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‘Batman: The Long Halloween’: a comics review

Batman: The Long Halloween is a collaboration between long-time creative partners, writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale. It covers the earlier part of Batman’s career (taking place a few months after Frank Miller’s excellent Batman: Year One). It was a project aimed at combining film noir style, focusing on Batman as the detective figure, as well as his role as a superhero as his rogues gallery becomes more and more prominent in the Gotham crime scene.

Writing:

The plot revolves around a murder mystery, in which murders against the prominent Falcone family occur on each holiday from Halloween for the next year. It also shows the rise of Batman’s rogue gallery. On the whole, the mystery works out pretty well. Transforming Harvey Dent into Two-Face in the process. It doesn’t say all that much about Batman unfortunately, but does a good job at establishing the existence of Bruce Wayne aside from Batman on occasion. The greatest fault of the work is that some of the rogues feel more like cameos than actual parts of the story. This is true in every case pretty much (aside from Catwoman, who is written well in the narrative).

The Joker is probably the best example of this, as he comes in in one issue and then quickly leaves. Joker also seems played down here, he’s nowhere near as chaotic or interesting in his best works. To an extent he is sort of dull. Most of the rogues actually feel that way here, and it’s unfortunate. Two-Face is the other exception to this. The Long Halloween is as much a murder mystery as it is an origin story for Two-Face. The reader can clearly see Harvey’s development from beginning to end, and it plays far better than that of the Joker.

There is a twist at the very end of the narrative after the mystery has been ‘solved,’ but it doesn’t really add all that much in my opinion. Regardless, of the twist the story had already been resolved and the development for the respective characters already established. It’s actually sort of redundant and more a tease to the reader, especially since they’re the only ones to know about it. It could’ve ended sooner and been just as good (if not better without it).

Art:

Tim Sale’s art can simply be described as hyper-realism. His penciling gives a strong sense of reality to Gotham, from the city landscape to the general designs for the characters. On the other hand, there is a definite exaggeration of features from time to time. The most noticeable of these is Batman’s muscles and the Joker’s jawline and huge teeth. I can sort of pardon the former, because it was the general style of drawing heroes during the ’90s, but I am confused by the Joker’s design. Sale’s vision of the Joker is probably one of my least favorite in terms of the art. I feel like the exaggeration of the teeth and the jaw are pointless, especially for a character that has a small role in the overall story. This exaggeration pays off well though with the depiction of Poison Ivy. The sprawling ivy benefits from this exaggeration. Without a doubt this is stylish art, and its highlights are generally the black and white murder scenes juxtaposed with the color holiday decoration. The first and last pages are a good opening and closure for the work as well.

Final Opinion:

Batman: The Long Halloween is a good story in the earlier part of Batman’s career. I don’t feel like the murder mystery was as good as it could have been, and the twist at the end wasn’t all that necessary. But it serves as a good transition in understanding both Batman and Gotham as the problem begins to become more and more supervillains, rather than the mob. Without a doubt it’s a stylish work. It has it’s flaws both in the writing and the art, but is good on the whole. I recommend this mostly for Batman fans, or fans of superhero related material. A lot of the work takes a lot of its value from a general understanding of the Batman world, but nothing overt. In my opinion, this isn’t the best early Batman story, but a good story in its own right.

Batman is owned by DC Comics. Batman: The Long Halloween is written by Jeph Loeb, with art by Tim Sale.

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