Sunday, 16 September 2012

Batman: The Long Halloween

I'll begin by saying that I'm not a fan of Jeph Loeb. He relies too heavily on continuity references and crowbarring in as many characters as possible. Perhaps his most infuriating trait is the constant attempts to introduce mysteries into his writing. More often than not you'll be left without a definitive answer, unable to decipher one for yourself because Loeb's plotting is so haphazard.
Unfortunately Batman: The Long Halloween epitomises all of the above points.
The story unfolds over the period of a year in Gotham City. It concerns the corrupt Falcone family's stranglehold on the city and a pact formed by police captain Jim Gordon, Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent, and Batman to bring them to justice. It’s gangster intrigue DC Universe style.
The first hint that this title is full of nonsense comes from just flicking through its pages. Loeb has gone out of his way to cram in as many members of Batman's rogues gallery as possible. You'll see the usual suspects such as Joker, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Two Face, who actually receives a revamped origin story. It all feels too busy. There's no need for the majority of these villains to be included, leaving you with the feeling that they're present because Loeb gets a thrill from it and falsely believes it lends the book credibility as a Batman title.
Another part of the trouble is that Loeb expects everyone to be as well versed in the character's history as he (thinks he) is. Why should a casual reader care who Calendar Man is, for example? Loeb has plucked elements from history to appease fans, overlooking anyone who may be picking up a Batman title, or even a comic in general, for the first time. The Batman mythos is placed front and centre but so much is made of it that it actually detracts from the comic.
The Long Halloween's biggest crime has to be its laboured mysteries. Without wishing to give too much away one of the book’s sub-plots sees one of the Falcones murdered. Nobody is revealed as the killer in the pages of the comic though Loeb insists that all the clues are there if you look for them. If they do exist then they are skilfully hidden because nobody ever seems entirely clear on who did it. It’s easy for Mr Loeb to say people should be able to work it out, he wrote the blasted book!
While it’s not recommended reading Long Halloween still has its merits. Loeb writes the Batman character very well, acknowledging that he's a detective as well as a superhero and Gotham's conscience. Anyone who's seen Bale and Nolan's The Dark Knight should also enjoy seeing part of the film's inspiration and source material.
It’s Tim Sale is what gives this title its greatest selling point. His dark, brooding art is the perfect fit for a Batman tale. The deep shadows suit 'The Caped Crusader' as well as they do the film noir attempt of a plot. Sale gives us an interesting take on each character, with the Joker standing out alongside Batman as warranting particularly high praise.
It's the non-superheroes that really show how good the artist is. While most people could draw something approaching a recognisable Batman thanks to the character's distinctive costume Sale creates a cast of people in suits that have their own instantly recognisable looks and personalities.
Visually pleasant it may be, but Batman: The Long Halloween is an utter disappointment for anyone who values a logical plot.

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