Fan Retrospectives: 'Batman: The Long Halloween' #2

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale

With Harvey Dent's house destroyed, Batman and Gordon get to the bottom of the plot. However, as Batman digs deeper, he may unearth a more disturbing conspiracy under Gotham.

The comic opens with a visual callback to the start of issue #1. But instead of Bruce Wayne saying: "I believe in Gotham City.", Batman morbidly states: "Harvey Dent is dead." For a lesser writer, the mirrored visual motif ends there. But writer Jeph Loeb takes it a step further, making it work on a couple levels.
The opening from issue #2 is a visual and thematic callback from the opening of issue #1

We know that Dent is not really dead, the opening splash panel is an ironic foreshadowing of Dent's Two-Face turn. When readers compares  the openings to issue #1 and #2, it also foreshadows Batman's character arc for the rest of the storyline. As the story progresses, Batman goes from being idealistic and optimistic to becoming hardened and jaded.

Meanwhile, Gordon and Batman are interrogating the group of gangsters who bombed Dent's place. Despite them being one-shot characters, artist Tim Sale does an amazing job with their character designs. When looking at the shot of the gang in the jail cell, you can instantly distinguish all of them apart based on their facial features. Sale does not have a "Same-face" problem that plagues many comic book artists.
Everybody looks distinctively different

The head of the gang, Mickey Sullivan, claims he knows nothing about the Falcone crime family. The lie is quickly called out by Batman.

In an unusual storytelling technique, Mickey launches into an extended flashback sequence detailing how Batman pursued and caught him. This technique has not been replicated by Loeb in this series or its follow-up Dark Victory since. The extended flashback was probably done, so Loeb can have the opening splash of Batman, while catching readers up on what is happening.

Visually, Sale makes an interesting artistic choice to depict the flashback in deep periwinkle blue. This is the only instance of that specific color choice being used in the whole series. However, this storyline has tons instances where the colors or lack of color add to the drama of the scene.

Also, for some reason, Mickey thinks he needs to explain to Batman how the Dark Knight chased him into the sewers. Typically, this would be superfluous, if not for the appearance of Solomon Grundy. 
Check out the subtle bat-motif on the table cloth

Solomon Grundy is depicted as a simple-minded brute, who is more of a victimised creature, rather than a malicious villain. In fact, Batman even implies that Grundy is a casualty of the Falcones.

"Solomon Grundy was innocent of this whole affair. Reminding me how deep The Roman's roots have dug into my city..."
Batman believes that Grundy is a victim of the Falcone crime family

This quote is never really followed up in the story, but it may be an allusion to Grundy's comic book origins. Initially the creature was a human named Cyrus Gold who was murdered and resurrected in a swamp near Gotham City. It is possible that Batman is inferring that Grundy's murder may have been committed by the Falcone family.

Despite being considered "Innocent" by Batman, he still flashes a gadget at Grundy to pacify him to get to Mickey. While, Batman did this in self-defence, his actions later on show that Batman did not want to harm Grundy.

During the interrogation, Mickey throws out that Dent may be responsible for Johnny Viti's murder. Batman and Gordon quickly dismiss the notion, a dismissive tone that may come back to bite them later on.

The rest of the issue depicts Dent's-who replaced Mickey-plan to trick the rest of the gang into a confession. The coup fails because the gang is too well-rehearsed with their confessions. 

A frustrated Dent believes that he should just release them and monitor how Falcone reacts. Gordon-annoyed that Dent is willing to cut corners in the justice system-demands that the DA charge them. This small exchange displays so much character between the two.
Loeb shows the differences between Dent and Gordon

Dent is shown as being cynical about the justice system and Gordon as an idealist, even though he knows the futility of booking mobsters in a mob-controlled city.

Just as Dent predicted however, the gang was released from jail through Falcone's machinations in less than an hour. Meanwhile, our protagonists all return home, frustrated at how difficult it is to "Win" against the mob in a city so corrupt.

However, Batman shows a little hope. Back in the sewers, he offers a plate of Thanksgiving food for Grundy, perhaps as an apology for earlier. As he swings away, Batman feels that despite their best efforts, Falcone has become stronger than ever. 
Batman begins to despair over Falcone

Meanwhile, the gang celebrates beating jail with a Thanksgiving feast. The festivities are short-lived, as Holiday suddenly shoots up their dining room, killing the entire gang. The only thing left in the crime scene is a complicated cornucopia of random items; the .22 pistol, a broken baby bottle nipple, and a pile of dead bodies.
Holiday kills the gang

Conclusion

Loeb and Sale do slow burn for the main Holiday plot... not that this issue was filler. A lot happened in the Falcone storyline: the mystery of who tried to kill Dent, the introduction of Solomon Grundy, and Dent and Gordon's interactions. The series' tone and character have shifted gradually from being hopeful, to becoming tired and cynical.

Even though Loeb chose an unusually placed flashback scene, it was for a good reason.


Overall, another strong chapter of The Long Halloween.

For more The Long Halloween annotations, click here.

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