Fan Retrospectives: 'Batman: The Long Halloween' #1

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale

Review by Eric Lee


Welcome to our year long retrospective of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's seminal classic Batman story: The Long Halloween. Each retrospective will be released on a monthly basis. We will provide literary analysis and insight on one of the best Batman stories ever.

Is The Long Halloween as good as its reputation? Read on to find out!

Batman and 'The Godfather'

The story starts off with the writer Jeph Loeb homaging the opening to The Godfather. Just like Don Corleone, Bruce Wayne boldly proclaims: "I believe in Gotham City."
Bruce Wayne's character arc summed up in one sentence.

The sentence is simple, but an important statement that defines Batman's character arc for the whole series. He has just completed his first year as Batman and his promise to rid Gotham of crime may be in his grasp. Bruce is uncharacteristically optimistic in not only his own abilities, but the power of the city's judicial and police institutions. The fact that he says it to Carmine Falcone's face is even bolder. 
Carmine Falcone: Head of the biggest mob family in Gotham City

Falcone - a carryover from Batman: Year One - represents everything that Bruce hates. He is the head of the major crime family that perpetuates most of the crime in Gotham City. To say "I believe in Gotham City" is a metaphorical slap in Falcone's face.

Despite going to a Falcone family wedding, Bruce isn't there to socialise, but to spy on the mobster. Bruce does an uncharacteristically sloppy job of spying, as he is caught by Alberto Falcone, "The good son".


After making an unconvincing excuse, Bruce runs into Selina "Catwoman" Kyle. As they danced, they're being watched by Falcone's sister Carla Viti and her son Johnny.
Carla and Johnny Viti observe Bruce

Meanwhile, our other protagonist, Harvey Dent, is introduce. Unlike the high society snob Bruce Wayne dancing the night away, Dent is presented as almost a blue-collar worker. Despite being a District Attorney, he is doing grunt work like recording the license plate numbers of Falcone's guest in the parking lot.

There is a small, but fascinating animosity between Bruce and Dent. They are not friends here like they are in Batman: The Animated Series. Dent sees Wayne as a privileged, rich fop and sees himself as a salt-of-the-earth working man. It's a small character beat, but it subtly lays the foundation for Dent's eventual transformation into Two-Face.
Dent and Bruce have a rocky relationship

After Dent gets thrashed by Falcone's goons and saved by Bruce and Selina, he goes over to visit Commissioner Gordon. As Dent sulks, Gordon infers that he has a friend to help.

Falcone v. Harvey Dent

As the night goes on, Batman catches Catwoman stealing from Falcone's safe. Their fight draws attention to Falcone's guards and they make their escape. Check out the moment when Falcone spots Batman breaking into the house. His silent signal is touching his facial scars. 
Falcone's signals his henchmen by touching his scars

The scars are a callback from Year One, when Catwoman clawed his right cheek, but also visually sets up Falcone as Dent's (not Batman's) primary antagonist. 

Falcone's scars are on the right side of his face, whereas Dent's eventual Two-Face scars are on the left sides of his face. They are practically mirror images of each other, a dynamic that Loeb exploits frequently in throughout the series.


Speaking of visual metaphors/foreshadowing, see how Dent's left side is shadowed when he talks to Batman and Gordon. Anytime Dent becomes angry or frustrated, his left side becomes shadowed as a subtle reminder of his eventual villainous fate.

Dent's left side is shadowed when he is angry

The Promise

Dent, Batman, and Gordon agree to work in unison to take down the Falcone. What is most interesting is Batman's line before agreeing to the pact:

"I made a promise on the grave of the my slain parents. I would not rest until Gotham City was washed clean of the evil that took their lives. There could be no compromises. And yet..."

Batman's is risking exposure teaming-up with Dent

Batman is taking an enormous risk trusting both Dent and Gordon. Working with Gordon is one thing. He has already proven to Batman that he is an independent thinker outside the influence of the corrupt police force. But Dent is an outsider, and worse, is an integral part of the government system. To trust Dent can expose Batman to more trouble than he may want.

Despite this risk, over the course of months, the pact proves to be fruitful for the heroes. Batman intimidates Falcone's banker to keep the money out of the bank.

Holiday Strikes

Meanwhile, enough is enough. It is Halloween night. A mysterious figure places a .22 caliber in a vice, shaves off the serial number and...
Holiday prepares

We then meet the Gilda Dent, Harvey's wife. She plays the stereotypical wife role down to a "T", including being overly worried for no good reason.
Gilda Dent is stereotypically innocent-looking

Furthermore, artist Tim Sale makes Gilda's as humanly big as possible, maintaining a wide-eye, innocent look.

In the meantime, Johnny Viti draws himself a bath, only to get shot twice. The assailant flees the scene with Vitti bathing in a tub of his own blood and a small toy pumpkin behind.

Holiday kills Johnny Viti in the bath tub

Batman, Dent, and Gordon discuss who could have the galls to shoot the son of a Carla Vitti, who is a powerful mob boss in her own right. But Batman exits the conversation prematurely to confront Catwoman. Batman catches Catwoman in the middle of spying on Gordon and company. Why? To get Batman's attention. She relays a hot tip to Batman.

"It's Not About the Money..."

This leads to Dent and Batman to find a giant warehouse where Falcone is forced to stockpile his cash, since the banks won't launder it. In a scene similar to The Dark Knight, Batman and Dent set fire to all the money. Of course, the context is different from the film. Here, Batman and Dent do it to spite Falcone and hurt him financially.
Dent and Batman burn Falcone's money

This seems to wrap up Dent's Halloween on a high note. He finally put a hurt on Falcone and he made it back unscathed. Except, the next thing he knows, a bomb goes off. Dent, Gilda, and their house go up in a blaze.

Conclusion

Wow. What a great opening chapter. Loeb lays the groundwork for a lot of small clues that eventually lead to a bigger narrative down the line. And furthermore, Sale does a fantastic job creating a noir-ish vibe. Visually, this feels as much of The Godfather as it is Batman. And it works beautifully given the subject matter.

Suspense, drama, and intrigue. It is no hyperbole to say that after The Long Halloween, Batman, Dent, and Gordon will never be the same again.



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