Sunday, July 01, 2007

BATMAN: The Long Halloween

It's early in Batman's career as a costumed vigilante and the Dark Knight is attempting to rid Gotham City of the criminal element that took his parents' lives. Not easy, considering you have warring mob factions and a bevy of costumed criminals that have flocked to Gotham in the wake of his arrival. On Halloween night, the nephew of noted mobster Carmine "The Roman" Falcone gets shot in his bathtub by an unseen killer wielding an untraceable .22 pistol. Is it the work of a rival gang? His own, untrusting uncle? The city's costumed vigilante? A criminal on the loose from Arkham Asylum? Or, has Harvey Dent, the city's ambitious but frustrated district attorney, started to take matters into his own hands?

As the months and holidays pass, the death toll rises and the papers dub this new killer 'Holiday' due to their predilection for striking on Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc. While Batman, Captain James Gordon and Dent attempt to track down the killer, Bats must also deal with his own rogues gallery of villains including Catwoman, Joker, Riddler, Solomon Grundy, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter and Poison Ivy, who worms her way into Bruce Wayne's life and puts the billionaire's freedom and freelance job at risk.

In all, THE LONG HALLOWEEN is a fast, enjoyable read. I plowed through it in one sitting and any Batman fan will get a kick out of the new twist on the origin of Two-Face and the appearances by just about every major Batman villain under the sun (noticeably missing, The Penguin). The murder-mystery element isn't as strong as it could have been, but the creators throw in enough twists late in the book to keep you turning the pages. Some plot developments seem a bit rushed, especially Bruce Wayne's trial on mob-related charges, a concept that brings up all sorts of possibilities. Unfortunately, there's a big lead in but the plot element falls a bit flat.

I wanted to read the collection because Bat experts and fans have been speculating that some of the elements of the story may pop up in Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT, due out next summer. That film's viral 'I Believe in Harvey Dent' campaign is straight from this tale and Eric Roberts is playing a character named Salvatore Maroni, one of the book's central mob figures. I'm trusting Nolan to deliver a more serious, sinister take on The Joker, though, who plays a major part in one chapter of the book. Long my favorite Batman villain, I like the sinister, psychotic portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime and can do without him quoting from 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas' or flying a Joker Plane. It's these schizophrenic moments that keep THE LONG HALLOWEEN from being mentioned in the same breath as such classic Batman tales as 'Year One' and personal faves like 'Gotham By Gaslight'.

In all a top notch read and one that will inspire me to check out more of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Dark Knight collaborations.



Cinema Suicide said...

Dude. You and I need to hang out. The Long Halloween has been a favorite of mine since it was first published. It loses a lot of the anticipation factor when it's collected in one book, since it spanned 12 issues, but it's still a great read.

Consequently, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale were both involved in the production of that superhero drama, Heroes. I was hyped to watch it anyway, but I about jumped through the roof when I saw their names in the credits.

Dan said...

We definitely seem like we're tracking here Bryan! Glad to see somebody else is a fan of this excellent read and I understand what you're saying about the monthly issues vs. the collected book -- that's a great point and one I had not considered.

Loeb is also one of the creators of SMALLVILLE. I've never been a Superman "fan" per se (I always go for the more tortured vigilante types ala Batman and Daredevil) but I dig their fresh take on the boy scout's mythos.

I just ordered one of the other Loeb/Sale collaborations and will post a review once I get my hands on it.