Batman: The Long Halloween Review

I recently finished reading Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. I was excited to read this, as Jeph Loeb is one of the main names in superhero television, working on shows like Heroes, Smallville, and Agents of SHIELD. I also heard this comic compared to The Dark Knight, so that piqued my interest.

The Long HalloweenThe Long Halloween was published over the course of a little over a year from 1996-1997, and follows the monthly, holiday-based serial killings of Gotham City mobsters. It gets Batman into his detective role, with a case that is incredibly hard to crack.

I don’t think I have too much to say about this comic, but I’ll try. More than anything, like other comics LitFlix I have read (comics with a film based on them), it is and it isn’t The Dark Knight. So many of the ideas are there, but at the same time, it is a different story. More than anything, they share one major thread: the origin story of Two Face. So read on for my review of this comic series, spoilers in tow!

After Batman: Year One

So I’m glad I read these in order! I read Batman: Year OneΒ a few months back, which was Frank Miller’s exploration of the early days of Batman and Jim Gordon. Written decades after Batman began, Year One went back to the beginning, or really before the beginning.

Because unlike how movies do it, the comic didn’t start with the origin story and early days.

A lot of what ended up as Batman Begins, as well as the show Gotham, was in Batman: Year One. In the introduction to The Long Halloween, they then drew the connection that I’m building to: The Long Halloween is also based on Year One. Their starting thought was that there were all the mobsters in Year One whose stories were never really resolved.

Mobsters who have been such an important part in the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight movies, and in Gotham.

Clearly, time has passed. Batman has been Batman for a while. Gordon is looking older. But it hasn’t been too long: Harvey Dent is still a district attorney, and the mob is still around. Arkham Asylum has clearly become the place where all the super villains end up, but they haven’t broken out too many times yet.

But times, they are a changin’.

Mobster or Villain?

The Long Halloween chronicles the transition of Gotham from the rule of fear and power of the mob, to the super villains being the force of fear in the city. And this change really is personified in Harvey Dent, as he becomes Two Face.

As Harvey Dent, he fights the mob. He finds ways to take them apart. He wants to beat them so much that he is willing to work with Batman, willing to bend the rules to take down the bad men. In one last strong moment for the good guys before things start going poorly, Batman and Dent go to burn the mob’s money. They can’t find Batman, but they can find Dent…

I Believe in Harvey Dent

And there in the text, as well as in other places throughout, that line… I believe in Harvey Dent.

Slowly, as more of the mob dies to the Holiday Killer, they become more desperate. They start to turn to the crazies, to the super villains. Breaking their own code, their own desire to stay away from them. To not become them.

Batman, meanwhile, is investigating or dealing with a different super villain pretty much every issue. Running them down, the usual suspects, to figure out who the killer is. Or being taken out of commission by them, like Poison Ivy does. Hired by the mob to stop Bruce Wayne from standing in the way of their money laundering.

All in all, it was interesting to see this transition. Interesting to see so many members of Batman’s rogues’ gallery. Early days, but not the first encounter between any of them and Batman. Well, except for Two Face.

Two Face, who, once created by the acid-in-the-face courtroom scene, pulls together the rogues’ gallery and, once and for all, gets rid of the mob from Gotham. Completing Harvey Dent’s goal, giving the super villains free reign in Gotham, and transitioning into the latter role himself. So you get to see the change large-scale and small-scale.

The Rogues' Gallery

Final Thoughts

I am working my way through the Batman canon, and I’m getting pretty close. Hush should be next, as I have that requested at the library. And really, I find it fascinating that there is a canon of Batman comics at all – as I’m not sure you can say the same of other comics. Maybe the X-Men? Days of Future Past, Dark Phoenix Saga, Age of Apocalypse.

Oh wait, those are just the ones I grew up on.

But with Batman there is. Year One, The Long Halloween, Hush, Knightfall, and The Dark Knight Returns. So with a couple more of these, I should feel pretty well read in Batman comics, and I’ll move on to a new project!

As one last note, reading the comics in paper is just really hard for blogging purposes. Getting pictures of pages is so much easier in digital! But you can’t beat the price of free from the library for these. Don’t have good graphic novels in your library system? See if they have a way to request new additions!

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22 responses to “Batman: The Long Halloween Review

  1. It’s been so long since I read a graphic novel, I may have to make it my first resolution this year (still haven’t committed to any!). I’m tempted to go with Batman as this is one comic I’ve never read – my limited knowledge, and my enjoyment, stems from the films πŸ™‚

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    • That sounds like a great resolution for the new year πŸ™‚ I enjoyed The Long Halloween, as you get a lot of Batman characters, and a good mystery throughout which I avoided talking much about so as to not spoil anyone!

      I also really enjoyed Year One, more for Gordon than for Batman! That might be part of why I’m really enjoying the show Gotham…

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  2. I LOVE The Long Halloween. You should put off Hush and check out Dark Victory next, which is the sequel to The Long Halloween and introduces The Boy Wonder!

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    • I got a copy of The Dark Knight Returns which came with The Dark Knight Strikes back. That sequel was just not as good as the original, and I didn’t get very far. Although, that might have to do with all the other DC characters who were showing up that I didn’t really know… There’s a Batman: Year Two as well which I haven’t looked up. Seems like there’s a sequel to all of these…

      I’ve definitely heard of Dark Victory so I’ll have to look it up now that I’ve heard it recommended πŸ™‚ Hush comes strongly recommended as well (and I’ve already requested it from the library…) so that will probably come first, but that’s okay!

