Thursday, July 16, 2015

[Best of Batman] The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb

I won't lie. I had high hopes for this story. After all, it has been consistently placed in the Best Batman Stories lists, either as part of the Top 10 or Top 5 graphic novels you have to read. Comprised of thirteen issues, Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween had great promise. It had all the right ingredients. We got Bruce Wayne just starting out his early years as Batman, and his partnerships with Commissioner Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent. We got the Falcone and Maroni crime families in the spotlight, and a serial killer hunting the mobsters down using holidays as the common theme of this string of murders (hence earning him the name of the Holiday Killer). As a bonus, we also get appearances of the rogues gallery like the Joker, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy and Catwoman.

However, that great promise I mentioned dwindled to unrealized potentials the closer I get to the supposed climax. Also, its commendable traits from the beginning such as the Batman-Gordon-Dent triad, mob involvement, serial killer murder mystery and rogues' gallery participation, look good in theory but REALISTICALLY SPEAKING the actual execution of all these elements together fell short. Being served by so many samplings in one sitting could cause indigestion, no matter how potentially good each serving should be.

And that's mainly my problem with The Long Halloween. Much like Jeph Loeb's later work HUSH (which, granted, was more enjoyable in its approach than this one), this story suffers with putting so much material in its scope that it was pretty much inevitable for some of its parts to collapse under the pressure of the multiple baggage it struggles to carry along. I don't necessarily think this was a bad story, period. I believe that if you take each individual parts and separate them from the convoluted mess of its sum then what we get are compelling subplots that might have deserved their own separate arc altogether. But instead we get them all squeezed into one dragged-out arc that was unable to flesh out its main characters particularly Harvey Dent whom I did not connect with in any way, let alone be emotionally invested enough on his moral struggle and dissociation that his transformation as Two Face became meaningful to mourn about. Seeing this story having high ratings in Goodreads and scintillating reviews from common friends (save a noticeably one-star review from the mix) is a real head-scratcher for me at first especially when I was stuck in the seventh issue and found myself getting increasingly annoyed withe everything already. But after finishing it and thinking about what to write for twenty minutes or so, I realized that The Long Halloween is still a work that I suppose deserves its place in the top Batman stories because of the fact that it gave us Two Face's origin story, and that we were able to get the organized crime aspect of Gotham City explored and its enforcers like Carmine Falcone which Batman is also supposed to butt heads with, and not just duke it out with the likes of the Joker, etc. But those merits alone for me are really not enough to encourage newbie Bat-fans to pick this up at least not as a must-read. Maybe only as a passing suggestion. And that's a weak 'maybe'.

The trouble is that, because of so many elements put together, everything is half-baked. The mob families are goddamn one-dimensional. I did not care if they get killed at all which defeats the purpose of whatever the vendetta the serial killer has in disposing , and why readers should look forward to solving these crimes. Batman feels the same, apparently, since it took the Holiday killer so close to completing his holiday-themed killing spree for either Batman and Gordon to solve it. Only it doesn't get solved, not really. In the most baffling twist, it turns out that there are THREE KILLERS with each one's motive more unbelievable than the next. The more I examine each thread of this story, the more nonsensical it gets. And not laughably so, like HUSH, which I actually had fun reading even if most of the reason is because it's so dumb at times.

This was one, however, is just disappointing. The appearance of the rogues gallery could honestly just get cut and it won't affect anything. They were completely unnecessary and interrupted the flow of the narrative (if there even is one, sorta up to debate for me). I wished they focused more on the serial killer story because the holiday-themed covers were amazing to look at and that key feature to the killings was pretty impressive. Sadly, since there are three killers, the chilling aspect and the mind-fuckery of the method were diluted. As for the visuals themselves…Tim Sale has a surreal style but his illustrations have made certain scenes so incomprehensible that I have to stare at some panels over and over just to make sense of what I am looking at. Much like Loeb was with the writing of this story, the art could have been realized better.

I don't know have anything else to say now other than I have nothing more eloquent to offer in my piece. Just rehashing the entire story of The Long Halloween here has gotten me a little bit depressed because I thought I was going to like this story but after unloading all of these complaints I realized I wish I could just forget what I read. Not even the two volumes of Knightfall made me this sorely disappointed. But I still have Dark Victory to finish which is a sequel to this fucking thing. I will keep an open mind and give it the benefit of the doubt. Originally, I was going to review The Long Halloween tomorrow but it occurred to me that I want to get it over with as quickly as possible so I forced myself to come up with this and I hope it was sufficient enough.

KINDDA RECOMMENDED but feel free to skip: 6/ 10

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