Widely praised as one of the best Batman stories ever written, I was a bit underwhelmed when I finally got around to reading Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween. Originally published about twelve years ago over thirteen issues, this detective story pits Batman, Jim Gordon and DA Harvey Dent against a serial killed dubbed ‘Holiday.’ Over the course of the narrative, Dent becomes Two-Face.
The novel is a continuation of Batman: Year One, with the mob gangsters making up a crucial part of the storyline. In their zest to bring down Gotham’s crime lord, Wayne, Gordon, and Dent all demonstrate to the reader their varying notions of justice. The three men debate the lengths they will go to bring the Roman to justice, and enter a pact, agreeing to bend the rules if necessary, but never to break them.
Each issue represents a different holiday, which in itself is an interesting tactic: as the series was originally published, each issue would correspond with that time of year. As time goes on, ‘Holiday’ seems to be targeting first one crime family and then another. But eventually the characters and the reader begin to suspect that Dent is behind it all. The inevitable twist at the end of such noir-ish tales was unsurprising and seemingly inconsequential for the greater Batman universe.
I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t like this more. Perhaps the obvious Godfather styled opening turned me off, perhaps I felt there should be a better emphasis on the ‘freaks’ of Gotham taking over for the mob. The best aspect was the different conceptions of justice the three main characters had, and the insights we got into who Bruce Wayne is as a man, even separate from the Batman person. I don’t recall if the particulars of his own feelings of culpability in his parents’ murders had been detailed before, but that delivered an emotional punch unequalled in many comics.
Sale’s artwork was definitely up to the task, capturing the noir look in a way that few can. However, I do feel that the dominantly brown tones that are emblematic of the Godfather movies would have served the story better than the blues and blacks common to Batman. Setting this story in the 1930s also might have been a nice touch, though it would obviously have lost a bit of the connection with Year One.
Still, an entertaining, lengthy story that I am sure everyone else will give his or her highest recommendation. I just wished it hadn’t been hyped to me so much; I might have been able to approach it without prejudging.