Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Matt Signal Advent Calendar 2014 Day 11: Batman: The Long Halloween #1

Batman: The Long Halloween #1, December 1996

"I believe in Gotham City."

Those are the words that begin one of my favorite Batman stories of all time. After three successful Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials, Jeph Loeb and Time Sale took on a much more ambitious project: a thirteen issue murder mystery set in Batman's early career. And whether you like it or not, or find the ending satisfying or not, you have to admit it was done in style and kept you wanting more.

Influenced by Batman: Year One, the vastly under-rated Batman Annual #14, "The Eye of the Beholder (a book that would have made this countdown if it were a few books longer)," and The Godfather (hence that opening line), The Long Halloween is the story of Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent attempting to bring down Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, the transition of Gotham from the old crime to the new super crime, and the descent of Harvey Dent, all plots revolving around the central mystery of who is Holiday, the killer shooting mobsters on holidays in Gotham. It keeps a lot of balls in the air, and features one of Loeb's trademarks, which is finding ways to get all sorts of Batman's rogues into the mini-series. It also gives fuller personalities to many of Gotham's mob figures, who were usually just straw men to forward a plot, and created some memorable characters in that vein.

Tim Sale also gets to stretch his artistic legs, drawing all these rogues as well as developing the looks for all of Gotham's mobsters and a great interpretation of both Harvey Dent/Two-Face and Jim Gordon. And this is a guy whose Batman stands in the upper ranks of great Batmans. The Holiday killings are all done in silence, with the colors shifting to black-and-white, giving a noir vibe to those sequences that makes them stick in my head to this day as some of my most remembered sequences in comics.

This makes my most well remembered comics for a couple reasons. The mystery held me absolutely enraptured for the full thirteen issues. I remember sitting around and theorizing, pouring over each issue looking for some clue I might have missed. This was when I learned comics came out a certain week each month, so I could make sure I'd be at the store on the right Wednesday to get the new issue the day it came out. It's also one of the comics I've reread the most, and have it not only in the original single issues, but also in trade and absolute edition. And while the end does have some problems, the pleasure really can be in the journey, and the journey here is one I like to revisit.

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