Fan Retrospectives: 'Batman: The Long Halloween' #3

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale

Review by Eric Lee


It's Christmas and Batman and the Joker are both hunting for Holiday.

Say yes to the Bat-wrapping paper.
First off, check out the cover. The way artist Tim Sale makes it primarily white draws the readers' eyes to the Joker and the presents. The white also implies snow, since it is a Christmas issue. Finally, check out that Bat-symbol wrapping paper. So cool.

Joker for the Holidays

The issue opens with the Joker reading the newspaper about the Holiday killings. The paper displays shockingly graphic pictures, while the Joker sings Christmas carols, until he declares, "I hate that song."
The Joker gets his songs mixed up
That's not surprising, because the Joker is not singing any particular song. He went from Happy Holidays to Living in a Winter Wonderland. The Joker proceeds to gather the presents and leaves a tied up family in their house, while quoting The Grinch. 

Sale uses the backgrounds tell a subtle story of how the Joker came into the house. We can see that it goes from the Joker breaking in via an axe to the front door, to tying up the family in Christmas lights, to then reading the newspapers.

Readers can work out the events prior to the issue based on the backgrounds alone.
The lack of murder is an interesting change for the Joker. In this issue, he only kills one person total. More modern interpretations depict him as this unstoppable murder machine. Perhaps this speaks to the Joker being more restrained in his early days. 

All in all, it is refreshing to see a Joker not killing people all the time and just generally ruining peoples' days for the laughs. It is reminiscent of the time the Joker stole some kid's report card just to be a jerk.

The Joker is a jerk to kids.
Don't feel bad for that kid. Look at his name, that kid grew up to become Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Calendar Man

Getting back on track, Batman and Gordon visit Calendar Man in Arkham Asylum. Interestingly, this is the also the first time Holiday is properly named as the killer. While walking to Calendar Man's cell, Gordon wonders aloud how the number of inmates have doubled due to Batman's presence.
Gordon notices an increase of super villains since Batman's arrival.
This is the start of the theme of the rise of super villains and the decline of typical crime. There was a large influx of super villains that started a little before The Long Halloween. Once Batman and super villains arrived, the old version of mob crime went on the decline. This is the beginning of the end for the Falcone crime family and the mob.

Batman and Gordon's interrogation of the Calendar Man ends up being fruitless. Calendar Man seems to be making random comments that appear to contradict each other. However, in retrospect, Calendar Man is subtly telling us his motivations the whole time, while slyly hinting at Holiday's multiple identities.

Calendar Man is subtly hinting at his motivations.
"Because he likes it. The attention. Nobody knows who she is and already he has made a name for himself. Or herself."

"Lunatics"

Meanwhile, crime boss Sal Maroni schemes with his right hand man Toots about getting a mole in Harvey Dent's DA office. Toots tells Maroni that he got "A kid named Vernon" before keeling over from laughter and dying. Turns out the Joker poisoned Toots and now accuses Maroni of being the Holiday killer.
Maroni is not alarmed by the Joker's appearance.
Maroni's reaction to Joker is surprisingly blase, indicating that the Joker is relatively new and has not established a reputation of being a killer yet. After Joker leaves Maroni, Batman then interrogates him on the Joker's whereabouts. Maroni yells back, "How should I know? He's a lunatic like you! The town is full of lunatics ever since you came here."
Maroni calls out on how there are more costumed freaks since Batman first appeared.
Maroni's tirade reinforces how the mob is aware that super villains are on the rise and threatening their conventional criminal life style.

On another side of town, Dent welcomes his wife Gilda into their new house. A number of "Two" references are made to foreshadow Dent's turn to Two-Face.


"So, I'll just have to work twice as hard."

"A second chance?"
"This town isn't big enough for two homicidal maniacs."
Dent finds the Joker in his house.
The Joker attacks Dent, accusing him of being Holiday before going to Carmine Falcone and threatening him to find the killer.

Holiday Strikes Again

When the Joker leaves, Falcone's personal bodyguard tries to shoot Joker, before being attacked by the Joker's flurry of cards. As the Joker takes off, the bodyguard recovers from the attack before being blindsided by Holiday. Two shots and a shaken snow globe is left at the scene.
Falcone's bodyguard is murdered by Holiday.
Batman soon arrives. He inspects a joker playing card, while ominously thinking, "Have a Merry Christmas, Joker. It will be your last" perhaps indicating that Batman believes that the Joker is the Holiday killer.
Batman believes the Joker may be the Holiday.

Conclusion

The Holiday killings are ramping up and the pressure is on Batman more. Writer Jeph Loeb is slowly introducing more thematic motifs into their writing, layer his plot, and turning the screws on our protagonists. The central plot of this issue is the Joker trying to figure out who Holiday is. Why does the Joker care? They never explicitly answer it. However, minor plot niggles like that don't derail this issue's enjoyment.
To see past Fan Retrospectives of The Long Halloween, click here.

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