“I made a promise to my parents to protect this city from the evil that took their lives. If I am to succeed, I must be willing to deal out — the punishment.”
– Batman in The Long Halloween
It’s been a while since Batman has come knocking on Bookidote’s doors. But here he is at last with another quintessential volume that all fans of the world’s greatest detective should have on their bookshelves. The Long Halloween stands as one of the most important story arcs in the dark knight’s legacy as it explores the famous story behind district attorney Harvey Dent while continuing the adventures of characters that Frank Miller has introduced back in Batman: Year One (check out the review of that comic on our blog). This trade paperback published in 1999 collects 13 original issues written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Tim Sale. Marking the beginning of a creative and legendary duo, these two legends put forth the classic story of a murderer who goes by the name of Holiday and who kills people on famous holidays. Surprising, isn’t it? As Batman teams up with Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent, The Long Halloween explores the deep dark corners of the noir murder-mystery genre in comics and embarks readers on the hunt for a deadly killer.
“Saint Patrick’s Day. We all think of green. Now. It’s red. Blood red. Saint Patrick’s Day is coming and we’re no closer to finding out who this madman is. ‘Holiday.’”
– Commissioner Gordon in The Long Halloween
I’ve been wanting to know the famous origin of Two-Face ever since I’ve started reading comics. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale does exactly what I’ve wanted for so long and delivers a story that blows any bat-fan’s brains out. Brilliantly written, the plot has a dark noir’ish vibe. It’s structured as a murder mystery worthy of Batman’s time and has more blood throughout his adventure than ever before. Although the plot revolves around the hunt of a mysterious killer, a.k.a. Holiday, there are several villains that also make their appearances. From Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter to the infamous Joker, this trade paperback doesn’t lack in villain appearances. What’s truly appealing is that they aren’t portrayed as simple criminals that are making their debuts. Jeph Loeb, with the help of illustrator Tim Sale, manage to depict these villains as supervillains. Criminals that should make any simple mortal crawl to a corner and shiver as they grasp their knees and sob. As Batman seek to neutralize these characters, he also teams up with Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent in the hunt for Holiday. Seeing that his modus operandi is similar to the famous Calendar Man, the three protagonists never need to fret on missing clues and suspects throughout the story. The Long Halloween also has Solomon Grundy growling his famous sentence “Born on a Monday…” without flirting with his own origin story.
While on the hunt for Holiday, we also discover the whole family tree behind the Maroni and Falcone families. Ruling over the crime life in Gotham City, these two families sets the foundation to the criminal activities in Gotham and also ties together every villain appearances in The Long Halloween. They are also Harvey Dent’s prime target as he vows to get rid of them from the streets of Gotham. Throughout the story, fighting alongside our favorite superhero, we slowly see the evolution of a friendship between him and Batman. The Long Halloween shows the various obstacles that Batman and Harvey Dent come across while they try to bring justice to the crime ridden Gotham City. These obstacles also set in motion huge plot points that come into play in these two characters relationship. As Batman puts upon Harvey Dent the burden of taking down the Maroni and Falcone families as legally as possible, the district attorney becomes a huge glowing prey to the eyes of Mafiosos. The Long Halloween does an amazing job in playing on this friendship between Batman and Harvey Dent. As we read we get a good look to the dark knight’s lonesome and full of hardship life.
“I might only point out that in one’s quest for justice — I have seen someone even as sane as yourself… Behave in the most… surprising ways.”
– Alfred Pennysworth in The Long Halloween
The artwork is one that can leave some readers bitter. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. One thing’s for sure, it definitely does its job. In my books, I believe that Tim Sale does an amazing job in playing with shadows and achieves great heights in artwork. The whole volume is basically set in darkness and rarely sees light and manages to capture a noir’ish vibe throughout the whole story. This was brilliantly done. Batman was drawn in a way to mix the shadow and darkness with the color of his cape and it really does come out pretty good, scary-good. He comes out of the shadow like some evil rodent from the dark. He has his cape drawn like the inside of a bats mouth. He definitely manages to inspire fear with his presence. That’s when you know the artwork was really well done. Some panels does get me to wonder if the art couldn’t have been done better, but seeing that I couldn’t have done better myself, I was still pretty impressed. While keeping the volume pretty dark and gruesome, while also using some contrasts to a have a strong effect in the storyline and to put emphasis on certain key elements, Tim Sale manages to do some nice work on some villains. In fact, I thought Scarecrow, Mad Hatter and Two-Face had some interesting portraits. Adding the fact that Jeph Loeb does an excellent job in making those characters truly seem insane, these villains look pretty evil through the trade paperback.
“How much longer did you think I would let the Falcone family tear Gotham City in half? Splitting this city between good — and evil. My city.”
– Two-Face in The Long Halloween
As if the number of villains weren’t enough, The Long Halloween also includes our beloved cat burglar in the midst of all this. Fans get to see the beginning of a relationship between Batman and Catwoman as we discover the flawed chemistry between those two characters. You also come to understand the complexity behind Catwoman’s position in the middle of the whole hunt for Holiday. Is she a protagonist or an antogonist? Where does she stand? Why is she always there when you least expect it? The Long Halloween explores relationships in a really intriguing way. From Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle to Batman, Gordon and Dent. In this 13 issues serie, we get a perfect mix of plot, character and setting. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale definitely created an amazing story arc with The Long Halloween. Being able to capture a dark murder mystery tale of Batman is definitely an objective pretty well achieved.
“My father had an old Dictaphone. He kept it in his study. He would make recordings. I can still hear his voice… ‘When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem… your only option is to act swiftly, some might even say irrationally. Removing the most dangerous elements first… and methodically attacking each subsequent challenge in a separate, but deliberate manner.’”
– Batman in The Long Halloween
This quote is probably one of the best ones in this volume. As you might know, Batman’s father was a surgeon and his father was talking about the whole surgical operations he has to deal with. Batman remembers this and applies it to his daily crime fighting activities. He explains how he might act in situations where there’s more than just one problem to face. Isn’t that a nice analogy? Just for people’s curiosity, The Long Halloween is one of the many comics that inspired Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight. Although Nolan took a different approach to Two-Face’s origin, you can still find some elements in this novel in the movie. Especially the relationship between Harvey Dent and Batman.
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