Today's graphic novel is Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's first Batman work together, Haunted Knight. Originally published around Halloween in 1993, 1994 and 1995, the three stories contained in this collection are but a prelude to their later (better) work on The Long Halloween, Dark Victory and Catwoman: When In Rome.
You can tell that Sale is still searching for his style and the coloring is pretty bad, but overall this graphic novel is quite an enjoyable read. The early photo shopped gradiant shading of Batman's narrative boxes drove me up the wall and some of the over-cluttered coloring didn't help either. It was very early 90s and I felt like I was reading a classic Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale teamup in some sort of timewarp.
The first story (Fears) is a three part arc about the Scarecrow and has an interesting subplot (one that should be fleshed out a lot more in a new Batman book that I should write) about a female Merry Widow killer who is after Bruce. The second story (Madness) tells the story of a young Barbara Gordon kidnapped by the Mad Hatter and forced to dress like Alice for his tea party of insanity. The third and final story (Ghosts) is based on the classic Dicken's story "A Christmas Carol" and shed light on Bruce founding the Wayne Foundation and the early days of his relationship with Lucius Fox.
Each of these stories were good and there were hallmarks of Jeph Loeb here that I enjoy to this day. First, it seems as though Jeph Loeb and I would get along famously in the movie quote department. There were some great lines in these books stolen from Charade and To Have and Have Not and I wonder if he expected people to ever pick up on it. Those aren't exactly two movies that droves of Batman nerds are seeing. (Hell, the Long Halloween and the Godfather have almost the same opening line: "I believe in America" was changed to "I believe in Gotham City" with both settings being a wedding of a mob bosses daughter.)
The other hallmark of his that I like is his use of nursery rhymes and quotes from Through the Looking Glass to punctuate the insanity of the Mad Hatter and Scarecrow. Their dialogue just works really, really well.
Overall, this book is a good primer for their work on Long Halloween and should be seriously looked into reading again.