Maroni and Viti families joining together proves to be fatal later on.
Batman Fails Again
Flash-forward to Valentine’s Day. Batman gets shot by another former GCPD SWAT member Frank Pratt. In Year One, Pratt played a brief role as one of the SWAT members who tried to capture Batman. However, in an attempt to catch Batman, he shot at a cat and paid for it with Batman breaking his ribs and punching him through a wall.
Here, Pratt rejects Batman’s offer of help by shooting him and kicking him in the face. It’s a fatal mistake, as the Hangman immediately kills him after he takes down Batman.
Gordon and some GCPD cops show up to help Batman. Interestingly, Gordon pins the responsibility of Pratt’s death on Batman refusing to divulge information to the police. At this point, Gordon’s pretty tired of Batman’s typical loner BS and cuts to the heart of the issue: Batman’s distrust anybody is affecting his job to prevent the Hangman murders.
Catwoman on the Prowl
Meanwhile, Catwoman hunts for the Roman’s missing body. She ends up interrogating the Riddler who points her in the direction of a city morgue. However, the lead is a dead-end and a mysterious assailant knocks Catwoman out.
The scene with Catwoman and the Riddler is a little interesting given how big of a role he plays in Catwoman: When In Rome. Chronologically, When in Rome takes place immediately after this issue, where Catwoman and Riddler travel together to Europe. The scene may be their first meeting.
The Falcones in Crisis
On the other side of town, Alberto Falcone monologues about how much in common the Falcones have with the super villains they’re fighting against. He compares himself and Sofia Gigante to Two-Face, seeing how he is half of a man and she is half of a woman.
It is interesting to see Alberto’s assertion and Sofia’s protests reflect their characterizations and their personal acceptance to change. Alberto claims that the Falcones are very similar to Two-Face, almost as if the crime family is a precursor to super villains. This makes sense, since at the end of TLH, Alberto fully embraces the role of a larger-than-life personality. He fully accepts that super villains are the future of crime. On the other hand, Sofia’s protests implies a refusal to change.
The theme of acceptance to change occurs on macro-level and more personal level. On a macro-level, there is the struggle between the old crime families trying to hold onto their territories against the invading super villains. Within a microcosm, it plays out between Batman refusing Two-Face has fully changed. However, we see it presented as a source of friction between the Falcones, which is an interesting twist.
Unfortunately, the conversation goes south for Alberto who admits that he is hearing the voice of his dead father. This revelation further isolates Alberto from his family. The motif of isolation and loneliness is represented by Alberto’s state of mind.
Speaking of loneliness, Batman becomes further withdrawn from others. After saving Catwoman, they have a moment on the roof. If you thought rescuing Catwoman was an indicator that Batman is finally opening up to others, then you are wrong. And Catwoman is too. After briefly flirting with Batman, he immediately freezes up and starts interrogates her.
“Your loss,” a disappointed Catwoman says to Batman in a direct callback from TLH. And this time, she means it too. The next day, Bruce Wayne comes too Selina Kyles brownstone, only to see that she has already moved out. Upon realizing this, Bruce once again ponders how alone he is.
Catwoman’s departure has interesting implications for her and Batman’s characters. She was continually rejected by both Bruce and Batman. Unfortunately, this causes her to feel like there are no ties to keep her in Gotham City. Catwoman’s arc in this story is thematic sequel to TLH’s Independence Day chapter. There, she asks Bruce, “What would it take to let go?”
For Catwoman, it takes being socially stonewalled by the two people she cares about in her life: Bruce and Batman. It’s doubly sad, because her decision to leave only compounds Bruce’s loneliness and trust issues.
Loneliness for Other Characters
Many characters in Dark Victory experience loneliness similar to Batman and Catwoman. The above-mentioned Falcones all deal with being isolated in their own ways. Commissioner Gordon has been alone, since his wife left him. Even DA Janice Porter is considered alone, at least on the surface level. She is one of the few new characters introduced in Dark Victory. She also appears to have no connections to Gotham City.
Ironically, while Batman becomes more alone, Gordon and Porter develop stronger ties to Gotham. Gordon reunites with his wife in a bittersweet moment.
More sinisterly, Porter is revealed to be having a sexual relationship with none other than Two-Face. Everything that Gordon has shared with Porter about the investigation is now privy to Two-Face as well.
The relationship between Two-Face is clearly a physical one. Furthermore, it appears to be Two-Face indulging in his “evil” side, since it has been established that Harvey Dent would never do have an extra-marital affair.
Check out the name of the hotel Porter and Two-Face are in: Hotel Essex. The name is also a play off of the British slang term “essex girl“, which infers a sexually promiscuous woman.
The title “Love” fits perfectly with the story and themes that writer Jeph Loeb plays with. We see love or the absence of love from a wide variety of perspectives. Additionally, we see a resolution to one mini-mystery. Unfortunately, it is not a perfect script. The biggest problem going against it is that it barely advances the Hangman plot at all. However, with some many good character moments and dramatic callbacks, it is hard to fault another great comic.