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      • Yeah I haven’t even bothered with The Dark Knight Strikes Back, I think that’s after Frank Miller went really extreme. I liked Hush a lot, although I was surprised when I realized that it’s actually gotten a really mixed reaction from a lot of people, some think it’s terrible!

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  3. Just like to point out that you are making your way through the Batman canon pretty much the same way I did…through free rentals at your local library. I know exactly what you meant about reading these graphic novels on paper presenting some big challenges to blogging about them. I also agree that it kind of seems like Batman is the only one who has a must read canon which is so clearly delineated. That is actually a big reason why I have personally read more Batman comics than any other character: It is just so much easier to know where to start with him. DC has a super helpful guide, available for free on the Kindle, to all of its iconic graphic novels, and it is funny how many of the Batman ones I had heard of already and how many of the other ones were completely new to me. A lot of that is because how often you would hear specific graphic novels mentioned as heavy influences on each film in the Dark Knight trilogy. Either way, I would keep going in order pretty much the way you have been, but down the road I would heavily recommend the Court of Owls saga in the New 52 Batman and Death of the Family, although if you had to pick just one definitely go with the latter.

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    • I think that the New 52 is my goal when I get through the Batman canon. I’ve had Batman and Wonder Woman both recommended (possibly both by you?). Will also be interesting to compare some of what they’ve done with the New 52 to what Marvel has done with their (constant) soft reboots the last few years…

      I’m also thinking about your point about most-read characters… I may reach a point where I have read the most of Batman. I’ve read lots of team comics at this point – X-Men and Avengers and Guardians and I’m planning on Fantastic Four at some point. But single characters? Some Nightcrawler, a bit of Iron Man, some Captain America, Superman Birthright… but no, it’ll probably be Batman!

      I read Superman Birthright, speaking of, on Kindle. It definitely seems like that’s where DC went to publish a lot of their big graphic novels digitally. Will have to look that guide up! I know there’s the Darkest Night story for Green Lantern… all I really ever hear for him. And though I love Flash and Arrow as shows, I have no idea where I would start reading Flash or Green Arrow comics! Well, maybe with the New 52…

      And yes, lots of library love!

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  4. My advice is to find an online comic retailer like Midtown, who sells back issues pretty cheaply, and get some of the Legends of the Dark Knight mini-series. A lot of these are 4-5 issue arcs taking place early in Batman’s career, taking place either during or shortly after “Year One”. LotDK was one of the best modern Batman titles. While Shadow of the Bat typically had the best art and writing, most of those were one-offs or two parters at most.

    Also, here’s something that’s pretty useful and awesome: http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/the-modern-age/

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    • One thing that Marvel has that I haven’t found a DC equivalent of is Marvel Unlimited. It’s a great way to go back and read the older comics on the cheap – just with the annual subscription fee. They don’t have everything digitized, but they’re working on it (I’m looking at you, Thor: Ragnarok…).

      Part of what I’m trying to do is cut way back on how much I was spending on comics. 2013 especially I spent rather a lot on comics, getting caught up in getting them week-to-week digitally where I was paying $3-4 each. Adds up FAST.

      I think that’s some of where reading Batman is so good – because he has a canon of top comics, those have all made their way into the library. They don’t necessarily carry a lot of superhero comics, even trade paperbacks, but tend to have the big stories.

      Anyway, I will have to look up the Legends of the Dark Knight, and at Midtown comics online! See if there’s a nice middle ground between buying constantly and buying nothing…

      As a last sad note, I wish there were a comic shop in town. Instead, the gaming store in town just closed down with the new year…

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      • Well, another good thing about Batman is that some of the best stories were from an era (late 80s, early 90s) when the presses were creating a glut in the market so back issues from this period are incredibly cheap. The most I’ve paid for back issues was around $2 (local comic store), and the least was around .75 (Midtown’s online store). You can get a full trade paperback’s worth of content, complete with period advertisements for Sega Game Gear and the latest Steven Segal movies along with letters to the editor for around 1/3 the price. Ironically, a lot of the batman trades (especially those that collect the Legends of the Dark Knight arcs) are WAY more expensive than individual issues.

        There are a few exceptions to this, of course; the Knightfall trades and Bruce Wayne Murderer/Fugitive trade cram enough issues in that you’re not paying more per issue. If you haven’t read Knightfall, I highly recommend it. The first volume in particular is some of the best Batman you’ll read.

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  5. So I missed one for the Batman canon: The Killing Joke. We read that last year too:
    https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/catching-up-the-killing-joke/

    And I didn’t link to the great The Dark Knight Returns review that Gene’O wrote, so I’ll do so here:
    https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/batman-retired-are-you-kidding-me-millers-the-dark-knight-returns-part-1-of-2/
    https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/the-dark-knight-v-the-man-of-steel-the-dark-knight-returns-part-2/
    Then I read it and added a review with a different take:
    https://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/the-dark-knight-returns-and-moral-relativism/

    If you want more great Batman discussion, I recommend Jeremy’s writing over on Sourcerer. Here’s a link to his biggest hit:
    http://sourcererblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/is-batman-a-marvel-character-trapped-in-the-dc-universe/

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  8. This is my favourite book of all time. I read it every year. This was the book I always ordered and pushed the hardest at the store I used to work at. You should check out Catwoman: When in Rome next. It’s also Loeb and Sale. Almost as good as this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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