I love comic books, but I don’t ever seem to indulge in them as often as I’d like. Films were my first love, and then novels. Short fiction and comics came much later — recently, even — when the urges to become a better writer and artist struck me hard in my second year of college.
Yesterday I finished Jeph Loeb’s Batman: The Long Halloween, and it has rekindled my love of graphic novels. Months ago, I read The Killing Joke, Cacophony, Batman R.I.P., and several others. Then I bought The Watchman and V for Vendetta — already two of my all-time favorite films — and, for some damn reason, never read them.
So I’m finally getting to that. Halfway through Gary A. Braunbeck’s To Each Their Darkness, which is a phenomenal horror fiction manifesto/memoir; expect a review very soon. Working slowly through Chuck Palahniuk’s bizarre but fascinating Haunted (which he calls a novel, but which is more like a chapbook of poems and short stories that are all interconnected), and enjoying it.
The artwork by Tim Sale was one of the big highlights for me. The Long Halloween is reminiscent of darker stuff, like The Killing Joke or Watchmen, but with a very distinctive style that I really appreciate as an artist. The level of detail, line quality, and draftsmanship is friggin’ stunning. Joker’s teeth, and Two-Face’s acid burn scars, are pretty frightening.
The color work is pretty recognizable as being typical of the mid-90s process, and adds beauty to Sale’s already-great drawings.
As for the story, it’s clear that the book — no secret, from what I’m told — was a huge influence on the Christopher Nolan films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Both Carmine “The Roman” Falcone and Salvatore “The Boss” Maroni are key players in the Gotham City underworld of organized crime and corruption; each of these guys were instrumental figures in the plots of both of Nolan’s movies.
Harvey Dent’s campaign against the mob and subsequent tragic fall into villainy as the murderous Two-Face is also a key plot point for the graphic novel — one that is well played out, and reminiscent of both Joel Schumacher’s infamous Batman Forever and The Dark Knight. In light of this focus, the Joker plays a far less important role in the comic, but is nevertheless present throughout the story, along with Mad Hatter, Riddler, Solomon Grundy, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy.
The great mystery driving the plot is that of the so-called “Holiday Killer,” a shooter who begins hunting down members of the Falcone crime family starting with Halloween and continuing on with a significant murder taking place on each big holiday of the calender year.
The revealing of evidence, suspicions, and character motivations have the reader guessing right along with Batman the whole time, and even by the end only the reader is fully aware of the Holiday Killer’s true identity. One of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a comic book, and perhaps the best story in the entire Batman mythos.
If someone asked me to recommend them one comic book/graphic novel from the ones I’ve read, I would recommend they read The Long Halloween. Expect more comic book-related geekouts in the near future.