My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can’t friggin stand that some of this stuff is over 20 years old. Hard to believe I picked up these stories as they were released back in the day. Having already added the Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween and Absolute Batman: Dark Victory to my collection, I grabbed this latest Absolute edition, pulled up my adult diaper, and strapped in for a trip down memory lane. Surprisingly, I still found myself enjoying this re-read. A lot more than I expected anyway. Loeb hasn’t aged that well for me and while I was a huge fan at one point, his stuff isn’t quite as solid now as I remembered it. Still have a soft spot though.
Absolute Batman: Haunted Knight is a collection of The Long Halloween and Dark Victory “prequels” in which Loeb and Sale laid the foundation for their later collaborations. Fear is a Scarecrow story that was fun. I believe this was Jeph and Tim’s first Batman story together. Madness focuses on the Mad Hatter and it reminded me of the Mad as a Hatter episode of Batman the Animated Series. This is sort of the “vintage” Hatter story with the “Alice in Wonderland” flavor. Ghosts is a riff on A Christmas Carol. Probably my least favorite of the bunch. Bruce reflects on his life and considers his future. Eehh.
Finally, DC included Catwoman: When in Rome in this edition as well. I was really happy about this. I wasn’t crazy about this book when it first came out, but I ended up enjoying it a little more this time around. Selina makes a trip to Italy, with Edward Nigma in tow, in search of some answers about her own past. Could have used a little more Batman, but what story wouldn’t be better with a little more Batman? I really like Loeb’s Selina and this was a nice little garnish for The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.
I despised Tim Sale’s artwork when I first laid eyes on Fear wwwaaayyyy back when. But, like cigars and bourbon, I eventually came around and found an appreciation for his unique style. No mistaking his work. And while I preferred his art in The Long Halloween, there is some good stuff in this collection. Still don’t like his Scarecrow though. Some of the stuff really gets a chance to shine on the oversized pages of the Absolute format.
Gotta give Dave Stewart a huge shout out for his coloring on When in Rome. Had a nice water-colored look at times that was super smooth. Awesome stuff that really compliments Sale’s drawings and makes that story really stand out among the others in this collection.
I was surprised to hear that DC was making this collection into an Absolute Edition. Not sure I would’ve called it a necessity. I imagine it’s for completists like me or to bookend the Long Halloween and Dark Victory. Nothing here that falls into the category of essential Batman, but a recommend to fans of Loeb and Sale’s other Batman work.