Fan Retrospectives: Batman: The Long Halloween: Valentine's Day



Writer: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale
Color Artist: Gregory Wright
Letterer: Richard Starkings


Review by Eric Lee


It is Valentine's Day in Gotham City and Batman is besieged by multiple threats.


Tim Sale's cover is full of symbolism.

Let's take a moment to examine the cover. It heavily features a heart motif, which is an obvious signifier of Valentine's Day. The cat is a symbol for Catwoman and the scratch on Batman's face represents an injury Batman sustains in the issue. Furthermore, there is a ton of shrubbery around Batman, which is a subtle hint to what will happen at the end of the chapter.


Moving onto the actual comic, Alfred is confronted at the door by Commissioner Gordon and DA Harvey Dent. You can spy some bats floating in the ceiling behind Alfred in the opening splash page.

The bats in the background don't make literal sense, but are a hint to Bruce's alter ego.

This is an example of artist Tim Sale's expressionist style. It does not really make literal sense for the interior of Wayne Manor to have bats, since Alfred probably cleans the mansion routinely. It is better to interpret some of Sale's art as non-literal. The best example is Sale's Joker, who has inhumanly large teeth.


While Dent and Gordon inspect Wayne Manor's gigantic foyer, Dent makes a comment about not being someone "Who likes dressing up". This is an ironic statement given how Dent will eventually become Two-Face.


On the other hand, Alfred makes a subtle and biting comment about how the two men are wasting their time, by implying their wives will be waiting for them on Valentine's Day.


In a cemetery, Batman confronts The Roman at the grave-site of Alberto Falcone. Look at Batman's cape in this splash page. 


Batman's cape wraps around the whole panel

This is another demonstration of Sale's non-literal style. The cape is a visual metaphor that Batman has the Roman within his grasp throughout their conversation.


"Is it worth it?" Batman asks, implying that the Roman's criminal activities are starting to cost him his family.


The Roman argues that Alberto had nothing to do with his seedy dealings, but Batman knows the truth; the Roman's sins are finally catching up to him. Initially, Batman described the Roman as "Gotham City's untouchable crime lord". However, seeing the Roman broken up over his son's death, he can see how vulnerable and "Touchable" he has become.


Interestingly, according to the gravestone, Alberto's birthday is Valentine's Day. This explains why the Roman is visiting his grave-site now and also becomes a plot point later in the series.


Before the Roman and Batman can get too far, Catwoman interferes, by wrapping the Roman's arm in a bola. Once again, Catwoman seems to only appear around the Roman. When Batman attempts to address this with her, she pricks his face.


Writer Jeph Loeb makes a cool visual transition from Batman holding onto Catwoman's claws to Bruce Wayne holding Selina Kyle's hand lovingly. One can fret about a lack of resolution in the Batman and Catwoman melee, but clearly Loeb prefers to write the scene in a non-literal, almost-lyrical sense. Loeb is trusting that readers can fill in the dots and assume that Catwoman escaped somehow.

The scene transition is done with only its visuals.
Before anybody can wonder why Bruce and Selina don't recognize each others' alter egos, a mystery woman arrives, selling roses. When Bruce accepts a flower, he gets scratched by a thorn.

A stranger scratches Bruce Wayne with a rose thorn.
On the other side of town, Dent's new assistant, Vernon, gets a fistful of cash and an invitation to dinner at Boss Sal Maroni's restaurant. Vernon notes how Dent believes Maroni to be the weak link in the Falcone empire. This comment seems to compel Maroni for the rest of the series and is probably the reason he targets Dent so viciously later on.

Dent's assistant Vernon unknowingly exploits Maroni's pride, telling him how he is the weak link in the Falcone crime empire.
Outside the restaurant, a car full of goons debate who Holiday is. Unfortunately for them, the serial killer shoots them, before blowing the vehicle to kingdom come.

Holiday's Valentine Day attack is the most brazen.
The blow-back wrecks Maroni's restaurant. The villain spots the Valentine's Day heart of chocolate and vows vengeance against Holiday. Two things of importance about this latest Holiday killing. This is the first time Maroni's men have been targeted. Up until now, it has only been Falcone's people. Secondly, this is easily the most public Holiday killing. It was in the middle of a busy street. It's a miracle that no witnesses even caught a glimpse of the Holiday killer.

While all this was going on, Gordon and Dent both see their respective wives, who were waiting for them on Valentine's Day. The shot of Dent handing Gilda a box of chocolates has great visual composition. 

Harvey and Gilda Dents' wedding rings are highlighted with some well-placed coloring and shadows.
The shadows and flat coloring make both of the Dent's wedding rings pop visually. It's a small scene, but it really shows how Sale packs a lot of information about the characters and the tone into one panel.

Finally, Bruce Wayne returns home in thrall. He ignores Alfred as he sniffs the rose he got earlier. He opens the balcony doors to reveal that he has been possessed by Poison Ivy.


Poison Ivy's imp-ish look evokes a siren role in the story.
A quick note about Ivy. She is visually presented more as a surreal garden nymph; with her big hair of leaves, green skin color, and almost gangly limbs. This certainly fits her role in The Long Halloween, but is a departure from her more traditional "Sex-bomb" look. Sale's exaggerated, expressionistic art designs aren't chained to any realism and serve to heighten the drama and tone of the story.

Conclusion

This was another satisfying chapter that shows how good Loeb and Sale are together. Their styles are exaggerated and sometimes surreal, which elevates their story more and more. Many plot threads are slowly being pulled together, with a few more being laid down.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

PODCAST TIME - EPISODE 1 NOW LIVE

Review: ‘Doom Patrol’ Season 1 Episode 5 – “Paw Patrol”

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 8 Episode 3 "The Long Night"