With Halloween just a few days away, I thought it’d be a good time to take a look back at Batman: The Long Halloween. Written by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale, this is a classic Batman story with film noir feel. Loeb crafts a masterful mix of hardboiled crime, mystery, and superheroes without making any of these elements feel like they are out of place. Yet despite this expert craftsmanship, there are things in this book that could do with some improvement.
Batman: The Long Halloween was originally printed in thirteen monthly issues, starting in October 1996, and wrapping up the following October. The story follows Batman as he attempts to discover the identity of Holiday, a murderer who is killing members of Gotham’s crime families on holidays, starting with the murder of Johnny Viti, nephew of mafioso Carmine Falcone, on Halloween. Thus begins a yearlong hunt by Batman, Captain Jim Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent. The story takes some wonderful twists and turns as the year progresses, which leads to its eventual conclusion. The final twist is good enough that I won’t spoil it for you, but rest assured that it is one of the better ones I’ve seen in quite a while.
By far the best part of this book was Jeph Loeb’s story telling. In the forward to the edition I own, Loeb says that much of the credit for the book goes to Archie Goodwin, former editor of DC, for pushing Loeb to tell a noir story about the Gotham crime families set in the Batman: Year One time period. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, Loeb took a good idea and ran with it as hard and fast as he could.
The characterizations of rival gangsters Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni is fantastic. Both men see themselves as legitimate business men and try to conduct themselves as such when in public. They often attend events together and quietly trade barbs even as they rage and plot against each other behind closed doors. Not only are these characters fully fleshed out, but so are the secondary characters that surround them. The only real issue with this is that at times it feels like a few plot points are being taken right from The Godfather. For instance, the opening scene at a wedding and the inclusion of a son who is not involved in the family “business”. While these points take different turns in Long Halloween than they do in The Godfather, I do wish that Loeb had taken the opportunity to write new, fresh material, instead of borrowing from the most well-known Mafia story that exists.
Not only is The Long Halloween a good noir crime story, it is also a solid Batman story. Long Halloween has my two favorite elements of a Batman comic: plenty of costumed villains and Batman showing off his investigative abilities. Batman has always been known as “the detective,”—which is fitting given the fact that he first appeared in Detective Comics—and he is always at his best when he is fulfilling that role. The mystery portion of Long Halloween provides a great opportunity for Batman to test his skills as a detective. While the story doesn’t focus much on this aspect, it is still constantly there, most often expressed through Bruce’s inner monologue.
Of course, what would a Batman story be without his usual cast of costumed adversaries? For my money, no one beats out Batman for the best rogues gallery (That includes Flash. Deal with it.), and Long Halloween has no shortage of them. Almost every major Batman villain gets at least a cameo at some point and others play a much more leading role.
As always, the Joker is present and is more a force of chaos than anything else. He is as clueless about the identity of Holiday as everyone else is, but figures that by killing everyone at a New Year’s Eve celebration in Gotham Square he stands a pretty good chance to taking Holiday out. Joker isn’t too fond of the competition for Gotham’s craziest citizen.
By far the most interesting of the villains is Catwoman. Loeb takes full advantage of the Year One setting and really takes the time to explore the beginnings of this complex relationship. While Bruce is obviously involved with Selina Kyle, Batman has a back and forth with Catwoman which frequently mirrors the interactions between Bruce and Selina. We know that eventually Batman figures out that Catwoman and Selina are the same person, but at least for now it’s really quite interesting watching these two interact, completely unaware of who the other is.
My biggest complaint when it comes to the story involves Harvey Dent. The origin of Two-Face is one of the most over told origin stories in the Batman franchise and at this point, I can really do without another retelling. Admittedly this was written in 1996 and at the time it might not have been so over used, but unfortunately it is now 2013 and the story is played out. Yes, it would have required some things to be done differently, but I feel that showing the darkness in Harvey and using it to foreshadow what we all know to be inevitable would have been far more powerful. It is also odd to me that they always seem to shoehorn his transformation in very near the end of a story. In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight we also see the transformation of Dent, and like Long Halloween it is very near the end of the story. Creators do this otherwise well written origin a disservice by rushing through and not allowing it to fully develop.
When it comes to Tim Sale’s art, I find it to be hit and miss. Sale is a very talented artist, and this story provides several opportunities for him to show off. There are plenty of spectacular double page spreads that really enhance the story. I’m also quite fond of the murder scenes which are done in black and grey, except for the blood and the holiday themed trinket that is left behind (not always in color, but it looks better when they are). While I’m not overly thrilled with the choice of color palette, I freely admit it works with the story and doesn’t take anything away.
