Comic: "Batman: The Long Halloween"
Published by: DC Comics
Written by: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Plot: Relatively early in his career, Batman must uncover the identity of a new menace in Gotham City: the Holiday Killer, who only strikes on holidays, but does so without fail. Meanwhile Gotham's new District Attorney Harvey Dent undergoes a hideous disfigurement and becomes the new villain known as Two-Face.
Review: Those of you who've only read his recent work almost certainly won't believe this, but there was actually a time when Jeph Loeb could spin some pretty good yarns (particularly when teamed up with artist Tim Sale). Batman: The Long Halloween is probably his best that I've read, and remains one of my absolute favorite Batman stories of all time.
I always love the stories that manage to work in a lot of Batman's rogues gallery, and the plot of The Long Halloween manages to weave them in and out of the story quite organically, with none of their appearances feeling purely gratuitous (something that Loeb doesn't quite do so well later in his career). Following some time not too long after the events of Batman: Year One and spanning over a year, this book takes place during what I feel is the most interesting time in Batman's career: when the freaks start coming out of the woodwork and really establishing themselves so Batman's not just fighting mobsters anymore, but these costumed villains are still new and fresh and there's a lot he has to learn about them yet. It's a goldmine rife with exciting story possibilities that I wish more writers would delve into.
I also really enjoy this book because Harvey Dent is one of my favorite characters, and this book portrays probably the most detailed depiction of his rise as Gotham's District Attorney and his fall as Two-Face (indeed, the film The Dark Knight owes a few things to this book). The relationship between Batman and Harvey is deeply explored both before and after his disfigurement, so there's more than enough to keep a Two-Face fan like me happy, on top of the fact that it's a compelling enough story in its own right.
I've got a friend who complains about the "mystery" angle of the story, stating that the mystery is "unsolvable" because critical information is kept from the reader, but that doesn't bother me at all. When you get to the end, you still don't precisely know who did it by design. You the reader are left to speculate along with the characters, and everybody has their own theory or interpretation of what actually happened. And that's what I actually like about the book--the fact that things are never explicitly spelled out for you. That's not to say that the killer isn't revealed--but there are a few twists and turns along the way that may leave you second guessing.
And the art is nothing short of amazing. I suppose there are some who don't care for Tim Sale's work, but I find his highly stylized interpretations of the characters to be refreshingly interesting. There's probably not a lot of middle ground with his style--you're either going to find it eye candy, like I do, or you're going to immediately dislike it, in which case you're really missing out.
For those of you who liked The Dark Knight but have never read any Batman comics, this is a fantastic introduction to the Bat in printed form. As with any long-published character who's had a lot of cooks in his kitchen, you're going to find stories of vastly varying quality that have been published, but this is definitely one of the high watermarks that shows you what the character's potential is when he's in capable hands.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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