Halloween part 2: The Long Halloween! – Batmonth Finale (1996-1997)

 Here we go! The day I’ve been waiting for and building up to all month. The greatest book ever written. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s piece du resistance. The story of a series of murders on 12 of the major celebrations between Halloween and the following Halloween that Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent unite to solve. I have the Absolute Edition volume of it, and it is beautiful.

The full size versions of Tim Sales spreads are still not big enough to do the images justice. I just want a massive print of the first page framed and hanging over on my bed.

I love this book for so many reasons. Firstly, this book truly represents the passing of the torch. When the book begins Gotham city is a real place. Mobs are its biggest problem. Corruption exists, but is slowly being dealt with by Gotham’s real hero – James Gordon. Batman exists, but he’s kind of like a desert fork – yeah he’s around, but he’s really only there for a small purpose. But with this book, Joker declares himself the biggest bad, a large portion of the mob is wiped out through the holiday killings, and Dent tips the scales by bringing all the villains together in the end. From this point on, Batman’s justice is what Gotham asks for. 

We see Harvey’s slow burn. I like being able to watch a man fall. I like knowing where they came from, seeing what slowly chips at them, and then finally pushing them over the edge. And in this book there is no mention of his abusive father, or his mental disability, or any of those cliches. We see the job get to him. We see his safety invade, twice. We see trust disappear. We see him fail, get betrayed, and finally fall. And when he puts the pieces back together they aren’t all in the right place.

Loeb gives us great insight into how the job effects him and Gordon. They become lonely, distant from their families, which drives them to work harder, to do a better job, so that they can go home. It further supports Batman’s choice to be alone. I like this heartfelt side of Gordon quite a bit more than Year One that’s turns him into a cheater.

I can’t help but respect Loebs mastery of all the characters. He not only balances members and characteristics of multiple mob families, which is a feet in itself, but he also includes a large pantheon of Batman’s rogues gallery. Who knew that throwing all of the major players (minus penguin, what??!!) into the Godfather would taste so good?

 As I said, Joker really comes out on top here. In one issue he shows Maroni, Dent, and Falcone that he is king. And biplane battle… Flawless. Magnificently drawn, wonderfully executed, it’s a Christmas showdown for the books.

The humanizing of Solomon Grundy was quite touching. He is not a villain, he just wants peace. The thanksgiving meal was a nice touch.

The April fools issue where Riddler recaps everything is not only a smart play, but a devilishly clever way of incorporating the day while honouring it at the same time. It is not the issue I would use to advocate The Riddler’s importance or magnificence, but it is one of my favourite issues with him front and centre.

 The insanity that exudes out of the Scarecrow and Mad Hatter team up scenes is hilarious. After a great Mother’s Day issue with Scarecrow, it is nice to see him bro it up with Mad Hatter and get into a little bit of trouble.

Even Calender Man was used well. Having him become an advisor of sorts out of Arkham is a great nod of the hat to Bat’s campier books. I would have loved to do a post on him, but I don’t have the issue and it’s not online. Same with Solomon Grundy, the only origin I have is the New 52 Earth 2 villains month special.

The only character I don’t feel is used as well is poison Ivy, she was really just a Falcone hire to get Bruce to change his mind on some financial decisions. Decisions that really didn’t make a difference in the long run. But her confrontation with Catwoman is great.

 And Catwoman. She was phenomenal. Both Selina scenes and Catwoman scenes added so much depth and feeling to Batman’s story. She is the perfect magnifying glass with which to study Bruce under.

It is interesting, after a year of dealing with the financial and emotional stresses of infertility to see it be a driving force in this story. It is mentioned only here and there briefly, and even in one of Harvey’s other origin comics. But in the final scene when Gilda admits to being one of the Holiday Killers and attribute it to just wanting to start a family and life with him, it makes sense. It doesn’t justify anything, but I get it. Would I kill multiple times over just for a child. No. But are there extremes I would consider, absolutely, as long as they are legal.

 Alberto, Falcone’s son and the man Batman and Gordon believe to be the killer, has reasons as well, but his aren’t grounded. He did it to prove himself to a father who he believes doesn’t care for him, or even know his birthday. Which is wrong. Just like in the Godfather, Falcone kept him out of the business because of love. And as for the birthday, we see Falcone visit his son’s grave on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14th, his son’s birthday.

Harvey’s claim of being driven to killing in revenge, makes sense as well, but it’s not a feeling everyone gets quite as well.

And that’s where we end the book, with Gilda, Harvey, and Falcones son all claiming they are the killer. So who was it?

This book is full of clues and hints and misdirection, but I noticed something in reading the first issue before that I hadn’t before. Sometimes Batman is a liar. The first issue takes place mostly at a mob wedding, Bruce is a guest because they are trying to butter him up for his bank connection, and Harvey is there writing down license plates, which gets him into trouble. After being roughed up, Dent is found by Wayne and helped up. They chat quickly and then depart. When they meet again later on the roof of GCPD as Dent and Batman, Batman looks at him, lists a bunch of clues and says from these I gather you’ve been working on the Falcone case.

Really Batman? That’s why? Not because you saw him working on it half an hour ago? Ya cheater!

 Anyways, If you haven’t read this book, I’ve ruined the ending, but oh well, go read it anyway. The writing is great and the art cannot be beat.

Thanks for reading, and if you read any of the previous Batman posts this month, thanks for following along, I had a blast, I hope you did as well! Happy Halloween!

Images from Batman: The Long Halloween.


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