There are two areas where I find the art falling short. First is some of Sale’s women. When Sale wants to make a woman look beautiful, like Selina Kyle, then he succeeds with flying colors, making them truly appealing. On the other hand, when Sale attempts to make a woman look ugly or unattractive they just look poorly drawn. Sofia Falcone, daughter of Carmine, more often looks like a poorly depicted drag queen than a woman. I found it distracting and it removed me from the story several times.
My second issue is the inking. Since there is no separate artist listed as inker, one can only assume that Sale was inking his own work. I think that Sale was attempting to use ink to convey a noir feeling, but there are many examples where he takes it too far and the panel becomes confusing. Several times it took far too long for me to figure out what was going on panel to panel when there was no dialogue to help guide the story. Really great art should be able to tell the story easily, without dialogue or narration.
Even with its shortcomings, I would highly recommend Batman: The Long Halloween. It’s a great noir story with superheroes mixed in. While Loeb and Sale have teamed up on other Batman works, this is still the strongest of their partnerships. With this in mind, I’m pleased to announce that we will be giving away an Absolute Edition of Batman: The Long Halloween. The contest begins, rather fittingly, on Halloween (October 31) 2013 and ends at 11:59 pm EDT on Sunday November 3, 2013. See below for entry rules and good luck.
RULES: Please read the rules for entry carefully.
1) Entry is easy: simply comment on this post! Comments must be of some substance. This means no one word posts or gibberish.
2) Unfortunately, entries can only be accepted from persons living in the United States.
3) The winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries and announced on November 4, 2013. Every effort will be made to contact the winning party before the public announcement. The winner will need to provide an address where the prize can be shipped. (However, this should not be included in the comment.)
4) If it is determined that the winner is ineligible (not living in the United States, etc) then a new winner will be chosen at random, and contacted.
5) Failure to comply with the rules listed will result in an ineligible entry.
6) Final determination of eligibility will be done solely by the staff of Therefore I Geek.
7) Seriously, get out there and enter! This is an awesome prize.
41 responses to “Review: Batman: The Long Halloween plus Special Giveaway”
One of the best comics ever written and the art is amazing. Long live the bat.
I love the murder scenes. How they look like memories almost. Need to read this again , give me the book!
I am really trying to get into Batman comics again. I read them a ton when I was younger, but college wiped my bank account out. Thank you for doing this! Fingers crossed….
This is such a great book, I only read it when I checked it out at the library, would love to have this to read every Halloween. Thank you for the opportunity
I just got the first issue of this as halloween giveaway from my LCS. It was awesome and I want to read the rest of it.
Some of my favorite artwork
What a great Graphic novel it has so much of everything and really plays to its strengths, and the art is wonderful to look through. I gave my copy away long ago to a friend and I never bought another one, but have always meant to. If I win awesome if not then I may just go out and buy it =D
One of the all-time great Batman stories.
I’m a pretty big fan of Long Halloween, but I do recognize the criticisms you brought here. Two-Face’s origins was a little rushed, especially in a story that I felt had great pacing. One of my favorite interpretations of Two-Face was in the 1992 animated series. They spent a whole episode showing how troubled Harvey was and the deep emotional scarring that would lead him to break. The Long Halloween and Dark Knight film only show Harvey lose his temper once or twice instead of showing his dual personality, which isn’t really doing the character justice. As for inking, it can be difficult to look at some times, but I love the colors. I love Tim Sale’s artwork. His Joker design was bizarre to me at first, but I grew to love it. I enjoyed all the characters, even Sofia. Loeb’s writing was great. Had me interested in the mystery and characters from start to finish. I finished first reading Long Halloween in one night because I couldnt put it down. Long Halloween is among my favorite stories. It is beatifully written and beautifully drawn. I’d love to see the Absolute version and what extra content it has over the regular trade.
Lately I have been obsessed with batman, and I would love to have a new graphic novel to add to my collection. This is supposed to be a great Batman story, and since I haven’t read it yet, it would be great to get it!
I had a copy of TLH, but it fell apart. I’ve never been able to bring myself to buy a new one.
I had a copy of this book once, but the pages fell out of the spine. Never had the heart to spend money on a replacement.
For me, Long Holloween is the definitive Batman story. Most of the major players have a small part in this mystery and it just comes together so well.
Wow, the artwork looks great. I love a good detective story.
I recently bought Haunted Knight because I couldn’t find The Long Halloween in stores. I loved Haunted Knight for the tone that Loeb and Sale set, so I am really looking forward to The Long Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday w/my favorite character.
