Review: The Long Halloween, Chapter One: Crime

Dark Knight News is celebrating Batman: The Long Halloween with a year-long review of the entire series. This month, we kick off with the the Chapter One Halloween issue: “Crime”.

 

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artist: Tim Sale

Release date: December 1996

Continuing the story originally started in Frank Miller’s Batman: Year OneThe Long Halloween kicks off issue #1 with a Gotham City that’s mostly in the grip of Carmine Falcone. Bruce Wayne, the prince of Gotham, stands between the mob boss and civility. Falcone wants corruption, Bruce wants justice.

As a civilian, he does all that he can to block Falcone’s grasp on Gotham, mainly by blocking his attempt to stash money at Gotham City Bank. Bruce takes a stance during the day, and does some intimidating at night, leaving Falcone with no other option but to settle for an empty warehouse (more on that later). Bruce isn’t the only one standing in the way though. Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent, is working day-and-night to take down “The Roman”. Fearless, resilient and intelligent, Dent is a dedicated lawyer, a loyal friend and a passionate husband. He wants to provide for his wife Gilda, and make Gotham a safe city where he can raise a family. Unfortunately, it’s a long road to finding peace, and he creates a pact with Captain Jim Gordon and Batman to take down the mob, but in a just manner.

While the battle of economics is underway, a killer is preparing for his/her first kill. A .22 caliber pistol, taped handle, baby bottle nipple on the tip is all that’s needed to sneak into the home of Johnny Viti, Carmine Falcone’s son, and silence him forever. Leaving a calling card (a pumpkin), the killer sneaks out and no one is an apparent suspect.

Back to the battle over Falcone’s empire, what’s the fastest way to get to organized crime? Money, of course. In an ingenious blaze of fury on Halloween, Dent and the Dark Knight play a major trick on The Roman, tracking down his hiding place (a warehouse), and burning it to the ground.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about sending a message.”

In what appears to be a major win for Dent, Gordon and Batman, as well as Gotham City, the lawyer returns home just as his wife is handing out candy to all of the trick-or-treaters. With an extra spring in his step, he joins Gilda inside and discovers a package. Suddenly:

That’s issue #1 of The Long Halloween in a nutshell. Here’s what else is packed into the first chapter of the story:

  • Salvatore “The Boss” Maroni
  • Alberto Falcone’s daddy issues
  • Selina Kyle
  • Catwoman’s obsession with the Falcones
  • Gordon’s family life
  • Bruce’s promise to his parents

I’ll put it here: The Long Halloween is my favorite Batman story, period. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale (with much credit to Archie Goodwin) concocted a story so deep and engrossing, nothing will ever compare (luckily, we all got The Dark Knight). This is a story about good vs. evil. It’s also a story about hope, betrayal, love and trust. But ultimately, The Long Halloween is a tragedy about the cost of justice, and the fall of a hero. It’s one of the greatest stories I’ve ever read.

In the book’s Absolute Edition format, Loeb has graciously provided his outline for this story. Imagine that, he proposed the idea to DC, wrote out an idea of how the story was going to play out over 12-months, and stuck to it. There are so many seeds planted in this first chapter that only build and pay off over the following 12 issues. Everything is linked. Every character has an arc. Every twist has a purpose. And the payoffs are immense. To think that Loeb knew where this story was going from the beginning is remarkable. He is able to craft each issue to build around a holiday, but also tie into a theme. Here, we have “Crime”. Every page in this opening chapter is influenced by crime, but the haunting presence of Halloween looms over every panel. It’s deep, dramatic and creepy all in one.

While the story is brilliant, the art is nearly just as impressive. Tim Sale loves his shadows, and there’s no other way to tell The Long Halloween than in the noir genre. With crime and the mob being such an influence on the story, it’s easy to understand how perfect that style is now. But do you think the creative team knew that ahead of team? Probably, Loeb knew how all of this was going to play out. I’ve always been a fan of Sale’s work, but each panel he draws here is worthy of being framed. His shadows are menacing, characters engaging, and settings atmospheric but slightly dirty. What’s equally as impressive is that the guy was able to draw 15 issues of a stylistic comic to be released over the course of a year without a delay (13-issue series with the first and final issue being double-sized = 15 issues). There’s no other way to say it: this book looks amazing.

Conclusion

The Long Halloween is a classic. This first issue, “Crime”, sets the stage for a historic tale that touches on good vs. evil, the fight for justice, and the tragedy of the fallen hero. The stage is set for a Greek tragedy in Gotham so strap in as we take you through the story, chapter-by-chapter, over the next 12 months.

Check back in next month as we revisit chapter 2: “Thanksgiving”.

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Ryan Lower

A lifelong fan of the Dark Knight, Ryan Lower grew up far from Gotham in Indiana but has planted roots in Chicago. A writer for a T.V. station, he also enjoys brooding at home in his own batcave, devouring Batman comics, shows and movies.