SFF, fantasy literature, science fiction, horror, YA, and comic book and audiobook reviewsBatman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb

BATMAN LONG HALLOWEEN comic, fantasy, science fiction book reviewsBatman: The Long Halloween (1997) takes place soon after Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One (1987) in chronology. Batman is still in his early days of crime-fighting, while Captain Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent are trying to combat corruption in the police force and courts. This book is a lengthy and gripping noir story that goes back to Batman’s roots as a detective, as he and Jim and Harvey all try to solve the mystery of the Holiday Killer, who has been striking both the Falcone and Maroni crime families on major holidays, always with the same MO: a .22 caliber pistol with the serial number filed off, a baby bottle nipple to muffle the gunshot, and a little symbol to represent each holiday (pumpkin for Halloween, snow crystal globe for Christmas, heart-shaped chocolate box for Valentine’s).Batman_LH_1

This sets the two criminal organizations into an uproar, with both suspecting each other. It’s actually refreshing to see the mobsters on the defensive for a change, though of course Batman, Jim, and Harvey pledge to stop this vigilante crime wave. We get an in-depth look at the Carmine “The Roman” Falcone family: the don himself, nephew Johnny Viti, son Alberto, sister Carla, etc, along with Maroni and his henchmen.

As the gang war heats up between them, some of Batman’s supervillians begin to surface, such as the Joker, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, the Riddler, and Catwoman. The complexity of the multiple storylines, alliances, mobsters, supervillains, and crime-fighters is something to behold. For anyone who thinks comics are just for kids, read this one. It is deliciously noir detective procedural, and in some ways it really didn’t need to involve any of Batman’s traditional foes. In tone it felt more like a crime thriller, and while there is plenty of action, it’s the tangled web of suspicions that drives the story.

And of course, what noir detective story comic could be achieved without the right artwork. Tim Sale’s art is very stylized and melancholy, but also sharp and distinct. He excels at character’s expressions and at depicting a world of shadows: Gotham is a city perpetually in shadow, and the dark thoughts of the characters are finely articulated by Sale’s precise work. Most prominently, we see the very subtle but sinister transformation of the upright Harvey Dent into Two-Face. We get a taste for his internal struggle to balance seeking justice without crossing the line.batman

And no Batman story can ever be complete without his love/hate relationship with the sultry and mercurial Catwoman. As always, her loyalties are ever-shifting, but there are always sparks between the two.

I prefer this side of Batman, since I’m much more interested in a complex murder mystery than a series of slug-fests with monsters and supervillains. There is a follow-up by the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale team called Dark Victory that is up next, and then a more recent one by Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee called Batman: Hush.