How Batman: The Long Halloween Transcends Superhero Storytelling

 

Batman: The Long Halloween wasn’t the first comic book that I had read, but reading it is one of my earliest memories reading comic books. I still remember my first time reading the story front to back without getting up or stopping. From the first page and “I believe in Gotham City”, I was transfixed. I’ve always loved Batman. He’s been an obsession of mine since I was a little kid and saw my first episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight changed how I looked at movies and if I had to make a list of my favorite comic books, most of them would probably be Batman. I’ve read a lot of Batman over the years (too much probably), but still, The Long Halloween tops them all.

The Long Halloween is a murder-mystery/mafia-drama sewn into one. A killer is on the loose and they’re picking off everyone in Carmine Falcone’s life. Only killing on holidays, they’re nicknamed “Holiday”. What follows is us going from holiday to holiday, trying to unravel the mystery while diving deeper and deeper into our four main characters; Bruce Wayne, Carmine Falcone, James Gordon, and Harvey Dent.

The Long Halloween is written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale. a duo that would go on and collaborate together again and again, creating some of my favorite books from both DC and Marvel (Side note: If you haven’t read their book Spider-Man Blue, do yourselves a favor and read it asap). Jeph Loeb has a way of diving into the psyche of his characters that is unmatched. I don’t know if anyone does narration and inner monologue better. Whether it is The Long Halloween, or Spider-Man Blue, or Hush, he has a way of inviting you into these characters’ lives like no other. Tim Sale’s art is the best it’s ever been. The deep and dark colors paint Gotham City perfectly for this noir tale, and the black and white panels are haunting.

It’s the story that shifts us from the gritty and real world of Gotham where the underworld is run by gangsters and corrupt officials, to the new world, Batman’s world, that’s run by freaks in costumes. The friendship between Batman, Dent, and Gordon is my favorite part of the book. They’re three men all fighting for the same cause, but in their own way and walking their own tightrope of morality. As the story goes on, their relationship complicates and begins to fall apart.

It’s topped off by Harvey Dent’s final descent into madness, where he becomes Two-Face (another part of the story that reminds me of The Godfather).  Harvey’s descent has always reminded me of Michael Corleone’s. That, along with the book having the same opening, some similar dialogue and visuals, and Carmine Falcone looking just like Vito Corleone. There’s some Silence of the Lambs in the book too, with Batman and Calendar Man.

In The Long Halloween, we spend a year with these characters. We live with them and really get to dive into their personal lives. Whether it’s Gordon’s family life, Dent’s relationship with Gilda, or Bruce Wayne, we see how this case that these three men have taken on, and their obsession with it, affects their loved ones and all those around them.

And it’s no different for Carmine Falcone, the main antagonist in this villain filled book that nearly touches Batman’s entire rogues gallery.

Falcone is not an evil, maniacal, super-villain. He’s a mobster, but he’s also a family man. He’s a Mafia Don trying to hold onto his crumbling empire. He’s trying to hold onto the old days, how things once were. And from his perspective, there’s this freak dressed as a bat who’s trying to disrupt the order of things. Carmine Falcone is not presented as the good guy, but we do get to see his perspective. We see him be a father, a brother, and an uncle. There’s a lot of depth to him and I honestly think he’s Batman’s most underrated adversary.

Christopher Nolan said of The Long Halloween that “It’s a crime epic. Jeph Loeb did this incredible job of taking the more exotic elements of the Batman universe and grounding them in a believable world. He took supporting characters and gave them real lives and real emotions. And real consequences to their actions. This has tremendous impact on the reader. The Long Halloween is more than a comic book. It’s an epic tragedy.”

And that’s what it is. The Long Halloween is a tragedy. When it ends, we’re not left feeling victorious. The “bad” guys get taken down, but at what cost? As it says on the back of the book, it’s about “A costumed hero learning he can trust no one. A crime lord trying to hold onto a crumbling empire. An honest district attorney hiding a terrible secret. And a friendship that would be shattered forever.”

The Long Halloween is a masterpiece. It’s Jeph Loeb’s best work. It’s Tim Sale’s best work. Sometimes I think it’s Batman’s best work. It’s a mob story, it’s a mystery thriller, it’s a story about family, it’s about a man’s descent into madness. It’s everything you’d want in a Batman story. All of this and more is why I love Batman: The Long Halloween.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: