Fan Retrospectives: 'Batman: The Long Halloween' #4

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale

Review by Eric Lee


Batman needs to stop the Joker from killing everybody on New Years Eve, while the Falcone family suffers a great loss of their own.

The cover is a wonderful depiction of Batman and Joker's rivalry as they do battle during New Year's Eve. 

We see two champagne glasses clinking-a typical New Year's tradition- with the two characters' faces reflecting off them. The glasses are also cracking, implying some tension between the two. Interestingly, it also represents the tense dynamic between multiple characters during the issue: Falcone and Maroni, Dent and Gordon, and Gilda and Barbara.

The cover not only represents the New Year's Eve tension between Batman and Joker, but tension between other characters in the issue.

The Joker's New Year's Eve Bash

In the actual comic, the Joker hijacked a crop duster filled with poison with the intent of gassing everybody in Gotham Square at the strike of New Year's. His logic is that Holiday may be one of the citizens out during the celebrations. Of course, Batman retorts, "You're insane," since that is the logic of a madman. 

Furthermore, Batman must be running himself ragged chasing the Joker and trying to catch the Holiday killer. By the time Batman arrives, the Joker has already managed to take over the airport, put the poison canister on the plane, paint a Joker smiley face on the plane, and kill the flight crew. 


Also, when does a crop duster plane have a flight crew?


The Joker kills an entire flight crew to steal a crop duster.
It's Lonely at the Top

Ironically, the best parts of the issue are not Batman-related. Aboard a cruise ship, the Falcone and Maroni crime families celebrate New Year's Eve. While they clink their glasses in celebration, the Roman notes how interesting that Maroni has not had any of his men murdered by Holiday and warns Maroni to tread lightly around him. 
The Roman vaguely threatens Maroni not to cross him.
Ironically, the Roman pontificates how despite being surrounded in a lavish party of supposed-friends, the reality is that he can trust nobody around him - including his own sister. In fact, the only person aboard the ship he feels that he can trust is his son Alberto.

The Roman feels isolated and surrounded by his enemies.
The statement is doubly ironic as it appears that Alberto immediately falls victim to Holiday and also for the repercussions felt from this event later on in the story.
Alberto is apparently shot by the Holiday.
The Difference Between Dent and Gordon

Meanwhile, Harvey Dent is working late in his office until he is interrupted by his new assistant Vernon - a Maroni mole, as setup in the previous issue. Artist Tim Sale visually hints at Vernon's secret allegiances by initially drawing him as a dark silhouette with only two bulbous glasses circles and fingernails illuminating him. This gives Vernon a slightly off-putting, almost inhumane look.
Vernon's introduction makes him look subtly creepy.
Dent tells Vernon to go home, while dropping a few more "Two"-isms to foreshadow his inevitable transformation into Two-Face.

Before Dent heads out, it seems that Vernon has some evidence that links the Roman with Bruce Wayne. While this plot line provides some really good moments, it also is weighed down by the fact that  Dent does not get around to confronting Bruce about the matter until the Mother's Day issue. In-story, that means that Dent doesn't see Bruce for another five months.


When Dent comes home, he is greeted by his wife Gilda and Commissioner and Barbara Gordon. It's a New Year's surprise, but not for Dent, who leaves in a huff. Barbra and Gilda have a heart-to-heart about hoping for better things in the new year. The conversation has somewhat tragic overtones, given what will happen to Harvey in the near future and revelations about Gilda later in the series.

Glida Dent and Barbara Gordon hope for a better year.
One room over, Dent reveals to Gordon that there are some suspicious ties going on between Wayne and the Roman. 

Check out how visually Sale shows the characterisations of Gordon and Dent. Gordon has a warm color palette behind him, implying warmth, comfort, and caring. On the other hand, Dent's face is only illuminated by the very starkly white refrigerator light, implying an icy personality. Sale also visually hints at Dent becoming Two-Face, with his left-side face being enveloped in heavy, black shadows.

Gordon's lighting is warmer than Dent's cold stark lighting.
Tension Between Batman and the Joker

Coming back to Batman and the Joker, the poison-filled crop duster plane steers dangerously close to the Gotham clock tower. Unfortunately for Batman, his cape gets tangled in the plane's propellers, unintentionally evoking the no-capes rule from The Incredibles.
Batman's cape gets tangled in the plane's propeller.
When Batman finally gets his hands on the Joker, the villain makes a quip about getting a kiss. This is on par with the Batman-Joker relationship that recent writers have been depicting, where it is practically pseudo-sexual, so this line is not shocking to long-time Bat-readers. However, it is interesting that the Joker already sees Batman as a "partner" so early in their career.
The Joker implies that he views him and Batman having a deeper relationship than just hero vs. villain.
The Tragic Irony of Batman's Promise

Past that, Batman and Joker leap out of the crashing plane and land on the clock tower at the stroke of midnight. With the Joker defeated, Batman thinks about how the new year can finally fulfill the promise that he made to his parents about ridding the city of crime.

Batman's promise to his parents is a tragic irony.
This is an ominous omen, as by the end of The Long Halloween, he does fulfil the promise, just not in the way he expected. The crime Batman is thinking of is the Falcone mob families, not super villains. Knowing that he will be stuck fighting villains for many years to come gives Batman's statement a tragic tinge, because readers know that Batman's hopes ultimately do not come true.

It should be noted that in later editions of The Long Halloween collections, there is an additional epilogue with the Roman finding the body of Alberto. This epilogue not only appears to "Definitively prove" that Alberto is dead, but also introduces the character of the city coroner, while also setting-up why he eventually is targeted by Holiday.

Conclusion

Writer Jeph Loeb does an excellent job setting up tensions and future storylines with his subplots and side characters. However, the Batman-Joker confrontation is pretty superfluous and inconsequential to the main plot.
To see past Fan Retrospectives of The Long Halloween, click here.

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