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by Jeph Loeb (author) and Tim Sale (illustrator)
DC Comics, October 2011
384 pages
ISBN: 1401232590

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

While on the surface of things, a review of a Batman graphic novel may well seem a peculiar choice for a crime fiction-oriented website, once you strip away the cape of the hero and the make-up of the villains, Batman in most of his incarnations is essentially a hard-boiled detective who cleans up the streets that the local police are either unable or unwilling to fix. There are treacherous murderers, greedy mob bosses, femmes fatales, and a complex relationship with the powerbrokers of Gotham City that any crime fiction aficionado knows well; the elaborate make-up, stylized action, and other comic book elements are simply window dressing for a classic noir tale of yesteryear.

With this in mind, a look back to THE LONG HALLOWEEN is time well spent. The story (serialized in 1996 and 1997, and collected in present form in 1999) is a sequel of sorts to Frank Miller's landmark 1986 graphic novel BATMAN: YEAR ONE, which re-established the caped crusader as a darker, jaded figure that diverges sharply from the character popularized in the 1960s television show. Catching up with the famed and dangerous Falcone family that played a crucial part of YEAR ONE, the story begins with Batman's daytime persona Bruce Wayne attempting to stop the Falcones from laundering their money in the Gotham City Bank and we are introduced to the special and complex relationship that Police Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent share with Batman, as they try to bring the Falcone family within the confines of the law.

Quickly we flash towards Halloween night, where a series of murders begin that all occur on holidays. These lead the press to dub the still at-large killer "Holiday," much to the disdain of Gotham's large and colorful cast of villains, some of whom seem as interested in apprehending Holiday as Batman as the local authorities. Each chapter—or issue in its original form, features a different holiday and a new murder. As the mystery begins to unravel, we make it back to the following Halloween where the series of murders, the criminal dealing of the Falcones, and the increasingly disturbing behavior of DA Dent all come together for a twist-filled conclusion.

This, of course, makes for a satisfying and atmospheric tale that any fan of hard-boiled detective fiction will enjoy, and serves as a brilliant origin story for Harvey Dent, who transforms into "Two Face" by the end of the story. However, authors Loeb and Sale do get a little too cute with their final twist and while some of the brief appearances by vintage Batman villains have a more tangential role than others, the rotating cast of villains in each chapter is a bit distracting. One suspects that this sort of villain of the month aspect of the work perhaps worked better in serialized form, where interest had to be maintained to make the business model work, rather than a collected graphic novel that is purchased and read more as a single work.

Overall, though, the emphasis on character development and the beautiful noir-like art work in particular makes THE LONG HALLOWEEN a must-read for Batman fans and crime fiction buffs alike. For those concerned about diving into the voluminous Batman canon at this point in the caped crusader's career, even though it is a follow-up to Frank Miller's YEAR ONE, one really only needs the most perfunctory background knowledge of Batman to fully enjoy this treat of a tale.

§ Ben Neal is a librarian who likes to fancy himself an amateur writer, humorist, detective, and coffee connoisseur in his spare time. He can be reached at beneneal@indiana.edu.

Reviewed by Ben Neal, October 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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