Saturday, July 21, 2012

Comic Review: The Long Halloween

    I’m now up to three Batman graphic novels, and now the good outweighs the bad.  The Long Halloween plays like a hardboiled detective story, with a touch of the Godfather and a dash or two of Val Lewton.  Tim Sale’s art, from the angles to the use of shadows is straight out of the school of Film Noir.  It’s not always pretty, but it’s frequently striking.  And the story’s grim nature never really lets up.

    After the stage is set, the action starts with a Halloween murder in black and white, and red.  The mystery builds as the holidays come and go, leaving bodies in their wake.  A serial killer who strikes only on holidays?  Who could it be?  The list of suspects is a who’s who of Gotham City.  From the usual suspects all the way to the Dark Knight himself.

    Unlike my first experience with Batman comics, The Dark Knight Returns, the appearance of various characters and villains feels natural, not like they were plugged in as an excuse to put them on issue covers.  Catwoman and Harvey Dent are integral to the story, but when The Joker, The Riddler, and Poison Ivy show up, it’s not awkward or clunky.  And the use of The Calendar Man (seriously) as an almost Hannibal Lector character, creepily sitting like a spider in a web, deep inside Arkham Asylum is odd genius.

    Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are deeply rooted in this story.  Characters, themes, even whole scenes.  I just wish Harvey Dent had made it to the screen more intact.  He’s one of the more compelling characters in this volume and in the film, The Dark Knight, but it always feels like he takes a back seat to more flashy characters like The Joker.  Batman really does have some of the coolest villains and supporting characters, though I think too many are too often over shadowed by a couple of the bigger ones (Joker, Penguin, and Riddler…but mostly Joker).  I think Catwoman could be especially interesting, as she fits in like the classic Femme Fatale, straddling the line between hero and villain, always tempting, always dangerous.  Yet her story in this volume frustratingly lacks pay-off.  It feels like something was building over the course of the story, yet ultimately goes nowhere.

    It deserves its place as a classic graphic novel, and folks interested in Batman should give it a read.  I think it’s a heck of a lot better than The Dark Knight Returns for sure.  Definitely worth checking out.

Batman: The Long Halloween
Author: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3259-7


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