Welcome again, Comic Booked readers, to another wonderful installment of our Graphic Novel Recommendations. Today we have the epic and influential story from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, one of the best Batman series I have ever read, DC’s The Long Halloween. The Long Halloween spanned thirteen months, from 96 to 97, featuring Batman and a host of supporting characters and villainous rogues. It chronicles the rise and fall of Harvey Dent, the deadly new villain, Holiday, and the deadly feud between the crime families in Gotham.
The series, which takes place after Year One, follows Batman as he makes an uneasy alliance with both Captain James Gordon and DA Harvey Dent. The three make a pack to bring down the reigning kingpins of crime in Gotham, Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni. Falcone is the main target. ”The Roman” as he is known, has been bleeding Gotham dry for years. It’s not easy however, as he is nearly untouchable. At his newphew’s wedding, Dent tries to get some intel but is cornered by Falone’s men. Luckily for him, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle are in attendance, as well as their alter egos. Batman and Catwoman save Dent and return to Falcone’s house to find evidence. Of course they get interrupted as well.
The Trio’s quest for justice gets a monkey wrench thrown in it as a new killer has emerged, targeting those in the criminal underworld. He is labelled Holiday and with good reason, he kills on each holiday. After Falcone orders a hit on a banker who ended a major deal with him, he suffers his first loss on Halloween. The deaths keep mounting up as each holiday falls, so do more victims. He kills with a .22 caliber gun, and leaves no evidence behind.
Batman and Dent are able to track Falcone’s money and puts a tight squeeze on his pocket. Of course they can’t touch Batman, but Dent does suffer an attack, luckily he survives. Meanwhile Holiday adds more to the body count, putting more gangsters to their grave on Thanksgiving. The Joker comes back to town on Christmas and devises a fool proof plan. Kill everybody on New Years and you’ll kill Holiday! Batman is not fond of his plan however, and rushes to put an end to it. Dent’s new assistant, Vernon, discovers information regarding Bruce Wayne being connected to Falcone, and now the DA’s office focuses their attention on Wayne.
While their eyes focus on Wayne, more people die, with a bloody mess made on Valentine’s Day. Falcone is starting to get desperate and turns to the help of the twisted and insane. Employing Poison Ivy to seduce Wayne and Scarecrow and the Mad Hatter to put an end to Holiday. Catwoman is not fond of Ivy putting the squeeze on Wayne and Batman takes care of the bumbling psychos. Riddler is the next employee of Falcone but even he finds it difficult to break the mystery of the Holiday Killer.
The trio of justice turn to an unlikely source, Calendar Man, for help on the case, but he seems to revel in the attention more than actually worrying about solving the case. The war is escalating in the streets, and Maroni is finally arrested. He agrees to turn tail on the Roman and the trial is a huge sensation. Dent, eager to get the Roman behind bars, makes any deal he can with Maroni, but will the deal turn against him in the end? And what of the Holiday killer, can they track this murderer down before more victims fall?
First I just want to start off saying that for those who say comic books are not a form of literature, give this a read and let me know if you feel the same. The story is amazing. If you change just a few characters around, this would play out as one of the best detective novels. Jeph Loeb really delves into the minds of each character and you can feel their determination. It is a great look at the struggle of a city ruled by crime and raises an interesting conundrum: which is worse, the gangsters of old who ran it more like a business, or the criminally insane who want nothing more than to destroy it for fun? Caught in the middle you have three men trying to keep law and order without plunging into the madness. Batman, Gordon and Dent are all fleshed out so well, you really understand their motives and personality. Gordon is a police captain trying to uphold the law, while Batman plays vigilante just outside the law, and Dent is the arm of order trying to keep the criminals locked up. Dent’s story is really expanded on in this series, showing a bit of jealousy towards both Gordon and Batman, who seem to get by without suffering anything major. Catwoman’s role is peculiar as well, as she drifts from being a trusted ally to a deadly enemy; and all the while maintains the sass and sexiness that makes her a fan favorite. Bruce Wayne is shown as having a very active role in his companies, and of course Batman is as compelling as ever; conflicted at times with the choices he makes, and the allies around him. The truce between the three is very shaky, with each turning an eye to the other.
Even lesser known and often mocked villains are treated with a high level of respect. Calendar Man plays a very prominent role in the book, and never once is treated as a novelty. Solomon Grundy, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman all have key roles in the book and are handled with great respect. The Joker of course steals the show, and body count, as always. He is as ruthless and blood-thirsty as ever. There are a few villains who seem to get the short stick though, Riddler is reduced to almost a punching bag, with no depth to his role. And Scarecrow and Mad Hatter are shown as comic relief instead of an actual threat. Having read other series with Scarecrow as a prominent and deadly villain, it was a shame to see him reduced to arguing over Patty Cake with the Mad Hatter. But those small quirks aside, the rest of the characters are done very well.
The artwork of course is just amazing. Tim Sale can draw Batman with the bet of them. Always appearing larger than life each panel. Each character looks great, so much detail is put into the artwork it’s staggering. It’s like each drawing is it’s own painting. There are several that I would love to own as poster art, they are that good. The shadowing, the low color, everything is used to enhance the story. This is a dark, gothic, and gritty series and at no point does it ever lighten up, and the artwork amplifies that. This probably has one of my favorite Catwoman outfits as well. Honestly enough can’t be said at how well the art is done here. Next to Alex Ross, this would be my second favorite artwork in any DC book.
The impact this book has had is still being felt, with many elements of the story having a huge influence on both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. With characters like Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni being key players, the “I Believe in Harvey Dent” campaign, and of course the trio of Dent, Gordon and Batman making a pact to bring down crime. Even as recent as Arkham City, a game I’ve been playing the hell out of, has subtle references to The Long Halloween. There is even a toy line out just for this series. I cannot recommend this title enough, it has even had a new release for trade paperback, Absolute Batman: Long Halloween, with a ton of extra content, including artwork and interviews. I have read this books several times and plan on reading it again soon.