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 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 One 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…
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.
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!