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REVIEW: THE LONG HALLOWEEN
Author: John Liette
Sunday, January 1, 2006

Fans of the modern era of Batman comics generally hold Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween in high esteem. It is one of the seemingly few stories that are set in Batman’s first few years as a crime fighter that has remained inside current continuity. This story is pre-Robin and tells the tale of District Attorney Harvey Dent’s transformation into the infamous Two Face, a plot that is reported to be focused heavily on in the sequel to BATMAN BEGINS. To me, this story is much more than a simple rehashing of Two Face’s origin. It is a re-envisioning of it. Loeb successfully places the emphasis on the characters and examines a possible character flaw in this young Batman.

Of course, this review/analysis will contain SPOILERS. If you have not read this story and would like to before you read on, by all means go get a copy. Otherwise, I’ll begin with a quick rundown of the important events. On we go…

!!SPOILERS!!

The story picks up after Frank Miller’s YEAR ONE. Carmine Falcone still holds a tight grip on Gotham City, and the threesome of Batman, Captain James Gordon, and D.A. Harvey Dent make a pact to bring down The Roman’s empire without crossing that moral line between the good guys and bad guys. This story’s arena is different from Miller’s, however, as there are now rogues aplenty in The Joker, The Penguin, Solomon Grundy, Poison Ivy, The Riddler, The Calendar Man, and more.

At heart, the story is a good ole whodunit. A serial killer begins picking off members of Falcone’s crime family. Suspects present themselves from various angles, from rival gangster Salvatore “The Boss” Maroni to Carla Viti, Falcone’s sister who runs a mob in Chicago. The killer first strikes on Halloween and begins to strike on every holiday, leaving a .22 caliber handgun, baby bottle nipple silencer, and cheap holiday decoration at the crime scene as a calling card. The media dubs the killer “Holiday,” and the bodies pile up.

At first, all of the murders hurt the Falcone family in some way. His nephew, bodyguard, henchmen, and even his son, Alberto Falcone, are all killed. This makes Maroni, or even Dent, chief suspects. The nature of the murders change, however, as Maroni’s men begin to be killed, including his father on Father’s Day. The last killing forces Maroni’s hand and he turns himself into Dent to testify against The Roman.

While on the witness stand, Maroni throws acid into Dent’s face, nearly killing him and making him snap. Harvey is taken to a hospital where he proceeds to stab his doctor and escape. Harvey disappears for a few months, and The Batman and Gordon finally admit that Harvey is Holiday. Batman sets out to trap Holiday and succeeds, but is surprised when he finds that Alberto Falcone is behind the .22 and very much alive. With this realization, The Batman dismisses all of the evidence that pointed directly at Dent and proclaims that Alberto did it all.

Meanwhile, as Two Face, Harvey releases several rogues from Arkham. He brings them all to the Roman’s mansion for a final confrontation, assumingly under the guise that once The Roman is gone, they can divide Gotham up for themselves. The Batman arrives and takes care of the rogues, but not before Harvey kills The Roman, saying, “I did what had to be done.”

The story ends with Harvey’s wife Gilda, until now a minor character in the story, delivering a monologue while destroying a trench coat, hat, baby bottle silencer, and a .22 caliber handgun. The reader learns that it was Gilda who did the first several killings, thinking it would help bring down the Roman so that Harvey could spend more time at home than in the office. She goes on to say that Harvey realized what she had done and picked up where she left off, and that she would let everyone think Alberto did it. This, I believe, is the last time we see Gilda Dent in modern continuity.

Alberto says he is Holiday so that his father will respect him, claiming that now he is more than what Carmine is.

Many side plots and events take place, but that is a brief summary of events in the main story line.

Loeb succeeds where I think the sequel to BEGINS must -- making Harvey Dent a likeable character that you feel sympathy for. Two Face is a bastard, but when Harvey changes, it breaks the readers heart. This is impressive in that most readers go into this story knowing that Harvey will become Two Face, and the things that Two Face will do. Regardless of that knowledge, the reader finds him or herself hoping that Harvey is not the killer, even though all clues point directly to him. This is what The Batman does as well.

As the evidence stacks up, he almost ignores it. The Batman and Alfred acknowledge that it is extremely possible that Harvey is Holiday in April, but The Batman only presents this knowledge to Gordon after Harvey turns into Two Face in August. Four months pass and more people are killed. I believe this is presented to show a lesson being learned to Batman. He absolutely refuses to believe that the man he trusts is anything other than how he presents himself to Batman. The Batman is young and, at least in this scenario, naďve. Even though he is often heralded as “The World’s Greatest Detective,” he never actually solves the crime. Even after he watched Harvey Two Face put two bullets in the Roman’s head, he still believes that Alberto Falcone is the only Holiday.

At the end of the story, Harvey turns himself in to Gordon and tells him and The Batman that there were two Holidays. Batman ignores it and explains it away to Harvey’s madness in a weak explanation. So, even after all hell breaks loose with Harvey, he still refuses to allow himself to see Harvey as a killer.

Perhaps this is why this story is held so highly in Batman lore. It is unique because it keeps the reader guessing, especially with the revelation of Gilda being the first holiday killer. As a reader, I read it hoping that Harvey would be innocent. I suppose I thought in some way I could separate Harvey from Two Face, and believe that Harvey was a true hero that would never take the law into his own hands. Only after the transformation would Harvey become evil. This, however, is not realistic, and Loeb does a wonderful job of acknowledging both the audience’s tendency to believe in Harvey Dent, and the truth that Harvey’s character is seriously flawed from the beginning and the acid incident only sends him over the edge, unleashing years of psychological torment.

These are the things Chris Nolan will hopefully incorporate into his next installment in the BATMAN movie series. While the actual story will not be adapted, as Falcone’s movie counterpart was last seen going bananas in Arkham, the themes are what are important. Batman struggles throughout to have hope and believe in something. He longs for a glimmer of hope in his unending battle on Gotham’s strife, so much that he will ignore concrete facts that block out that light. If done right, like Loeb has done, a successful Two Face origin will create the same mirage of hope in viewers of the next BATMAN motion picture.

John Liette is currently an undergraduate student at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio studying English with an emphasis on creative writing. He has been a fan of Batman since watching reruns of the 60s television show and BATMAN (1989) as a boy, the animated series as a teen, and the comics since he could read. John balances time between his fiancé, two small dogs, school, and working at FedEx Ground and at the University Writing Center at WSU.

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