What I loved about this story; was that it really played out like a detective story. You had a case, you had suspects, motives, clues, and in the end, even Batman doesn’t get the full picture. It does have really nice pacing, and I love how Calendar Man, actually knew exactly what he was saying,, and it makes sense. Its a fantastic read.
I am vengeance, I am the night, I am the Batman!
This has always been one of my favorite Batman stories, I would love to be able to read the absolute
I’ve never been one for cape comics, but time and time again this particular volume has been on several ‘recommended reading’ lists and friend’s shelves. I may have to look into it, just to see if it’s up to the hype, which I don’t doubt it is!
I’ve wanted to read this for the longest time, and this review only makes me want it more?
The standalone Batman stories are usually the best. Haven’t read this one yet but I’m looking for the chance.
If there was ever an essential Batman story to have in hardcover, it’s The Long Halloween. Does anyone have any thoughts on Loeb and Sale’s follow-up Dark Victory?
Don’t mind if I live in Europe.
First of all, great reflected review. For some reason I didn’t handle to purchase this novel yet – shame on me!
Do you write more reviews of this kind? How are you standing with Batman in general?
I have in mind to publish a book about the caped crusader based on interviews with people that adore/ are maniacs about Batman.
The project is still in it’s infancys but I’d like to keep you in mind if you are interested.
I actually went and picked up a copy of this yesterday as a prize for a Halloween costume contest at work. Reading a lot of the comments and reviews on it, I’m saddened that I was asked to pick up their last copy as a prize, and hope that whoever ends up receiving this as their prize is actually a fan of Batman. After recently reading, and loving the Killing Joke, I’m hungry for more!
@Luke, I think Dark Victory is a pretty solid book, but it’s just so hard to follow Long Halloween. One of the quintessential DC comics, in my opinion.
I really enjoyed this book, although I definitely agree about some of the art. Sometimes I really like it, sometimes it’s just a huge miss. Sofia Falcone is very… odd looking. Of all of the art though, I’m actually the biggest fan of Catwoman’s costume.
I love batman and have wanted to read this for a while now. I would absolutely love to win!
I would love to win this. I love batman and have heard great things about this book time and time again.
One of my favorite and one of the best Batman stories ever. I don’t disagree with your criticisms of the story, but overall they don’t bother me. Sale’s art is amazing and sometime hard to look at. But I like that not every panel is a crisp and pretty. Like I said, this is one of my favorite Batman stories ever, and I will continue to read it often, even if I don’t win the Absolute Edition. Thank you for holding this contest!
This is the first batman book that I read. I had some friends who were talking about it, so I decided to get it inter-library loan and this book is why I started reading Batman currently.
I’ve heard so much good things about this series but haven’t gotten around to reading it, mostly due to lack of time and disposable income and this article just makes me want it even more! I know its a long shot but I would be extremely grateful if I get selected!
I just borrowed this comic from a friend a few months ago. Definitely one of my favorite Batman stories.
This is one of my all time favorite books. It was the book that got me into comics and I absolutely love it. This (along with Dark Victory) was Jeph Loeb and Sale’s crowning achievement.
The Long Halloween is definitely one of the best Batman books out there. I agree that the story telling is what truly makes this a must read graphic novel. Although the art may seem off at times, I think the drawing of Batman in some pages is amazing!
I’ve only recently (a few months ago) gotten into Batman and comics in general. This book has been on my list for a while, but I haven’t freed up the funds for it. The fact that so many rogues make an appearance makes me want it even more.
This is one of the most quintessential reads in the Batman Mythos. This can be attributed two things : Sale’s amazing art and Loeb’s writing.
The characterization of Harvey Dent in this book is what made me actually start to GET the character. The man is broken. The face is just superficial. And Bruce so desperately wants to believe the opposite even though he knows the truth. It’s fantastic when juxtaposed with The Dark Knight Returns because old Bruce KNOWS the truth about Harvey. And all that he has left is pity.
I’ve really been wanting to read this again. I read my dads single issues a long time ago and loved the art and story so much.
Heard of The Long Halloween as one of the must reads for Batman fans, took no heed to it. Saw the image in your review of Batmans Rogue gallery, has me very interested.
As a 15 year old and a new comic fan, this would be a great way to start off my collection. Thanks for giving this away!
As I was watching Year One today I was thinking about how I would love to see this as an animated movie. I think if it were done in the style of Sale it’d be pretty cool
The Long Halloween is such a remarkable book from the Batman mythos. Thanks for your excellent review. I’m commenting to enter the contest…Sadly a friend borrowed my cover years ago and never returned it 😦 I hope that WB eventually gets a chance to animate this book into a DVD direct film because it would be so fantastic to see it fleshed out on the small screen. 🙂