Reviews: The Long Halloween

Style over substance

Okey, I'll admit I'm kind of punching a sacred cow here... but this story doesn't really stack up to its reputation as "one of the greatest Batman stories of all time!!!" It's not even really the best Two-Face story of all time, but more on that in a moment...

First, the good. Loeb and Sale are excellent storytellers in at least one vital regard: they know how to make every page, every panel feel important even when it's nothing but filler and/or redundant dialogue. Of all the writers who tried to ape Frank Miller's tough-guy narration/dialogue, few did it as well as Loeb. As for Sale's art: acquired taste, but I'm rather partial to his takes on Scarecrow, Hatter, and Ivy, if nothing else.

But that leads to the story's chief flaw: the central plot is actually a remarkably thin thing spread over thirteen issues when it probably could've been wrapped up in less than four. TLH sells itself (and is regarded) as a pseudo-sequel to Batman: Year One, but while Loeb and Sale get the surface bits down-pat, the pacing is almost a direct inversion of Miller and Mazzucchelli's minimalism. And the Holiday killer plot, while interesting at first, becomes increasingly choked by Villain of the Week stories that are only weakly connected.

Now, I love me some classic Batman villains, except the book doesn't really do much of anything memorable with them. The Joker gets a few humorously nasty bits, but everyone else is just kinda there so they can get set up in Two-Face's private army at the end (two main issues: why they'd take orders from him at all, and Penguin randomly showing up when wasn't even in the series before).

Speaking of Two-Face... honestly, at certain points TLH relies on the comparatively-obscure Batman Annual #14 so much that the latter is practically required pre-reading. Want to know just what the deal with Harvey's father is? Why he's suddenly using that coin to make all his decisions? The Annual's got all the juicy details, and TLH at best skims them. Its take on Harvey Dent's fall is more stylish and cinematic, perhaps, but I found it overall less substantial and tragic.

By the way, the Holiday mystery peters out in a pile of nonsensical twists instead of any logical solution, but many do find that more entertaining on the whole, so who am I to argue?